Dehumanizing Enemies and Imagined Communities

In Engineering Bodies of War, ITP

For week 2 of Engineering Bodies of War, Jessica ask us to read the following pieces and respond to them:

  • “The Ethics of Killer Applications” (Singer)
  • “Seeing Green: Visual Technology, Virtual Reality, and the Experience of War” (Vasquez)
  • “Future Soldier Initiative: 2030” (RDECOM)
  • “The Ethics of Human Enhancement : 25 Questions & Answers” (Alhoff et al.)

After reading through the packets for Week 1 and Week 2, there were two topics that really kept me thinking. One is the dehumanization of opposing forces through technology and the second is the impact of enhanced humans vs. normal humans on “Imagined Communities” as Benedict Anderson would describe them.


When we first discussed the idea of removing humans mentally or physical from combat situations, I was looking at the consequences on more of a marco-level—Is there more unnecessary violence if a machine is making result driven decisions based on a certain scenario without the influence of a humans’ inherent feeling to avoid killing someone if possible? However, after reading Seeing Green, it seems that technology manages to increase violence even if human decision-making is still a part of the equation. By essentially virtualizing the conflict and their enemies, it makes overcoming the urge not to kill a bit easier. Military tech wants to piggy back off of the gratification that people get from killing enemies in video games, making a kill a sought after objective. The technology filters combat transforming their enemies from humans to targets.


The second thing that interested me came about from Ethics of Human Enhancement and has more of a civilian angle. The authors looked a lot at the affects of enhancing humans through technology on socio-economic status, athletics and competition within education and the professional sector. However, what comes to mind for me are the cultural implications of a society with both enhanced humans and normal humans, particularly with regards to identity. They do touch on commanility as an important part of being able to communicate with one another but I’d like to look at it from a sense of relationship. Would an enhanced human feel like they belonged to the same clan as a normal human? Given the hypotheses presented in this piece, the two different groups would have such different experiences and capacities, and be polarized through different rules or guidelines for each respective group, that I think it would be very hard for them to relate to each. This would, in turn, create two separate “Imagined Communities” and two separate identities that humans could relate two. The big question for me is would that identity supersede your national identity? If so, that could bring about some serious rifts that could affect the global landscape.


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