Today: Call of Duty, Tomorrow: U.S. Drone Pilots
It’s official: video game players make better drone pilots. And as luck would have it, the United States military is suffering from a shortage of exactly that. So, is this such a great idea?
Who says you can’t transform thousands of hours playing video games into a lucrative career? Well, moms of course. But that’s not true anymore. As everything becomes digital and automated, the demand grows for experienced operators.
Material technology is advancing way faster than organizations can train qualified people to operate it. In fact, the U.S. military has too many drones and not enough pilots. But soon, the Department of Defense might get what they’ve wanted all along: video game-trained drone pilots.
According to a study by Jacqueline M. Wheatcroft for Cogent Psychology, video game players make better drone operators than trained pilots. The study looked at 60 participants (mostly men) to make 21 decisions with varying degrees of danger or risk.
Across the board, the video game players were far less confident when presented with dangerous or high-risk situations as opposed to professional military pilots. Overall, the video game players were also on par with professionals their accuracy as well.
But what is a “high risk” situation for a drone pilot? I mean, you operate a remote-controlled plane from a strip mall. The most dangerous part of your day is your car ride to work or morning shower.
Well, U.S. air strikes put millions of civilians at risk. The U.S.-assisted Iraqi liberation of Mosul from Daesh (ISIS) included plenty of air support from the United States. That means drone strikes. And this turned into a humanitarian disaster at the hands of the United States that the media virtually swept under the rug.
A repeat of Mosul is taking place now in the Syrian city of Raqqa. U.S. airstrikes have gotten so bad that even the United Nations felt compelled to call them out. (That never happens.) Just last week, nearly 50 people died from a U.S. air raid.
So employing video game players could potentially save lots of civilian lives. I mean, not more lives than ending the bombing altogether, but lives none the less. Since the video game players exhibit better judgment and less overconfidence in risky situations, that could translate into less civilian casualties.
But why? Wheatcroft’s study also analyzed personality traits from private pilots, military pilots, and video game players. On average, video game players ranked much more introverted while military pilots were extroverted. So maybe their introspective thought pattern translates into more reserved behavior.
The military hasn’t made any official announcements yet about recruiting video game players. At least not openly. But this does mean that video games will become a major part of training for drone pilots.