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The Dark Side of Media and Technology

A 21st Century Guide to Media and Technological Literacy

Edited By Edward Downs

The Dark Side of Media and Technology: A 21st Century Guide to Media and Technological Literacy is Herculean in its effort to survey for landmines in a rapidly changing media landscape. The book identifies four dark outcomes related to media and technology use in the 21st century, and balances the dark side with four points of light that are the keys to taking ownership of a media- and technology-saturated world. The text contains an impressive list of multi-disciplinary experts and cutting-edge researchers who approach 25 separate dark side issues with concise, highly readable chapters, replete with unique recommendations for navigating our mediated present and future.

The Dark Side of Media and Technology is grounded in theory and current research, but possesses an appeal similar to a page-turning dystopian novel; as a result, this volume should be of interest to scholars, students, and curious lay-readers alike. It should be the "go-to" text for anyone who is interested in learning what the research says about how we use media and technology, as well as how media and technology use us.

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Chapter Twenty-Four: The Killer App: Drones and Autonomous Machines (David J. Gunkel)


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The Killer App

Drones and Autonomous Machines


There are at least two ways to interpret the title to this chapter. “Killer app” is Silicon Valley speak for an application that provides proof of concept for a technology or an ensemble of technologies. Understood in this way, the drone is the killer app of a number of related technological innovations: remote telepresence, augmented reality, HD imaging, and wireless data communications. But we can also read the title in a more literal fashion—understanding technologies like drones and other autonomous machines as applications that can kill. Need to neutralize enemy combatants and terrorists? Need to locate and subdue a criminal suspect? Need to decide who lives and who dies in a fatal self-driving car accident? There’s an app for that.

Responses to these killer apps have pulled in two seemingly opposite directions. On the one hand, the drone, or what the US military calls an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), has been celebrated as a remarkable innovation that is perfectly designed for current global conflicts. “They are,” Mark Bowden (2013) writes,

remarkable tools, an exceedingly clever combination of existing technologies that has vastly improved our ability to observe and to fight. They represent how America has responded to the challenge of organized, high-level, stateless terrorism—not timidly, as bin Laden famously predicted, but with courage, tenacity, and ruthless ingenuity. ← 274 | 275...

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