Sometimes, there’s something going on in Washington D.C. that’s so absurd that it feels awkward even to write about it. As I find myself about to use the phrase “lobbyists for killer robots”, for example, it seems too outlandish. Still, the phrase fits the story.
Of course, there will be more serious business going on as well. That’s what the entry fee is for. The event is a fundraiser for Glenn Nye’s re-election campaign, and in order to attend the event, and have the chance to talk business with Congressman Nue, people are required to pay $1,500.
The location of the fundraiser is the offices of the lobbying firm Arnold and Porter, at 555 12th Street, NW, Washington D.C. One wonders what gracious attention from Representative Nye the lobbyists of Arnold and Porter may expect in compensation for the use of their offices as a place for Nye to collect money.
One of the more interesting clients of Arnold & Porter is the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The AUVSI is a trade association that represents weapons merchants who deal in a very special kind of device: Robots that can attack and kill people. Among the companies that make up the AUVSI are Cybernet Systems Corporation, iRobot, and more blandly named weapons giants General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.
The idea of lobbyists for killer robots seems like some kind of silly science fiction story. However, at a hearing before the House National Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittee this week, it was revealed that the US military is now using 7,000 robotic planes to attack and conduct surveillance, as along with 12,000 other robots on the ground. The military plans to expand this robot army to the tens of thousands within the near future.
What’s more, the AUVSI is lobbying Congress to allow for the sale of military attack robots to foreign countries. If they succeed, American soldiers might some day need to fight against robots made right here in the USA.
Arnold and Porter is lobbying on behalf of the AUVSI, to seek the elimination of legislative barriers to the international sale of killer robots. Will Congressman Glenn Nye and his aides be talking about that particular agenda with the lobbyists of Arnold and Porter tonight? It’s impossible for anyone to say for sure what exactly will be discussed, but at the price of $1,500 per head, I’m confident that the conversation will be quite interesting.