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Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

by P. W. Singer
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 22, 2009 1594201986 0
A military expert reveals how science fiction is fast becoming reality on the battlefield, changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself

P. W. Singer’s previous two books foretold the rise of private military contractors and the advent of child soldiers— predictions that proved all too accurate. Now, he explores the greatest revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb—the advent of robotic warfare.

We are just beginning to see a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make the stuff of I,Robot and the Terminator all too real. More than seven- thousand robotic systems are now in Iraq. Pilots in Nevada are remotely killing terrorists in Afghanistan. Scientists are debating just how smart—and how lethal—to make their current robotic prototypes. And many of the most renowned science fiction authors are secretly consulting for the Pentagon on the next generation.

Blending historic evidence with interviews from the field, Singer vividly shows that as these technologies multiply, they will have profound effects on the front lines as well as on the politics back home. Moving humans off the battlefield makes wars easier to start, but more complex to fight. Replacing men with machines may save some lives, but will lower the morale and psychological barriers to killing. The “warrior ethos,” which has long defined soldiers’ identity, will erode, as will the laws of war that have governed military conflict for generations.

Paradoxically, these new technologies will also bring war to our doorstep. As other nations and even terrorist organizations start to build or buy their own robotic weapons, the robot revolution could undermine America’s military preeminence. While his analysis is unnerving, there’s an irresistible gee-whiz quality to the innovations Singer uncovers. Wired for War travels from Iraq to see these robots in combat to the latter-day “skunk works” in America’s suburbia, where tomorrow’s technologies of war are quietly being designed. In Singer’s hands, the future of war is as fascinating as it is frightening.

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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.


“PW Singer. . .has written what is likely to be the definitive work on this subject for some time to come. He has a record of drawing out the underlying trends in modern warfare, with previous books on child soldiers and the increasing use of mercenaries. Wired for War will confirm his reputation: it is riveting and comprehensive, encompassing every aspect of the rise of military robotics, from the historical to the ethical.”
Financial Times

“A riveting, important book . . . Singer, at age 29 the youngest scholar named a senior fellow to the Brookings Institute, put four years into writing Wired for War. It is the only book in my reading experience that quotes Immanuel Kant and Biggie Smalls with equal enthusiasm. The resulting book is an intoxicating, encyclopedic trip - made intensely readable by all the colorful characters Singer salts along this story. . . . I will be shelving my copy next to two other books that remade my world view: Tracy Kidder's The Soul of the New Machine and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.”
— Karen Long, book editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer

“P. W. Singer has fashioned a definitive text on the future of war around the subject of robots. In no previous book have I gotten such an intrinsic sense of what the military future will be like.”
— Robert D. Kaplan, author of Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground

“Singer's book is as important (very) as it is readable (highly), as much a fascinating account of new technology as it is a challenging appraisal of the strategic, political and ethical questions that we must now face. This book needs to be widely read -- not just within the defense community but by anyone interested in the most fundamental questions of how our society and others will look at war itself.”
—Anthony Lake, former U.S. National Security Advisor and Professor of Diplomacy , School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

“Drawing from sources spanning popular culture and hard science, Singer reveals how the relationship between man and robot is changing the very nature of war. He details technology that has, until now, been the stuff of science fiction: lethal machines that can walk on water or hover outside windows, machines joined in networks or thinking for themselves. I found this book fascinating, deep, entertaining, and frightening.”
— Howard Gordon, writer and executive producer of 24, The X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"Lively, penetrating, and wise ... A warmly human (even humorous) account of robotics and other military technologies that focuses where it should: on us."
—Richard Danzig, former Secretary of the Navy and Director, National Semiconductor Corporation

“Will wars someday be fought by Terminator-like machines? In this provocative and entertaining new book, one of our brightest young strategic thinkers suggests the answer may well be “yes.” Singer’s sprightly survey of robotics technology takes the reader from battlefields and cutting-edge research labs to the dreams of science fiction writers. In the process, he forces us to grapple with the strategic and ethical implications of the “new new thing” in war.”
—Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; author of The Savage Wars of Peace and War Made New

