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Ask HN: Autonomous drones; a solution?
6 points by contingencies on Dec 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments
I initially laughed reading Assange's "the pessimistic scenario is also quite probable, and the transnational surveillance state and endless drone wars are almost upon us" thinking it too extreme a view, but had a sobering re-take realizing I was discussing it with the mother of a friend (anakata) internationally abducted and placed in solitary without charge by his own state.

Elsewhere throughout 'Cypherpunks', Assange and Applebaum indicate they believe this to be our general technological trajectory (p4,14,87,90,159), ie. state-run drones constantly (re)targeted by the emerging surveillance panopticon. The US in 2010 announced 'prompt global strike'. Popular Mechanics on the hypersonic X-51 quipped "The mission: Attack anywhere in the world in less than an hour."

Framing this autonomous global militarization trajectory as a serious issue of immediate human concern, can HN readers see any potential solutions to our apparent, near term reality of living beneath a 24x7x365 global system of automated surveillance and military attack?

It is important to also consider whether or not these drones are actually effective, and what kind of response to they stimulate from the target.

As fancy as the technology is, these "precision" munitions are only as good as the intelligence on the other side of the joystick. A bomb landing on the wrong target acts a recruitment tool for the opposition. Moreover, sending a drone also indicates that one is not willing (or too cowardly) to send a human being.

A nice piece in Al Jazera makes a strong case against drones because of how the usage of these tools is perceived by the opposition (and the "collateral" damage): http://aje.me/tFAGe1

Thanks for sharing that article.

While it's true that there is bad publicity from "collateral damage" that can fuel an opposition, this assumes there is an opposition.

Civilian drones exist.

How difficult would it be to reprogram military drones? At some level they're just processors and motors -- do the processors have debugging interfaces (serial or USB) available? If not, the mainboard with processor could be removed and replaced by something like a few Arduinos or TI Launchpads.

It shouldn't be too difficult to make and program a large quantity of boards to be hot-swapped with their current electronics. Then it's just a matter of playing "air battle bots" and damaging their drones, then taking apart damaged drones to make new drones.

Decent military hardware is probably tamper-resistant, with self-destruct for cryptographic data and firmware at a minimum. However, it seems UAVs fielded at present are often commercial and/or at an early stage of maturity, so this may not necessarily be the case.

It's interesting that all the replies have focused on confrontation rather than methods of avoiding it. Some philosophies hold that the only way is not to play at all. I was kind of hoping someone would come up with some smart tactics on that side.

Open source EMP bombs?

This will only work for awhile.

And also damages other useful communication structures for people, so probably (?) counter-productive

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