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Visitors playing video games at the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles Convention Centre on Tuesday. Video game inventors want to slowly condition the human experience to accept the ‘utility’ of the game as a weapon of cyber-war. AP pic

HAVE you ever wondered why video games were invented? Certainly, there must be more than the fun features involved here. There is more than meets the eye, too. With the speed that technology and innovations are upon us, the jump from one to the other has not taken too long to happen.

Initially, it was a fun-toy invented for the young to occupy their time. For adults, it helps certainly as a stress-reliever. Yet, for others, it is a form of mental and physical exercise for enabling the muscles and mind to achieve an almost perfect coordination between the two, thus facilitating thought processing and implementation of actions.

On another level, however, it is also the aim of the inventors to find a way for humanity to outwit the playing machines.

This is done through the determination of various possibilities that can emerge from having the human mind to compete with the algorithms embedded in the machines. As the contest is being played out, the limits of the thinking processes of the human mind can be revealed and mapped out to allow other “thinking machines”, such as computers, robots and now, the unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, to be discovered and perhaps applied for the use of humanity in its different forms.

As to what end the humble video game will lead us into in the future, the answer lies in the ultimate objective of the inventors and owners of the technology, which is to slowly condition the human experience to one day accept the “utility” of the video game as a weapon of cyber war in a military and security sense. As days passed, we can now see in reality how a simple video game device could be transformed into a sophisticated and technically advanced flying machine we call the drone.

Let us learn a bit more about drones and their relationship with computers and humans. We can then understand the attention given to drones in the present time.

Drones are described as machines that mimic human action and judgment. Known also as unmanned aerial vehicles, drones have been used in theatres of war since 2002 in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and elsewhere by the United States’ security organisations and military. Today, drones are considered a “risk-free, remote-controlled and fully automated” weapon meant to maim or kill an adversary.

To many, the immense possibilities of the drones being used as an effective killing machine in the hands of humans has raised an intense debate among governments, the academic community and civil society groups. Many are of the view that since machines are not capable of morality and rational thinking, they should not be given the powers over life and death.

The defence community, in arguing for the deployment of drones, felt that this will make wars ethical and humane. To the academics, the attempt to apply drone technology to other aspects of human activity will reduce humans to the level of statistics and algorithms.

Garry Kasparov, the world-famous chess champion, had conveyed similar comments in 2010 when he said after his matches with the chess machine, known as Big Blue, that he had come away from the series feeling less secure about the future of the human enterprise if machines were to take over from humans. He said the machines would lead to a denial of the human experience that worked on surprises and emotions.

In the international arena, legal experts are saying that drone technology has to be properly managed to ensure that it can really benefit humanity. In relation to wars, where drones are used to carry lethal payloads to hit hideouts and eliminate enemies, there has been world concern to check such progress by convening an international conference along the lines of efforts to ban the use of landmines. Likewise, using drones to fight wars can also be criminalised.

Malaysians can proudly say they are already aware of the capability of drones since 2007, when it was reported that made-in-Malaysia versions would be put into public service.

The technology is available for drones to be deployed in search-and-rescue efforts in disaster-hit areas, such as the recent earthquake in Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

Drones can also support surveillance efforts to stop the entry of illegal immigrants into the northern parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

The use of drones and its technology for such activities and others to follow can be encouraged by Malaysia in order to ensure that the human touch is allowed to survive.

The writer is a former diplomat, associate professor in Universiti Sains Malaysia, and now a lecturer in international law and organisation in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)

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