Nikola Tesla's 1898 drone patent warned us on unmanned machines

Nikola Tesla's 1898 drone patent warned us on unmanned machines

Souvik Das | 22 Aug 2016
HIGHLIGHTS

"By reason of its certain and unlimited destructiveness it will tend to bring about and maintain permanent peace among nations."

Mankind has made huge progress in the field of technology, and it is safe to say that we are in control of our technology… as of now. In the late 19th century, though, the world was far from assured about unmanned machines learning and functioning on their own. Highlighted by Instructional Technologist Matthew Schroyer, a patent owned in 1898 by innovator and inventor Nikola Tesla states his belief in the immensely destructive power of unmanned machines and drones. He affirms that such prospects of danger and destruction will lead nations to promote mutual peace.

The patent states the use of machines by lending them autonomous control, along with wireless control by using radio waves. Although radio waves were not implemented by their own names until much later, it was already invented in the 19th century, and formed the backbone of all unmanned devices in the era. Tesla particularly refers to drones bestowed with autonomous functioning, and to an extent, what we know now as machine learning. From where we stand at today, Tesla may have correctly stated how unmanned machines are controlled, although the bit about unlimited destruction power of drones is not true… yet.

"The greatest value of my invention will result from its effect upon warfare and armaments, for by reason of its certain and unlimited destructiveness it will tend to bring about and maintain permanent peace among nations."

Unmanned aerial vehicles play its part in war zones now, having advanced in nature of range, control, energy and efficiency. While it reduces the loss of humans in war zones, there are laws that restrict scenarios where drone strikes can be effected. Despite this potential, drones have developed in a more controlled manner, and did not have the same, fearsome impact that the likes of nuclear bombs struck across nations.

Technology evidently has massive potential to progress, and the rise of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence have led to multiple scientists treating technological advancement with immense caution. While Tesla’s prediction of destruction may not have come true, it is striking to see how the foundations of such advanced technology was laid over a century ago.

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Souvik Das

The one that switches between BMWs and Harbour Line Second Class.

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