Can Drone Pilots Be Heroes?

Can Drone Pilots Be Heroes? Even if safe from harm they’re vital. But then this is also true for #drone programmers


“There is a counter-history to the “sacrifice value” definition of heroism, one that emphasizes that the sacrifice needs to be in the service of something worthwhile. This second school of heroism calls for people to dedicate themselves to a purpose larger than themselves. As the writer Joseph Campbell put it: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” And it is in this definition of heroism, one that accentuates participation in a larger project, that the military claims drone pilots should be included. As Colonel Eric Mathewson, himself a drone operator, told The Washington Post: “Valor, to me, is not risking your life … It is doing what is right for the right reasons.”

Stretching the definition of heroism to include following orders, while lopping off completely the parts about sacrifice and risk, might be indicative of a turn toward what the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Edward Luttwak calls the “post-heroic.” Extending the kill chain to include more and more civilians, or even just noncombat arms warriors, takes people further and further away from the physical reality of their actions. Already, drone-targeting lists are almost completely determined by algorithm, with operators just there to pull the trigger. When even that human element is removed, what will the kill chain look like? What about the day pilots are completely replaced by artificial intelligence? According to experts, that moment may not be too far off. Grégoire Chamayou, the author of Drone Theory, says that a super-centralized handful of programmers and high-level generals will be constantly refining targeting for AI-operated drones.”


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