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There are already more than 101 million working age Americans that are not employed and 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that has a job. So what in the world are we going to do when robots start taking millions upon millions more of our jobs? [...]
The wars of the future are very likely going to resemble many of the science fiction movies that we are watching right now. The U.S. military is in a global race to create the “technologies of the future”, and some of the things that they are coming up with are disturbing to say the least. Are you ready for future conflicts where “Iron Men”, “super soldiers”, “Terminator robots”, and autonomous drones do most of the killing? Are you ready for American soldiers that have been genetically modified to perform superhuman feats of strength, run at superhuman speeds and even regrow limbs? The truth is that all of this stuff is being developed right now and most Americans have no idea that it is happening.
Have you enjoyed watching the “Iron Man” movies that have come out in recent years? Tens of millions of Americans have flocked to see those films, and now they are being used as inspiration to create a new generation of “exoskeletons” for U.S. soldiers. In fact, it is being reported that this revolutionary new “smart armor” was specifically “inspired by Tony Stark’s legendary nano suit used in the Iron Man movie series“. This armor is currently being developed at MIT, and according to the BBC this armor will give U.S. troops “superhuman strength”…
The US Army is working to develop “revolutionary” smart armour that would give its troops “superhuman strength”.
It is calling on the technology industry, government labs and academia to help build the Iron Man-style suit.
Other exoskeletons that allow soldiers to carry large loads much further have already been tested by the army.
The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (Talos) would have such a frame but would also have layers of smart materials fitted with sensors.
The suit would also need to have wide-area networking and a wearable computer similar to Google Glass, the US Army said.
Most people would not object to high tech armor for the military, but what about genetically modifying soldiers themselves?
That is an entirely different thing altogether.
In a previous article, I included a quote from a Daily Mail article that discussed how DARPA is now working on ways to create “super soldiers” that will be able to run at Olympic speeds and regrow limbs that have been blown off…
Tomorrow’s soldiers could be able to run at Olympic speeds and will be able to go for days without food or sleep, if new research into gene manipulation is successful.
According to the U.S. Army’s plans for the future, their soldiers will be able to carry huge weights, live off their fat stores for extended periods and even regrow limbs blown apart by bombs.
The plans were revealed by novelist Simon Conway, who was granted behind-the-scenes access to the Pentagon’s high-tech Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.
How in the world could those things possibly be accomplished?
Through genetic modification of course.
A different Daily Mail article explained how this might work…
Most gene modification techniques involve placing genetically modified DNA inside a virus and injecting it into the human body. The virus then enters human cells, and its modified DNA attaches itself to the human DNA inside those cells.
But should we really be using viruses to modify the DNA of our soldiers?
Should we really be modifying the DNA of anyone?
Of course not.
This is very dangerous territory. Just because we now have the ability to “play God” and alter human DNA does not mean that we should. If our scientists are not careful, they could end up creating monsters far beyond what anyone could imagine right now. And once Pandora’s Box is opened and these super soldiers start spreading their DNA around, it simply will not be possible to put the genie back into the bottle.
Another area where the U.S. military is pushing boundaries is in the field of robotics. For example, Northrop Grumman has developed a 1 1/2-ton unmanned killing machine that is known as MADSS…
The MADSS is one mean robot. Developed by defense industry leader Northrop Grumman and currently being showcased at the Fort Benning, Ga. “Robotics Rodeo,” the MADSS is a 1 1/2-ton unmanned ground vehicle designed to provide soldiers with covering fire while cutting down targets.
Make no mistake, it’s an automatic shooting machine, But it requires people to operate it and set targets. The MADSS — Mobile Armed Dismount Support System — tracks and fires on targets only once it gets the green light. It won’t shoot unless a soldier is directing it.
It’s half killer robot, half killer giant remote-control car. While its top speed hasn’t been stated, Northrop Grumman has said that it can follow troops on foot at about five miles an hour over rough terrain that conventional combat vehicles would find impassable.
