Visions Of The Future: DR0NE, A Webseries About Autonomous Humanoid Soldiers

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DR0NE is a sci-fi webseries exploring a new breed of autonomous drone soldiers.

Consider, for a moment, the rising use of drone technology by the military. In light of how years of advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will transform drones, imagine how warfare will look in merely one decade. That’s the subject of a recently released webseries called DR0NE that is both intellectually intriguing and fricking awesome. Episode 1, released on Aug 30, paints a picture of how far technology might evolve in just one decade.

The beginning of the episode sets the stage of the series by showing the struggle of a drone identified only as “237” on the run:

“By the early 21st century, the nature of warfare had changed. Unmanned drones patrolled the skies about the battleground. In the year 2023, humanoid drones were deployed to the front lines — a new breed of solider; stronger and faster than their human counterparts. Autonomous by design, they operate by a code — a code of war.”

Sound intriguing? Then you’re in for a treat: set aside the next 6 minutes to watch Episode 1 of DR0NE right now!

What’s most intriguing to me about this show is how we so want to empathize with any individual caught in this kind of rough situation, even if the subject in this case is a machine. Modern drones can do a lot of things without being humanoid in form, but something happens to us when robots take on the shape and physical mannerisms we see in every day people. Our brains can’t easily differentiate them as being “nonpersons.”

New episodes of the show are scheduled to be released throughout September on Thursdays at 8 PM EST on the YouTube channel YOMYOMF (named and abbreviated after the popular culture blog You Offend Me, You Offend My Family).

Launched in mid-June, the YOMYOMF channel has been one of the breakout stars from YouTube’s investment of hundreds of millions into a select group of premium content creators, which includes the video game-focused Machinima. In fact, YOMYOMF has remained steadily in the top 15 of YouTube original channels, according to Deadline, and now has over 400,000 subscribers and 21.6 million views. That means DR0NE is debuting within a well supported environment that can help the webseries get the attention that it deserves.

Robert Glickert

The director behind DR0NE is Robert Glickert, who worked as a production assistant on both Iron Man and Transformers, as well as writing and directing the 2009 horror short Road to Moloch and a distributed thriller called The Descendent, which was actually Glickert’s film school thesis project at Chapman University in 2006. As short films go, both of these are totally worth watching for their blend of genres, dark moods, and handling of suspense…tricks that clearly helped in the production of DR0NE.

But if you’re like me, you’re just a little impatient about waiting for the next episode of the series to showcase the contribution of Lance Reddick from The WireLost, and Fringe. At least you can satisfy your curiosity by checking out the original trailer released over two months ago here.

On a final note, it is incredibly awesome that young filmmakers are able to share their visions of the future to a mass audience through the web, whether via sci-fi series as Glickert has done or through the viral videos of Jason Silva. Beyond merely entertainment value, these efforts are deeply humanizing as they help us visualize ourselves in a not-too-distant future where the mind-blowing technology and AI is the status quo. Personally, I’d rather be thinking through the implications of autonomous drone soldiers on the loose now than in the years to come when any reservation is a moot point.

Discussion — 3 Responses

  • PookyMedia September 2, 2012 on 1:15 pm

    Love this! Yes to video game engines / virtual platforms – the series is shot of course in real life not within a game engine and the post production is stunningly awesome. Machinima.com does use a lot of live action films. We have a Singularity themed series as well, it is a real time animation done on a virtual game engine platform. This is the latest in the series.
    Very proud of this – done on a very small budget, it represents true game engine film making:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsaGdX8O26c
    And the Force behind this is Dr. James Canton of the Institute for Global Futures

  • Rob September 3, 2012 on 12:45 am

    There is no need for an autonomous drone such as this. A drone does not need to have all the information and systems it needs within it. If drones are connected to powerful AI via the cloud it can have power limited only by the power of the central AI and there is no limit to that. Each drone can also send up all data from its \’experience\’ to a central data base. The data base can be interrogated by the AI and lessons learnt and systems modified accordingly. Updating would be constant and any drone would be ready to role straight off the production line and booted up. Every drone would have as its individual experience all the combined experience of millions of drones wherever they are in other situations either in the field, experimentally or according to what is wanted by engineers and all of it updated constantly. Although of unlimited potential power and subtlety it can be disconnected at any time. If the central system went wrong one only needs to turn it it off.

  • anthrobotic September 8, 2012 on 6:33 pm

    Alternatively…

    The Recurring Parable of the AWOL Android
    When we see the clean, cold, precise cognition of a difference machine suddenly go all batshit rogue PMS, an executive-level narcissism kicks into gear. So let’s consider the duality of valuing sentient life, yet being totally willing to murder its ass for the “right” reasons. http://goo.gl/DaVv2

    -Reno at Anthrobotic.com