Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Robot Lords and the end of People Power

I have a new article in Quartz, about how cheap drone warfare might alter human political institutions for the worse. Excerpts:
The human race is on the brink of momentous and dire change. It is a change that potentially smashes our institutions and warps our society beyond recognition. It is also a change to which almost no one is paying attention. I’m talking about the coming obsolescence of the gun-wielding human infantryman as a weapon of war. Or to put it another way: the end of the Age of the Gun... 
[S]omeday soon, autonomous drone militaries become cheaper than infantry at any scale... 
The day that robot armies become more cost-effective than human infantry is the day when People Power becomes obsolete...The rabble may think whatever they please, but the Robot Lords will have the guns. 
Where this scenario really gets scary is when it combines with economic inequality. Although few people have been focusing on robot armies, many people have been asking what happens if robots put most of us out of a job. The final, last-ditch response to that contingency is income redistribution – if our future is to get paid to sit on a beach, so be it.
But with robot armies, that’s just not going to work. To pay the poor, you have to tax the rich, and the Robot Lords are unlikely to stand for that. Just imagine Tom Perkins with an army of cheap autonomous drones. Or  Greg Gopman. We’re all worried about the day that the 1% no longer need the 99%–but what’s really scary is when they don’t fear the 99% either... 
It’s the Robot Lords we should be afraid of, not Skynet... 
We can carry this dystopian thought exercise through to its ultimate conclusion. Imagine a world where gated communities have become self-contained cantonments, inside of which live the beautiful, rich, Robot Lords, served by cheap robot employees, guarded by cheap robot armies. Outside the gates, a teeming, ragged mass of lumpen humanity teeters on the edge of starvation. They can’t farm the land or mine for minerals, because the invincible robot swarms guard all the farms and mines. Their only hope is to catch the attention of the Robot Lords inside the cantonments, either by having enough rare talent to be admitted as a Robot Lord, or by becoming a novelty slave for a little while... 
[W]hen the Age of the Gun ends, the age of freedom and dignity and equality that much of humanity now enjoys may turn out to have been a bizarre, temporary aberration.
Read the whole thing here!


  1. Anonymous1:51 PM

    This is very interesting. I have been wondering about something similar. It would be like, for example if the US and China got into a war, could the US just send over a million robots/drones/whatever that recognize humans and shoot them? Or something? I suspect it would develop into a MAD type situation similar to nuclear weapons.

    1. no, because the drones require manutention service, they are complicated with several parts that rust or are used up at different velocities

      ergo the Vulcan Hammer from Philip k.dick i think is from the 50's that preconize million's of flying drones with several weapons and nuclear ones to

      have one default production of unstable elements that going to enter in the feeding chain of the drone reprocessing and manutention

      the munition is other problem the recoil can jam

      the most frequent cause of jams in semiautomatic pistols and in the first thompson gun the weapon made by general thompson an american you know
      is caused by the size of the munition that jam's the pieces of brass and steel that ....well go see the problems of machine desintegration over time

      i give you 2000 points against a manutention of a million drones
      or over nuclear war ....with more than 300 megaton's

    2. nuclear ones too....i missed an ohhhhhh
      gun's with no recoil like the metaloid from exterminator II? or three

      are impossible

      yes you can have trillions of nano machines but they have the same problem's that the big ones

      a big solar flare can fry all the technological civilization

      or dust enough from a supervolcano

      or mud with the Guderian tanks in central russia and ukraine

      or....figure yourself

  2. At least, this is not Macroeconomics and models!

    But, we have to ask what is the motive of 1% Robolords to self imprison and isolate them from struggling humanities? Would it not be better to employ the robots to serve the 99% for better life (and in process, earn massive tax subsidies)?

    The basic laws of existence demand that if 99% were not to consume the products produced by the robots of 1%, what is the purpose of the robots?

    Finally, those 99%ers could design and build rudimentary robots, but at a vast quantity that simply overwhelms the robots of 1%, like a lonely virus does now.

  3. Argosy Jones3:21 PM

    99% were not to consume the products produced by the robots of 1%, what is the purpose of the robots?

    The question is this: If the 99% are no longer needed to supply and secure the 1%, what is the purpose of the 99%, (from the point of view of the people in control of the robots).

    1. The purpose of 99% is to be rich and live like 1%, without robots! Don't you see 1% is already living in fear, gated communities, robots to protect and there is nothing in this says that this evolutionary nightmare happens with out any resistance...

      Suggest you read Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur Clarke.

    2. no the purpose of the 99% is to consume and live enough to make less than 1% .....1% of 7,000,000 are 70 millions rich enough to kill the 99%
      they can use 0,5% of humans to do the job

      they are easier to repair and reproduce than the vulcan hammer's the drone weapon's from the sci-fi of the 50's


      The manuscript for the short-story "Vulcan’s Hammer" was received at the SMLA on April 16, 1953 and the story was published in 1956 in Future Science Fiction #29.