But a remote control vehicle is one thing.
A “Terminator-like Atlas robot” is another.
Right now, Boston Dynamics is working on a 330 pound humanoid robot that looks like something out of a bad science fiction movie…
Finally, there’s fresh footage of Boston Dynamics’ Terminator-like Atlas robot, which was unveiled earlier this year. The 6-foot, 330-pound humanoid, which may or may not be a future robot infantryman, is designed to use tools and walk over rough terrain.
Check it out stomping over several boxes of rocks like nobody’s business, and then standing on one foot while being hit with a swinging weight.
Of course, it laughs on the inside at these pathetic human challenges.
You can view Atlas in action right here…
And personally, I think that the very human-looking robot known as “Petman” is even creepier.
You can see “Petman” in action right here…
As long as humans are controlling this kind of technology, at least there are some safety checks.
But what if we started creating killing machines that made their own decisions?
That sounds crazy, but according to a recent National Journal article that is exactly what is being developed. As you read this, scientists are working on ways to enable drones “to make even lethal decisions autonomously”…
Scientists, engineers and policymakers are all figuring out ways drones can be used better and more smartly, more precise and less damaging to civilians, with longer range and better staying power. One method under development is by increasing autonomy on the drone itself.
Eventually, drones may have the technical ability to make even lethal decisions autonomously: to respond to a programmed set of inputs, select a target and fire their weapons without a human reviewing or checking the result. Yet the idea of the U.S. military deploying a lethal autonomous robot, or LAR, is sparking controversy. Though autonomy might address some of the current downsides of how drones are used, they introduce new downsides policymakers are only just learning to grapple with.
The basic conceit behind a LAR is that it can outperform and outthink a human operator. “If a drone’s system is sophisticated enough, it could be less emotional, more selective and able to provide force in a way that achieves a tactical objective with the least harm,” said Purdue University Professor Samuel Liles. “A lethal autonomous robot can aim better, target better, select better, and in general be a better asset with the linked ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] packages it can run.”
Would you be comfortable with unmanned drones flying over your neighborhood that are able to decide on their own whether to kill you or not?
I certainly would not be.
This kind of reminds me of the killer drones in the new movie “Oblivion” that Tom Cruise starred in. I certainly would never want such technology being used to patrol the streets of America.
And what if we lose control over this kind of technology once it becomes widespread someday?
In the past, such notions where laughable. They were used as plots for bad science fiction movies and that was about it.
But now we are moving into a time when science fiction is becoming science reality.
Are you ready for that?
The wars of the future are very likely going to resemble many of the science fiction movies that we are watching right now. The U.S. military is in a global race to create the “technologies of the future”, and some of the things that they are coming up with are disturbing to say the [...]
Autonomous Robots Coming Soon to a Hospital Near You
Posted on Feb 8, 2013
FDA has approved the use of autonomous telemedicine robots in U.S. hospitals; although President Obama’s second term inaugural speech was inclusive and liberal, it failed to mention the growing crisis of inequality our nation faces; meanwhile, a new book details the scandalous antics of hard-partying authors. These discoveries and more below.
On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.
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(Photo: CartoonArts International / The New York Times Syndicate).It's taken me a while to get around to Bob Gordon's stimulating essay suggesting that the great days of economic growth are behind us. It's not that different from things he's been saying before, and I have in the past had a lot of sympathy for that view. I now believe, however, that his technological pessimism is wrong — or if you prefer, it's the wrong kind of pessimism. But this is definitely a discussion worth having.
Mr. Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern University, argues, rightly in my view, that we've really had three industrial revolutions so far, each based on a different cluster of technologies. In an essay published in September by the Center for Economic Policy Research, Mr. Gordon writes:
"The analysis in my paper links periods of slow and rapid growth to the timing of the three industrial revolutions: IR #1 (steam, railroads) from 1750 to 1830; IR #2 (electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals, petroleum) from 1870 to 1900; and IR #3 (computers, the Web, mobile phones) from 1960 to present."
