Nine to Five Warriors
Members of the cohort were informed early on that we would eventually need to find a unifying theme that would tie all of the papers we’ve done together. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to look at technology and how it has impacted how humans interact with each other. For me, this paper is a good opportunity to expand on the first paper I did, “A New Species—the Digital Native” because there wasn’t enough space to get into the topic of how technology has affected U.S. soldiers who are fighting the war remotely using drones from military bases several thousand miles from the battlefield.
Many of us are immersed in technology all of the time from multi-tasking to MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email, Moodle, Solar, DVR’s, smart phones, voice interactive navigational systems, smart boards and laptops. All of these things are thrusting us into the virtual frontier. We’ve come a long way since the days of; “is it real or is it Memorex?[i]”
Jeremy Balimson runs the Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University. His research shows that the distinctions between real and virtual are becoming blurred. He says; “we’re not wired to differentiate between wired stuff and real stuff.” In the book, Infinite Reality, the publisher writes, “Infinite Reality explores what emerging computer technologies and their radical applications will mean for the future of human life and society. Along the way, Bailenson and Blascovich examine the timeless philosophical questions of the self and ‘reality’ that arise through the digital experience; explain how virtual reality’s latest and future forms—including immersive video games and social-networking sites—will soon be seamlessly integrated into our lives; show the many surprising practical applications of virtual reality, from education and medicine to sex and warfare; and probe further-off possibilities like ‘total personality downloads’ that would allow your great-great-great grand children to have a conversation with ‘you’ a century or more after your death.[ii] His most startling work involves kids. When children swim with whales in the virtually world if you ask them a week later they will believe that they have actually gone to SeaWorld and swam with real whales. This brings up some interesting questions. If the brain isn’t wired to differentiate between virtual and actual reality does that mean that there will be a new branch of psychology to treat neurosis that develop in the virtual world? That may seem like a sarcastic question but it certainly is not. Exponential leaps in technology have opened up a host of new possibilities many of which go well beyond what was envisioned in Science Fiction forty years ago. Today, we have soldiers sitting in air conditioned, high tech workstations at military bases in California and Nevada fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan using high tech tools like GPS, night vision and unmanned drones equipped with plenty of fire power. This changes the dynamics of war completely. The drones have demonstrated that it is possible for Air force personnel to strike targets with incredible precision from 7,500 miles away with absolutely no risk of being shot at. In his book, Wired for War, author P.W. Singer writes, “Technology is wrapped up in the story of war. You know, look at all the things that surround us, everything from the Internet to jet engines, these are all things where the military has been a driver for technology. And technology opens up new frontiers, new directions we can go in, but it also creates new dilemmas, new questions you need to answer[iii].”
One of the questions I intend to answer in my paper is, “what is the psychological impact on the Air Force personnel who engage in the battlefield from a virtual environment?” It is my intention to put a human face on these virtual warriors who go to work, kill the bad guys, get in the car, drive home and have dinner with their wife and kids. “How was your day today honey?” “Well, let’s see, I blew up a weapons depot, and eliminated several Al Qaeda operatives. It was just another day at the office.”
- Zur, O. & Zur, A. (2009). On Digital Immigrants & Digital Natives. Zur Institute available online
- Caruso, D. (1998). Critics Pick Apart Study on Internet and Depression. Available online
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. (1994).
- Billitteri, Thomas. “Drone Warfare.” CQ Researcher. 20-28.1 (2010): 1. Print
- Quinn, M. J. (2009). Ethics for the Information Age (3rd ed.). (M. Hirsch, Ed.) Boston: Pearson.