Drones: Safe for War, but Not for Shopping

How sadly predictable. The US government has delayed (by a couple of years) peaceful and productive use of drones because the possibility exists that one might drop out of the sky and hit someone or something.

“After a US judge decided that drones were legal in the skies of the nation on Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration has hit back with an appeal based on the grounds of public safety.”

How strange that there was no such caution or hesitancy shown by government in relation to using drones for the purposes of the military. No, they were straight out the factory door and ready to murder on behalf of the US army before the paint had even dried on them.

The worst thing about this is that in the time it’s taking for a group of people to decide whether having drones deliver parcels and pizzas fits into their plan for how the world should operate, new and existing businesses, by using drones, could be creating value in society. Progress of any kind is becoming increasingly miraculous in this day and age in which we are all gloriously equal in our ‘right’ to ask permission from our governments to act.

If the motor car had been invented today it would surely never have been allowed to go into production because the risk of harm to people would be deemed too great by our benevolent overlords sent from democratic heaven to watch over us. Aeroplanes? Forget about it. Giant machines flying at high-speed above cities and over seas? Are you nuts!? That’s a catastrophe waiting to happen! It sure is, and yet millions of people step onto aeroplanes every single day. Even more jump into cars. Even more than that leave their houses and walk the streets knowing that there are millions of cars whizzing about them and thousands of aeroplanes zooming above them. Every time each one of us steps out the front door we are accepting the risk that something could fall on us or run over us, or that the plane that we’re going to fly on could crash. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get hit by a car and even more unlikely that your plane will crash, but both do happen and are a possibility each and every day. We accept these risks because we deem the benefits we gain from being able to engage in society as a result of putting ourselves in harm’s way of cars and planes to be much greater than the gain of staying under our duvets.

The fact that practically everyone is happy to leave their houses even though large amounts of lethal technology is zipping about at high-speed outside tells us that, whatever the risk to persons or property is from businesses using drones, consumers are almost certain to accept that risk in order to gain from the benefit of having their packages and pizzas delivered much more quickly by a flying robot. We can reasonably assume that drones are highly reliable given that the US military has been using them with gusto for a few years now. They wouldn’t be using drones in the field if they weren’t an effective means to an end.

I guess society would value a group of people who assess the risk of the use of new technologies in society that could pose some risk to the public and then disseminate that information to anyone interested, but it’s of no moral or economic value to give that group of people the coercive authority to prevent businesses from using that new technology. Firstly, because it’s a violation of people’s freedom to act peacefully and therefore has no place in a truly free society; and secondly because it prevents or delays economic and technological progress. Also, as is almost always the case, such power would corrupt those with it, and is a distinct attraction to the unscrupulous business owners in society who would not be averse to harnessing the group’s power by bribing or blackmailing its members to suppress rival technologies that might threaten the continued existence of their own enterprises.

Ultimately, the whole issue boils down to one question: who gets to decide what risks you are willing to expose yourself to? Is it you or someone else? The answer is a measure of a free and peaceful society.

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