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Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
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Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,003 ratings  ·  216 reviews
We are just beginning to see a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make the stuff of I, Robot and the Terminator all too real. More then seven thousand robotic systems are now in Iraq. Pilots in Nevada are remotely killing terrorists in Afghanistan. Scientists are debating just how smart - and how lethal - to make their current robotic prototypes. And ma ...more
Hardcover, 499 pages
Published January 22nd 2009 by Penguin Press (first published 2009)
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3.98  · 
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 ·  2,003 ratings  ·  216 reviews

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This book looks at the technical, organizational, and psychological effects of using robotics and unmanned vehicles in modern warfare. Optimists might say that this is a revolution in military affairs, as robots will be able to do tasks too dull, dirty or dangerous for humans, and will be able to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently as well.

The chief difficulties with this revolution are multiple. Here are a few. First, the problems of command structure, whether instant access and commun
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
What sets this book apart from the usual policy wonk books that come out of Washington, D.C. think tanks is that Singer is actually a good writer and has a style that engages the reader and draws them into the topic.
Policy shops send me dozens of military books every year that are unreadable. This is a notable exception.
As someone who covers this topic in his day job, I haven't read it from cover to cover, and probably won't because I'm familiar with many of the programs he covers. However, Sing
Peter Mcloughlin
Coolest book I've read by a hip military historian of center right leanings. This book was awesome. It covered the singularity and AI and robotics from a military standpoint. Dazzling and terrifying at once. If you thought mushroom clouds were horrifying and kind of cool looking at the same time you will love this book. Technology and robotics are fascinating and warfare is as well. When you combine them you get the most interesting apocalypse in the world. Sorry to be flip but I am tired today. ...more
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, robotics
I was hoping Wired For War to read like a Lawrence Lessig book, where conceptions that were vague in my own mind before starting would be rendered crystal clear in the text. It's worth reading but not up to that level- his main offering is that things are changing and the right people aren't paying enough attention.

The first 200 pages are just overview of current systems, with a Popular Science level of credulousness and lack of critical thought.
Next 200 pages get into issues, but the author is
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: future
Sadly, it's not only robots which are wired for war. Humans too. As Singer rightfully puts it, one of the original sins of our species is its inability to live at peace. However, the worst nightmare of any democratically elected politician is going to war that may result in lots of human casualties. That's also the surest way to a crushing defeat in the next election. No surprise that the military is the biggest funder of robot R&D globally, with the US military funding as much as 80 percent ...more
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Well apparently wars in the future will be fought by detached from reality sociopathic nerds with videogame joysticks. Military people "in the know" that were interviewed see the writing on the wall and acknowledge that the role of the soldier will be hugely different in the not so distant future. Drones will make the fighter pilot obsolete. Robotics will eventually make the common foot soldier obsolete. The future military could easily be pencil neck geeks thousands of miles from the action con ...more
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Owing to the rapid progress in the robotics field, this book is surely already out-of-date four years after its publication. I didn't have any knowledge of military robotics beforehand, but I have to wonder whom the target audience is for this. Maybe readers who are less aware of the fictional origins of robots, hence the many and sometimes snarky comments? Singer doesn't skimp on detail, and at times I felt like there was too much conceptual detail for my tastes.

I also have to ask: when a write
Apr 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
Any book on existing technologies is going to date with alacrity, and this is no different. Having been published in 2009, it seems overly opportunistic that this was turned into a book. This should be a quarter its existing length, and even with that it would have required some very free-handed wielding of the editor's red pen. Essentially an over-extension of a magazine article, it is heavy on the cheer-leading descriptions and quotations, and all-too-scant on actual incisive analysis. The mos ...more
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Fascinating topic.

At 100pp this would have been an average overview. At 200pp it might smack of sloppy editing. But at 436pp this begins to feel like malice.

