Author: M.J. Ryder

About M.J. Ryder

Writer, academic and digital communications professional.

Killer robots already exist, and they’ve been here a very long time…

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a statement claiming that humans will always make the final decision on whether armed robots can shoot. This comes as plans emerge for advanced targeting systems to help human gunners aim.

While public fears may have been fanned by the term ‘killer robots’ banded about by many news outlets, the concept is essentially nothing new. This is because when we say ‘robot’, what we really mean is a technology with some form of ‘autonomous’ element that allows it to perform a task without the need for direct human intervention.

Multipurpose unmanned tactical transport (MUTT), used by the US Marine Corp
Multipurpose unmanned tactical transport (MUTT), used by the US Marine Corp

The thing is, these technologies have existed for a very long time. Way back during the Second World War, the proximity fuze was developed to explode artillery shells at a pre-determined distance from their target. This made the shells far more effective than they would have otherwise been by augmenting human decision making, and in some cases, taking the human out of the loop completely.

The question then, is not so much one of whether we should use autonomous weapon systems in battle, for we already use them, and they take many forms. Rather, we should focus on how we use them, why we use them, and what form (if any) human intervention should take.

Continue reading »

Embodying Fantastika, Lancaster University, 8th-10th August 2019

‘Fantastika’ is an umbrella term that embraces the genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror but can also include Alternate History, Gothic, Steampunk or any other radically imaginative narrative space.

The sixth annual Fantastika conference will aim to define, challenge and debate conceptualisations of embodiment. We seek to investigate how various bodily forms are addressed or ruptured across a myriad of canvases, whether it be through (re) construction, transposition or indeed destabilisation. The conference will diagnose how Fantastika texts may extend upon or confront definitions of what it even means to be ‘embodied’, inviting researchers from fields such as posthumanism, medical humanities and other relevant fields to collaborate through productive discussion.

Continue reading »

PhD update – February 2019

It’s been a strange few months. I don’t feel like I’ve actually ‘done’ all that much, but I do seem to be making some sort of progress. Yesterday I printed out a complete first draft of my thesis, and I’ve just submitted amendments for a publication that I hope will be forthcoming later this year. I’ve also launched a podcast, and had a feature article printed in SCAN.

Continue reading »

In The Zone – a new podcast with Mike Ryder and Josh Hughes

After several months of hard work, I’m pleased to announce the launch of the In The Zone podcast, featuring interesting chat with me (Mike Ryder) and my friend and colleague, Josh Hughes.

The idea is that each week, Josh and I will chat about something interesting that we’ve been reading about, or that’s appearing in the news. We will also be interviewing fellow researchers about their interests and the impact of their work.

Continue reading »

Interview in SCAN (Lancaster University)

I’ve just had an interview published in the Lancaster University student newspaper, SCAN. Students and staff at Lancaster can pick up a free copy from all the usual locations, including the Library entrance. The issue will be available for the next three weeks. For those of you unable to get hold of a copy, the text from the interview is reproduced below.

Continue reading »