A problem I did not anticipate to have, futurism seems to be my f-word. Time was, back when I was a nerdy young ‘un dissecting Back to the Future II and such, the thought of making my own canon would have been as exciting and purely positive as the thought of making my own cannon. What could possibly be not to like? Well, turns out…
I’ll dispense with the Merlinisms. But this was, of course, another chain of thought inspired by Roderick on the Line. The two discuss their country’s continuing descent into dystopic police state, foretold by futurists for more than a generation now. And what better pinnacle than the robot soldier? For when policing requires more munitions than a human touch.
Robots are one of those things on my Do Not Touch list. Why? Because I know no end to them. Artificial intelligence is the ultimate offender. Introduce the world to Skynet, and, well, your story’s over. It’s either crippling doom or singularity's descriptionless despair. Besides, neither floats my boat in the abstract. Another big one I must avoid is biological warfare. There's something about wastelands that just doesn't appeal to me. Although I suppose the B-Bomb might be a different story entirely if it were ever honed to the sharp precision where we could actually use it.
But robots are surely within imagination’s reach. They’re so almost within practical technology’s grasp, going by the drones we use to cause our needless ruckus nowadays instead of good old fashioned heavy bombers. What happens when we have armies without the need for blood?
Something changed after the Vietnam War. A little something called the draft. Not only America, but every “western” or “advanced” nation with a pretence to project its power abroad, has failed to stake an all out war since then. Every one of our endeavours has been strictly professional. Yet the big wars that history is made of were anything but. Where would the bloody first half of the twentieth century have been if all the millions had stayed at home? It has become impractical to mobilise like we used to. Volunteers are one thing, conscripts quite another.
All this changes quite completely, though, the moment you mention robots.
When loss is out the window, as well as free will, insubordination, and downright fear, you have a very different army. Not necessarily invincible, but one with patience beyond the political horizons that so often force concession in wars. You could, all too easily, wage wars eternal and far reaching; for less cost than the supposed “pinpoint strikes” that we like to kid ourselves we launch these days. You, and your counterparts pit against you, make a very different world.
One I don’t wish to dwell on, or to find a way out of besides my own assumption. I can’t say it won’t happen. Right now, I rather think it might. But for my story’s sake, pilots fly the ships, not computers. For the sense of pathos for the fight, sympathy for the enemy, and all of the above.
That’s the trouble with time. It’s so damn creative as to prove us all wrong, and right, in the long run. There’s no way around it. You must simply embrace the fact of your shelf life. Enjoy your place in quaint futures rendered obsolete.
Just don’t tell me. I forever put up quite a fight.