Technology in Wartime: Part 5

“Smart” Soldiers in Battle

This was my favorite part of the day for a couple reasons. The presenters were attractive. Okay, that counts for two reasons. Also we talked about real-life situations.

First up was Yogi Patel who works on the Land Warrior project while getting his CS Degree. The thing that I admire most about him is that in 2002, he joined the Army and deployed to Iraq. Most of the people in the room were academics, people who think about this kind of stuff, but have never even been close to a war. I doubt many of them have even fired guns. I’m one of them. Well, I’ve fired a couple guns. Shot skeet with a rifle once. Hit it the first time and didn’t want to ruin my 100% record. Shot a glock at some cans. That is about it. But here is a guy who was working on military stuff and decided that the only way he’d know if it was decent is if he was there and used it himself.

He had some excellent points about the ethics of warfare and the difficulties of technology. The guns had cameras on them, and they could record everything that was shot if they wanted to. But is it ethical to video record kills and play them back? The gear they carry has GPS to show the location of all the soldiers when you look at the map on the eyepiece. What happens when the enemy captures someone? The GPS is really useful for finding that captured soldier, but at the same time, the enemy can look at the eyepiece and see what we see. So the GPS chips can be destroyed with a radio signal. Another problem was that the camera was on their weapons. Part of their jobs is to actually talk to people, and when they do, they are supposed to take photos. But the first thing you learn in Basic is how to handle your weapon, and you never aim your weapon at someone when you don’t intend to fire it. So they had to have separate digital cameras.

Next was Noah Shachtman, a writer for Wired’s Danger Room blog (he’s also written for the NY Times, Chicago Tribune, and a host of others). He talked to us about the social networking aspect of war and how a lot of what goes on in wartime has less to do with technology than it has to do with the people involved. He had some great examples of how to use low-tech propaganda to get through to people. In this case, the army was trying to recruit locals to join the police force and start taking responsibilities for their own communities. He asked an interesting question about whether or not we want an army that is good at propaganda?

Of course, I chatted with Noah and Yogi after their talks. Double D followed to see how much trouble I was going to cause cause he could see the storm brewing. Of course, when I approached Noah, I didn’t know that he was married or a journalist. This seems to be my new MO. I’ve given up on gay men and moved on to writers. And they all seem to be married. Seriously, is anyone out there single anymore? He had lots of good qualities though. Comfortable in front of an audience. Connecting well with the audience. Intelligent. Attractive. Well spoken. I’m not asking for a lot, I swear.

I had a nice chat with Noah about the state of Iraq and how it has been changing in the last few months. He said the same thing that another friend of mine said in that a lot of the communities are starting to stand up for themselves and fighting back against the insurgents. I just hope it continues.

Chatted with Yogi next. I had been texting my friend to see if she knew him when he was stationed there, but no. I told him it was nice to have someone talk who actually has some clue as to what it is like to go to war. And that I have a lot of respect for someone who puts themselves in danger just to test what they have been working on. I’m pretty sure that no one else in the room would ever do that. I had a chance to chat with him again after the day and exchange email addresses with him.

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