When I came across the story of the TrackingPoint rifle on NPR, A New Smart Rifle Decides When To Shoot And Rarely Misses, I was really looking forward to untangling the moral implications of a gun that fires when it wants. Based on the headline, I thought that the rifle had an auto-lock-and-fire functionality along the lines of a camera that wont shoot until all variables are within optimal levels. Or a military drone making surgical strikes.
If this was true, the technology would be a huge leap in the direction of seceding personal moral authority to a potentially deadly machine and I was totally jazzed and anxious about what this might mean for the future of guns and gun control and the concept of objects-with-agency.
However, the story is slightly different. And slightly less controversial when we get into the details. According to NPRs Mark Dewey:
The rifles scope features a sophisticated color graphics display. The shooter locks a laser on the target by pushing a small button by the trigger. Its like a video game. But heres where its different: You pull the trigger but the gun decides when to shoot. It fires only when the weapon has been pointed in exactly the right place, taking into account dozens of variables, including wind, shake and distance to the target.
So, as long as the target lock is correct, the gun provides a visual indication of optimal aim. Yes, it dramatically improves the accuracy and (by implication) the deadliness of the rifle. However, the shooter still makes the decision to fire. It is still a human brain that sends the signal to the hand to depress the trigger and initiate the mechanical effect of sending a high speed projectile from the barrel.
Video highlighting the TrackingPoints features, from manufacturers website
One of the more interesting features of the rifle sight is that it can stream video of the view to a nearby device. Ive been planning to write a post about Paul Virilios War and Cinema and this technology fits perfectly into Virilios theories about the emergence of new ways of seeing from the destructive impulse of military and war technology.
I can foresee the creation of a non-gun product made of a camera mounted on a popular rifle like object that turns the world itself into a first-person-shooter video game. The user takes aim and shoots real life targets but the devices computer detects accuracy/points and records it for sharing on social media. The social cache and pride in taking out a 22-point buck could be achieved without actually killing one.
Does such a product already exist?