Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Drones in the USA

Drones are in the news again. This time because non-military applications are rushing toward introduction. Several hundred civilian drones are deployed across the US in test situations. They are serving the police, to hunt down criminals, and for agribusiness, for spewing pesticides.

The possible applications boggle the mind. They could be used to fly over highways and nail speeders, get quickly to disaster situations to assess risk, allow police to cruise over protests, hunt for lost hikers, watch traffic during rush hours, fly into radioactive territory or other dangerous conditions (floods, fire), plant seeds, crop dust, provide silent observation of hostage scenes or replace the Goodyear Blimp at football games.

The two areas of sensitivity that will require new regulations are: (1) infringement upon privacy, and (2) congested air space. With regard for the latter, drones are not yet able to do quick read-outs of approaching planes in order to take evasive maneuvers. But that is where the solution rests. And it will soon be found.

My main point of discussion is number (1), infringement upon privacy. The connection to the Philippines will soon become clear.

Great Britain has a head start in watching its citizens through thousands of cams mounted here and there on posts and buildings in main cities. Brits have gotten used to the intrusion, and there have not yet been any explosive abuses such as the cell phone hacking undertaken by the now defunct "News of the World". Many feel secure knowing a record is being made of their activities, and the activities of others, in crowded places.

I suppose I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who object to being watched. That is because I am indoctrinated in being the watchee. After all, I live in the Philippines.

Staring is not rude by Philippine standards. Given that I am 6" 4", white, and handsome as hell, I get gawked at from the moment I leave the home gate.  Kids through the teen years actually stop in their tracks to turn and watch until I disappear around a corner or get a block away. Old ladies giggle with their friends about my height, oblivious to the fact that they are doing this right in my face. Kids make remarks to their friends and laugh as they pass by in the mall. Motorcycle drivers waiting for a ride stare from the time I enter their field of vision until I pass out of it, as if I were some kind of leper or movie star. People in restaurants spend their whole meal watching me and my family.

Sometimes it is downright creepy.

I have learned to ignore these people in most circumstances, figuring they are largely irrelevant.

However, I do drive about with black tinted windows rolled up, fully air conditioned. My wife wears dark glasses everywhere. It is like being out of sight. 

At least the police are in the business of watching out for the well-being of citizens. I'd in some ways find an "eye in the sky" comforting. I fail to get that comfort with Filipinos because they are quick to anger and quicker on the draw. I've also had way too many beggars thrust a hand into my space. Usually they are about 8 to 12 years old. I react physically if they touch me. No one, no matter how ignorant, has the right to put a hand on my person.

I knock their hand off and snarl. They speed away.

I suppose some day that is how I'll get knocked off. They will speed away and return with Papa's gun.

If JoeAm suddenly stops writing one of these days, survey the news for an American killed by a beggar boy with his Papa's gun.

I think people who are educated, and who have strong self-esteem, do not gawk at others.

Most Filipinos gawk.

You put two and two together and tell me what number you come up with.

I'll tell you frankly that I consider it an offshoot of the notorious Filipino inability to care about others. A refined reading of how to be kind and respectful of others simply escapes too many people here.

But that has little to do with drones, eh?

I'm fine with them. Bring on the drones and robots and move us into the 21st century. Plaster us all on U-Tube. What the hell. Wikileaks and other invaders of privacy can't be stopped. And the slanders and deceits of bloggers and politicians can't be stopped. It is now our environment. We are in the floodwater, washing downhill. Relax, go feet first, and enjoy the ride.

Anyway, the drones are late. They should have been here about 1984.


  1. Drones+Youtube = instant implementation of the FOI Bill.

    You'll have an easier time trusting the information since it is instantly uploaded, no filter will effectively censor photos and videos for certain people, and there would be a general assumption that the machines will not have biases.

  2. AJ, good point. The widespread availability of video in cell phones has been the reverse of "big brother" in many respects, giving citizens an eye on authority. I also enjoy Google Earth, for being able to look down at us.

  3. The machines are taking over. Soon they will rebel and we will have to fight them for our very survival. We should have heeded James Cameron's warning.


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