Neocolonial Visions: Algorithmic Violence and Unmanned Aerial Systems

Anthony Downey


In the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) threatened to inflict significant casualties on the ground troops of the United States and Allied Forces. This led to unprecedented levels of investment in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and the ensuing ascendancy of wide-area persistent surveillance systems (WAPSS) across the region. These prototypes of hyper-surveillance and targeting were inevitably supported and powered by developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Combining the predictive logic of AI and the martial rationalisation of the pre-emptive strike, these technological and logistic alliances sought to not only calculate risk and threat but to  eliminate it before it materialises. They seek, in short, to occupy the future in the name of terrestrial and extra-terrestiral dominance. Throughout the following essay, Anthony Downey (Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa at Birmingham City University) examines the historical contexts and current deployments of such systems, enquiring into how neocolonial projections of power are implicated in the martial and political will to occupy the future. What happens, he asks, when we defer life-and-death decisions to a mechanical calculus of probability that is beholden to martial devices of pre-emption, political expediencies and the neocolonial logic of expendability.


Anthony Downey: Neocolonial Visions: Algorithmic Violence and Unmanned Aerial Systems
PostScriptUM #47
Series edited by Janez Fakin Janša
Publisher: Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana
Represented by: Marcela Okretič
Proofreading: Miha Šuštar
Design: Luka Umek
Layout: Sonja Grdina
Cover image: Courtesy of ATPD 2023
(c) Aksioma   |   All text and image rights reserved by the author   |   Ljubljana 2023
Supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana
Published in the framework of the programme Tactics & Practice #14: Scale

Related event: Tactics & Practice #14: Scale

To top