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THE ABSTRACTION OF WAR: 100 Years of “Smart Warfare”

Marc R.


FEB 4, 2102 KHOST PAKISTAN – The turn of the second millennium heralded the end of “boots on the ground” and the rise of the drones. Past wars had been fought hand-to-hand, soldiers holding their fire until they saw the whites of their enemies' eyes. Then drones began transmitting target data to control rooms thousands of miles away where operators in complete safety used joysticks to initiate strikes just as if they were playing video games. Technology had transformed war itself into a small-screen abstraction. Online disinhibition occurs any time technology creates a distance between action and impact – a feeling that “this isn't real.” Reality reduced to 2D B&W images sometimes called "bug splats" disconnected operators from the messy human consequences of “smart warfare.”

Instead of faceless, voiceless targets and nameless, unaccountable attackers, the next generation of drones will reflect the human dimension as an essential element of the strike. Operators, commanding officers, and government officials will be immersed in visuals and audibles of the strike on holodecks instead of viewing the attack top-down while hovering godlike above the fray. Names, faces, and stats (civilian/military casualties, authorizing organization...) of both targets and attackers will be identified on screen and shared through social media. The abstraction of war is a complex topic. Technology can never absolve us from holding ourselves accountable for doing the hard work of human diplomacy and treating loss of life with human dignity.