In the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the threat of improvised
explosive devices (IEDs) threatened to inflict significant casualties on the
ground troops of the United States and Allied Forces. This led to unprecedented
levels of investment in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and the ensuing
ascendancy of wide-area persistent surveillance systems (WAPSS) across the
region. These prototypes of hyper-surveillance and targeting were inevitably
supported and powered by developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Combining the predictive logic of AI and the martial rationalisation of the
pre-emptive strike, these technological and logistic alliances sought to not
only calculate risk and threat but to eliminate it before it
materialises. They seek, in short, to occupy the future in the name of
terrestrial and extra-terrestrial dominance. Throughout the following
essay, Anthony Downey (Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and
North Africa at Birmingham City University) examines the historical contexts
and current deployments of such systems, enquiring into how neocolonial
projections of power are implicated in the martial and political will to occupy
the future. What happens, he asks, when we defer life-and-death decisions to a
mechanical calculus of probability that is beholden to martial devices of
pre-emption, political expediencies and the neocolonial logic of expendability.
To read the full essay and download the book, see here.