1538 23 DECEMBER 2016 • VOL 354 ISSUE 6319 sciencemag.org SCIENCE
By Nayef Al-Rodhan
From everyday life to the expansion of empires, technology has accompa- nied individuals and served to anchor geopolitical power. New technologies, however, are changing standard operat- ing procedures due to their subtler and
boundless capacity for surveillance. In warfare, they are generating the unprecedented
potential for remote engagement, distancing
attackers from the attacked.
Ian Shaw’s Predator Empire is a provoca-
Shaw forebodingly reflects on this predica-
tive analysis of the outreach of technology,
specifically drones, as new tools to entrench
U.S. power globally. The “Predator Empire”
(so named by Shaw after Predator drones),
aims at “full spectrum dominance”: the con-
trol of all physical domains—terrestrial, mar-
itime, and atmospheric. We are, in Shaw’s
opinion, “sleepwalking into totalitarianism,”
because the Predator Empire is, in essence, a
“rule by nobody”: tyrannical but without one
discernible tyrant. It is a rule by “technics.”
The technological power of the Predator
Empire can be suffocating. For those living
under drone-dotted skies, it can be trauma-
tizing. So common is the trend toward un-
manned surveillance that the drone is bound
to become a brand of state power, “as recog-
nizable as Coca Cola,” Shaw maintains.
ment but overstates the hopelessness of the
situation, disregarding potential resistance.
Calls for accountability show that we are not
passively waiting for technology to crush our
liberties. Amnesty International, for instance,
has taken a public stance on encryption, call-
ing it a matter of human rights (1).
Shaw argues that drones must be seen
as geopolitical actors. There is merit to this
argument because it provokes scholars to
rethink the practical and theoretical role of
technology. However, it must be challenged
on technical grounds, because the technology
on which drones are based allows for limited
autonomy. Although they can infringe on
people’s space and affect their public lives, ultimately, they cannot—technically—take over.
Shaw’s book also launches a larger critique
of the all-encompassing electromagnetic
spectrum, which mediates our surveillance.
He believes that government surveillance has
started to be legitimized too easily: Instead
of being seen as a risk to democracy, it is increasingly seen as its savior. But many would
argue that this is not an either/or question.
Like drones, cyberattacks are challenging
traditional notions of warfare. George Lucas’s
Ethics and Cyber Warfare offers an eloquent,
substantive, and original discussion of the
main controversies and dilemmas related to
the cyberdomain, including privacy and the
legality of cyberwarfare.
As is the case with drones, the perpetrators of cyberattacks are removed from the
targeted physical location. This has often
raised fears about the attribution of responsibility, the applicability of international law,
and the threshold at which cyberattacks
amount to acts of war.
Lucas cautions against the need to prepare for extreme scenarios. More plausible,
he maintains, is the rise of state-sponsored
hacktivism, operating with “weapons of mass
disruption” that cause nuisances more than
large-scale physical damage. He demonstrates that both ethics and existing laws can
be effectively applied in cyberconflicts, despite significant gaps. The book also offers a
meticulous exposé of ethical theories and examples that debunk some of the assumptions
about cyberspace as a largely ungoverned
space, where anything can happen.
In both tone and message, Lucas’s book
differs from Shaw’s critique of the intrusive and repressive nature of late-20th- and
early-21st-century technologies. For example,
Lucas makes a compelling case that NSA surveillance, although morally problematic, will
never replicate the atrocious Stasi-like surveillance programs of the 20th century. On
the contrary, he contends, the intent of the
U.S. government will always differ from that
of an authoritarian regime.
This is a sensible takeaway: Technology
does not exist above states or political agendas, but rather it is instrumental to their
goals. The same thing could not be said about
lone attackers, who are not bound by considerations outside their own moral compasses.
Lucas suggests that a “code of ethics for cyber warriors” could be effective in limiting
their attacks. However, power can be highly
addictive if unchecked. Given an environment where one can enjoy anonymity and no
constraints, the thrill derived from such acts
would likely outweigh a code of conduct (2).
Both of these books are valuable contributions to the literature, furthering relevant questions and raising still more. We
should never be complacent about the trajectory of technology and especially technologies that can be immensely powerful
tools of control. j
1. Amnesty International, “Encryption: A Matter of Human
Rights,” March 2016, http://www.amnestyusa.org/
2. N.Al-Rodhan,“The Neurochemistryof
Power: Implications for Political Change,” 27
February 2014, http://blog.politics.ox.ac.uk/
Two authors probe the technologies transforming warfare
The reviewer is at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Genève,
Switzerland, and Oxford University, St. Antony’s College, Oxford,
UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Drone Warfare and Full
Ian G. R. Shaw
University of Minnesota Press,
2016. 334 pp.
Ethics and Cyber Warfare
The Quest for Responsible
Security in the Age of Digital
Oxford University Press, 2016.
BOOKS et al.
Drones are changing the norms of modern
warfare and dramatically enhancing the capacity
for state-sponsored surveillance.