Reading the highly interesting essay entitled “Navigating the Cyberspaces of Virtual War” presents to us the reasons why movies like The Terminator movie series are no longer works of fiction as written by an over active imagination. The reality is that science and computer technology have reached that point in the evolution of the systems that both the real and imagined reality of everyday lives, problems, and in this case, world wars, can now seamlessly interact and allow human beings to become active participants in the situations without really posing any physical dangers to the themselves.
We have to admit that violence is an inborn characteristic of humans regardless of age, gender, and capability. But, man is afraid of the real repercussions stemming from any act of violence. Nobody in his right mind would put his own life on the line if he can find a way around it. This is the problem that presented itself to the public the day that man found a way to involve themselves in virtual war games. It is true that soldiers must be well trained and versed in handling their weapons and be so familiar with their combat zone that they can patrol the area blindfolded.
For the military, the applications of virtual war is endless and a fantastic training tool that limit’s the number of casualties in the field. The problem is that the virtual war games were commercialized and sold to the public for home entertainment. The end result of the virtual gaming world was the desensitizing of mankind. Virtual Reality turned into an actual reality for some wherein nobody ever actually got hurt or died. It redefined violence for the participants and made it seem alright to blow each other up because “It’s just a game”.
However, the developers of such games neglected to consider the psychological effect of the game on an ordinary person. A soldier would eventually have to deal with the reality of his virtual training and deal with actual loss of lives from both friendly and enemy fire. For the common man who merely plays the game and does not need to experience the actual loss, it instead gives him a thrill that sometimes pushes him to emulate the game in a real life setting.
Early on, I mentioned that the Terminator movie series has now turned into a reality. This is a truth that can be seen because of the way cyberspace and war have turned battles into situations fought by remote control from the comfort of the soldier’s home base using highly intelligent computer systems that are capable of deciding upon what kind of weapons to use depending upon what their sensors data transmits to the onboard computer.
But, what if the onboard computer develops a problem that causes the machine to turn upon its remote operators? What if Artificial Intelligence turns into Real Computer Intelligence? Are we prepared for such repercussions? Our computer developers and scientists have turned computers into almost fully independent machines that can function and decide its own actions in times of war. Good for the soldier because he won’t have to risk his life on the battlefront.
Bad news for the rest of us because cyberspace is filled with computer hackers who would love to be able to gain the bragging rights to being that one person who took down a whole satellite system or took virtual / cyberspace enabled control of a real online defense system thereby gaining control of the military fighting machines for his own whims. Cyborgs are not that far off in development either. A perfect fighting machine, no feelings or logic, just a follower designed to eliminate the enemy as per preloaded mission objectives.
The question is, how prepared are we to unleash such forces into reality? What safeguards are in place within cyberspace to protect us from the potential disasters cyber wars and technological advancements in cyberspace could bring upon mankind? The internet, online war gaming, television, and newspapers all present us with the realities of war while we are still far removed from the actual situation. I believe that if the world is to know any sort of peace, such virtual technologies should be limited to only military applications and not be allowed for commercial purposes.
There is no need to feed the violent tendencies of man. Instead, a separate virtual reality should be developed for the common folk where we can practice solving political tensions through discussion and treaties instead. Leave the virtual fighting to those who are trained to really handle such situations. Cyberspace and war do not have to become any sort of reality for mankind simply because all it will bring about is our own self destruction in both virtual and actual reality.