M. Gordon then argues that IR#2 was by far the most dramatic, which again seems right. Think of the America shown in the film "Lincoln," which is a society shaped by IR #1 but not yet transformed by IR #2. It was a society in which people could travel much farther and faster than ever before — but when they got to their destinations, they were still living in a horse-drawn society. Most people still lived on farms and the cities were cruder and dirtier than we can easily imagine. By the 1920s, however, urban America was already recognizably a modern society. What Mr. Gordon then does is suggest that IR #3 has already mostly run its course, that all our mobile devices and so on are new and fun but not that fundamental.
It's good to have someone questioning the tech euphoria, but I've been looking into technology issues a lot lately, and I'm pretty sure he's wrong: the information technology revolution has only begun to have its impact. Consider for a moment a sort of fantasy technology scenario in which we can produce intelligent robots able to do everything a person can do. Clearly, such a technology would remove all limits on per-capita gross domestic product, as long as you don't count robots among the capitas. All you need to do is keep raising the ratio of robots to humans, and you get whatever G.D.P. you want.
Now, that's not happening — and in fact, as I understand it, not that much progress has been made in producing machines that think the way we do. But it turns out that there are other ways of producing very smart machines. In particular, Big Data — the use of huge databases of things like spoken conversations — apparently makes it possible for machines to perform tasks that even a few years ago were really only possible for people. Speech recognition is still imperfect, but it is vastly better than it was and it's improving rapidly, not because we've managed to emulate human understanding but because we've found data-intensive ways of interpreting speech in a very nonhuman way. And this means that in a sense we are moving toward something like my intelligent-robots world; many, many tasks are becoming machine-friendly. This in turn means that Mr. Gordon is probably wrong about diminishing returns from technology.
Ah, you ask, but what about the people? Very good question. Smart machines may make higher G.D.P. possible, but they will also reduce the demand for people — including smart people. So we could be looking at a society that grows ever richer, but in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever owns the robots. And then eventually Skynet decides to kill us all, but that's another story.
Anyway, interesting stuff to speculate about — and not irrelevant to policy, either, since so much of the debate over entitlements is about what is supposed to happen decades from now.
© 2013 The New York Times Company
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Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008. Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including "The Return of Depression Economics" (2008) and "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007).
Copyright 2013 The New York Times.
Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Agents Creating their own Language is more Normal than People Think
Did you know that 89 percent of all minimum wage workers in the United States are not teens? At this point, the average age of a minimum wage worker in this country is 36, and 56 percent of them are women. Millions upon millions of Americans are working as hard as they can (often that [...]
The post The Average Age Of A Minimum Wage Worker In America Is 36 appeared first on The Economic Collapse.
Barack Obama is secretly negotiating a global economic treaty which would destroy thousands of American businesses and millions of good paying American jobs. In other words, it would be the final nail in the coffin for America’s economic infrastructure. Obama knows that if the American people actually knew what was in this treaty that they [...]
The post Ultra-Secrecy Surrounds Barack Obama’s New Global Economic Treaty appeared first on The Economic Collapse.
There are things we are born able to do like eating, laughing and crying and others we pick up without much of an effort such as walking, speaking and fighting, but without strict institutional education there is no way that we can ever become a functioning member of the Matrix. We must be indoctrinated, sent to Matrix boot camp, which of course is school. How else could you take a hunter and turn him into a corporate slave, submissive to clocks, countless bosses, monotony and uniformity?
Children naturally know who they are, they have no existential angst, but schools immediately begin driving home the point of schedules, rules, lists and grades which inevitably lead the students to the concept of who they aren't. We drill the little ones until they learn to count money, tell time, measure progress, stand in line, keep silent and endure submission. They learn they aren't free and they are separated from everyone else and the world itself by a myriad of divides, names and languages.
