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Keeping up with Darpa's challenges is a good way to see into the future a couple of their current projects:

1) A machine-learning competition to overcome scarcity in the radio frequency which is INSANELY fascinating and, if they pull it off, hugely impactful -> https://spectrumcollaborationchallenge.com

2) A program to build technology to drive “swarm sprint” exercises to inform tactics and technologies for large groups of unmanned air and ground robots in urban environments. Yes, like how do we build a collaborative air drone army.

And PS they are having a hacker fest in the bay in a couple of weeks, registration is closed but bet you can get in if you email via - https://darpahackfest.com




Anyone here in NYC that wants to meet up?

Any cool hacket events here?


The technologies that will be developed in #2 will be absolutely, unquestionably used by governments to repress their own people.


> The technologies that will be developed in #2 will be absolutely, unquestionably used by governments to repress their own people

One can go to the dawn of self-driving cars, the Internet, really any potentially game-changing technology, and throw this out. It's an inconsequential assertion that provokes no follow-on thought. Just emotion.

Graduating this seed from FUD to a chain of critical thought involves asking how the technology in question might evolve detrimentally and what we can do, today and specifically, preferably in a technical capacity, to mitigate that risk.


Anything that increases the destructive capacity of armed forces while lowering the manpower requirements is going to make it easier for politicians to misuse those armed forces.

Most obvious example would be the Vietnam disaster. It was eventually shut down because of "bring our boys home". Not because of international reputation, human rights violations or the capability to win or lose the war.

Another example would be how Germany used mechanized forces and air power in the start of WWII as force multipliers. Without sophisticated war machines, attacking France and Great Britain would have been suicidal. Simply because they combined matched German population.

The best bet to mitigate such technology? In those examples it was probably MANPAD that killed helicopter cavalry after Vietnam war. And evolutionary steps of Bazooka helped to keep west Europe from soviet tank invasion during cold war. Those specific inventions increased the manpower requirement while adding relatively small and very specific firepower advantage.


> Anything that increases the destructive capacity of armed forces while lowering the manpower requirements is going to make it easier for politicians to misuse those armed forces

Anything that (a) improves peoples' lives and (b) has a logistical dependency, e.g. requires or becomes better with electricity, an Internet connection, package delivery, et cetera, improves the standing of a centralized power. This will be true as long as those logistical dependencies are subject to economies of scale.

Leaving society in the 18th century, before electricity, antibiotics or daily disposable contact lenses, wasn't easy. But you'd have to give up fewer luxuries to do that then that you would today because there are more luxuries today.

This is why saying "this will be used for evil things that centralized powers do" is so inane. It's a corollary of economic progress.


Well yeah.

Except the thing is that geopolitics is the dictating form of politics. Everything else comes after that.

Let's say US government needs lots of manpower to stay as global hegemon. Then say that there is culture in US where people will gladly "defend the land of the free". Now if you mimic a degree of freedom, you get that manpower relatively easily.

Then you can innovate things that connect to the grid as much as you want. As long as the DoD needs grunts, they will give you civil rights and freedom simply because they have to. They probably would do that most of the time because they want to. But given enough time, you will see clusters of bad apples to get office.

It's kinda ironic that US has to be "free" and "powerfull" compared to the enemies. If China opens up their internet bit more, US citizens will get net neutrality without fighting. Also if China produces weapons that take away the technological edge or US, then America needs more manpower to the armed forces. That would lessen political polarization, corruption etc. Nothing unites like common enemy. Except capable common enemy.


All this and you couldn't see that the fault in your logic was that sufficiently enforced rules and regulations could mitigate the usage of evil things that centralized powers do. Obviously that infrastructure minimally exists now, but should we keep running as quickly in a direction that makes it more difficult to create such infrastructure?

I mean there's so much more to life than new technology and the corresponding progress in economies. But beyond that,do you genuinely believe that lawmakers are going to keep up with the necessary rules and regulations to keep sufficiently advanced AI under control in more hedonistic acting entities? Obviously that's the extreme case but it's a good thought experiment to test these models of innovation just for the sake of innovation and money.

