Killer Apps

War, Media, Machine

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 49 illustrations Published: February 2020

Cultural Studies > Surveillance Studies, Media Studies > Media Technologies, Science and Technology Studies

In Killer Apps Jeremy Packer and Joshua Reeves provide a detailed account of the rise of automation in warfare, showing how media systems are central to building weapons systems with artificial intelligence in order to more efficiently select and eliminate military targets. Drawing on the insights of a wide range of political and media theorists, Packer and Reeves develop a new theory for understanding how the intersection of media and military strategy drives today's AI arms race. They address the use of media to search for enemies in their analyses of the history of automated radar systems, the search for extraterrestrial life, and the development of military climate science, which treats the changing earth as an enemy. As the authors demonstrate, contemporary military strategy demands perfect communication in an evolving battlespace that is increasingly inhospitable to human frailties, necessitating humans' replacement by advanced robotics, machine intelligence, and media systems.


“In this crucial new book, Jeremy Packer and Joshua Reeves offer a provocative, media-centric analysis of automated killing machines. Engaging with an armada of flying sensors, robotic submarines, and AI weapons already in use, they show that big data, computer vision, and super intelligence emerge not just to order and organize the battlefield, but to produce new enemies. Clever and incisive, the book provides a haunting look at warfare of the near future.” — Lisa Parks, coeditor of Life in the Age of Drone Warfare

“This is an excellent book: well designed, thoroughly engaging, informative and, unfortunately, extremely topical and timely. The authors have gone to great lengths to make Killer Apps relentlessly up to date, providing readers with the latest in weapons developments, including AI drones and ‘swarmanoid’ robotics. With its impressive grounding in theory and hardware, it will become the go-to book for critical understandings of the intersection of warfare, media, and enmity.” — Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, author of Kittler and the Media

“By focusing first and foremost on the epistemological function of military media, Packer and Reeves have produced a range of rigorous and highly engaging analyses, with broad applicability across a range of possible fields of research.”

— Malcolm Ogden, Critical Studies in Media Communication

"The book is a tour de force regarding the rise of automation in warfare. I recommend Killer Apps to anyone interested in media technology studies as well as political science and international security studies." — José de Arimatéia da Cruz, International Social Science Review


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jeremy Packer is Associate Professor in the Institute for Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Joshua Reeves is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Media at Oregon State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Preface to an Inauthentic Document  ix
Introduction. Event Matrix (DoD)  1
1. Identification Friend or Foe (DoD)  29
2. Centralized Control/Decentralized Execution (DoD)  48
3. Hostile Environment  (DoD)  61
4. In Extremis (DoD)  89
5. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (DoD)  109
6. Autonomous Operation (DoD)  124
7. Vital Ground (DoD)  139
8. Escalation (DoD)  159
9. Unidentified Flying Objects (USAF)  175
Conclusion. Armistice (DoD)  198
Notes  217
References  235
Index  261
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0657-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0587-2