“Weaving together immaculate academic research with a fan boy’s lexicon of popular culture, Singer looks at the people and technologies beta-testing tomorrow's wars today. The result is a book both hilarious and hair-raising that poses profound ethical questions about the creation and use of ever more powerful killing machines.”
—Gideon Yago, writer, MTV News

“Blew my f***ing mind…This book is awesome.”
—John Stewart, The Daily Show

"A superb book…If you read Wired for War you'll actually get a sense for the complexities that we are creating. We're not making a simpler world with these robots I don't think at all, I think we're making a more complex world, and that is something I got from this great book.
—General James Mattis, USMC, NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation and the Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command

"In his latest work, Wired for War, Singer confesses his passion for science fiction as he introduces us to a glimpse of things to come–the new technologies that will shape wars of the future. His new book addresses some ominous and little-discussed questions about the military, technology, and machinery."

"...A vivid picture of the current controversies and dazzling possibilities of war in the digital age."
Kirkus Reviews

“Genuinely Provocative”
Book Forum

"…Full of vignettes on the use of robotics, first-person interviews with end- users, what has occurred in the robotics industry in its support of the nation, and what is "coming soon." Some of the new ideas are just downright mind-blowing..."
—The Armchair General

"An admitted war geek, P.W. Singer obsesses—over the course of 400-plus pages— about the growing role of robots in combat. His tone is oddly jovial considering the unsettling subject matter, but you won't find a more comprehensive look at mechanized death outside science fiction."
Details Magazine

"If you want the whole story of remote warfare, pick up a copy of Wired for War, in which Peter Singer, a fellow of the non-profit Brookings Institution in Washington DC, exhaustively documents the Pentagon's penchant for robotics. Think of it as the next step in the mechanisation of war: swords and arrows, guns, artillery, rockets, bombers, robots."
The New Scientist

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (January 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201986
  • ASIN: B002HOQ916
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hi! My formal biography and links to all my books and articles are at 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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 114 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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40 of 43 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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69 of 78 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting futuristic technology happening right now. all should read...
Very enjoyable writing and material. Very informative and a little scary that the general public knows very little about these advances happening at warp speed. Read more
Published 6 days ago by J. Deacon
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Enlistment Deterrant Ever!
I sent this to a friends son who was being recruited somewhat heavily by the Army for drone piloting. It worked. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bonita Blackwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent
This book by Singer, although slightly showing its age, is a foundational title in robotics and their wartime application. Read more
Published 3 months ago by James
5.0 out of 5 stars Should "bad guys" be killed by remote control? Before you answer, read...
Singer weaves science fiction into Wired for War, and shares how the development of robots, drones, and other “unmanned” technologies has been influenced from visions of great... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andrew D. Rudin
4.0 out of 5 stars Good info, too large for college students
This book has a lot of good information. I had to buy this book for a college class, but it is a lot of information to read.
Published 4 months ago by Daniel
4.0 out of 5 stars drones and robots and ethics....oh my!
I used this as part of a college class, but am keeping it for my personal library. Singer does a good job of compiling and organizing facts in a logical way, and tying it all... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ric0shay
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
This book is important food for thought about our future. It was a great book for our book group as it has topics and information for everyone.
Published 5 months ago by Cwile
4.0 out of 5 stars Lengthy
I have still not completed reading this one, the information provided is detailed, useful and for the most part also entertaining, the author has done some serious research, the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by mehran khan
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
'big' book but really complete. On this subject, one of the best and the most interesting. Recommended also for the people outside the 'defense' and 3 letters agency (like me).
Published 7 months ago by Nativelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, in-depth look at the future of robotics and warfare
Wired for War is an excellent analysis on the rise of robotics and their impact on the future of warfare, and I recommend it for anybody interested in what the foreseeable 21st... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Zane
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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?
Oct 28, 2009 by sandysch |  See all 4 posts
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