Dangerous Drones: I’d Rather Have Fireflies

I recall days of my youth when I wished to have a radio controlled model airplane. As a boy, I simply thought it would be fun. The childhood dream was never fulfilled for me, but for others it was, and yet others have gone way beyond:

TED Talks – Raffaello D’Andrea: Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future

Call me a pessimist, but my childhood days are over, and I have seen much abuse of technology by crazed and evil people in my life. Watching the video of this TED Talk made my skin crawl. I saw a boy grown big (at least physically) delight in the flying toys he and his colleagues had built, and all the time I couldn’t help but imagine countless spy cameras and weapons flying overhead. Every few months we are shocked by reports of another mass murder by suicide bombers and terrorist raiders. Smaller attacks are more or less a daily occurrence. Now I foresee each such attacker sending a whole swarm of live grenades at innocent people wherever we are and whenever he likes without any personal risk.

Thanks, toy engineers. I wish you had played with paper airplanes instead. I’d rather have fireflies flying above my head.

Sorry, boys, it just seems obvious to me that in a world where many of us still have no way of controlling our basest and most dire primitive instincts leading to rape, murder, and pillaging, those of us who manage to obtain a decent degree of education, intelligent thinking and creativity, should better focus on lifting up the rest before they design terrible instruments of mischief and destruction for the underbelly of humanity to use. Even the scenario of intelligent machines overtaking humanity (and doing terrible things to us), which so far always seemed a bit of a way off, gains a whole new dimension with such ease of autonomous machine flight. After all, we humans can’t fly (or easily see what’s flying above).

As long as only animals flew above my head, the worst I ever had to fear was bird droppings falling on me. I could rest assured that animals had their own lives on their minds which rarely involved me or other people. I could simply enjoy watching them and didn’t need to worry much when I wasn’t. Instead of drones, I really would much rather have fireflies flying above my head.

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