Wall Street Journal tech writer Christopher Mims has a really bad idea today: impose U.S. “export controls on commercial robotics and drone technology.” Mr. Mims, who was trained as a neuroscientist, can, I suppose, be forgiven for not knowing much about export controls, but that still does not fully excuse such a ridiculous idea.
First, let’s start with his reason for imposing these export controls, which appears to have had its genesis in Mims spending too much time watching old Terminator flicks.
It’s inevitable, say the experts I talked to, that nonstate actors and rogue states will create killer robots once the underpinnings of this [commercial robotics and drone] technology become cheap and accessible, thanks to its commercial use.
Yes, but terrorists and rogue states can use mobile phones to detonate bombs remotely as well, and no one is suggesting that the way to solve this problem is to prevent the export of mobile phones and mobile phone technology.
Second, and most importantly, the notion that export controls would solve this problem is based on Mims’s notion that all technology of any value comes from the United States. If other countries have such technology, U.S. export controls won’t fix the problem and will simply disadvantage U.S. companies. On this point, Mims should read his own newspaper. The Wall Street Journal, only a few months back, noted that the biggest seller of commercial drones, the ones that Mims fears will be loaded with bombs by terrorists, is SZ DJI Technology Co., located in … are you ready? … China.