An excerpt from the Nisean Chorus’ 2053 discussion paper on the general deployment of overwatch and intervention drones across the world. Note: the Nisean Chorus was a quicknet of approximately 1,000 people, founded in 2051:
...Earlier in our discussion, the Jandt Chorus argued that the "Responsibility to Protect Individuals" doctrine (R2PI) was not only unworkable, but also fundamentally unfair due to the naked political decisions involved in the deployment of limited military and policing resources.
The Nisean Chorus disagrees. We believe that the world — and in particular, rich states, organisations, and collectives — will very soon have the capability and the will to operate overwatch and intervention drones (OAID) in significant numbers around the world; perhaps not in every single city and state, but enough to make a positive contribution to individual security around the world.
Judging by the recent Manchester surveys, ‘total’ OAID deployments in Canada, Norway, Taiwan, Japan, the Atlantic Archipelago, New York, Hong Kong, and California have been broadly welcomed by the public. We acknowledge that there are significant unresolved privacy and surveillance concerns in all of these cases, but it is also clear that crime rates, including gun-related crimes, violent assaults, and robberies, have all plummeted. Cities such as London and Copenhagen have deployed up to 100 active OAIDs and (millions of security localisers) per square kilometre, with a resulting drop in physical crime rates of 60 percent due to the near-certainty that perpetrators will be detected.
There is a good argument made by the Simon Chorus that OAIDs have merely displaced crime into other non-violent areas. Digital crime, blackmail, identity theft, and eavesdropping are all effectively immune to OAIDs, and their rates have significantly increased in the past decade. Simon also suggests that the drop in physical crime could be attributed to other socioeconomic and demographic factors such as rapidly ageing populations, but we believe Taylor et al. proves that OAIDs are a genuine contributing factor.
Given that OAIDs 'work' in a domestic context — that is, funded, controlled, and deployed in the same state — under what circumstances should they deployed in other countries, and under what kind of legal framework? We can consider three scenarios:
1. Total collapse of law and order
Most commentators agree that there is a strong case for 'overseas' OAID deployment, preferably under the banner of the UN and using the modified UN Declaration of Human Rights as a baseline. Intervening parties should make best efforts to liaise with representative popular authorities and commit to a sustained drone presence of at least six months.
Thirteen such deployments have been made to date, with an estimated 57,000 to 260,000 lives saved as a result. Most OAID sponsors and recipients have, on balance, been happy with this record, and it is expected that deployments will be significantly ramped up in the coming decade.
Still, there are outstanding questions, including: who is liable for the inevitable accidents and mistakes, as occurred in Abkhazia when 45 civilians people were killed and 201 injured by drone attacks against militants? Should these accidents be considered justification enough to refuse OAID deployment? And should OAIDs act only to prevent the imminent threat of violence against individuals, or should they (and their operators) aim to reach back further to the root cause of the violence, up to and including preventative detention and assassination?
Needless to say, these are murky waters and not likely to be resolved within the next few years. We are also clearly not yet willing to delegate these decisions to autonomous OAIDs, either — although this may change with future advances in ethics technology.
2. Human rights violations occurring in a sovereign state
Depending on your definition of human rights, violations may be occurring in almost every state in the world. As a result, this is a difficult scenario and as yet, we have seen few OAID deployments under this banner. Nevertheless, even if we set a high bar for the type and number of human rights violations that might justify intervention, there are still plenty of cases right now that would qualify.
Jandt argues persuasively that, given limited resources and focus, the decision to deploy OAID resources is necessarily subject to political, economic, and sectarian concerns rather than any objective merit. In other words: is it fair for us to pick and choose who to help?
We refer to our other paper released today, The Moral Calculus of External OAID Deployment, for further discussion, but briefly, we note that a more practical solution may be to empower any legitimate victims and groups with protective drones. Since, as seen in Abkhazia (which has a history of hostile drone attacks), this has a high likelihood of escalating problems, special circumstances would need to apply in these kinds of technology and weapons transfer.
Where intervention is not appropriate, surveillance drones may be a good start.
3. OAIDs invited in
Programmes in which states actively welcome OAID deployment funded by other states have mainly been successful, particularly in new states that are willing to delegate policing and military responsibilities to supranational authorities (e.g. Catalonia in the EU). This works best in relationships that enjoy high trust, but can cause issues regarding which parties 'own' the OAIDs and defines the rules under which they operate.
At this early stage, R2PI via OAID deployment has not lived up to all the promises of its initial proponents. Both sides can point to major successes and failures, and its future use has become complicated due to factors such as: disputed notions of sovereignty; universal availability of cheap and basic drone weaponry (although newer high-energy weapons and petapixel surveillance somewhat counteract this); legitimate privacy and surveillance concerns; and the development of advanced ethics technology.
However, the Nisean Chorus strongly believes that stopping some crimes and saving some lives is better than doing nothing at all. We have the capability, the will, and most importantly, the responsibility to protect billions of individuals around the world. If it is good for us, and if it saves lives, should we really withhold our resources?
Author’s note: A few words on personal OAIDs — these things finally rendered the ‘gun debate’ in the US moot, as people began hiring self-defence drones and smart-weapons that were immeasurably superior to human-controlled weaponry. These of course caused considerable problems of their own, and are still to this day not completely integrated with overarching defence safety networks.