New technologies such as Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) make it possible to remove human beings from direct involvement in combat. How will this evolving dynamic affect the practice and purposes of political violence? Will conflict become ‘costless’ in human terms as machines replace people on the front lines or will the logic of war continue to call for human sacrifice? While considerable attention has been devoted to the role of technology in transforming warfare, little is known about how new modes of combat will affect established motives for using force. I explore these political dimensions of new modes of conflict, drawing three basic conclusions. First, to the degree that substituting machines for humans lowers the costs for fighting, conflict will become more frequent, but less definitive. Second, in a reversal of previous trends, battlefield automation promises disproportionately to revitalize ground elements of military organizations. Finally, regrettably, new technologies should weaken inhibitions against targeting civilians.
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Associated Minerva Project:
Forecasting Crisis Dynamics with Machine Coded Data: Model of Power, Projection, Influence and Escalation