One of the big shifts was from the medieval system of “mostly super-well-trained professional warriors ie knights matter in projecting military force” to “any warm body with a gun matters”. That gave the common people a new level of power and probably led to democracy and the democratic virtues of equality and freedom.
Slate Star Codex made an interesting point I've read elsewhere and have increasingly been thinking about: what if the gun is behind democracy? Small arms amplified the power of the people and shifted the balance of power away from those with capital. Knights, and training knights, was always an expensive endeavour. And if you think the Kalishnokov is not a politically relevant weapon then you simply haven't been paying attention to the news. Small arms make insurgencies possible, and insurgencies continue to bleed even the American hegemon dry of blood and treasure. Uprooting ISIS isn't going to happen without human casualties, no matter how much money and current technology is poured into that conflict.
Thing is: because of technology, we're ready for another tectonic shift: what happens when autonomous drones become comparable to human soldiers and police officers?
What happens when you have humanoid robots that could easily crush even the most dogged and deeply rooted insurgency? What happens when you deploy these machines into ghettoes and slums full of poor people? For riot control? Against protesters?
Rich people become Gods again.
He with the most robots wins. Robots come from money. Therefore he with the most money wins. What happens when a robot patrols the ghetto? If it kills too many people, you just change its programming and proclivity toward violence. If you think this technology won't be turned inward, against one's own people, then you're wrong. We've seen from the Iraq war that military technology inevitably becomes co-opted by domestic police forces.
Occupy Wall Street, the Viet Cong, the Taliban, ISIS, Black Lives Matter: all powerless against a combination of the 1% and killer robots.
If you think this is science fiction, you haven't been paying attention:
An arms race is what happens when two opposing groups (for example - warring nations) compete with one another in an escalating game of deploying more and more effective killing technology. It's actually fundamentally a biological phenomenon, since we see it in nature all the time (i.e. prey evolve to become faster, the predators evolve greater speed, and on and on). We saw it before in the Cold War with nuclear armament (thanks to this, we now have the capability to kill ourselves).
There's all sorts of brouhaha right now over lawyers/academics/human rights activists trying to prevent autonomous drones from developing the ability to kill people. They're trying to legislate all these roadblocks, but it doesn't matter. Ask yourself the following question: what happens when China makes a drone that can kill on its own?
You think the Americans won't immediately do the same thing?
Here's the CEO of Enlitic, a machine learning company, discussing this very thing in a Reddit AMA:
(he's the smart person I stole this idea from)
I do think that this is one of the threats, although not the most immediate one. I believe that it is inevitable that somebody will create a fully autonomous weaponised drone. The reason this is inevitable, is that in any war situation, where there are two powers that have semiautonomous drones battling, whoever gives their drones the most autonomy will win the battle. Therefore, there will be a very strong incentive to make your drones are little more autonomous than the other guys'. This will rapidly lead to a number of iterations of increasing autonomy, eventually resulting in one of the sides removing all human input from the kill decision. At this point, it will be necessary for the other side to do the same thing if they want to win the war.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis