War in the Age of Intelligent Machines
In the aftermath of the methodical destruction of Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, the power and efficiency of new computerized weapons and surveillance technology have become chillingly apparent. For Manuel De Landa, however, this new weaponry has a significance that goes far beyond military applications: he shows how it represents a profound historical shift in the relation of human beings both to machines and to information. The recent emergence of “intelligent” and autonomous bombs and missiles equipped with artificial perception and decision-making capabilities is, for De Landa, part of a much larger transfer of cognitive structures from humans to machines in the late twentieth century.
In this remarkable book, De Landa provides a rich panorama of these astonishing developments. He details the mutating history of information analysis and machinic organization from the mobile siege artillery of the Renaissance, the clockwork armies of the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic campaigns, and the Nazi blitzkrieg up to present-day cybernetic battle-management systems and satellite reconnaissance networks. Much more than a history of warfare, De Landa provides an unprecedented philosophical and historical reflection on the changing forms through which human bodies and materials are combined, organized, deployed, and made effective.
“Crossing through the scattered fields of metallurgy and management, computer science and chaos theory, De Landa tracks different components of the war machine as it evolves in power and complexity.... De Landa’s ability to synthesize widely different theoretical models without lapsing into jargon or levitating into space is particularly impressive.”
— Voice Literary Supplement