You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
is a site that lets anyone upload videos and add the corresponding location, which is then pinned onto a map for you to choose from. [more inside]
While Jacob Appelbaum grabbed headlines with his NSA revelations
at this year's Chaos Communication Congress
, other presentations provided equally fascinating insight into how the world works. Learn how data mining is bringing perpetrators of genocide to justice
), how an artist uses different concepts of secrecy landscapes
) to keep tabs on clandestine activities, and how India's surveillance state continues to grow
previously [more inside]
Our Drone Future
— A short film by Alex Cornell. "Created with DJI Phantom Drones, After Effects, Premier, Logic, GoPro, and a liberal interpretation of FAA regulations". If not actually the future of domestically deployed drones, it's probably the future of sub-$2K filmmaking hardware (if you don't include the software licenses and, um, FAA fines).
Amazon Prime Air.
Like Amazon Prime, but with robots. 60 Minutes reports
Drone Mapping the Matterhorn
"The Matterhorn has been mapped in unprecedented detail
by a fleet of autonomous, fixed-wing drones, flung into the sky from the peak by their makers. What's more, the entire process took just 6 hours." [via
will be a network of drones
to deliver stuff (matter), “micro-transportation” that will allow unmanned aerial vehicles to ferry all sorts of (small) goods across long distances. Video
(5m). [more inside]
released by Glenn Greenwald from trove leaked by Edward Snowden show that the agency officially viewed arguments about 'due process' to be an 'adversary propaganda theme'
, listed alongside military threats to drones. [more inside]
New Policy on Drones. Black Rock City Drones that is.
And a very cheery and relaxation-inducing 5-minute video
shot with such an UAV (Unmanned aerial Vehicle). Floating around the Burning Man
playa. [more inside]
This article covers the US drone program
. It looks at the pilots of drones, the decisions to use a drone, their highly effective short terms goals vs long term potential blowback and whether drone strikes are legal.
An excerpt from the short film 5000 Feet is Best
by Omer Fast
. [more inside]
Nobel laureate's campaign calls for pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons.
As our technology advances, it becomes more and more feasible to give more and more autonomy to our drones. A new campaign led by 1997 Nobel laureate Jody Williams
calls for an international ban on the design of autonomous weaponized drones. [more inside]
We've all seen it.
The off-white UAV is seen side on, nose tilted slightly down, a stubby missile caught at the moment of launch beneath it, a blue and grey landscape of treeless mountains behind it. There's no motion blur and none of the markings on the aircraft have been obfuscated. It's a perfect shot. Except for one or two details. [more inside]
Artist Chris Keegan
has tons of his work up on Flickr, but here's some highlights: drones
, a montage project created using mirrorgram app then redoing them hi-res, and celestial images
, in which interstellar monsters are found in (or created from) Hubble space imagery
How do you avoid a drone attack? 22 practical tips from al-Qaeda (via AP
). [more inside]
How To Write Drone Fiction
: "One can easily and self-righteously claim the merits of writing non-fiction about drones by asserting a primacy of fact over “false fiction”. The problem is that one does not write non-fiction about drones." [more inside]
Noah Shachtman of Wired has published Bing/Nokia satellite maps
that shows what appears to be a previously unknown US drone airbase deep in the desert in Saudi Arabia. [more inside]
DARPA has developed a 1800 megapixel sensor array
for use on UAVs. It is capable of spotting something as small as 6-inches while covering an area half the size of Manhattan
. [more inside]
Pretty stunning cockpit perspective footage of unmanned aerial vehicles interacting in close quarters, flying with a range of flyers
). [more inside]
"When most Americans think of surveillance drones, it conjures up an image of a Predator drone in a far-off land unleashing a missile against a terrorist suspect. The last thing they think of is a flying surveillance vehicle over their own city. But an increasing number of federal, state, county and municipal police departments are purchasing drone surveillance vehicles of one sort or another to watch Americans. And a few have even discussed arming the drones."
- Drones over America
. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to more than double its fleet of Predator drones for surveillance missions inside the United States
. Despite Problems, there is a push to expand domestic use
. Much of that push comes from a "powerful" lobbying group that most Americans have never heard of: the Unmanned Systems Caucus
Drone Makers Push Congress to Move Up Domestic Deployment Date
(follow the money). More? ACLU blog posts related to domestic drones
. Here is a Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations
, last updated in April. Insiders assure You have nothing to worry about
, but a little remarked-upon court decision may bring the domestic drone age one flight closer to your doorstep
The Permanent War
(video). "This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing." Part 1: Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists.
Part 2: A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Part 3: Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations. [more inside]
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan.
An extensive new study
(PDF) by human rights lawyers from Stanford and NYU
examines the impact of drone strikes on civilians in Pakistan, including the strategic effectiveness
of the policy as well as the psychological impact
on those living in constant fear
that they might come under attack. [Via]
: US drones are coming back after initial attacks to target first-responder rescuers.
Back in December American Conservative talked about The Changing state of War
One of the most discouraging aspects of the current Republican presidential candidate debates is the discussion of drone warfare, or rather the fact that it is not being discussed at all except to approve of the practice.
Tom Junod of Esquire now discusses in a long article
the targeted killing of an American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. [more inside]
Al Jazeera: 'US admits ops in Yemen and Somalia
: White House formally acknowledges "direct action", believed to mean drone strikes, against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.' [more inside]
Calls are growing
for a special counsel to investigate leaks of classified information by the Obama administration. Concerns have been raised over leaks involving classified information on cyberwarfare
of an Al Qaeda cell in Yemen, and drone warfare
procedures. [more inside]
From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones, the Cessna-sized workhorses that have dominated unmanned flight since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less known is the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.(via) [more inside]
"What's that buzzing sound?" Foreign Policy's
third annual War Issue focuses on what it calls "Barack Obama's Secret Wars," including My Drone War
, in which a Pakistani journalist for Newsday
and the NYT
describes what drone warfare looks and sounds like from the ground; The Obama Doctrine
, which argues drone warfare is a failing strategy in both Yemen and Pakistan; The Evolution of Drone Warfare: A Photo History, 1917-2010
, and more
. The package also includes two takes on cyberwar - Cyberwar is still more hype than hazard
and Cyberwar Is Already Upon Us
- along with a lot of interesting links
Andrew Bacevich on the war
: "So what tentative judgments can we offer regarding the ongoing [war formerly known as the global war on terrorism]? Operationally, a war launched by the conventionally minded has progressively fallen under the purview of those who inhabit what Dick Cheney once called “the dark side,” with implications that few seem willing to explore. Strategically, a war informed at the outset by utopian expectations continues today with no concretely stated expectations whatsoever, the forward momentum of events displacing serious consideration of purpose. Politically, a war that once occupied center stage in national politics has now slipped to the periphery, the American people moving on to other concerns and entertainments, with legal and moral questions raised by the war left dangling in midair."
-- A day in the life of a drone pilot, by Molleindustria
Secrecy defines Obama’s drone war.
"Since September, at least 60 people have died in 14 reported CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions. The Obama administration has named only one of the dead, hailing the elimination of Janbaz Zadran, a top official in the Haqqani insurgent network, as a counterterrorism victory. The identities of the rest remain classified, as does the existence of the drone program itself. Because the names of the dead and the threat they were believed to pose are secret, it is impossible for anyone without access to U.S. intelligence to assess whether the deaths were justified." [more inside]