October 23, 2020

Gen Z Conservative

The thoughts of a young conservative on political issues relevant to all ages

army of none

Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

Introduction

To me, there are few topics more interesting to read about than advances in military technology. Whether that reading is in articles about lasers on fighter jets or the truth about the F-35 fighter, or full-length books such as Army of None, I find military technology to be utterly fascinating. The research, testing, and potentially world-shaking implications of advances are all captivating to read about.

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Luckily for me, I stumbled across Army of None by Paul Scharre when reading about drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is a topic well-recorded in Hunting in the Shadows.




When I saw that Army of None was described by Bill Gates as “The book I had been waiting for. I can’t recommend it highly enough” and by P.W. Singer, the author of a great military technology fiction book called Ghost Fleet, as “A tour de force of the future of war technology… A highly readable journey through the world of robots on the battlefield and beyond,” I knew that it was a book I absolutely had to read. I did so and wasn’t disappointed. You’ll see why by reading this review of Army of None.


Summary of Army of None

In Army of None, author Paul Scharre, a former army ranger and the director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, covers a wide variety of topics that all relate to military robots and the autonomous capabilities of those robots.

Completely summarizing his arguments would be far beyond the scope of this article, so you’ll have to read Army of None to get the complete picture. However, I do think I can summarize the general ideas that he discusses.

Scharre informs the reader what an autonomous weapon is, how those weapons are different than the current smart weapons currently in the US arsenal, what near-future autonomous and smart weapons will look like and how they will work, Pentagon policy and foreign nations’ policy on autonomous weapons, how AI works, the AI and autonomous weapons arms race, and the ethics of using autonomous weapons. In short, it’s a huge list of complex topics that Scharre manages to distill into a concise and, for the topic, exceptionally readable book.

And not only is it concise and readable, but it also is incredibly interesting. Reading about topics how drone swarms work, how pieces of US military technology, such as Lockheed Martin’s LRASM missile and the Aegis defense system, are already somewhat autonomous, and the differences in how foreign governments and the US government differ in their approaches to and views on autonomous weapons is fascinating and engrossing. Those advances and discrepancies will determine the future of warfare, so they’re certainly worth reading about.




If you want to learn more about how warfare is changing and what makes autonomous weapons different than anything we’ve yet seen, then Army of None is a book you absolutely need to read. There’s no other book I know of that covers those topics in such detail or has such profound conclusions.

a drone before the one in army of none
The drones described in Army of None have upgraded a good bit since the early days of the Predator.

Analysis of Army of None

Army of None is a book, like Carrying the Fire or His Excellency: George Washington, that I’d recommend to anyone who’s even remotely interesting in the topic.

Unlike some other studies of military history or military technology, it’s not a dense and almost unreadable book. Scharre’s brilliant writing style and obvious command of the facts makes Army of None a simple book about complex topics.

To me, the most interesting section of Army of None was Scharre’s depiction of drone swarms. He describes a scene he witnessed at a testing range in the American west where dozens of autonomous drones were dogfighting in the sky and fighting as a swarm, the complexity of which would be impossible for humans to ever emulate.

That test is groundbreaking. No weapon systems we’ve ever seen, other than maybe nuclear weapons and guided bombs, have such profound implications for the future of warfare.

If drone fighters can control themselves and fight better than highly-trained fighter pilots, then just think of everything that will change. No more pilots. Far cheaper and more numerous systems. Complexity and mind-boggling speed. So much will change because of autonomous weapons, especially as they’re tested and perfected. That’s the future of war and the point of Army of None.




Entire skies will be full of autonomous fighters and bombers battling for dominance. Big Tech, already the enemy of freedom, will determine whether America or China wins the AI race and thus has the greatest military-technological advantage. Based on its bias towards China and appeasing China so far, I’d say that Big Tech will side with China. Hopefully, I am wrong. But I doubt that I am.

That’s the future America is looking at. One of huge companies and high-tech weapons. We need to get ready for it and learn how to fight and win it. Right now, it doesn’t at all look like we are.

Conclusion

If you’re only interested in fiction, then Army of None might not be the book for you. It’s an in-depth study of autonomous weapons, not a fast-paced novel.

However, if you have any interest at all in military technology and non-fiction, then it’s a book you absolutely have to read. I can’t recommend it highly enough and think that anyone interested in the future of war will not only have a great time reading it, but will also learn a lot and get a lot out of it!

By: Gen Z Conservative


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