War Virtually: The Quest to Automate Conflict, Militarize Data, and Predict the Future

Regular price $ 29.95

by Roberto J. González

University of California Press

04/05/2022, hardcover

SKU: 9780520384767


A critical look at how the US military is weaponizing technology and data for new kinds of warfare -- and why we must resist. 

War Virtually is the story of how scientists, programmers, and engineers are racing to develop data-driven technologies for fighting virtual wars, both at home and abroad. In this landmark book, Roberto J. González gives us a lucid and gripping account of what lies behind the autonomous weapons, robotic systems, predictive modeling software, advanced surveillance programs, and psyops techniques that are transforming the nature of military conflict. González, a cultural anthropologist, takes a critical approach to the techno-utopian view of these advancements and their dubious promise of a less deadly and more efficient warfare.

With clear, accessible prose, this book exposes the high-tech underpinnings of contemporary military operations -- and the cultural assumptions they're built on. Chapters cover automated battlefield robotics; social scientists' involvement in experimental defense research; the blurred line between political consulting and propaganda in the internet era; and the military's use of big data to craft new counterinsurgency methods based on predicting conflict. González also lays bare the processes by which the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies have quietly joined forces with Big Tech, raising an alarming prospect: that someday Google, Amazon, and other Silicon Valley firms might merge with some of the world's biggest defense contractors. War Virtually takes an unflinching look at an algorithmic future -- where new military technologies threaten democratic governance and human survival.


"González is one of our foremost analysts, and critics, of military uses of social science. Here he breaks new ground in an account of the military's fusion of artificial intelligence, data science, and social science that is both captivating and frightening as he gives us a glimpse of our dystopian future of data-driven warfare. Written in the style of the best science journalism, this book is hard to put down." -- Hugh Gusterson, author of Drone: Remote Control Warfare

"A richly informative guide to the enrollment of behavioral sciences and digital tech in an American agenda of data-driven dominance. The tour includes key sites in the contemporary military-commercial-academic complex devoted to projects from psychological operations and soldier augmentation to robotic weapons and predictive modeling, along with vital pathways to resistance." -- Lucy Suchman, Professor Emerita, Anthropology of Science and Technology, Lancaster University

About the Author:

Roberto J. González is Professor and Chair of the San José State University Anthropology Department. He has authored four books including Connected: How a Mexican Village Built Its Own Cell Phone Network and Militarizing Culture: Essays on the Warfare State.