It can’t be stressed enough how much education is simply inculcating people with the clock and the idea of a forced identity. What child when she first goes to school isn't taken back to hear herself referred to by her full name?
It’s not as if language itself isn't sufficiently abstract- nothing must be left without a category. Suzy can’t just be Suzy- she is a citizen of a country and a state, a member of a religion and a product of a civilization, many of which have flags, mascots, armies, uniforms, currencies and languages. Once all the mascots, tag lines and corporate creeds are learned, then history can begin to be taught. The great epic myths invented and conveniently woven into the archetypes which have come down through the ages cement this matrix into the child’s mind.
Even the language that she speaks without effort must be deconstructed for her. An apple will never again be just an apple- it will become a noun, a subject, or an object. Nothing will be left untouched, all must be ripped apart and explained back to the child in Matrixese.
We are taught almost nothing useful during the twelve or so years that we are institutionalized and conditioned for slavery- not how to cook, farm, hunt, build, gather, laugh or play. We are only taught how to live by a clock and conform to institutionalized behaviors that make for solid careers as slaveocrats.
The state apparatus is based on law, which is a contract between the people and an organism created to administer common necessities- an exchange of sovereignty between the people and the state. This sounds reasonable, but when one looks at the mass slaughters of the 20th century, almost without exception, the perpetrators are the states themselves.
Money is their most brilliant accomplishment. Billions of people spend most of their waking lives either acquiring it or spending it without ever understanding what it actually is. In this hologram of a world, the only thing one can do without money is breath. For almost every other human activity they want currency, from eating and drinking to clothing oneself and finding a partner. Religion came from innate spirituality and patriotism from the tribe, but money they invented themselves- the most fantastic and effective of all their tools of domestication.
Escaping the Grip of Control
How can this awakening be explained? How do you describe the feeling of swimming in the ocean at dusk to someone who has never even seen the sea? You can't, but what you can do is crack open a window for them and if enough windows are opened, the illusion begins to lose its luster.
If you make more than $27,520 a year at your job, you are doing better than half the country is. But you don't have to take my word for it, you can check out the latest wage statistics from the Social Security administration right here. But of course $27,520 a year will not allow you [...]
By the end of this decade, the U.S. Army will be the smallest that it has been since World War II, the U.S. Navy will be the smallest that it has been since World War I, and the U.S. Air Force will have gotten nearly 500 planes smaller. Without a doubt, the U.S. military has [...]
Part I: The Wolves of Psycho Street: America’s Economic Enslavement by the Psychopathic Corporate...
Global Capitalism Has Written Off The Human Race Paul Craig Roberts Economic theory teaches that free price and profit movements ensure that capitalism produces the greatest welfare for the greatest number. Losses indicate economic activities where costs exceed the value of production, thus investment in these activities is curtailed. Profits indicate economic activities where the…
The post Global Capitalism Has Written Off The Human Race — Paul Craig Roberts appeared first on PaulCraigRoberts.org.
How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class Paul Craig Roberts Last week, I explained how economists and policymakers destroyed our economy for the sake of short-term corporate profits from jobs offshoring and financial deregulation. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/01/25/economists-policymakers-murdered-economy-paul-craig-roberts/ That same…
The post How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class — Paul Craig Roberts appeared first on PaulCraigRoberts.org.
GE Engineers and American Government Officials Warned of Dangerous Nuclear Design 5 of the 6 nuclear reactors at Fukushima are General Electric Mark 1 reactors. GE knew decades ago that the desisangn was faulty. ABC News reported in 2011: Thirty-five … Continue reading →
Amazon, Applebee’s and Google’s Job-Crushing Drones and Robot Armies: They’re Coming for Your Job...
The most important website last weekend and in weeks to come — on which the hopes and fears of countless Americans are focused (and the President’s poll-ratings depend) – is not HealthCare.gov. It’s Amazon.com.
