TOOLBOX MAKE LOOKS AT BOOKS
160 Make: Volume 19
Fought by Bot
Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
by P. W. Singer $30 Penguin Press
Should a robot kill people? Is it cowardly, or evil, to send a robot army
against human beings? Are robotic “wars of choice” too tempting?
Science fiction has explored all these questions, from Asimov and
Clarke to movie terminators, robocops, and droid legions. But now
they’re being asked in real-world policy circles.
P. W. Singer, a young Brookings Institution war analyst, is a highly
entertaining writer whose latest book explores the rapid rise of war
robots, how they’ll be used in the future, and how they’re already
affecting the moral calculus of war.
How rapid? From just a few UAVs in 2003, the U.S. robot force
has grown to more than 7,000 aerial drones and 12,000 ground
bots. Predator drones are launching Hellfire missiles at people in
Afghanistan, piloted by guys in Nevada. iRobot makes war bots
alongside Roombas, and Pentagon planners envision Navy “
mother-ships” coordinating robot swarms. More than 40 countries are
working on military robotics, from two-legged war “mechas” in
Japan, to crude DIY bots built by Iraqi insurgents.
War in the future will increasingly be fought by bot. For now, people
still call the actual shots, but human operators are increasingly
remote from the fight, and Singer predicts the day’s not far off when
robots will make their own decisions about which targets to strike.
And with robots to do the fighting and dying, he warns, maybe voters
and legislators will no longer bother to rein in warlike leaders. “Our
new machines offer incredible, near science fiction-like capabilities,”
Singer writes, “but they also bring in terrible new quandaries.”
More by P. W. Singer at pwsinger.com/articles.html
DIY Furniture Classic
Nomadic Furniture by James Hennessey and Victor Papanek
$30 Schiffer Publishing
Before there was Ikea and “Ikea Hacking,” there was this book.
Actually, it was two books, Nomadic Furniture 1 and Nomadic Furniture
2, released in the 1970s. As a young hippie delving deeply into the
Whole Earth Catalog, Bucky Fuller, “whole systems,” and sustainable
living, I found them to be a revelation. In an early example of “open
source,” the authors, both architects, designed dozens of chairs,
tables, lamps, shelves, and beds, and drew the plans in these books.
With so many people now familiar with the “stick furniture” of
Swedish retailers, and with a newfound enthusiasm for reuse,
recycling, and making your own, it was a smart move for Schiffer
to combine these classics on lightweight, portable, eco-friendly
furniture into one volume. While most of the designs are perennial
and functional, some are now wonderful 70s kitsch. And the section
on 70s stereo gear is a great trip down Memorex lane (Revox Mark III
reel-to-reel, anybody?). —Gareth Branwyn