      In early January 1960 Scott Meredith forwarded a letter to Philip K. Dick from Don Wollheim at Ace Books. This letter referred to Wollheim’s interest in having Dick do an expansion of "Vulcan’s Hammer" into a 40,000-word novel. In his reply Dick expresses concern about writing the expansion on spec for Don Wollheim, particularly after Wollheim’s negative attitude towards Dick’s earlier expansion of "Time Pawn" into DR. FUTURITY.

      In his letter to Scott Meredith replying to the notice that Don Wollheim of Ace Books wanted him to expand "Vulcan’s Hammer", PKD wrote:

      The letter from Don Wollheim about a rewrite of VULCAN'S HAMMER to expand it to 40,000 words has reached me. In some ways the situation looks good, but its a complex situation and I want to discuss it with you point by point, if you will bear with me.

      {There follows a page and a half of material on VULCAN'S HAMMER. See: SL-38, p51ff}

      (three) If I go ahead and do this on spec, I would like Don and you to permit me to send in, not a finished draft at first, but a carbon -- or my original, if you want -- of my first rough draft. {...}

      (four) Other pressing work. {...} Shouldn't I be a little wary of getting too much in VULCAN'S HAMMER and this Don Wollheim s-f notion of "Phil Dick's true vocation"? It might throw me off my real work. which is of course the straight-novel contract.

      (c) If I am to do any s-f, any bread-and-butter work, since VULCAN'S HAMMER can only be marketed to ACE, wouldn't it be more practical {...} for me to go and do a wholly new s-f novel, based on new ideas, which, if ACE doesn't buy, would be marketable to other houses? I want to do a psychological s-f book in the tradition of my TIME OUT OF JOINT. {...} In other words, But only if you want it. Okay? And thanks for your willingness to read this long rather rambling letter.

      In the end, he did expand the short story into the novel VULCAN’S HAMMER in March and April 1960,,,is a nice book for boys of six or nine years old...

      or for adults with ...you know

    3. the purpose of the 99% if we speak of sci-fi scenarios like the image up,,,
      or down in 10001111000 binary

      are expressed in Piano Player kurt vonnegut junior circa 195?

      damon knight hell's pavement or hell pavement 1954

      the world of midas frederick pohl in the 80's?

      and in several others,,,,like the jap author of kappa in 195??

      or the drones made of living organic matter

      in the war of the newts by karel kapek or Čapek...válka'ss mloky with SS in with in salamander form
      in central african empire in 198? something 12 men kill 500 people in less than two hours

      in angola the mercenarium from south africa after the collapse of the appatheid are joining the rank's of the 0,01% in Luanda to kill the 45% in several places

      one kommando kill more than 700 people in 7 or 8 hours
      and hundred of them have weapons...the people they kill,,,,

      they loose three in 60,,,,

  4. The idea of a pre-emptive strike in Tom Perkins becomes ever more... Stop that thought now.

    1. We could do a pre-emptive strike now through the political process with out shedding any blood.

      If things get truly out of hand, all it takes is one Charlotte Corday with a knife for each tyrant. The numbers still favor the underclass.

  5. Phil Koop4:39 PM

    You write "We can carry this dystopian thought exercise through to its ultimate conclusion. Imagine a world where gated communities ..." etc.

    Why is this supposed to be an ultimate conclusion? It's not a stable equilibrium. Once the 1% eliminate the 99%, they're not the 1% anymore, they're the 100%. The only way to assert positional dominance is for the .01% to prey on the .99%. Etc etc. The end game seems to be one human owning all the robots, plus maybe a few personal slaves.

    1. Bill Ellis8:11 PM

      The 1% would not eliminate the 99%. That would be like farmers killing their crops. The drones would be used more like selective herbicides.

    2. "The end game seems to be one human owning all the robots, plus maybe a few personal slaves."

      No, the end game is when the remaining human oligarchs are overthrown by their industrial products.

  6. But technology makes drones cheaper for everyone and so that is not likely to be happening. Why would the elite wipe out it's own cervants?

    What is much more likely to happen is a production facility elite. I.e. a huxley universe rather than an "orwellian" one.

    1. servants? cervantes? don quijote?

      the elite only have this name because they have servants

      mechanical servants don't produce good elites

      It's so hard to tell a syn ( synthetic men) from a human

      Methodically, the syns were being rooted out and destroyed....

      Scientists feared as much as half the population turn out to be syns

      or homeless people or russian's or chinese or soviet's the enemy within us

      is a old old tale

  7. A garden variety on the topic for your perusal...http://www.ted.com/playlists/135/will_drones_save_us_or_destroy

  8. I think you are forgetting 2 things.
    1 'authorities; are supposed to have a duty of care and so 'official' drones are not supposed to hurt innocent people.
    2 people who are anti-authority have no such constraint.

