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Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century [Kindle Edition]

P. W. Singer
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In Wired for War, P. W. Singer explores the great­est revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb: the dawn of robotic warfare. We are on the cusp of a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make real the stuff of I, Robot and The Terminator. Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amaz­ing cast of characters, Singer shows how technology is changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself. Travelling from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to modern-day "skunk works" in the midst of suburbia, Wired for War will tantalise a wide readership, from military buffs to policy wonks to gearheads.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brookings Institute fellow Singer (Children at War) believes that we resist trying to research and understand change in the making of war. Robotics promises to be the most comprehensive instrument of change in war since the introduction of gunpowder. Beginning with a brief and useful survey of robotics, Singer discusses its military applications during WWII, the arming and autonomy of robots at the turn of the century, and the broad influence of robotics on near-future battlefields. How, for example, can rules of engagement for unmanned autonomous machines be created and enforced? Can an artificial intelligence commit a war crime? Arguably more significant is Singers provocative case that war itself will be redefined as technology creates increasing physical and emotional distance from combat. As robotics diminishes wars risks the technology diminishes as well the higher purposes traditionally used to justify it. Might that reduce humanitys propensity for war making? Or will robotics make war less humane by making it less human? Singer has more questions than answers—but it is difficult to challenge his concluding admonition to question and study the technologies of military robotics—while the chance remains. (Jan. 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
114 of 124 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars JohnHawley El Paso, Texas March 10, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I work as an engineering psychologist in a U.S. Army organization that is in the forefront of R&D on military robotics and automated command and control systems. Hence, I read P.J. Sanger's Wired for War with considerable interest. I can relate to much of his discussion on an experiential basis. We routinely encounter and try to provide solutions for many of the problems Sanger discusses. As a point of interest, I was the technical lead on an Army effort looking at human performance contributors to the fratricides by the Patriot air defense missile system during the recent Gulf War mentioned on page 125. As is usually the case in a casual summary of complex events, Sanger's description of these events is superficially accurate, but there is a lot more to the story. Also, I've been told that his remark on page 197 about the radar on the DIVAD gun locking onto the exhaust fan of a port-a-potty is an urban legend. I've heard about this alleged incident, but I've never been able to find anyone in the Army air defense community who ever witnessed it personally. We work tests on that class of systems all the time, so we know the players.
Overall, I thought Sanger did a good job of describing the state of the art in robotic military systems and addressing the potential sociological and psychological impact of using these systems in current and future military operations. From my perspective, the central operational issue in using armed robotic systems in combat is balancing autonomy with effective human control (the focus of Sanger's Chapter 6.). In my view, he correctly refers to this topic as the "Issue-That-Must-Not-Be-Discussed." I was particularly struck by the difference between the attitude of those having the most on-the-ground experience with these systems (e.g.
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75 of 84 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A little too sensationalist, not enough real. February 3, 2011
By jwman
Format:Kindle Edition
Singer paints a picture of vastly capable robots and software that are fielded right now. As someone working in the robotics field and trying to provide autonomous behaviors for government applications, I see how far this is from reality. As is often the case, however, reality doesn't create much buzz or sell many books.

This book feeds the popular misconception that robots are smart and getting smarter. I have a brother-in-law that was asking me about my work and how I'd done some simple AI design for computer board games for fun a long time ago. He made the comment, "I bet all that is coming in handy in your current job". I had to tell him that no, creating strategy-based behaviors for Risk has almost zero relevance to modern robotics -- we're nowhere close to a strategic level of thinking. As an industry, we're still at the level of getting a robot to move from point A to point B consistently and without running into anything. The videos on YouTube posted by researchers show some incredible things, but research is almost always 10-15 years ahead of a solid, marketable solution (toy problems in the lab are comparatively easy, real-world complexity is HARD).

The reality is this: Most mobile robots in theater right now are glorified remote control cars, operated by soldiers less than a few hundred meters away via cameras mounted on the robots. Singer talks a great deal about the Foster-Miller Talon and iRobot Packbot, because they are far and away the most common and prominent platforms in theater. However, the examples of autonomy he gives never deal with those platforms. Why? Because they have almost no autonomy for the units in the field.

Autonomy for mobile robotics is HARD. Very hard.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I first heard the author talking on NPR about this topic, and both that interview and the first chapter of this book show his excitement and deep interest and understanding of this subject. For such a weighty hardback, it's remarkably hard to put down, and each section evolves intelligently from the last. I particularly enjoyed the references to modern culture, given that robotics has largely been a subject of science fiction in the last few decades rather than yielding anything practical in reality.

Well, at least so I thought - it turns out that over 12,000 robots are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak. The companies producing these machines were spurred by the very real necessities of dealing with guerrilla warfare, and avoiding the human toll associated with such difficult environments. Through a combination of human-controlled and artificially-intelligent hardware, these robots back up our soldiers and provide a super-human level of robustness and accuracy.

The author raises the complex moral questions associated with having machines killing people on the frontline, and the issues that arise when mistakes occur. There's also a fascinating discussion of stress disorders that remote pilots are suffering from - these men and women sit in offices in the US, controlling machines on the battleground far away, and return home for dinner every day after "a day's fighting".

It's also interesting to look at the design of some of the machines and their control interfaces, many of which look like Wall-E with a machine gun. Weapons companies have copied controllers from the Playstation and Xbox, taking advantage of a generation that is comfortable using these devices without extensive retraining.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great historical view on the creation and evolution of robotics....
P.W. Singer does a great job of explaining the evolution of robotics (I'm a robotic engineer) and how the military takes advantage of a variety of platforms. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Taz
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!
Top quality book. Content rich and presented to be understood by anyone. This is a must read by everyone!
Published 2 months ago by Cecil M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome!
Published 3 months ago by Darnell Wiggins
5.0 out of 5 stars The drones are here.
Very enlightening book.
Published 3 months ago by Julian W. Wasser
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Proven
Published 6 months ago by Virgil Bolton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading for the future warfighter, with a pop culture twist.
Well written, informative, at times witty, Wired for War studies modern war, computers, and robotics, and their intertwined histories. If it isn't standard reading for U.S. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Borderline robot autonomy
Singer has spent a lot of time with the manufacturers and operators of military robots and shows that the armed forces have undergone a radical shift of attitude towards robotics... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Baraniecki Mark Stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Dated quickly but the first half is seminal.
Published 10 months ago by Geoff_H
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
Excellent book. Could be a little better organized.
Published 10 months ago by Kenneth W. Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual and Interesting
Fantastic book! It's very interesting and full of information for gear heads, military enthusiasts, and those interested in the coming social/political impacts of technology. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Luke M
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More About the Author

Hi! My formal biography and links to all my books and articles are at www.pwsinger.com but the short version is that I am someone who loves to read, and hopes to write books that people love to read too.
You can also follow me on twitter @peterwsinger


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Topic From this Discussion
Kindle edition more expensive than hardcover edition!
I agree, this is a book I was prepared to purchase but now I'm getting fed up with these expensive DRM digital copies which are in any cases only a little cheaper and sometimes more expensive than papercopies, which can be resold, given away as gift, etc.
Nov 4, 2009 by Sondre Bjellas |  See all 4 posts
Why no Audio edtion?
ditto
Oct 28, 2009 by sandysch |  See all 4 posts
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