Eye in the Sky

Movie

Where morality is rational utility maximization, the best moralists are machines. They can reduce the risk of collateral damage to a number: unexpected consequences are re-cast as improbable results. They even excel at the all-too-human skill of recognizing faces.

This is as gentle a take on drone warfare as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on racial strife. We enjoy omniscience through constant cuts across continents from battlefield to command centers. The terrorists are ticking time bombs right out of the textbook, and everyone else has only the best intentions. Discussion up and down the military-civilian chain of command often resembles a spirited Introduction to Ethics seminar at a nice college or law school—a far cry from Dr. Strangelove’s “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” Come to think of it, the terrorists are the only people we don’t get to hear, though the two Brits and one American likely record their martyrdom videos in English.

The movie’s focus on one drone strike and one innocent little girl puts it at a bliss point, kind of like a Dorito. The scenario is messy enough to be exciting, yet tidy enough not to be disturbing. The whole story could’ve been told in under ten minutes, leaving plenty of time to see many more drone strikes and their human consequences, both for those who control the Predators and those who are incinerated by the Hellfires.

You’re primed to leave with your date discussing not what it’s like to be a citizen of a nation pursuing perpetual global robowar, but how to balance the Good of the One with the Good of the Many. Kind of like one of those vapid personality puzzlers on the website that matched you up.

 

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