    ... so 'terrorist' drones will be much much cheaper than govt ones.

    Welcome to a new era of terrorism - not a new era of govt.

  9. Anonymous6:50 PM

    Why exactly did you take "half-baked fututism" out of the subtitle?

  10. Bill Ellis8:04 PM

    Noah, DUDE. You have got to turn this into fiction. Someone does.

    1. It has already been done lots of times.

  11. The thing is, if drones become really cheap, then even rebels can afford them. If the Robot Lord dystopia manages to completely crush out all hope then sure, but people wouldn't be able to get their hands on guns in a hopeless dystopia either. Setting up a hopeless dystopia would require a narrow opportunity where they're cheap enough for the rich to do what they want but the 99% can't afford them. And I don't think that's really much of a risk.

    Drones don't seem like they should be exceptionally expensive to make. You can buy "consumer drones" right now, strap some kind of weapon to it and you're in business. (The engineering difficulty is that weapons can get pretty heavy, but right now there are drones with tasers on them.) And the autonomous part would come from the software side, and software is easy enough to smuggle copies of.

    Of course, mass market weaponized autonomous drones are also a kinda scary idea, but it's not a boot stepping on the face of the human race forever, it's just diffuse chaos across the board.

    1. As I note below, all the drones are currently software controlled. The 1%ers wouldn't know how to program one. They probably don't even really know what "programming" is.

      Of course, mass-produced drones will all be running the *same* software.

      Remember the bit in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace where Anakin & company hack the robot army? Yeah. That's what would happen.

      This is potentially a dystopia, but it's a very different one.

      I'll note that really good computer programmers tend to have autism-spectrum traits and be extremely anti-authoritarian. No way will they just work for the 1%ers. We might get the lawless libertarian dystopia, but not the authoritarian one.

  12. Anonymous1:09 AM

    So, in your scenario, where exactly did the state's monopoly on legitimate force disappear off to? Why exactly would the state permit drone warlords to appear? How would putative warlords prevent the far larger drone forces the democratic state can command from dragging them off to the gallows before they grow to a significant threat? How do we get there from here? The fundamentally totalitarian, violent and coercive nature of the state is an intended feature, not a bug -- it protects you from the fundamentally totalitarian, violent and coercive nature of individuals and corporations. What you are describing is not a failure of technology, but a failure of politics.

    It is far more likely that drones will wind up under democratic control, fighting the wars and enforcing the laws of states. In that case, it runs into the problem that very little of warfare is about killing people or breaking things anymore. Destroying stuff is already a "solved problem". If any more than a tiny amount of the effort in fighting a modern war were spent on killing, there would quickly be nothing left to fight over -- we have become that good at it.

    Most of warfare now, the still difficult, unsolved, marginal part, is not about killing. It is about transforming the nature of the people and place you have fought for to your liking. After all, you don't go to war typically just to kill (except in the case of racial or religious wars of annihilation like in Rwanda) -- the killing has a goal. It might be to integrate a new people and territory to your own, to change the people and place so they no longer support terrorism aimed at yourself, or whatever. This is the hard part, and this is the part drones don't help with. Drones only solve the easy part of warfare.

    Heinlein stated it quite well in Starship Troopers -- there will always be infantry because warfare is more about arresting enemy sympathisers, or maintaining civic order, or building new institutions and infrastructure, or handing out aid, or presenting your case to the locals, than it is about dropping bombs. Those are tasks far better handled by humans on the ground with actual human faces, voices and natures, with or without guns.

    The lack of combat power of the infantryman did not make him obsolete even in the thermonuclear age, because killing power is just not that important in warfare anymore. Cheap armed autonomous drones do not change that. Maybe if the drones were replicants that have the appeal of fellow humans, but I don't think that was the thrust of your argument.

    1. Anonymous3:30 PM

      I agree with fellow anonymous!
      I mean, just think how bad it would be if CEO's owned tanks! and fighter jets! and nuclear missiles! Then they would have nothing to fear from the 99%. But they don't own these things and won't own these things so long as the government doesn't want them to. Killer drones also fall under this category. How do corporations build their own private drone army? What government allows them to reach that point?

      Anyway, robot armies would have an interesting effect on wars between states, so I enjoyed the read inasmuch it compelled me to think about that aspect, but this dystopian corporate overlord future is a little too far out there. (But, most of Noah's visions of the future strike me as silly/wrong, so this just fits in with the trend.)

  13. Noah,

    Amazing piece. You may go down as the first person to write about this fundamentally important issue in the media. And you really do a service getting people to think about this and work preventatively as early as possible. Like so much else, the sooner we start to think and plan, and take preventative steps, the more likely we are to avoid a catastrophic equilibrium.

