“How the Future Force Warrior Will Work”

25 Nov

HowStuffWorks “How the Future Force Warrior Will Work”.

I’m fascinated by the interface of war and virtual reality–the moral questions it embeds as war becomes more possible to conduct at a distance (from the US anyway), and the ways in which video games and war are working together to create virtual environments in which real people get killed.

Here’s a little sample of the article (linked above) which describes the next generation of technologically-augmented US warriors, to be unleashed in battle within 10 years:

“Soldiers will utilize a voice-activated, drop-down screen in the helmet to access information without having to put down their weapons. Embedded in a pair of transparent glasses, the display will appear to the soldier as a 17-inch screen. This screen can display maps and real-time video provided by a forward-positioned scout team, satellite or aircraft. According to DeGay, “We are working to have the graphic user interface inside the computer systems to either replicate computer graphic user interfaces or even Playstation 2/Xbox graphic user interfaces,” because most of today’s soldiers are already familiar with how those systems work.”

So Playstation 2 and XBox become the screen model for actual war fare. Among other unforgettable phrases in this article (from the HowStuffWorks site):
“Imagine a platoon of soldiers wearing suits that turn an ordinary person into a real, live superhero.”

I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of young guys playing a sort of war-adapted XBox while able to leap tall buildings and crush living enemies to death kind of terrifying.

So, this is nominally a blog to do with theatre. What do virtual warfare and robotic soldiering have to do with theatre? I think the answer is something to do with the troubled notion of liveness–of co-presence. Historically the “live” aspect is at the ontological core of theatre, but increasingly, as the theatres empty and cyberspace fills up, as the country wages war with no end-game in sight but we see nary a body—there’s no “there” there. We are shifting radically away from what “presence” used to mean–cohabiting physical space, but the hunger for co-presence, and new ways of achieving it, haven’t gone away (here i am typing into the white-space of the screen after all, dear reader).

I’m interested in how theatre can deal with this, create spaces of witnessing and co-presence that acknowledge that live and virtual are no longer separate categories but commingled in almost every aspect of everyday life.

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