In the last few decades, semi-autonomous killer machines have migrated from science fiction to a central role in real-world international relations. The United States utilizes unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as “drones,” to strike targets both in and outside of military contexts. Though the US is at the forefront of unmanned technology, all advanced militaries use robots to perform a variety of tasks. From surveillance to ordinance disposal, drones are used in the air, water, and on land. With the US and other militaries’ increasing reliance on unmanned systems, the FAA endorsing commercial drones in 2015, and Google developing a self-driving car, the prevalence of robots is increasing exponentially. As Grossman points out, technology often develops faster than humans’ understanding of it.
Nicholas Grossman is a lecturer in the political science department of the University of Iowa, where he teaches classes on terrorism and insurgency, national security policy, and 21st century technology and warfare. He received a PhD in International Relations from the University of Maryland with a dissertation titled “Robotics and the Future of Asymmetric Warfare.” Before coming to Iowa, he presented on preemptive warfare at the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, and on terrorism to the Applied Physics Laboratory. As a technology enthusiast, Grossman finds developments in robotics to be both exciting and highly concerning.