    There's so much to say, I'll just note a few points.

    First, a big antidote is strong democracy. The plutocrats want one dollar one vote, and some will even admit it in public:


    But Democracy prevents this, and prevents them from turning the robots on the 99% (or 99.99%). Democracy has to be strong, both majority rules, and reasonable minority rights, and that has to strongly and very securely be programmed into all computers and robots with regard to what orders they can follow, and from whom. There have to be many redundant, fragmented, safeguards, and checks and balances – But this is precisely the kind of thing we have to be thinking about and planning for as early as possible, so thank you again Noah for making this known.

    And thank goodness that we're going in with the vast majority of world power, technology, and resources under the control of strong mature democracies. Although we hardly want to get overconfident about this. We want to really make democracy stronger in the world and work on safeguards to keep robot militaries under the control of democratic peoples, not the Kochs or the Perkins, or any dictator or oligarchy.

    In economics recently we've heard a lot about the race between education and technology – can people become educated fast enough to stay ahead of technology taking lower skilled jobs. But there's also a race between democracy and technology. Can democracy stay strong enough and widespread enough to prevent a dictator or oligarchy from getting control of an unstoppable robot military.

    I just finished "The Second Machine Age". The authors don't really get into any specifics on this kind of thing, but they do generally say at the end of the book:

    "We will be increasingly concerned with questions about catastrophic events, genuine existential risks, freedom versus tyranny, and other ways that technology can have unintended or unexpected side effects."

    Second, another race is perhaps between the "the Matrix" and robots. Your article refers to standard rival goods, but what about non-rival goods, where there's really nothing to not give the 99.99%. When the matrix gets so good that everyone can really have pretty much anything there is, without it costing anyone else other than the cost of their basic nutrition and electric power, which the robots and solar grid can provide easily, that pretty much eliminates the issue of distribution. Pretty much all goods become non-rival (cue famous Paul Romer quote on how economics completely changes with non-rival goods).

    1. Noah, great note - The Age of the Gun led to
      One Gun, One Target >> majority wins battles.
      "God created Man ... Colt made him equal"

      The Gov't will not allow private drones to seriously threaten gov't power, so the rich and powerful will make sure they control the gov't, especially by using IRS, NSA, FBI and other gov't organs to oppress any opposition, as the Obama admin has already started doing.
      Funny, you seem quite willing to support that crap, as long as it's against the Republican folk you don't like. Funny sad.

      You say: " To pay the poor, you have to tax the rich, and the Robot Lords are unlikely to stand for that."
      This is stupidly silly, since the rich already accept huge amounts of taxes being paid to support the poor. Not yet enough to support a median tax payer level of income for every non-worker, but as the cost of food and clothes and housing (somewhere) goes down, nobody in America can't afford food, clothes, and a place to sleep (with behavior restrictions).

      If Dems want taxes so high that the top 1% is no longer ... the top 1%, that's pretty dumb. Somebody will always be in the top 1%. And wealth, far more than income, will become more important for ownership control over robots and production facilities.

      I think the huge potential for materialist benefits to all from drone based production means the cost of living a modest, "working class" life like what those in the US making about $40-50k live will be available to all willing to work, even at below minimum wages.
      (Perhaps not so easy for single mothers, but it's intellectually dishonest to avoid sexual behavior issues and the economic consequences of unmarried promiscuity when discussing income redistribution to those in need.)

      Anyway, drone production will be a huge issue for lower prices of life necessities, and will be an alternate upheaval over drone warriors.

    2. Tom,
      this is so mixed up, I don't know where to start. (For a start the resource limits on food and shelter have almost nothing to do with available labour).

  14. To take this to its logical conclusion, wouldn't hackers rule the world? Are you saying that the 1% know how to programm the damn things?

    1. That is kind of a key point. The middle ages knight who trained all his life to fight in the pre-gun era could certainly defeat one or several peasants. But this guy *trained all his life to fight.* Are the 1% going to personally run the drones? Break me a give. And if they rely on hired hands to run the drones, they've handed off military power to a force which could easily turn against them and rebel.
      Anyway, you can easily have complete totalitarianism even when guns are the top technology. North Korea, anyone? Democracy v. totalitarianism doesn't really depend on technology. Oh, and the business about people "waking up" and withdrawing support from Stalinism or Maoism? Didn't happen. Couldn't happen. There was simply no way for ordinary people to "withdraw support." What actually happened is that the communists themselves decided that complete totalitarianism was a horrible way to live. Only after the *leaders* shut down the terror was it possible for popular opinion to have any meaning.