Even if and when HealthCare.gov works perfectly, relatively few Americans will be affected by it. Only 5 percent of us are in the private health-insurance market to begin with. But almost half of Americans are now shopping for great holiday deals online, and many will be profoundly affected — not because they get great deals, but because their jobs and incomes are at stake.
Online retailing is the future. Amazon is the main online shopping portal this holiday season but traditional retailers are moving online as fast as they can. Online sales are already up 20 percent over last year, and the pace will only accelerate.Target and many other bricks-and-mortar outlets plan to spend more on technology next year than on building and upgrading new stores.
Americans are getting great deals online, and they like the convenience. But there’s a hidden price. With the growth of online retailing, fewer Americans will have jobs in bricks-and-mortar retail stores.
Amazon announced last summer it would add 5,000 new jobs to the 20,000 it already has. But not even 25,000 Amazon jobs come near to replacing the hundreds of thousands of retail jobs Amazon has already wiped out, and the hundreds of thousands more it will eliminate in the future.
To put this in some perspective you need to know that retail jobs have been the fastest growing of all job categories since the recession ended in 2009. But given the rapid growth of online retailing, that trend can’t possibly last. What will Americans do when online sales take over?
Add to this the fact that most of what’s being sold this holiday season – online and off-line — is no longer made by Americans. Vast shipping containers of gadgets, garments, and other goodies are fabricated or assembled or sewed together in Asia for the American market.
Online retailers are facilitating this move by having these goods shipped directly from Asian factories to distribution centers in America and then to our homes, without ever having to go to an American retail store or even a wholesaler. This means even lower prices and better deals. But it also means fewer jobs and lower pay for many Americans.
Some manufacturing is coming back to America, to be sure, but not the assembly-line jobs that used to be the core of manufacturing employment. Computerized machine tools and robots are doing an increasing portion of the work — which is why many companies can afford to bring their factories back here.
Get it? Technology and globalization are driving the good deals American consumers are getting this holiday season. But the same forces are keeping wages down, and are even on the verge of eliminating many of the low-wage retail and related service jobs many Americans now need to make ends meet.
To put it another way, American consumers getting great shopping deals are also American workers on the losing end of those same deals.
The biggest reason holiday shopping is especially frenzied this season is so many Americans are already stretched to the breaking point that they’re more desperate than ever for bargains. Sixty-five percent of today’s shoppers are living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s up from 61 percent last year, according to consumer research by Booz and Company.
Median household income in America continues to drop, adjusted for inflation, because low-wage jobs are the major ones available. Lower-wage occupations accounted for only 21 percent of job losses during the Great Recession. They’ve accounted for 58 percent of all job growth since then.
The President’s dropping poll-ratings are only partly due to the bumbling roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. The computer glitches at HealthCare.gov aren’t the most important reason why Americans are grumpy this holiday season. The bigger problem is the economy remains lousy for most people.
Technology and globalization are taking over more and more American jobs. There’s no easy fix for this, and it’s hardly the President’s fault. But the sobering reality is the United States has no national strategy for creating more good jobs in America. Until we do, more and more Americans will be chasing great deals that come largely at their own expense.
Al-Jazeera – 28 November 2013
There are many things to fear in Gaza: Attacks from Israel’s Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets, the coastal enclave’s growing isolation, the regular blackouts from power shortages, increasingly polluted drinking water and rivers of sewage flooding the streets.
Meanwhile, for most Palestinians in Gaza the anxiety-inducing soundtrack to their lives is the constant buzz of the remotely piloted aircraft – better known as “drones” – that hover in the skies above.
Drones are increasingly being used for surveillance and extra-judicial execution in parts of the Middle East, especially by the US, but in nowhere more than Gaza has the drone become a permanent fixture of life. More than 1.7 million Palestinians, confined by Israel to a small territory in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, are subject to near continual surveillance and intermittent death raining down from the sky.
