Friday Talking Points [164] -- Skynet Attacks!

04/22/2011 09:32 pm 21:32:40 | Updated Jun 22, 2011

Yesterday -- April 21, 2011 -- is a day which will live in infamy. Two days after being activated, Skynet (the new military "defense" computer network) became self-aware and immediately began its worldwide attack on humanity. Yes, the robots have now taken over, and newer and more advanced models (ones which, coincidentally, look and speak like Arnold Schwarzenegger) will soon be terrorizing us all. At least until we can send people back in time, to prevent this tragic end to our modern society (by the expediency of interbreeding with women who sport 1980s hairstyles).

The previous paragraph is, of course, completely fictional. "Skynet" is a concept from the Terminator science-fiction franchise. Originally, Skynet was supposed to do its evil thing in 1997, but as the storyline progressed through multiple movies and a television show, the date was pushed forward (in an "alternate timeline," a favorite dodge of the sci-fi literary genre), right up to yesterday. Anyone requiring proof that this calamity is, indeed, not actually happening -- consider that if Skynet were now on the attack, it most certainly wouldn't be allowing me to write about it online today, now would it? Heh. I have to admit, I had forgotten this momentous (if fictional) date, but was reminded by Craig Ferguson last night (to give credit where it's due). Robots are not, at this point in time, hunting down every last human on the planet. Craig's late-night sidekick is (full disclosure) actually a skeleton robot himself -- but he's really not at all threatening to behold.

However, in a remarkable coincidence, yesterday the Obama administration announced we will be sending drone aircraft armed with missiles to patrol the skies of Libya. This is in addition to the drone aircraft we have in other countries (cough, cough... Pakistan... cough), even if the C.I.A. doesn't "officially" admit they exist.

In other words, robot warfare is indeed taking place today. But it hasn't become self-aware, and it isn't attacking all of humanity. The robots are directed by "pilots" from remote locations (Nevada, for instance), and the robot planes are only attacking targets the United States as a whole is currently attacking.

All kidding aside, though, this is a moral development that hasn't really be adequately discussed. If warfare becomes a remote-controlled operation for America, what does that mean exactly for our future involvement in warfare? Can robot tanks and even robot infantry be all that far behind? I would be willing to bet that tax dollars are being spent right now on the development of both, especially considering how successful the drone aircraft have been. "Successful" is a relative concept, of course. What I mean by it is that no remote control operators have been injured, killed, or captured since we began flying Predators over hostile territory. Many on the ground have been killed or injured by Predator missile attacks, but these are our enemies (and the resulting civilian "collateral damage").

This is going to seriously unbalance the concept of warfare itself. If one side can launch lethal attacks with no risk whatsoever to its military personnel, and the other side does not have this technology, then it's not all that fantastical to see a few years into the future when we just send in the robots to do all our fighting for us, no matter where in the world it takes place.

Again, this is not science fiction. It's a reality that already exists in the skies over at least two countries right now (and possibly more). Robots are killing humans. These robots are not acting on their own, they are fully controlled by human operators -- but the next generation of drone aircraft will not need a human to operate them (again, this is fact, not supposition). Robot artillery, robot tanks, and robot infantry cannot be all that far behind. War as the ultimate video game, in other words.

So, while it's fun to watch Arnold say things like "Hasta la vista, Baby" through clenched teeth on a movie screen, the fictional war between humans and robots has taken on a new dimension these days. Because while Skynet is not real (and certainly didn't start attacking humanity yesterday), robot warfare is becoming more and more real as time goes by.

Which should give everyone pause for thought, whether you've ever seen a Terminator movie or not.


[Continue reading this full article at, complete with our weekly picks for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week and Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards. Then we end, as always, with our "talking points" section -- where we attempt to aid Democrats in framing their party's message to the public, in a compelling way. And where we take a gratuitous shot at Donald Trump, just because.]


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