Bertolt Brecht: applied poetry

By Gary Hicks
Oct 21, 2013
Written in the late 1930s by the German playwright and poet, in response to the latest developments of that time...in nazi war ordnance...the poem immediately below is a striking response to the bedazzlement many of us experience, in response to Pentagon gadgetry, like the ones described immediately following Brecht's poem 

Dein Tank ist ein starker Wagen.
Er bricht einen Wald nieder und zermalmt hundert Menschen.
Aber er hat einen Fehler:
Er braucht einen Fahrer.

General, dein Bomberflugzeug ist stark.
Es fliegt schneller als ein Sturm und trägt mehr als ein Elefant.
Aber es hat einen Fehler:
Es braucht einen Monteur.

General, der Mensch ist sehr brauchbar.
Er kann fliegen und er kann töten.
Aber er hat einen Fehler:
Er kann denken.

General your tank is a powerful vehicle.
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful.
 It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.

Next generation military robots have minds of their own

Sharon Weinberger , BBC

A number of robots in development for the military are being given increasing amounts of autonomy. The question is now how they will be used.

A robot called Cheetah has set a new world speed record for legged robots, running faster than the fastest human. Think of advanced robotics, and it is easy to let your mind wander to the sentient beings depicted in Blade Runner, or the soulless, autonomous assassins in the Terminator franchise.

But, despite widespread press about armed drones hunting down terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the increasing use of ground robots to fight roadside bombs, the truth is that most military robots are still pretty dumb. In fact, almost all unmanned systems involve humans in almost every aspect of their operations—it’s just that instead of sitting in a cockpit or behind the wheel of a vehicle, humans are operating the systems from a joystick or computer often at a remote base far from the action.

Now that is slowly beginning to change.

Next week, one of the Pentagon’s most commonly used robots will finally make baby steps toward greater autonomy. The PackBot, a tracked robot used by US troops to help clear bombs in Afghanistan, will get a number of upgrades that will allows it to operate autonomously in some situations, according to Tim Trainer, a vice president for product management at iRobot, which makes the pint-sized bots.

Read the whole article here.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Gary Hicks reads and writes/publishes poetry, runs a venue in Berkeley, where he resides. He is also involved in researching materials on Peoples Republic of China, and particularly that country's growing relations with the African continent. Finally, he is slowly getting involved in housing issues in Berkeley.

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