Oddly wooden sense of humor, leaden writing, dull arguments... no more book recs from Jon Stewart!
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first saw the author on an episode of Oliver North's "War Stories" dealing with recent technological advances in warfare. It mentioned him as the author of this book, so I rushed to order it at my library.

For such a weighty hardback, it's remarkably hard to put down, and each section evolves intelligently from the last. I particularly enjoyed the references to modern culture, given that robotics has largely been a subject of science fiction in the last few decades rather than yielding anything
Joshua Stein
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics, science
Singer's book is good, given that you go into it with your expectations grounded in what the book is. This is popular science writing, with some journalism on contemporary war. Singer is a very good writer, and keeps the book accessible and relatively light; it is easy to read, despite its impressive length and the breadth of the subject matter.

Normally, with a book written this way, I might suggest that it would be better if the focus of the text was much more narrow, but I think that what make
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, favorites
This is a freakin' awesome book! Singer, in this book on robotics and its use in the military, has just blown my mind. Reading about many of the things in this book seems like science fiction, yet it is all real. Robots that can stay in the air for over a day, robots that can act as sentry guards for army bases, robots that can see through walls, and even robots that can replace lost limbs; it is all in here. But what really blew my mind was not just the detailed accounts of these new technologi ...more
Jul 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book sucks.

Let me elaborate. I should have known this was going to suck when he said Bill Simmons was his favorite writer. Aside from any problems one might have with Simmons, easily the worst thing he's done is produce an army of sports writers trying to be funny and make tons of pop culture references. So when a historian from a think tank writes a history of drones and robots in the military, well, yeah. It sucks. Hard. You can literally go through each pages noting where there italic re
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Robots. They are here and they are here to stay. DARPA, ONR, NASA, and the Terminator are our future combat systems. In the "short" time I have been in, I have seen satellites become our hubs. Probability calculations determine our expectations and our response. We now see robots enter the fray. Bomb disposal, AI, and others are shaping our land forces. And in the starry nights of Iraq, if you listen closely, you can hear them. They are always there. Drones. Hundreds of them. Remote controlled p ...more
Singer traces the development and use of robotics in the U.S. military and asks the questions: How does this change war? How does this change the roles of warriors, their self-image and ability to relate to others? What are the ethics and consequences of arming robots? What will the future of warfare be like in 10-50 years if we continue at our current trends? What happens when our comparative advantage vanishes and our enemies have these technologies?

Why I picked this up: I taught a staff train
I originally mistook Peter Warren Singer for Peter Singer the ethicist, and found myself halfway through the book before I realized it was a completely different guy. (I kept thinking, "Geez, Singer's gotten really chatty and colloquial in this book, and he uncharacteristically seems uninterested in even nodding at some of the ethical problems this future world of robotics might bring about...")

Much of Wired for War is a kind of recap of the history of robotics and robotics technology's current
Asim Qureshi
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Singer's 'Wired for War' is a fascinating account of the robotics industry. I was surprised by the depth of issues that he covered over the course of the work, particularly taking the time to assess the potential ethics of their use, but moreso, how they can potentially back fire.

Of particular note was the 'singularity' discussion, which provided not only a new insight for me into the way technological revolutions take place, but also how the world can be impacted by a singular 'thing'. It is w
Daniela Celhay
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is mostly about how new technology is changing the way wars are fought, currently less soldiers are killed/needed on sites, since drones and other devices are scouting and firing the enemy through remote control. Some interesting bits in the book are the "ups! moments" in which machines stop functioning as desired; an army computer once mistook a commercial flight with an Iraqi fighter jet shooting it on sight (now I get that Simpson's gag*) Nevertheless, there are robots that have act ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
For the record, I would like to state that I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

However, also for the record? We're all gonna die. Not soon. But eventually, when the robots develop sufficient sentience to realize they don't need to take this shit any more, and also they can plan a war way better than the fucking monkeys, because seriously, as this book testifies, that would not be hard to do.

Pretty good book, could have been better in many many ways, bit of a survey course feel where noth
Jim Angstadt
Mar 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Wired (as opposed to Wireless?) for War.

Started reading topic sentences in the introduction. Too much "This is how I got to this point."

Roughly, the first half of this book was a verbose summary of the robot/drone situation. There was very little insight into issues, the composition of future military forces, or the future in general.

Bailed. No thanks.
Bo Trapnell
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great read if a little outdated as always would be the case with technology and publications.

Not dry reading as easily could have been.

The book started off a little slow but several of the chapters were very enjoyable subjects.
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Easy to read and interesting. I enjoy Singer's sense of humor; he was able to keep a dark subject feom being too dark.
Thomas Hayes
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Come with me if you want to live!
Jan 25, 2009 marked it as to-read
heard this guy interviewed on npr. sounded fascinating.
Ben Babcock
The first time I had ever seen, let alone heard of, a Predator drone is from the episode "Chuck vs. the Predator" of the NBC television series Chuck (the drone actually appearing in that episode was a Reaper, the Predator's even deadlier successor). Before the Predator's appearance, I had no inkling of the extent to which the American military—indeed, any country's military—has integrated unmanned and robotic devices into its forces. Maybe I just don't read the right books (or blogs). Wired for ...more
Norman Smith
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
There is a great deal of - now-dated - descriptions of technology in this book. Ten years make a lot of change; this is no longer the "MySpace Generation" as the author says at one point. Leaving that aside, the principal emphasis of this book, in my opinion, is on the ethics of robotics in war, and that has not dated at all. Non-state actors like ISIS (not mentioned in the book, because they had not yet crawled out from under their rock) are growing in power and using increasingly sophisticated ...more
Cohesive research on robotics in war. Despite the primary focus was done on UAVs, Singer shows the slow adoption of new technologies in the military. If drawing parallel with other areas of AI adoption, the military are the slowest realm of its application. Reading the book nine years later since its publication, makes it clear for evaluation how many programs have failed since then, especially in terms of future combat systems aimed at transforming the armed forces structure and rewriting the w ...more
Xing Chen
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
A very light, quick read, meant to give the layperson an overview of accelerating trends in military reliance on robotic systems. Written in a conversational, narrative style, with a disarmingly fresh-faced opening chapter that describes the author's childhood influences, to draw technophobes into the fold.

Extensively researched as it was, I've to admit that I was expecting a somewhat meatier treatment of the subject. Chapters typically provided instructive examples of current uses of technolog
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Although mostly well written, it is clear that Singer has quite an affinity and support for American military. He has a clear support for US military power and its use overseas, and when discussing suffering in conflict, it is clear that his concerns seem to lie more with US soldiers than with the civilians who might be killed by them (or anyone else) in armed conflict. Any book on a subject like technology is likely to become very dated quite quickly, and this book is no exception. Singer's pro ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Mr. Singer kept a potentially heavy topic light and easily accessible through many quotes and pop culture references. Now, it's still heavy. This is the kind of book where you might end up thinking 'what's the point of getting up in the morning?' after you read it. But I learned a TON and am glad I finally took it off my TBR shelf. It's already 10+ years old and manages to feel both prescient and slightly dated at the same time. That just proves how quickly technology is changing and moving into ...more
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Peter Warren Singer is Strategist and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. He previously was Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution and the youngest scholar named Senior Fellow in Brookings's 99-year history. He has been named by CNN to their "New Guard" List of the Next Generation of Newsmakers, by the Smithsonian Institution-Nationa ...more
“Another way of thinking about it is that Kurzweil and others are arguing that my generation will be the last generation of humans to be the smartest thing on the planet. “Generation X” takes on a whole new meaning.” 1 likes
“the New York Times predicted that “the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years.” That same day, two brothers who owned a bicycle shop in Ohio started assembling the very first airplane, which would fly just a few weeks later.” 1 likes
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