In some ways this book could be seen as a prequel to Daniel’s two earlier, and brilliant, books. Unfortunately not just because it deals with issues are more likely in a very near future, or are already happening (The two earlier books is about a distributed AI taking control of the world, compared with the new book that is about drones with new software), but also because the book feels more shallow and have less of a coherent world. Not sure why this is the case, but hopefully it just Daniel trying some new ideas before he writes the next amazing book. To be honest the book almost reads like a Hollywood movie directed by Michael Bay, including the romantic sub-plot that makes you cringe. Too many parts are written as the kind of slow-motion action scenes that all big budget movies now are forced to include (when did this slow-motion become mandatory?). Even more frustrating is that the detailed descriptions of the technologies are too shallow and simplistic this time.
But it is still a book by Daniel so it is a must read and much better than 95% of the airport literature. The geopolitical implications of drones, let alone the autonomous drones along the lines described in the book, are not discussed enough and although simplistic it is still a book that will make you think.
More interesting might be the “dark side of biomimicry” described in the book. Today biomimicry is often used as a vague positive romantic that nature is good and that we should use it to guide us. While there are many things we can learn from nature, there are also things in nature that can be used to make current destructive tendencies spin out of control. The fact that technology now is so advances that it can mimic nature is often seen as an opportunity for a sustainable and more ethical development, but it is time that we realise that the opposite is probably more likely.
The idea of using weaver ants (Oecophylla longinoda) behaviour for high-low technology is interesting as an example of what could happen when technology meets in a way that could result in drastic changes.
The books focus on insects (or ants to be more specific) reminded me of an idea I have (in less destructive ways that the book I hope) to explore the idea of how a city could be built based on “insect logic”. Using solutions, speed and patterns from insects in ways that would allow us to live with minimal impact on the planet and other species.
Back to the book: What I really lacked in this book is the structural perspective, , where the patterns in society are discussed, that I thought Daniel captured brilliantly in the two earlier books. By using an “on-the-ground” perspective with a “soldier” and “scientist” David is only able to make a lot of interesting micro observations, but I don’t feel he really make use of the potential in the book.
Maybe a follow-up book starting where this book ended, with a person dealing with the consequences once the technology is in the open. This book could explore how other bio- AI- nano- etc. challenges converge in ways that challenge physical violence in and between countries. Extreme asymmetrical warfare with the tools of tomorrow, where the technology and implications for power structures are explored.