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Guest Post - Drones and morality and stuff.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.19.18

Mossy Character writes: Long piece on the psychology of drone operators:

We found that, given adequate access to information and a culture where it was safe to discuss such things, crews would engage in deep and nuanced moral reasoning during the quiet hours of watching a target. The RPA [Remotely Piloted Aircraft] community would come to a consensus about the 'why' of a strike, and that agreement provided purpose and focus in the pursuit of the target.
[...]
The truly concerning space is 'Just Killing,' or the second zone on the graph. This zone has the highest potential for moral injury due to the conceivable sense of meaningless life-taking. Sensor resolution clearly establishes the humanity of the target and Cognitive Combat Intimacy (CCI) is established, but crews are deprived of relevant information to make moral sense of the strike order for a specific human target.
[...]
The third zone, or the 'Just Kill,' is the space where the crews can ratify the strike order through additional knowledge about the target and have had time to consider the implications of that knowledge.
[...]
Therefore, endeavoring to keep crews in this Zone of Moral Clarity, allows them the best chance to judge for themselves regarding the use of deadly force. Doing so requires two conditions: First, crews must know as much as possible about their targets. Second, they need the time, space, and boundaries to perform the moral homework to keep pace with their tactical actions.
[...]
crews must also be furnished with the moral reasoning tools required to wrestle with, and ultimately to work through, difficult moral dilemmas.
Unmentioned: one also needs a workable ethical system acceptable to the operators. Somewhat separately:
We will not always face enemies who are so clearly evil, but so long as we currently do, honestly communicating that narrative to the crews engenders both morale and focus, and reduces the potential for moral injury. Perhaps the distinction between tragic enemies and malicious enemies might prove a more useful differentiation for re-civilizing an emerging hybrid warfare without uniforms and boundaries. By abiding by certain rules, tragic enemies are afforded certain protections, while malicious enemies enter a different category as hostis humanis generis (enemies of all mankind.) The contours of these distinctions we leave to more qualified ethicists.
I gather the legal concept of hostis humanis generis was muddied and maybe abused by the GWB administration. The contours of this discussion I leave to more qualified legalists.

Heebie's take: long, dark, fascinating.

Contrary to popular cultural beliefs, remote killing is an intensely personal experience. In his book, On Killing, Lt. Col. David Grossman (ret), the professor emeritus of the psychology of killing, describes how human faculties for relationship and empathy become entangled in the act of taking a life. In order to successfully hunt a target, you must anticipate their actions; in order to anticipate their actions, you must empathize with them. During an attack, a sensor operator might think, "If I were him, I would sprint when I hear this missile," and then shift the crosshairs appropriately. In doing so, his mind creates a connection, as the thought itself implies both a 'him' and a relationship between 'him' and 'me.' One researcher goes so far as to consider this empathy as an activating factor for mirror neurons--brain cells that reflect other people's actions within our own brains, considered a neuropsychological basis for empathy. Once connected, severing the connection in a strike becomes potentially traumatic. The relationship between empathy and killing is challenging, especially for a technology that requires a "hunter's empathy" in order to anticipate target responses.

I remember reading once (years ago) that the military had suspended studies on the trauma of killing to the soldier because the emerging results were that it was psychologically devastating. Maybe I misread or misremember, but I'm glad that the work is being done.



 

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De-classy-fying.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.19.18

Tumbling down through the economic levels after a divorce. They were grotesquely wealthy, and then after the divorce she finds herself living precariously, with three kids.

I'm not sure why I feel so exasperated reading it - she's very matter-of-fact and not particularly self-pitying. The lifestyle pre-divorce is so absurd that sure, feel angry about that extravagance, but that's already over.

She's settled in her new life:

My ex-husband now lives in Manhattan with his new family. My children and I live in a nice split-level house in the center of my hometown in New Hampshire, and they attend the same excellent and safe public high school from which I graduated. We are, relatively speaking, very lucky. But my days, which used to be filled with personal trainers and spa appointments, planning parties and reveling in being class mom at school, are now consumed by working to make ends meet -- pitching and writing enough stories as a freelance journalist to bridge the shortfall between the support I receive from my ex-husband and my monthly bills. There are some weeks I have to wait to go to the grocery store until I am paid for a story.

You can argue that she's making some dumb choices: the excellent and safe public school codes (to me) like she overpaid for a house in a white district. But it's certainly the same exact dumb choice that white Americans all over the country are constantly making - it's not unusually dumb.

And certainly if you're going to be angry at anyone, be angry at the dad, who left her for his pregnant girlfriend - maybe he should be paying more. There's several extra links about this writer and her ex here, but I haven't read them, but the link claims they mitigate your anger for him.

I guess at the end of the day it's just exasperating to read about how someone wrestled with the transition from stupid amounts of wealth to living like a plebe.



 

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Plan

Posted by Ben
on 02.17.18

I awoke this morning from troubled sleep with a plan resounding in the cathedral of my mind, emptied during the night by the distressing action of unpleasant dreams. The plan was this: to cause to be made business cards with, on one side, the text "we used to be friends", and, on the other, the text "but now we're enemies". Still halfway dreaming, I hoped that it might be possible to devise some way to make the "but" movable from one side to the other—like you could lift just the text up, and put it down again, though I retained enough of a grip on reality to be stymied by the thought of how the remaining text would then be justified—depending on the precise gradation of emphasis I wanted to create.



 

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So Badass

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.18

This put a smile on my face. The anchors had no idea what hit them (the woman anchor has since called Katebi to apologize).



 

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Yes

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.18

Let's just note that Adam Rippon is the goddamn personification of fabulous.



 

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School shootings

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.15.18

Not much to say, but I think a (possibly emerging?) widely-shared meme should be, "The NRA is a terrorist organization, funded in part by a hostile foreign government" in response to such things. That way when nothing ever changes, we'll have more evidence of the kinds of memes people used to share in 2018 during a tragedy.



 

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Guest Post - Meanwhile, at the Grown-Ups' Table

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.15.18

Mossy Character writes: The TPP has been signed, without the US:

One of the most ridiculed provisions in the TPP, the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision, has been scaled back while a government's right to regulate its markets has been afforded increased protections. This was only possible after the United States withdrew from the deal: U.S. companies are the most frequent users of the measure, which allows companies to sue foreign governments over arduous regulations.

Another key provision the United States pushed for that has fallen to the side is the extension of copyright, or intellectual property, protections. Washington had negotiated for copyright to exist for the author's lifetime plus an additional 70 years. While this is standard in the United States, it is not in the other TPP members, and with Washington out of the deal, copyright lengths will be shorter.
[...]
Washington could rejoin the agreement, though it remains to be seen if the 11 signatories would accept possible U.S. demands to reinstate the IP and ISDS provisions or if they would make the United States bend to their will. That possibility alone presents a significant reversal in global trade.



 

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