Tuesday, September 2, 2014

the last book I ever read (Nicholson Baker's Traveling Sprinkler, excerpt five)

from Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker:

Imagine a drone. Can you imagine a drone? An unmanned aerial killing machine? I will try. I read that they sound like lawnmowers. Here I am in my driveway, listening, and—yes—I can hear a distant lawnmower. What if I knew that that aerial lawnmower could at any moment blow up my house? What if in trying to blow up my house it blew up Nan’s house, killing the chickens, killing both her and Raymond?

Tim told me he’s going to write a book about drones. A few years ago he went to the Hannah Arendt conference at Bard College, where a man from Atlanta gave a talk on robot warfare and how it was inevitable, and how very soon drones would have software that incorporated the rules of warfare so that onboard drone computers could decide, using either-or algorithms, whether a target was legitimate and whether a missile attack would result in an acceptably low number of civilian casualties. Then the drones would not need any human operators living in Syracuse or Nevada. No human person would ever have to push a button to fire a drone missile. Everything would be preprogrammed and hands-free and guilt-free. Tim came back from the Bard conference very upset, and he began making notes for his drone meditation. Will Tim’s book do anything at all to stop targeted killing? Possibly. Probably not. I have no faith in books to stop anything. You need something more than a book. If I wrote a poem against drones, would that help? Not a chance. You need more than words. You need shouting. You need crowds of people sitting down in the road. You need audible outrage.

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