Internet of Bombs - Tangible Evidence 02

A long-form essay by Strange Telemetry for Tangible Evidence, the pocketbook of London College of Communication’s MA Interaction Design and Communication students’ final year projects. Their work was developed with the intention of designing interactions based on awareness of the increasing autonomy and agency of surveillance and targeting systems; of the platforms that we build to sit atop them; and of NGO campaigning to bodies such as the UN to regulate autonomous weapons.

This essay, ‘Internet of Bombs’ acts as response to and contextualising tool for the MA projects. In it, we take the long view, considering the use of the autonomous weapons of war animals in Ancient Greece; and considering how, as in WWII ‘area bombing’ the efficacy of a weapon (re)defines a target. We trace precision tracking, sensing, and control from Cold War era computerisation of military strategy, into modern day offerings and operations around the Internet of Things, the ‘smart city’, and the networked world.

"Discussions of autonomous targeted weapons systems often default to thorny ethical questions about surveillance systems and machine intelligence, but in the deployment of war animals, we can more easily see the trade-offs between autonomy and control. Physically and mentally independent from their human counterparts in the military, yet capable of being trained, animals embody this ambiguity. As autonomous creatures, war animals sacrifice accuracy and true targeting, bound by their own will and desires through the fuzzy logic of firing neurons something not engineered from scratch, but emerging in conjunction with human culture and civilization."