    2. Very well argued.

  15. scepticus8:55 AM

    I read the whole article on Quartz and I think you have identified a plausible trend however have perhaps left out the most obvious aspect of it.

    The teeming masses outside the gates who can't work the land and have essentially no raison d'aitre are essentially 'deselected' from the perspective of not only human evolution but from the evolution of the geosphere. There is no reason economically or civilisation-ally for them to exist.

    Cut forward then to when those who missed the boat have died out and what have we got - just the communities inside the gates, within which there are no doubt individual winners and losers. Obviously they are all winners since they didn't get deselected in what I'd term as 'the first de-selection event'. Also inside the gates you have those entities which triumphed over the formerly teeming masses, and here I am talking about the machines not the human masters. After all, with a finite energy budget, there is always a decision to be made whether to allocate energy dissipation to men or machines.

    From the perspective of the whole bio-geo-cybersphere as a single co-evolving entity, this latter configuration (a fraction of a per cent of the number of humans and more machines) is quite possibly much more satisfactory in terms of environmental damage etc and may possibly be more favourable in terms of development of the species and solving of problems like extra-terrestrial colonisation.

    At some point in future, each increase in the amount of energy dissipated exosomatically (outside the human body) must translate to a decrease in the number of live human bodies. Its certainly plausible to speculate that when that watershed arrives (and it may have already done so), that natural evolutionary processes will act to reduce human numbers. However for that path to be stable one has to posit how these gated communities function within theselves and how an on-going balance between human needs and machine needs is established.

    1. You want to be careful here. This can easily sound like eugenics if you are not careful.

    2. Anonymous10:37 AM

      I wonder how long civilization can survive when the worth of a human being is calculated on their ability to produce and in turn consume?

      "The teeming masses outside the gates who can't work the land and have essentially no raison d'aitre"

      I don't know if it was your intention but this is quite literally one of the most chilling sentiments I've ever read. Not because it seems horrifying in some dystopian sense but rather that it seems rather common.

    3. scepticus11:29 AM

      "I don't know if it was your intention but this is quite literally one of the most chilling sentiments I've ever read. Not because it seems horrifying in some dystopian sense but rather that it seems rather common."

      "This can easily sound like eugenics if you are not careful."

      I realise the statement is provocative and to some extent I'm playing devils advocate. What I would say is that I intended the above statement "From the perspective of the whole bio-geo-cybersphere as a single co-evolving entity", not from the perspective of the gated 1%.

      The question "Why are we here?" applies. Some people address this from a anthropomorphic viewpoint, whereas I prefer to address it from a more generalised complex/life systems perspective. Complex adaptive systems (animate and inanimate) tend to optimise for things like growth and maximisation of entropy production. As far as that is concerned a radically different mix of men and machines and other planetary life may be a preferred path of long term evolution.

      The non-anthropomorphic view is neither good nor evil, it simply admits a wider perspective. I would agree that this viewpoint could be turned to evil ends though.

    4. "The teeming masses outside the gates who can't work the land and have essentially no raison d'aitre"

      This already describes about 15% (and rising ) of the American population.

    5. raison d'être10:33 PM

      in some places like somalia and haiti you already have 50 or 60% doing the same
      but they consume, and consuming is the raison d'être

      or d'ai tree c'est la même chose

  16. as dystopian thought experiments go, orwell's "1984" and huxley's "brave new world" are the gold standard for both contemporary commentary and predictive accuracy. so i hope it's not too much of an insult to say, noah, you're not trading at $2000 an ounce yet.

    today's ruthless capitalists do not behave as lawlessly as, say, narcobillionaires to our south, although it's in their interest to do so. the notorious koch brothers, for example, may be knowingly impairing the planet for personal gain, but they also fund (beautiful) dartmouth college and deerfield academy, presumably because they have some sort of vision of truth and beauty.

    if the trend toward greater and greater inequality continues, feudalism is certainly in the cards. gun enthusiasts will be disappointed to learn that drone-gamers will trump them, but perhaps the focus on weaponry is just a whole lot of materialist barking up the wrong tree.

    gated communities are easily penetrated: any teenager will tell you that. back in the day, i went pool-hopping circa the greenwich, ct, country club. white and polite, i not only didn't get shot by armed security, they bought me a cup of coffee. this is because it's not really a wall that separates the uber-rich from us, it's a semi-permeable membrane. the battlefield model so beloved by the nra doesn't just distract people from the biochemical metaphor of elitism, it serves to keep the disadvantaged right where they are. if religion is the opiate of the masses, violence is the oxycontin.

    1. i hope it's not too much of an insult to say, noah, you're not trading at $2000 an ounce yet

      Not an insult at all. Gold is trading around $1365 an ounce, so that leaves plenty of room for me to be better than Orwell or Huxley! In fact, I don't deserve that kind of praise, but thanks. :-)

    2. "as dystopian thought experiments go, orwell's "1984" and huxley's "brave new world" are the gold standard for both contemporary commentary and predictive accuracy."

      Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano seems more prescient to me. But Vonnegut apparently admitted ripping off Brave New World.

  17. with all the talk today from Tim Berners Lee about needing a Magna Cater of the internet this post illustrates that technology without controls is very dangerous for humanity. Terminator, The Matrix and I Robot bring the issues to front of mind but the lack of debate on these new machines is very scary.

  18. Too easy

  19. Wonks Anonymous1:11 PM

    The earliest guns were inferior to bows. Bows simply required more training to use effectively (after Wales was conquered its male inhabitants were legally required to spend a certain amount of time practicing the longbow, with results visible in their asymmetric skeletons). Guns could be fired by any idiot. Medieval europe (and Europe is where firearms came into their own) was not dominated by horse-archers, but heavy cavalry. And cavalry was stymied not by the ranged weaponry of light infantry, but well-drilled formations of pikemen. The bayonet later fused heavy and light infantry into one, but even in the Napoleonic wars cavalry could still be effective against such infantry in a flanking maneuver. A gun with both bayonet & rifling was too much for cavalry though, but by the time guns are that effective you are no longer reliant on cheap unskilled levies putting matches into sticks in the hopes that enough of them will hit the broadside of a barn.

    1. no youre wrong enough men can yes they can destroy any industrial death machinery the zulu dawn proves it....

      iron age warrior's defeat the best of the british empire

      or in the two petrol and gas wars of george bush less than 60 thousand men in arms defeat a army ten times bigger....

      with crude explosive devices and ak-47 und so weither

    2. Wonks Anonymous4:26 PM

      I don't see how you actually disagree with me. Maybe you disagree with Noah, but I think his drones are radically different from colonial troops, and their mission would be quite different from coalition forces in Afghanistan (also, there would be no political cost to drone casualties).

      "petrol and gas wars"? Do you mean a modern mechanized army floats on a sea of oil rather than marching on its stomach? I suppose so, but the initial Afghanistan campaign largely relied on special forces soldiers linking up with existing rebels/warlords. Admittedly, one of the main tasks of those special forces soldiers was picking targets for air assault, and planes are of course powered by fossil fuels. If you think either of the wars was in pursuit of oil, you have a lot of learning to do.

    3. the zulu dawn proves it

      The Zulus won at Isandlwana because the British soldiers were poorly deployed. The next day the British won a battle against the Zulus at Rorke's Drift.

    4. NO....IF YOU HAVE 300 men with machete's and 7 with machine gun's

      the 300 won and the seven are cut to pieces or run

      is the

      vulcan0s hammer principle

      mass assault

      onsdag den 12. marts 2014




      IS PERSIAN sepāh, meaning "army", but originally meant "cavalry" derived from aspa, "horse", with the compound name standing for a "horseman") as does the English AND FRENCH AND ITALIAN AND OTHER COLONIAL ARMIES USE THE TERM...

      they are cheap than drones they reproduce faster you have already 7,000,000 of them

      the numbers win
      you can kill three million's in vietnam
      or 500,000 in some other wars

      but you can have terrain dominance

      if the warriors are fanatic enough

      and don't mind to be made in beef ....

      the jaggas in n'gola in the XVII century

      the iranians against yhe shah armies in 1979

      and several others

      that defeat armed men

      or their machine like equivalent

      The russian tanks in carelie ...(finland during the winter war of 1940
      with 25% of h2so4 and 75% of gasoline ...or other essence c'est la même chose ó koiser soze

  20. in resume ,,,only with enough men or machines or with trained armed men with special skills
    good training and no moral control or with some faith of ubermensch or thug desire to die for the glory of durga or kali or for another god of war
    they prevail

    the jap's don't have men enough if they have 20 or 30 million soldiers to spend the american's need extra bombs nuclear ones i mean

    they only achieve to kill 3 million soldiers with british and russian's and chineese doing the killing for them

  21. and with enough machines or specialized machines you have the problem of decay
    and obsolescence
    and jam ,,,of mechanical parts

    for instance in siberia a human drone can survive well sometimes

    but -40ºc break the metalic parts with one stone like david and golias

    the steel is britlte at -40ºc

    All material's have failures under stress, and the organic ones have much more stress
    if you see a charge of hutus with machetes or a mob with stones and you have only 50 or 80% of kill's in such a mob ...the army moral is brittle too
    the human material if, when subjected to stress, it breaks without significant strain.....

    human materials absorb relatively little energy prior to fracture....

