In the insect world, drones are males suited for only two functions, mating and work. Actually, that sounds like many of the guys I know. Seriously though, male honey bees, ants and termites spend their entire lives working constantly at the behest of the queen of the hive, the matriarch who is pampered, fed, protected and fertilized so that additional generations of drones can be raised to serve yet another queen. It has gone on like this for millions of years.
Some might say this description fits human society pretty well, and if the truth be told, up until the last 10,000 years or so it was basically true. Only women can harbor life and give birth, and this awesome fact was not lost on men. For thousands of years the pregnancy of women was ascribed to many causes, and impregnation by men was not among them. Reasons as diverse as north wind, eating beans, and divine intervention were accepted rationale for pregnancy. Men, it seemed, were considered incidental to conception. This is not to say that sex was unimportant, but its role in procreation was not fully recognized until quite recently in human history.
For men, sex has always been associated with power and pleasure, and some might say in this respect things have not changed a bit. A major shift occurred about 8,000 years ago, when patriarchal male-ruled societies began invading and replacing matriarchal female-ruled societies. As this occurred, female gods were replaced with male gods, and their names altered with reference to the change in sex. Kings, which had existed as temporary servants to queens – sacrificed in elaborate yearly rituals and replaced with a new king each year – eventually came to dominate society by extending their reign by substituting others in the yearly sacrifice. The stories passed on to successive generations emphasized male rulership and importance and diminished the role of females to sex objects and virtual slaves.
Despite all this, men seem to really like the idea of drones; not the drones who live to serve women, but the unthinking and unfeeling drones that always follow orders. In a way, the entire military model is based on drone psychology and selflessly following orders. Having done away with bothersome controlling queens, male officers and soldiers indulge themselves in the constancy of loyalty and selflessness. Individuals become secondary to the “unit” and unit cohesion trumps all else. After all, lives depend upon it.
Thus it is no surprise that remotely controlled, fully armed aircraft are called drones. Military drones are the perfect soldiers; robotic, unthinking, powerfully lethal fighters with excellent vision, pinpoint accuracy and no complaints of any kind. They approach the ultimate male fantasy of silent, omniscient, all-seeing killers able to strike from a distance. Modern warfare has become a video game, with joy sticks and monitors, but the points are scored by killing real people.
I recall a 1985 novel called “Enders Game” by Orson Scott Card in which a boy with a great talent at war-based video games thinks all he is doing is playing, but unwittingly discovers he is in fact controlling the outcome of real interstellar warfare against powerful extraterrestrials. Worlds are defended and others destroyed and with victory he is named the Earth’s greatest general. Given the popularity of the Internet, it may not be long before drone warfare becomes mass entertainment. You heard it here first.