There is little hope of escaping the zenana – an Arabic word referring to a wife’s relentless nagging that Gazans have adopted to describe the drone’s oppressive noise and their feelings about it. According to statistics compiled by human rights groups in Gaza, civilians are the chief casualties of what Israel refers to as “surgical” strikes from drones.
“When you hear the drones, you feel naked and vulnerable,” said Hamdi Shaqura, deputy director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in Gaza City. “The buzz is the sound of death. There is no escape, nowhere is private. It is a reminder that, whatever Israel and the international community assert, the occupation has not ended. We are still living completely under Israeli control. They control the borders and the sea and they decide our fates from their position in the sky,” said Shaqura.
The Israeli military did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.
Suffer the children
The sense of permanent exposure, coupled with the fear of being mistakenly targeted, has inflicted deep psychological scars on civilians, especially children, according to experts.
“There is a great sense of insecurity. Nowhere feels safe for the children, and they feel no one can offer them protection, not even their parents,” said Ahmed Tawahina, a psychologist running clinics in Gaza as part of the Community Mental Health Programme. “That traumatises both the children and parents, who feel they are failing in their most basic responsibility.”
Shaqura observed: “From a political perspective, there is a deep paradox. Israel says it needs security, but it demands it at the cost of our constant insecurity.”
There are no statistics that detail the effect of the drones on Palestinians in Gaza. Doctors admit it is impossible to separate the psychological toll inflicted by drones from other sources of damage to mental health, such as air strikes by F-16s, severe restrictions on movement and the economic insecurity caused by Israel’s blockade.
But field researchers working for Palestinian rights groups point out that the use of drones is intimately tied to these other sources of fear and anxiety. Drones fire missiles themselves, they guide attacks by F-16s or helicopters, and they patrol and oversee the borders.
A survey in medical journal The Lancet following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s month-long attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09, found large percentages of children suffered from symptoms of psychological trauma: Fifty-eight percent permanently feared the dark; 43 percent reported regular nightmares; 37 percent wet the bed and 42 percent had crying attacks.
Tawahina described the sense of being constantly observed as a “form of psychological torture, which exhausts people’s mental and emotional resources. Among children at school, this can be seen in poor concentration and unruly behaviour.” The trauma for children is compounded by the fact that the drones also disrupt what should be their safest activity – watching TV at home. When a drone is operating nearby, it invariably interferes with satellite reception.
“”It doesn’t make headlines, but it is another example of how there is no escape from the drones. Parents want their children indoors, where it feels safer and where they’re less likely to hear the drones, but still the drone finds a way into their home. The children cannot even switch off from the traumas around them by watching TV because of the drones.”
Israel’s ‘major advantage’
Israel developed its first drones in the early 1980s, during its long occupation of south Lebanon, to gather aerial intelligence without exposing Israeli pilots to anti-aircraft missiles. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, said drones help in situations where good, on-the-ground intelligence is lacking. “What the UAV gives you is eyes on the other side of the hill or over the border,” he said. “That provides Israel with a major advantage over its enemies.”
Other Israeli analysts have claimed that the use of drones, with their detailed intelligence-collecting abilities, is justified because they reduce the chances of errors and the likelihood of “collateral damage” – civilian deaths – during attacks.
But, according to Inbar, the drone is no better equipped than other aircraft for gathering intelligence or carrying out an execution.
“The advantage from Israel’s point of view is that using a drone for these tasks reduces the risk of endangering a pilot’s life or losing an expensive plane. That is why we are moving towards much greater use of these kinds of robots on the battlefield,” he said.
‘Mistakes can happen’
According to Gaza human rights group al-Mezan, Israel started using drones over the territory from the start of the second intifada in 2000, but only for surveillance.
Israel’s first extra-judicial executions using drones occurred in 2004, when two Palestinians were killed. But these operations greatly expanded after 2006, in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza and the rise to power of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.