    1. Anonymous11:02 AM

      You sir qualify as Uncategorizable:


    2. no i'am not a anglo-saxon ergo i don't have the sire or the shire

      bestiary is from the animal kingdom

      i'am a Syn,,,,,Raymond F.Jones 1969

    3. my name is not legion

      i'am an hoplite in the phalanx,,,,

      i'am the φάλαγγα.....well in new greek is phalanja or phalanga,,,,

      but i'am greek i bring gifts

      dijous, 13 març de 2014

      Kondratiev wave
      It's economics stupid .....
      In economics, Kondratiev waves (also called supercycles, great surges, long waves, K-waves or the long economic cycle) are supposedly cycle-like phenomena in the modern world economy.

      The period of the wave averages at fifty, and ranges from approximately forty to sixty years, the cycles consist of alternating intervals...

      Potiphar Breen is a middle-aged bachelor with a settled, orderly life,

      a nobel prize of economics in the year of the jackpot is just comic

    4. THE word is best

      in any bestiarium you have the best


      they are small swarm's of words and of worlds and BIG ones

      For a society to be successful in growth and in cultural reproduction like the american society at least in the former Imperial years, you need diversity, you need the swarm's of the best in any bestiarium

      words that make worlds

      and words that take worlds like alea jacta est

      bestiarium is a word with best in it,,,

      the words are vectors for change

      vectors that create new worlds .....................

  22. 1% of 7 billions is 70 millions of robolords scared of themselves hiding from the masses. Come to think of it, even a cookie cutter can not make 70 million identical cookies!

    Besides, one has to lead these 70 millions to go out and kill the rest. And, ever so slightly, the leader sees himself/herself superior and starts thinking of expending of 69.3 millions of their own to assure that only the best of the best get to live. You see there is absurdity in the whole concept, sorry, Noah!

  23. Anonymous1:38 AM

    Well, pretty out there! But:

    1) Lately the newly educated masses have discovered that extreme inequality has been the historical norm, that the world they grew up in was an aberration. That's interesting!

    2) Historically, gangs of barbarian thugs ruled autocratically because they bought off the nerds. Samurai, Prussians, what have you, they depended on an elite group of engineers to build their weaponry. Speaking of Prussians, certain of their missteps sent the nerds elsewhere.

    3) Guns democratized power, enabling the rise of the bourgeoisie (first in Switzerland, fwiw). It always seemed funny to me, how the urban haute bourgeoisie hate guns and gun lovers so much, when it's just two sides of the middle class culture that broke the aristos.

    4) Looks like the thugs and the nerds are getting back together again. It didn't work out for us last time, and I don't think it will this time either.

    5) Revolutions may be done for, but coups aren't.

    6) Etc.

    7) Economics should have experiments.

    8) +1

    1. -->"2) Historically, gangs of barbarian thugs ruled autocratically because they bought off the nerds. Samurai, Prussians, what have you, they depended on an elite group of engineers to build their weaponry. Speaking of Prussians, certain of their missteps sent the nerds elsewhere."<--


      Buying off the nerds requires... finesse. Our 1% doesn't seem to have it.

      "4) Looks like the thugs and the nerds are getting back together again. It didn't work out for us last time, and I don't think it will this time either."
      No, actually, I think the thugs and the nerds were working together starting in the 1980s -- when the NSA was a coveted career for mathematics PhDs -- and we're witnessing the BREAKUP. (Snowden, anyone?) The nerds are not being treated right by the thugs, and they're recognizing it.

  24. Autonomous killer drones only become fearsome if their designers have solved the hard, hard, very hard, unebelievably hard problem of producing genuine artificial intelligence.

    Otherwise, humans will be able to outwit and easily destroy the drones by doing something simple like holding a mirror up to its sensors.

    And if drone designers can solve the absurdly hard problem of producing true AI, drones will prove much less dangerous than the resulting superintelligent machines.

    Personally, my take on the hard AI problem is the same as Bruce Sterling's -- "AI research" belongs to the same category as "alchemy research" or "phlogiston research."

    So we're likely to get the same kind of dumb autonomous machines we have now...lethal killer machines that blow up wedding parties and target trees as insurgents. Not much of a danger there.

  25. Wonderful, thought provoking post. But the premise is wrong.

    Someone once said 'no taxation without representation', and a state must enfranchise its taxpayers or risk revolt. These used to be landowners only, then merchants, nowadays labourers too. The Huns, robber-barons and pirates -- who had military power but no economic base -- eventually were overcome by or became taxing states. Petro-states do not need to rely on the consent of their population and generally rule of law and civil society is weaker there.

    It is institutions, not technology, that determine economic outcomes. Says Martin Wolf (Feb 11).

    1. Petro-states like the iranian in 1979?
      venezuela? Lybia?
      well syria is a pipeline-state but have some Petro-in the state und gas....

    2. Sing...like sing-sing my people have extra S.S's in it

  26. Anonymous1:46 PM

    The state already has a monopoly on heavy weaponry.

