What's happening at the
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 15:50 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 15:50 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: War and gaming


This post is part of the Remote-control warfare debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.


23 April 2010 11:28

This post is part of the Remote-control warfare debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Adam, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, writes in response to my post about video games that increasingly resemble real war:

My PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is due largely to targeting decisions — my own in the heat of chaotic battle — offensive actions and battle damage assessments carried out in front of my own eyes on a laptop screen (and which I personally directed at times).

Make no mistake: the distinction between fantasy (gaming) and real-world remote warfare is very clear and profound. When you see limbs separated from a man's torso or a fellow coalition soldier dismembered by AQ (al Qaeda) allies on an LCD display, several hundred kilometres from the action, I can assure you that the real human cost weighs heavily on one's conscience. Only a psycho would feel nothing emotionally.

I know of several real cases where US government officials (uniformed and civilian paramilitary) and civvy contractor UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) pilots, ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) planners and targeting specialists are suffering very real, chronic and debilitating mental illnesses arising from such exposure, some of which was experienced from a mission control bunker in mainland USA — that is, nowhere near a war zone.

Yes, young gamers are excellent candidates for driving remote sensors and certain modern offensive action but they are human and there is predictable cost to their wellbeing when the war is over. Same human frailty, be it a bayonet attack at dawn or Hellfire 'barrage' in the dead of night at the click of a mouse.

The business of killing people is nasty. But I've never read anything sensible about how to prevent it. Didn't Freud say something about intrinsic evil in human nature?

This whole argument about the supposed ease of remote fighting and so-called risk of machines making decisions is just plain silly.

You may also be interested in...