Will video game interfaces make what Singer terms “cubicle warriors” cold-blooded killers? Right now these remote-controlled robots largely borrow hardware interfaces from video games — see the image linked from this FOX News story or check out minute 10:30 in Singer’s talk. But what happens if and when they begin borrowing software interfaces from games as well? (The remote-control systems do already feature crosshair targets — but video games had first taken that from real guns.) Is an Ender’s Game scenario — when the soldier doesn’t even realize he is fighting a real battle — possible?
Interface design isn’t quite the same as “codelaw” — that is, embodying laws in code — but in some ways it’s even more powerful, and therefore more potentially insidious. Many of the examples of choice-shaping that Thaler and Sunstein cite in Nudge are, in fact, interface innovations. But if interfaces can dehumanize, can they also re-humanize? Video games are not known for their emotional range, but I agree with those who believe that’s a matter of historical accident, not destiny. If video games can evoke authentic emotion, can we infuse it into our military software interfaces? The fact that Predator drone pilots suffer PTSD suggests that a digital screen need not cripple our humanity.
(Thanks to colleague Ed Popko for flagging these to my attention!)