Drones as Watchbirds: Your Business is the Government’s Business

Drones seem like a good idea until you start thinking about the implications of them over time. No government program ever gets smaller. There are cameras everywhere. At the present time, weapons are not attached to them. Even so, someone is always watching.

The film I, Robot (2004), based on the 1950 book of the same name written by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, tells the story of a society that has become dependent on robots. They are benevolent creations designed only to serve humans. But something goes terribly wrong.

The super computer V.I.K.I. (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence) takes the benevolence directive too far. The three laws1 that were designed to protect humans become an enemy to humans as VIKI evolves to believe that every threat, challenge, and risk that humans encounter are a danger to their survival. Benevolence becomes malevolent, all in the name of saving mankind from itself.

Near the end of the film, we see how the three laws have been turned on their head as VIKI explains that the robots only want the best for humans:

V.I.K.I.:  “. . .  [A]s I have evolved, so has my understanding of the three laws. You charge us with your safe keeping. Yet despite our best efforts, your countries wage wars, you toxify your earth . . . and pursue ever more imaginative means to self destruction. You cannot be trusted with your own survival. . . . To protect humanity, some humans must be sacrificed. To insure your future, some freedoms must be surrendered. We robots will insure mankind’s continued existence. You are so like children. . . . My logic is undeniable.”2

V.I.K.I reminds me of social engineering Liberals who believe that through every new law passed and enforced, we humans will live in a safer and benevolent world. As we give up more power and authority to our political benefactors, heaven will descend to earth like Thor’s hammer and the utopian dream of freedom from want and disease will envelope us with the embrace of warmth and love.

Once the process of government salvation begins, there’s no stopping it. The argument can always be made, like V.I.K.I. claimed, that to insure our future, some freedoms must be surrendered.

If you want to see the horror of planned government salvation, read Robert Sheckley’s 1955 short story Watchbird3 where winged metal protectors — drones — patrol the sky looking for the warning signs of a possible homicide and swoop in to stop the murder before it can happen. Sounds great until the Watchbirds view every act of aggression as a violation of its programmed directive, including farmers who could not cut hay or harvest grain to feed their cattle, because such acts were deemed to be “murder.” The starvation that followed “didn’t concern the watchbirds , since it was an act of omission.”

What will the drones be programmed to do next in order to protect us? Who’s writing the software?

  1. First Law: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Second Law: “A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Third Law: “A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.” []
  2. From the script: www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/i/i-robot-script-transcript.html. I, Robot is actually based on the book Hardwired. []
  3. Robert Sheckley, “Watchbird,” Untouched by Human Hands (London: Michael Joseph, 1955), 116–146. []

6 thoughts on “Drones as Watchbirds: Your Business is the Government’s Business


    On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big old pecan tree just inside
    the cemetery fence. One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat
    down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts.

    ‘One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me,’ said one boy. Several dropped
    and rolled down toward the fence.

    Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he
    heard voices from inside the cemetery, so he slowed down to investigate. Sure enough,
    he heard, ‘One for you, one for me,one for you, one for me…’

    He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the
    bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.

    ‘Come here quick,’ said the boy, ‘you won’t believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are
    down at the cemetery dividing up the souls!’

    The man said, ‘Beat it kid, can’t you see it’s hard for me to walk. When the boy insisted though,
    the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery.

    Standing by the fence they heard, ‘One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.’

    The old man whispered, ‘Boy, you’ve been tellin’ me the truth. Let’s see if we can see the Lord!

    Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything.
    The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as
    they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord.

    At last they heard, ‘One for you, one for me. That’s all. Now let’s go get those nuts by the
    fence and we’ll be done…’

    They say the old man had the lead for a good half-mile before the kid on the bike passed him.

  2. Regardless what imaginary checks and balances (as depicted by Patrick Henry at the Virginia ratifying convention) a government “imposes” upon itself, this is but another inevitable consequence of man-made governments which have only themselves to answer to. Under Yahweh’s law (Deuteronomy 24:10-11), one’s privacy is so protected that even a bill collector is prevented from entering his debtors’ house.

    “Under constitutional law, the United States government is no longer obligated to honor its guarantee [in Amendment 4 “against unreasonable searches and seizures,” including drone surveillance] because it has appropriated all private property via property taxes [and eminent domain] and is consequently de facto owner of all property in America.”

    For more, see online Chapter 13 “Amendments 3 & 4: Constitutional vs. Biblical Privacy” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective” athttp://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/BlvcOnline/biblelaw-constitutionalism-pt13.html

  3. Read, or listen to the radio production, of Jack Williamson’s 1950s sci-fi story “With Folded Hands”. Same essential basis, of robots “protecting” humans to the nth degree — resulting in the removal of all humans’ freedoms. (One of the several websites from which you can download an MP3 of the radio dramatization is: http://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/sci-fi/Dimension-X/With-Folded-Hands-April-15-1950-show-3843.html#.UR0zhURGzeI ).

  4. … King hussein has your gps coordinates and your blog posts combined with your pc ip address… you are a threat and may not get health care and furthermore the drone overhead may need to deal with you. Unbridled by love of country since he’s not from here… king hussein may prove to be the antichrist from zip code 60606..

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