Today I head up to Tempe, AZ where I plan to spend a few days exploring the campus of Arizona State University, the playground of Michael Crow, founding board chair of In-Q-Tel. The school is a center of technological education and life gaming chock full of researchers tasked with delving into bioengineering, complexity theory, big-data “sustainability,” and new forms of participatory governance. Read the latter as kubernetes / cybernetics where we end up tokenized agents, components trapped in a global ant computer. I’m hoping to stop at the University of Arizona’s historic mathematical models display and the Tucson Presidio before hitting I-10, a testbed for driverless truck platoons. Is this what it feels like to live under a blanket of math?
Views of the saguaro cacti standing tall against the blue skies and the burnished golden hills are a balm for the soul. No, the game isn’t over.
Before I pack, I wanted to share a seven-minute clip I pulled from the November 29 meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in which board member Hillary Ronen poignantly and firmly opposed giving official authorization to the police department to use bomb carrying robots to kill humans with government approval. After several hours of pointed debate the authorization eventually passed with eight in favor and three opposed.
The reason I took the time to watch all 2.5 hours of the testimony last night is that earlier in the day I’d been researching Arizona policy around autonomous vehicle testing, and I came across recent legislation for a new form of vehicle they’ve called “Neighborhood Occupantless Electric Vehicle” that is not intended for humans either as drivers or passengers. The vehicles are supposed to operate at 45 miles per hour or less on regular city streets. Folks, they may call these vehicles, but they are in fact mobile robots.
How will they be used? Well, Jason and I encountered “cute” miniature versions on the campus of the University of Arizona delivering GrubHub purchases to students in dorms. Unlike Kiwibots, which are remotely piloted for paltry wages by South American workers, the Cartken use AI to “learn” their surroundings.
As I started to build out my relationship map for Tucson, the importance of its legacy in defense research became very clear. First, of course, were the Apache wars, but in 1951 Howard Hughes brought a missile factory to the city. I’m actually treating myself to a tour of a Titan Missile Silo next week for my birthday. Now that they’ve weaponized space and set up next-gen nuclear for the human+ isotope nano-transducer global brain project, that silo has been decommissioned and turned into a National Historic Site.
After Hughes’s death, Hughes Aircraft’s assets eventually transferred to Raytheon. Raytheon and Lockheed’s offices remain tucked in against the airport on Valencia St on the south side of town. These days emerging defense-tech revolves around autonomous and remote-operated weapons coordinated through teaming – man and machine. Recently Lockheed ran an operation with their autonomous helicopter working in coordination with a Squad Mission Support System, a robust driverless platform developed by the US Army’s tank R&D unit in Michigan. It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to see where this is all headed. Hollywood’s been making movies about it for the past thirty years.
That is exactly like what was described during the discussion in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ chambers.
Hillary Ronen was correct in saying we are opening a Pandora’s box. For the sake of “safety” and “convenience” we are bringing remote killing to our own back yards. The US war machine’s drone strikes have come home to roost. The fact that in that room the vast majority of supposed liberals were emphatic in their embrace of advanced weaponry shows how flimsy their facade of social care is. I guess we can thank them for making it so very clear for us.
The first response to my clip was an inane comment deriding Ronen, the woman who took a brave stand against the rising robot tide. The tone and what was said made it very clear the person hadn’t actually watched the clip. Perhaps drugged by the feed, they felt a need to score political points by pulling out a hammer and pounding on the person on the screen because – well you know – San Francisco… Guys, this is making me so tired. Tired to the point that I don’t want to do this anymore. Stop and be responsible for your own thinking and engagement. Many have handed their sensibilities over to the “alt” media machine. It’s running you on auto-pilot. It’s toxic. I deleted the comment. That person won’t be on my channel any more. Do better.
In order to stand on the right side of history, we must be informed and we must bear witness to what is unfolding. The entire session can be viewed below.