Thursday, July 11, 2013

Guns, Robots, and the End of the Second Amendment

Last month, at the meeting of my Presbytery, we discussed guns.

It went as I would have expected, our Presbytery being a liberal one and all.  There was a presentation from an elder at a local progressive church, calling on the denomination to again affirm its longstanding position on sane gun safety measures in our culture.

Then, there were the rebuttals.  The first was a painful, multipage speech, prepared by an elder regrettably unaware of the core principles of rhetoric.  If you want to sway a crowd, you need to establish connection.  If you establish that sense of shared ethos, a gathering will listen.

Using a laundry list of talking points from your silo, none of which have any purchase?  That's as useless as if the Apostle Paul had stood up on the Areopagus in Athens and started speaking in Hebrew.  You're speaking the wrong language.

Just because it sounded good in your car when Rush Limbaugh said it doesn't mean it's the right thing to say.  By the time we reached the inevitable reference to the Holocaust, the room was actively groaning.

The second individual who rose to speak against the motion was more measured.  He'd been a senior navy officer, and he almost...almost...registered with what was by then an impatient crowd.  He was focused and disciplined, but when he made his point about the need for citizens to bear arms as a ward against tyranny it again fell flat.  In a room full of liberals and leftists, arguing that you might need to know how to use an automatic weapon in the event a despot seizes power works only under two conditions.

Those conditions involve 1) referencing Leon Trotsky's argument against a disarmed proletariat in his anti-Stalinist screed "The Revolution Betrayed," and 2) Using the words "President Cuccinelli."

But honestly?  That Red Dawn fantasy is dead.  The idea that small arms are a meaningful ward against tyrants may have made sense in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but now?

Things are different.  I've argued this before, but just how different was reinforced yesterday.  On the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, an Unmanned Combat Air System was successfully launched from the flight deck.  That's not that big a deal.  It had been done before.

What was a big deal was that the same UCAS then successfully pulled off a carrier landing twice in a row, although on the third attempt, it aborted.  Why does that matter?  Carrier landings are one of the most complex and demanding skills required of military personnel.  And now, robots can do it.

This isn't a Waldoed machine, like some big fancy remote-controlled helicopter.  This is an entirely autonomous system.  And it can 1) land on a carrier and 2) determine that its approach is wrong, and make the decision to abort...with no human intervention.

Watching the F-18 Super Hornet escorting the UCAS in reminded me of that scene in Michael Moore's Roger and Me, the one where an animatronic worker and robot sing a song together in a failed GM theme park exhibit.  That human being?  The expensive, highly-trained fighter jockey flying that plane?  They're escorting in their replacement.

For those who imagine the Second Amendment still provides protection against the power of a tyrant, this is worth noting as well.  That Walther P90, Remington 1100 Tac 4, and Ruger SR-556 Carbine you've got in your responsibly locked gun case?

When it comes to resisting a despot armed with the next generation of robotic combat systems that we're so blithely and eagerly producing, you might as well own a collection of Nerf Guns.

What's the point of a right if it's functionally meaningless?