    I am not sure that robotics somehow changes that.

    If the government can prevent Tom Perkins from using a tank to protect his mansion today why can't they prevent him from owning a mech droid tomorrow?

    Low-cost manufacturing of drone robots isn't the answer.

    Ultimately, the government has the first mover advantage in that it has a monopoly on power RIGHT NOW and can use it to squash any accumulation of robotized weaponry by billionaires before they can ever accumulate enough drones to fight back and establish their robot-economy enclaves, no matter how cheap the drones are.

    tl;dr Tom Perkins can't build an army today and low-cost drones won't help him build a robot army tomorrow

    1. Anonymous1:49 PM

      I should have also said that that's why democracy is so crucial.

      The government has a monopoly on military power. The voters influence the government by voting. Therefore the voters can influence the government to use its monopoly on military power to prevent any serious accumulation of robotized weaponry by rich people no matter how cheap it is.

    2. the state is made of men....the heavy weaponry is expensive and need protection against lytic substances that alter the weapon

      and protection against physical conditions for instance now i have 72,3º F and this night the temperature drops at 52 or 56ºF is a warm winter with lots of american's playing golf in this forsaken country

      the oil in this condition's can penetrate some surfaces of the Tiger or Leopard II tank by mechanisms related to crack's and small breaks that time (the Time with TimeLord in with) uses like a specialized strategy to destroy machines

      low-cost manufacturing don't achieve eternity,,,
      manufacturing implies a place that can be targeted to be destroyed

      if you have functional machinery robot-like weaponry that endures the eon's
      let's say a indestructible magical weapon like the t-1000 the liquid metal or metaloide guy he T-1000 is a fictional robotic assassin and the primary antagonist in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Created by the series main antagonist Skynet, the T-1000 is a shapeshifter whose body is composed of liquid metal that allows it to assume the form of other objects (commonly knives and stabbing weapons) or people, typically terminated victims.[1] Therefore, it is portrayed by multiple actors in the film. It is further explained in the prologue of the film's Novelization, that the T-1000 was created through nano technology, and is a Nanomorph, able to scan the molecular structure of whatever it is touching and visually mimic

      or the whisper men

      Do you hear the Whisper Men? The Whisper Men are near.
      If you hear the Whisper Men then turn away your ear.
      Do not hear the Whisper Men, whatever else you do.
      For once you've heard the Whisper Men they'll stop. And look at you.

      this kind of magical weapons are more effective to control the 99,9%
      in Turkey or in Syria or in the Crimean Wars from XXI century fox

      with people armies they are defective
      they kill the !% that they shoukd protect
      Kadhafi or gadafi or Ceausescu or Siade-Barre well they fail to kill Siade but they don't have the appropriate environment

      in september 74 a heavy armored group of people kill about 2 to 5 thousand people in the suburbia of Maputo in Mozambique some days later about 5 thousand suburban guys with Katana's not kitanas ok ...dai.katana in jap

      make a run in the center of the town
      and 50 thousand armed men .....just fled
      well some die or burn ,,,,
      5 thousand against a city with 200 thousand with 50 thousand automatic gun's and several tanks,,,,
      and the imperial or colonial system collapsed in one single day

  27. This article really scared the hell out of me, this is a very very possible prognostication of the future.

    1. no, the mob control have plenty of alternatives, the drone control is so so....simplex

      biochemical control

      crowd control by indoctrination american way with concentration camps for 3 million pauper's that are anti-social

      and the normal in Sci-fi decapitation charges or explosive devices for everybody for free

      like in several books from 1934 to 1971 and after

      The anome is one of this series

      The Anome (alternate title: The Faceless Man) is a science fiction novel by American writer Jack Vance, first published in 1973 (copyright 1971); it is the first book in the Durdane series of novels.
      Plot summary

      It tells the story of a boy growing to manhood in the land of Shant, a society composed of many different, and wildly individual cantons, some of which are run by cults. Each adult wears an explosive torc which can be detonated by remote command, bringing about instant death by decapitation. The torcs are controlled by an anonymous dictator, the Anome, whose identity is literally unknown.
      Because those whose heads are exploded are selected primarily by the cantonal leaders, for violations of local law, the Anome is able to operate with only a handful of assistants, or 'Benevolences', who themselves do not know his identity.

  28. Won't happen, Noah, and here's why.

    Iran brought down a US drone not so long ago. And analyzed the innards. And hacked it. And reverse-engineered it. And...

    ...well, not to put too fine a point on it, the robots only do what the programmers tell them to.

    So this world you describe is not the world where the leisure class 1%-er financial overlords rule... it's the world where the most competent HACKERS, like Edward Snowden, rule.

    Think about it. You may find this to be a dystopia too, but it's a very different dystopia.