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War in the Age of Intelligent Machines

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0942299755
ISBN-10: 0942299752
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books (December 26, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299755
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,017,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By William Michael Brown on June 18, 1998
De Landa strikes me as a popularizer, but what he lacks in theoretical rigor he more than makes up for with discipline, serious intent, and sheer vision. Best antidote in print to the kind of mostly ignorant, ahistorical cyberphilia that dominates too much of "Wired" and other ongoing public discussions of our technological future. If you like this, you must not miss "A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History", which advances his methods and insight to a much wider, even more significant level.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 14, 2009
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Picture the following scenario: two countries, call them A and B have declared war on each other for reasons of their own (usually of course without moral justification). A begins the conflict by sending over to B's territory hundreds of thousands of entities that look like houseflies. Equipped with wings and tiny sensing devices, these entities swarm all over Country B and perform surveillance by communicating with each other and with A's central command. This is followed by a massive cyber attack on B, wherein its computing facilities and networks are flooded with intelligent network agents that work their way through B's networks and stymie their ability to route useful information. Once B's networks have been effectively made useless, A sends over thousands of ground-based and air-based robots, all of which are carrying ordinance and can identify enemy targets and destroy them as they see fit. These machines are able to communicate with other and coordinate attack plans, and they use both explosive power and cognitive disrupters to mentally confuse B's military infrastructure. At no time in this conflict was there any human in country A involved, except perhaps as a spectator. In fact, even the strategies and attack plans, as well as the decision to go to war against B in the first place, were the responsibility of intelligent machines. Country B, not having the same technological capabilities as A, is effectively decimated within a matter of days, if not hours.

This hypothetical and future-pointing scenario of the use of intelligent machines in warfare is one possible one that is not too far away from present capabilities.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nathan S on February 8, 2013
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How would a robot write a history of its own kind? This question kick starts De Landa's most famous book, detailing the history of the "war-machine" through the eyes of Deleuzian philosophy. I can't say I totally get Deleuze, but his project excites me in those rare moments I can parse it. De Landa does a great job of bringing Deleuze's philosophy into the real world and showing us how many of Deleuze's concepts can be made to do work in the disciplines of history and the social sciences. I can't really make any claims about how important this book is, or even how important De Landa and Deleuze are, but I love this book, it makes philosophy fun, kind of like watching a really great action movie, where ideas are the heroes. Happy to have it on my shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy P. Bushnell on February 11, 2006
Manuel DeLanda's preeminent virtue as a scholar is the way in which he applies the ideas of complexity theory (emergence, feedback, etc.) to the historical record, and this book follows this template, looking at moments where technological developments (the conoidal bullet, wireless technology) spur military systems to evolve (a process which, in turn, triggers other armies to evolve in response).

If you accept this premise (fail to at your peril), it naturally suggests that the militaries of today will one day evolve even further. So in addition to sketching out historical instances of this sort of thing, DeLanda spends a lot of time drawing attention to contemporary developments in technology or military theory that might be putting us on the road to future phase shifts that might spell Bad News for soldiers and civilians alike. Artificial intelligence, RAND-style war game simulators, and predatory machines (of the sort outlined in DARPA's "Strategic Computing Initiative") all come in for an extended critique, although DeLanda seems more optimistic about technological systems that don't take human beings "out of the loop" (the book ends with an appreciation of humanist interface designer Doug Engelbart).

All in all, this book is pretty essential reading for anyone interested in the "machine" part of the war machine, although it could definitely benefit from a little revision and expansion: some of the Cold War anxiety undergirding the book has lost some of its edge in the intervening years, and I could stand to lose some of it in favor of having DeLanda as a guide through past two wars (although War was published in 1991, Desert Storm hardly ranks a mention, a little odd, given the use of Israeli-built Pioneer UAVs in that conflict).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 7, 2000
A very early and largely academic-historical-philosophical discussion of the changing nature of the relationships between humans, computers, and war. Written prior to the Silicon Valley explosion, and thus still very concerned about the military dominance of information technology. A good alternative overview.
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