We Seriously Need To Stop Calling Them All 'Drones'

They deliver
sushi. They film
cool videos. They capture
the world’s greatest hippie festivals. They even perform
search and rescue missionsthat would otherwise be completed by a St. Bernard
with a barrel of brandybelted to its neck.

“Drones” also kill people (often under debatable terms) with missiles launched from altitudes which flirt with the stratosphere.

So is it time to start differentiating between the ones that take drink orders and the ones shooting the hellfire missiles? We think so.

Case in point, today’s Buzzfeed headline from John Herman “Whatever happened to Good?” puts the media organisation on blast for partnering with the U.S. Air Force to do research on (gasp) drones.

From Buzzfeed:

GOOD was founded as “a free press for the critical idealist” — a publication for “people who give a damn.” But now? It’s partnering with the Air Force to help design a better drone.

Herman then goes on to list all the infographics Good published featuring how deadly drones have been over the years.

There’s just one problem: the Air Force drones in this partnership are lower-budget Quadcopter “search and rescue” drones, not multi-million dollar, Obama’s-watching-you-from-outer-space-finger-on-the-trigger drones.

Good got back to Herman to clarify this point later on in the afternoon — though countless unsuspecting readers who’d already read the reporting may have drawn the conclusion that a media company was aiding in the design of someone’s eventual death.

Bob Cesca of the Daily Banter wrote a post recently which highlighted another misleading media report about local police buying drones. The report included a menacing picture of the drone in question, but omitted a picture showing an officer holding the drone as if it were a paper aeroplane.

If one didn’t read carefully, or read the whole article, one might have made the conclusion that war and the surveillance state was coming home to roost — though the article notably did not refer to it as a drone but an “unmanned aerial vehicle.”

Still, Glenn Greenwald made no qualms about calling it a drone to his 200,000-plus followers.

Really, what it amounts to is a model aeroplane with a camera attached.

Point being: as robotics invariably get smaller, more complex, and more specialised, we should come up with better names.

Maybe names that refer to specific tasks — rather than drone or unmanned aerial vehicle, we use robotic food delivery, or remote aerial camera — so that we don’t have people’s mothers thinking the local Sushi establishment is using Obama-death-bots to deliver her spicy salmon rolls.

And, perhaps more importantly, we’ll be able to have a more informed, less sensational discussion about the inevitable role of robotics in all of our lives.

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