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This book is remarkably comprehensive, yet manages to stay fresh and compelling. The author makes every attempt to capture realistic snapshots of today's modern military and then speculates a bit into the future. The author makes a rather impressive effort to sort out all the issues that you and I don???t have any time to sort out yet ourselves. You will be impressed by what is already out there. You'll be captivated by the new frontiers for tech . You'll realize how much you didn't know. The author shares all that he found in his epic project. The only drawback to the book is that it???s difficult to walk away from it having any sense of finality about it. Perhaps the book suffers only from the same paradox it uncovers???.that the jury is still out???.that all this great technological power has yet to be made into a coherent part of our civilization.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I might have given this work four stars, if others hadn't. The author has done an enormous amount of valuable reporting and brought together a big picture of many critical technical issues affecting the future of war, focusing mainly but not exclusively on robotics. I share his pessimism about the trends, and appreciate his willingness to examine the moral issues from many different sides. His description of the "cubicle warriors" who now operated our growing drone fleets is very eye-opening. However, the book sprawls. Many sections might have been better at half the length. Some begin to sound like a laundry list of projects, machines, and acronyms. Themes repeat or overlap. No merciless editor sat at his elbow. For example, his analysis of how information technology allows generals to micromanage tactics at a distance is very interesting. But we get it. The section goes on, largely repeating the same idea and the word "micromanage" in various ways, while adding little. More seriously, I felt there was a missing level of analysis, though knowing little about the topic, I'm not sure what it is. There is, for example, little or nothing about the early use of computers and cybernetics, which become necessary for antiaircraft tracking. And little about the revolutionary effects of cell phones and laptops on guerilla war. Or on cyberwar, though that is perhaps a separate topic. The author is a war historian and journalist, and does not seem to be developing his ideas out of any underlying theory of technology or science. (American historians and journalists are largely trained to eschew "big theory.") I am not sure that he even clearly defines information theory, AI, and robotics as subsets of technology. One of the interesting scientific asides that never really goes anywhere is the battery as weak link, something every laptop user knows. He mentions it in the context of the Iraq War, but then does not really develop the implications. His coverage of media and "interface" technologies is weak. You can't do everything. But if human beings have a role in our new data-driven world, it really ought to be to reduce bins of information through critical abstraction, we need a few less colorful factoids and a little more theory.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful