In the Terminator films, one premise is that the machines rise up to fight against humanity. Science fiction? Fantasy?  Watch Singer as he outlines what is real today and where we might expect the future to unfold.

In P.W. Singer’s most recent book, “Wired for War,” he studies robotic and drone warfighters — and explores how these new war machines are changing the very nature of human conflict. He has also written on other facets of modern war, including private armies and child soldiers.

Why you should listen:

Peter Warren Singer is the director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution — where his research and analysis offer an eye-opening take on what the 21st century holds for war and foreign policy. His latest book, Wired for War, examines how the US military has been, in the words of a recent US Navy recruiting ad, “working hard to get soldiers off the front lines” and replacing humans with machines for bombing, flying and spying. He asks big questions: What will the rise of war machines mean to traditional notions of the battlefield, like honor? His 2003 book Corporate Warriors was a prescient look at private military forces. It’s essential reading for anyone curious about what went on to happen in Iraq involving these quasi-armies.

Who is he:

Singer is a prolific writer and essayist (for Brookings, for newspapers, and for’s great Threat Level), and is expert at linking popular culture with hard news on what’s coming next from the military-industrial complex. Recommended: his recent piece for Brookings called “A Look at the Pentagon’s Five-Step Plan for Making Iron Man Real.”

“Singer’s strength lies in the way that he has meticulously pulled together practically all the available evidence and research.” (New York Review of Book)


  1. Singer reviews machines that are available now, not in the future. What story does he open with?
  1. He lists three attempts to Kill Ben Laden with a predator drone strike _ all failed, but all took lives. Drone fault or human intelligence failure?
  1. Deploying packbots to aid in IED disposal seems to be a wholly benign measure, but Singer questions this start in light of Moor’s law. What is Moor’s law?
  1. Is violence done by a machine, still violence? To what extent are the programmers and builders responsible for the acts of the machine?
  1. The creation of better, more effective war robots depends in part on a society’s educational system. China, India, North Korea, Russia and many other countries are working on developing war robots. Education in these countries, particularly in math and science seems ahead of the United States. What should we do to react to this vexing question?
  1. Which does it seem likelier that our machines or people are wired for war? What are the implications of your answer?

Military robots and the future of war with P.W. Singer



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  • Ted Talks Psychology

    Could you be more specific with which posts, or is it all of them? It may be your browser if you are not using Chrome or Firefox.

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