As someone whose job is innovating where the current state of the art is, it's getting beyond ridiculous that everyone is ignoring the bloated elephant in the room.


Your bit about Germany isn't correct and is a common misconception. Britain was more powerful than Germany, had a considerably larger GDP, had a vast empire which could be asked (and told) what to do in ways its own population couldn't. The population of the empire is what mattered, not Britain’s. By this measure it was roughly 60 million versus somewhere north of 450 million. Britain had a colosal and distributed industrial base at the start of the war and both countries had a very similar level of mechanisation early on. Britain only fell behind in armoured vehicle numbers around the time of the fall of France. This loss was very swiftly made up and Britain had roughly 25% more armoured vehicles in service by 1941. In no war year did Germany produce more aircraft than Britain.

Attacking Britain was suicidal and the myth of Britain, alone and standing firm is quite intentional, but untrue. The force multiplier wasn’t the tools, it was how they were used, and it took the allies a while to get the hang of things. The most surprising part is how far Germany got with such a weak position.

Britain’s War Machine by David Edgerton covers this well and somehow avoids it being a dry pile of charts.


I meant that attacking Britain in any way would have been obviously suicidal to the point of being complete deterrent without certain war machines.

If Polad would have been taken with only infantry and field artillery and supplied by railway and horses (like WWI was fought), the conflict would have lasted way way more than one month. If the Polish campaign would have lasted long enough, Germany would not have even attempted to attack France.

Landing on British isles was correctly identified as suicidal. So what did Germany do...


The German army was still using horses plus the trucks left behind at Dunkirk to transport stuff throughout WWII.


That's partly because railroads in the Soviet Union were of a different gauge then those in Europe - and because the Soviets, as much as they could, pursued a Russian classic - scorched-earth policy.

Mechanized armies needed enormous amounts of supplies. If you can't transport them by rail, and you don't have the diesel to run trucks (the only source of oil the Germans had access to was Romania,) you have to do it by horse.


Horse-drawn armies need enormous amounts of supplies, the energy density of animal feed is a lot lower than that of oil. The British Army learned this lesson in WWI and was totally mechanized by 1939.


Depends where you are located and how large formations of troops you have concentrated on single location. Finnish Defense forces pretty much completely relied on horses during WWII and with great success. There are lot's of tales how Finns were able to supply very hard to get places and also had successful practice to bring back all the dead to be buried in their home towns.

They had to give up horses in the 60's because you could no longer find young men who could drive horse carts. The good mobility of horse in boggy and snowy terrain was only matched in the 80's with Bandvagn 206 carrier.


Yeah, but you can grow animal feed in the fields of occupied France, or take it from Ukranian peasants. You can't really grow petrol on those fields. (Although you can produce synthoil out of coal - which the Germans did.) The UK, the USSR, and the USA were, on the other hand, controlled something like 90% of all of the world's known oil reserves.

Fuel shortages for the fascists in WWII were so bad, in the later years of the war, they used horses to pull fighter planes from their hangars, to their runways. They did not have enough fuel to taxi under their own power.


Every technology has a spectrum of usefulness, between applications that make people's lives better, and worse.

It's not FUD to point out that a particular technology will be primarily used for the latter.

We generally don't hold people responsible for direct effects of their work. Working on drones that will kill people for the military is a direct effect.

'Game-changing potential', whatever that means for this kind of work, is not a first order effect.


sorta.

the same arguments against the drone fleet is the same against the atomic bomb. What something is designed for (death in both cases) is not always their effect. For example, the atomic bombs were used to incredible devastation and death when used but it could be argued they prevented the next war with Russia since a war between two nuclear powers meant total destruction on both sides.

I'll venture into prediction here. Do you think a regional warlord or rogue state ( ISIS or whatever comes after it ) would enter a conflict with another state that was backed by the US? They might, knowing that the US would be unlikely to do more than give airstrike and strategic support. But what if the US had a drone army/fleet that could do close air-support, block to block firefighting, differentiate combatants and non-combatants? It could mean a tougher fight for a group like that since little but money is risked on the side of the US.


