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Drone U podcast: P.W. Singer on what happens when the Predator comes home.

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We are excited to announce the launch of Drone U, a public education platform focused on the social, legal, and philosophical implications of drone technology. Drone U seeks to go beyond the headlines to provide a deeper understanding of how this technology is affecting and will continue to affect our lives.

Every other week on Future Tense, we will highlight a talk from a leading thinker from Drone U speaking on the topic of what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.)

Are you going to enroll?

I drone know .... thinking about it. 

Seems like your kind of thing.

As Singer discusses, the current debate around drones is comparable to the initial challenges posed by the introduction of the car in 1900. This technology brought strange new questions, such as how to protect people from them. The first fine for “speeding” came just a few years later, when a man was arrested for endangering the lives and property of pedestrians in downtown Jacksonville, Fla. He had exceeded the 6 mile per hour speed limit. “Horseless carriages” were a technology that once seemed alien much like unmanned aerial systems do today.

[Yes, THIS would be the story that connects Jacksonville to drone technology ....]

When we think about technologies like the Predator or Packbot, we need to remember that they are just the first generation—the Model T Fords and Wright Flyers. We are still at the “horseless” stage of this technology. Describing these technologies as “unmanned system” means we are focused on what they are not, rather than wrestling with what they truly are.

What the opening of the civilian airspace will do to robotics is akin to what the Internet did to desktop computing. Revolutionary technologies force us to ask new questions about what is possible and consider things that weren’t conceivable a generation before. But they also force us to relook at what is proper. They raise issues of right and wrong that we didn’t have to wrestle with before. With robotics, issues on the technical side may ultimately be much easier to resolve than dilemmas that emerge from our human use of them.

Cars were not used to kill people when they were first invented.

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