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.
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 Wire, Lost, 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.