Drones, the front-line weapon in Israel’s surveillance operations and efforts to foil rocket attacks, killed more than 90 Palestinians in each of the years 2006 and 2007, according to al-Mezan. The figures soared during Operation Cast Lead and in its aftermath, with 461 Palestinians killed by drones in 2009. The number peaked again with 199 deaths in 2012, the year when Israel launched the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defence against Gaza.
Despite Israeli claims that the intelligence provided by drones makes it easier to target those Palestinians it has defined as “terrorists”, research shows civilians are the main victims. In the 2012 Pillar of Defence operation, 36 of the 162 Palestinians killed were a result of drone strikes, and a further 100 were injured by drones. Of those 36 killed, two-thirds were civilians.
Also revealing was a finding that, although drones were used in only five percent of air strikes, they accounted for 23 percent of the total deaths during Pillar of Defence. According to the Economist magazine, the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, which triggered that operation, was carried out using a Hermes 450 drone.
Palestinian fighters report that they have responded to the constant surveillance by living in hiding, rarely going outdoors and avoiding using phones or cars. It is a way of life not possible for most people in Gaza.
Gaza’s armed groups are reported to be trying to find a way to jam the drones’ navigation systems. In the meantime, Hamas has claimed it has shot down three drones, the latest this month, though Israel says all three crashed due to malfunctions.
Last week, on the anniversary of the launch of Pillar of Defence, an Israeli commander whose soldiers control the drones over Gaza from a base south of Tel Aviv told the Haaretz newspaper that “many” air strikes during the operation had involved drones. “Lt Col Shay” was quoted saying: “Ultimately, we are at war. As much as the IDF strives to carry out the most precise surgical strikes, mistakes can happen in the air or on the ground.”
Random death by drone
It is for this reason that drones have become increasingly associated with random death from the sky, said Samir Zaqout, a senior field researcher for Al-Mezan.
“We know from the footage taken by drones that Israel can see what is happening below in the finest detail. And yet women and children keep being killed in drone attacks. Why the continual mistakes? The answer, I think, is that these aren’t mistakes. The message Israel wants to send us is that there is no protection whether you are a civilian or fighter. They want us afraid and to make us turn on the resistance [Palestinian fighters].”
Zaqout also points to a more recent use of drones – what has come to be known as “roof-knocking”. This is when a drone fires small missiles at the roof of a building to warn the inhabitants to evacuate – a practice Israel developed during Operation Cast Lead three years earlier, to allay international concerns about its repeated levellings of buildings with civilians inside.
In Pillar of Defence in 2012, 33 buildings were targeted by roof-knocking.
Israel says it provides 10 minutes’ warning from a roof-knock to an air strike, but, in practice, families find they often have much less time. This, said Zaqout, puts large families in great danger as they usually send their members out in small groups to be sure they will not be attacked as they move onto the streets.
One notorious case occurred during Cast Lead, when six members of the Salha family, all women and children, were killed when their home was shelled moments after a roof-knocking. The father, Fayez Salha, who survived, lost a case for damages in Israel’s Supreme Court last February and was ordered to pay costs after the judges ruled that the attack was legitimate because it occurred as part of a military operation.
A US citizen who has lived long-term in Gaza, who wished not be named for fear of reprisals from Israel, said she often heard the drones at night when the street noise dies down, or as they hover above her while out walking. “The sound is like the buzz of a mosquito, although there is one type of drone that sometimes comes into view that is silent,” she said.
She added that she knew of families that, before moving into a new apartment building, checked to see whether it housed a fighter or a relative of a fighter, for fear that the building may be attacked by Israel.
Shaqura said the drones inevitably affect one’s day-to-day behaviour. He said he was jogging early one morning while a drone hovered overhead.
“I got 100 metres from my front door when I started to feel overwhelmed with fear. I realised that my tracksuit was black, the same colour as many of the fighters’ uniforms. I read in my work too many reports of civilians being killed by drones not to see the danger. So I hurried back home.”