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Cold War LegaciesSystems, Theory, Aesthetics$
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John Beck and Ryan Bishop

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474409483

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474409483.001.0001

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Smart Dust and Remote Sensing: The Political Subject in Autonomous Systems

Smart Dust and Remote Sensing: The Political Subject in Autonomous Systems

(p.273) Chapter 14 Smart Dust and Remote Sensing: The Political Subject in Autonomous Systems
Cold War Legacies

Ryan Bishop

Edinburgh University Press

A legacy of the ‘Long Cold War’ can be found in the multiple large-scale interrelated remote sensing systems operative in the present. Smart dust, for example, constitutes the basis of polyscalar computer systems of remote sensing at micro-levels and relates to ubiquitous computing, ‘pervasive networks’ and ‘utility fogs’ as potentially transmitting endless streams of ‘real time’ or stored data. Developed initially for DARPA, Smart Dust started with work by Kris Pister's team at UC Berkeley, who refer to the project as ‘autonomous sensing and communication in a cubic millimetre.’ The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 pushed nuclear testing underground, forcing innovations in modes of remote sensing for purposes of verification. Because so much of teletechnological development depends on the understanding of the subject as an agent enacting its will upon a world of objects (including other subjects), the means of imagining extensions of that sensing and acting self invariably fold into and influence the interpretation of that self. The chapter provides a meditation on 'the auto-' and ‘the nomos’ as they pertain to autonomous sensing systems and the immaterial worlds that helped them come into being as well as their continuation into further systems of control at a distance.

Keywords:   remote sensing, technology, cold war, weapons systems, political subject, nomos, smart dust

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