Pack Leader gets some squirrelly ideas into her long-haired brain. She turned from the computer to tell me about a new device that fits onto dogs’ heads and helps them see in the dark.
“I can already see in the dark,” I remind her. “Much better than you.”
“But here’s the thing, Wolfydog: this invention could be an extra pair of eyes for both of us—at the same time! Imagine: infrared vision. We could take walkies in the woods at night. You could see where the bunnies are hiding. Every so often the armed forces invent something useful, wouldn’t you agree?”
I opened one eye to show a little healthy skepticism. “Next you’ll be wanting me to get a voicebox implant and prosthetic ape paws, like those dogs in Lives of the Monster Dogs—remember what happened to them?”
Pack Leader had read Kirsten Bakis’ book to me as entertainment, an odd category for a book about a mad human scientist, named Rank, enslaving dogs with technology, as expendable equipment for humans’ favorite sport, war. The dogs rebel, kill a passel of humans, and decide to explore the world. Winter is coming and who knows what we’ll find Out in the world among humankind. Being three parts wolf to one part dog, I intuited immediately what those rebel dogs would find—disease and death. Nice ending.
Pack Leader has also read me her play War Dogs, about six historic dogs in search of a heroic human. That’s how I heard about the Russian army, which trained German Shepherds—my relatives!—to crawl under enemy trucks with bombs strapped to their backs—but these canine sacrifices crawled under their own humans’ trucks, instead. Oops!
Yah. Gotta love those techno-apes. Human boys must have their toys, no matter who pays the price.
I gave her the full Golden Gaze, hoping my amber eyes blazed with wisdom.
“Oh, stop,” she said. “I would never let you become a war dog. Imagine a little tech added to that wolfy brain. You could type your own columns, for one thing. You might live longer, too, if you could replace tired organs with a mini-computer.”
“And protect you from the techno-apes in your doddering years?” I was only lightly teasing. Privately, I sense that aging humans like Pack Leader are in for a big struggle to keep kibble in the dish and defend their dens. My services as hunter or defender may come in handy anytime.
“Anyway, dogs may never be used in future wars. Listen to what World War Four is going to be like according to John Horgan in this National Geographic article, ‘The Drones Come Home’: Unmanned aircraft have proved their prowess against al Qaeda. Now they’re poised to take off on the home front. Possible missions: patrolling borders, tracking perps, dusting crops. And maybe watching us all?
“…The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones…. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft….”
“I thought a drone was a bee,” I said. (Will I ever be fluent in human jabberwocky?)
“It’s a machine. No human in it. Like a giant metal bumblebee but with extra equipment.”
“Just shut up and listen and you’ll understand everything. What…will prevent terrorists and criminals from getting their hands on some kind of lethal drone? Although American officials rarely discuss the threat in public, they take it seriously…. The answer to the threat of drone attacks, some engineers say, is more drones. A drone crashing into a backyard would be messy; a drone crashing into a commercial airliner could be much worse.”
I thought about our back yard. Messy does not begin to describe a giant metal bumblebee buzzing its death song in my wallow.
“It alarms privacy advocates as well. Infrared and radio-band sensors used by the military can peer through clouds and foliage and can even…detect people inside buildings. Commercially available sensors too are extraordinarily sensitive….
“During…the U.S. occupation of Iraq, unmanned aircraft monitored Baghdad 24/7, turning the entire city into the equivalent of a convenience store crammed with security cameras…. U.S. officials could run videos in reverse to track bombers back to their hideouts. This practice is called persistent surveillance….”
“Drones can see everything I do? In my own back yard?”
Pack Leader nodded. “If they’re here in Canada. Not yet, I think. I hope.”
I resolved not to chew on the corner of the shed next time Pack Leader stayed at work too long. There might be proof in the sky that the raccoons were not the miscreants.
“What Jay Stanley of the ACLU calls his ‘nightmare scenario’ begins with drones supporting ‘mostly unobjectionable’ police raids and chases. Soon, however, networks of linked drones and computers ‘gain the ability to automatically track multiple vehicles and bodies as they move around a city,’ much as the cell phone network hands calls from one tower to the next. The nightmare climaxes with authorities combining drone video and cell phone tracking to build up databases of people’s routine comings and goings—databases they can then mine for suspicious [suspect] behavior. Stanley’s nightmare doesn’t even include the possibility that police drones might be armed.”
“With teeth? Sticks?”
“Bullets, dumb dog. Chemicals. This is scary stuff, eh? Somebody thousands of miles away can decide to watch everything we do. Or kill us.”
“Or kill my family.” Pack Leader raised an eyebrow. “The wolves. Didn’t you say that the big human leaders want to kill all the wild wolves? Big male apes in helicopters think it’s fun to shoot wolves in the tummy?”
Pack Leader’s shoulders slumped. “I suppose so. But,” she brightened, “there would have to be wi-fi, wouldn’t there? As in the cities? My friend Gary Scott may be right. He thinks WWIV might be about who controls the drones, that it may already have started, and that, if the war breaks down a nation’s computerized infrastructure, the best places to be will be where food is abundant and people know how to farm in the old ways. Where the weather is always good—”
“And there’s no wi-fi and the wild wolves live free.”
I braced myself. Should I let her in on the big secret, the sense humans seem to have lost long ago but we wilder ones still possess? I took the plunge. “Where we can teach humans the real technology for finding one’s way in the world. And, uh, maybe save the planet.”
“The Field,” I explain, feeling odd as the teacher, for once. “The magnetic field of the Earth. It tells most of us beings what to do and where to go. For me, it’s as important as my nose and my ears; for you it would be like another pair of eyes, but better. The Field lets bees find their way around—as they did before they had to cope with the Human Tech Field. Who can hear anything with all that racket? You humans have turned this planet into the boom car of the galaxy. No wonder the bees are dying.”
“EMR,” mumbled Pack Leader. “Electromagnetic radiation. It’s thousands of times greater than natural. You think that’s why humanity is in chaos? We can’t sense the Earth’s magnetism anymore?”
I sighed, head on paws. “Maybe humans never had that sense. But there’s something else wrong with your technology. You can’t save us wolves, people or the planet unless you fix it. A cord is unplugged.”
Pack Leader sat still, a human question mark. “What cord is that?”
“The cord between head and heart.” A yawn, before I, Technowolf, closed my eyes for a well-earned nap.