Seems to me that at the moment there are a number of state and non state actors who seem happy to pull that tail of the US tiger, knowing that the consequences of the US reacting badly is the significant destruction of their country. Doesn't seem to deter them.

Expecting terrorist orginisations or rogue states to act in a rational way is the same as expecting the US to back down when their pride or national interest is threatened.


Anyone who thinks deeply on the ramifications of the computer and related technology should come to the conclusion that they will inevitably lead to the destruction of individual liberty and total subjugation or annihilation of a significant portion of humanity.

This is not gunpowder, the printing press, or the cotton gin and to compare them you're either naive or being disingenuous.

There is little hope for us to deviate from this path barring significant technological regression due to cataclysmic events or mass enlightenment of the human character. The former is a problem in and of itself and the latter is comically unlikely.


I think that's a very pessimistic view of the world. So far technology empowered as much as it destroyed individual liberties. There is still hope. With the upcoming decentralized technologies, I hope that the power returns to individuals again.


What is the solution? I would rather have automated drone armies in the hands of the US government than anyone else.

The same could be said of the atomic bomb. A weapon made purely for mass scale indiscriminate destruction of humanity. But if not us, then who would we trust to develop such a technology?


Permit my inquiry but whenever i see comments like this, I can't help but think that your main reason for believing in this train of thought is majorly because the negative effects of U.s military industrial complex has pretty much never affected you. because if you were perhaps an Arab who watched his/her home town bombed to shit by a us drone and had the us write off the human casualties that resulted there in from this act as collateral damage you most likely will not feel this way about a single country trying to amass absolute power, particularly when it is a specific country that seem to have a very itchy war finger, which also just elected a very racist man as president.

If the table were turned will you still feel this way, i wonder.

And p.s i am not an Arab, I am African so yes i do sympathize somewhat with what they go through. I also do not hate the U.S but i do feel it that it was time the rest of the world closed the military and technological gap the U.S and the west really had over the rest of the world as this will stop a lot of their bullshit.


I am American, and I hear this from Americans all the time. The reality is far different, though. Does the Russian military perform more humanely in war than the US military? I don't think so. Would the Chinese? Things like My Lai and Abu Ghraib are the exception with the US military, not the rule.

I obviously don't want any single powerful entity to have access to this technology, but I can see the reality of it, which is that someone will have it. Who will it be?


I imagine knowledge over whether those are the exception or the rule for the US military is classified. they don't have to tell you when they've been doing evil


Yet it always comes out. Not because of a bug in code, or a document that fell off of a truck. It’s humans involved that know something is wrong and decide to report it.

The My Lai was reported by the American close air support crew, not a Vietnamese journalist.


Some of it always comes out. What we get to see and hear about is just the tip of the iceberg.


The British, Russians and French have these weapons and have never used them. The South Africans developed them and gave them up. The Israelis probably have them but don’t admit to it.

Of these people, only the Americans have used them, and they used them on population centers.

I’m not taking a position on whether this was right or wrong. I’m just pointing out that you are trusting the only government that has ever killed thousands with these weapons and distrusting several governments that have not.


There isn't one.

The atomic bomb is a blunt instrument with no finesse. The ability to vaporize large groups of people in a flashy infrastructure destroying display is not particularly conducive to control.

Atomic bombs don't let you watch, record, and analyze the movements of millions of people. They don't let you record and analyze the personal lives, conversations, and secrets of millions of people. They don't eliminate the need for human labor.


"What is the solution? I would rather have automated drone armies in the hands of the US government than anyone else"

Wow


Someone will have them. Who do you want it to be?


Ideally distributed enough so that the US government couldn't run roughshod over anyone it pleased.


Nearly all technology can/will be used for that purpose. I think swarm AI is likely to help people more than it will harm. It's a critical step in big tasks like terraforming Mars.


Most technology since the plough has eventually accelerated the consolidation of power of institutions over individuals.




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