Together with my colleague Nina Franz, I will give a talk on „Co-operative Killing. Controlling humans and machines in remote warfare“ at the conference Remote Control on July 30, 2017, at Humboldt University Berlin.
Abstract: Today’s remotely controlled military operations are de ned as processes of “cooperation” between automated and partially autonomous technologies and the “human operator”. This puts the human capability of action and decision making into a precarious relationship with the efficiency of non- human systems. In contrast to positions that argue for the recognition of non-human actors, agency in these contexts is always already understood as human-technological co-agency within a given system, revealing the epistemological roots of “man-machine coupling” within the historical paradigm of cybernetics: The human actor is regarded as “element” or “component” of the operative system. Against the backdrop of the military understanding of operation, the paper argues that the notion of “operative” and “operational” results in a problematic misconception of human-machine relations. Based on a case study of the so-called Ground Control Station for unmanned aerial vehicles the paper investigates the practices of remote operation. The control interface of the GCS is thereby revealed to be a scene of constant re-definition of roles, of re-negotiation and contested responsibilities. The study is based on an exchange with drone operators that took place in February 2017 on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.