Drones R Us

As I was growing up, my older brother who was an avid follower of all things “U.S. Air Force”, delighted in making me and my siblings watch reruns of jet fighters, bombers and the like on videos he would tape from the world news and documentaries. By the age of 10, I knew what a B1 Bomber was, certainly what a B52 looked like, even what artillery each carried. I would often marvel in my own ability to recollect each just by watching them in flight. But on hindsight I think it had to do with the fact that I grew up within walking distance of Sydney Airport and could not only hear aeroplanes during the day but I could see their underbelly as they came into land at Kingsford Smith.

But there was one plane on the documentaries which always stood out. It wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t flashy, and it didn’t have a pointy nose. It wasn’t brutal looking and it could never be described as awesome… The AWACS was always easy to remember. It was white with a black dish-like feature near the tail end. I would think, if AWACS was a planet it would be Saturn!

Courtesy: NATO Web Site

Courtesy: NATO Web Site

Courtesy: NATO Web Site

The AWACS stands for¬†Airborne Warning & Control System aircraft and technically is Boeing’s E-3A ‘Sentry’. NATO uses 17 AWACS from its NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany. According to NATO, the AWACS provides:

“immediately available airborne command and control (C2), air and maritime surveillance and battlespace management capability.”

The AWACS is often dubbed “Eye in the Sky” and in 2012 it allegedly played an important role in the security of the Euro 2012 Football Tournament. I find it so interesting, that such an old reconnaissance airplane is still doing what it did decades ago, despite that it has undergone numerous upgrades in technology.

This gets me to the point of my blogpost…

What have we become?

Ok. Drones are usually uninhabited… they are getting smaller and smaller by the day… anyone can build one for a couple of hundred dollars (much less if you know where you go to buy the parts)…

So now in an analogous way we can do what the AWACS does… we can buy a device that logs everything we see… “click — click — click” every three seconds… We don’t even have to press the camera trigger, it just does it automatically for us and sends the data back to some kind of command and control centre, called our “lifelog storage device in the cloud.”

In some ways these cameras we might wear 24×7 (and might one day even bear) are “uninhabited” or “unmanned” because there is no conscious decision to make about what photograph/video to take, beyond the decision to wear the device to begin with and press the “on” button.

Thus what have we become? Drones ourselves? Have we become a type of “mule” like those carriers in the smuggling drug trade? “Click — click — click.” Who are we clicking for? Or video recording for? Is it really ourselves? Our children? History?

We are close to having every street and every dwelling captured… but are we really on a quest to discover every “nook and cranny”? And then what? Once we’ve got the whole world mapped out, and every human located on a map (even when their mobile), and got a precise view of what people’s homes look like from the “inside” not just the “outside”, what next?

“Living under drones” is one thing, but ponder a world filled with human drones. And here, I’m not just referring to your common ‘garden variety lifeloggers’ but those who will be paid for drone-like behaviour.