Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Control Yourselves, Audience!

Los Angeles is quite the seductress, bearing striking resemblance Sirens of Greek mythology. It seems my recent affair with San Diego did not phase her. I hope my actions do not initiate an inter-city battle over my affections. I arrived to see her beaming beneath the purest blue sky which could give the purest aquamarine a run for its money. Her crisp air tantilized my nostrils as I breathed in and a light breeze ruffled my dress as I strolled down Wilshire Boulevard to, you guessed it, the Hammer Museum.

Today's featured community event was a panel discussion on drones and robotic warfare. Sounds drier than a piece of burnt toast in the Sahara, right? Let me just say that strange events draw you in when you are alone with no better way to spend your evenings. One of the youngest audience members by a longshot, I sat amongst a sea of gray hair awaiting the start of the discussion. The Hammer Museum is punctually tardy (there's some irony for you) as every event I attend starts, without fail, five minutes after the scheduled "start" time.

Speaking on the panel were three experts on the topic of drones and robotic warfare and a journalist mediator. All made their opening remarks accompanied by PowerPoint presentations informing the audience about UAVs and their civic and public functions and the ethics surrounding their use. I wonder if the panelists knew they walked into the lion's den. I pitied Eric Johnson, the engineer working with UAV development, the most. Possibly thanks to being an engineer, he struggled with public speaking as it was. When the discussion turned to audience questions, he came under immediate attack and did not handle it well. John Villasenor faced as much scrutiny for emphasizing the positive functions of UAVs in search and rescue and other similar scenarios.

The only panelist able to evade the audiences' scrutiny was Patrick Lin, whose presentation focused on the ethical issues surrounding the use of robots in war. I have some serious beef (that's a saying, right?) with the audience present at the panel. The age of those posing questions indicated that they had enough years and wisdom to show restraint and respect in front of distinguished individuals. Oh contraire, dear readers. People yelled out crude remarks about how Villasenor and Johnson were warmongers and essentially accused them of being void of morals. When handed the microphone, one elderly man ranted about philosophy without reaching a real point. It disappointed me that people couldn't show some restraint and respect and have a discussion in a mature way, which is the point of academic forums.

The forum was immensely educational for me, but I was disappointed with the behavior of the audience.

File:Group photo of aerial demonstrators at the 2005 Naval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Air Demo.jpg

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