It’s Friday night in some zone of temporality and a large number of drones are logging on to online dating sites. They are sitting in front of their computers, and they are lounging on the couch on their touchscreen devices, putting their feet up on the cushions. Drones are dating online more often now than five years ago, as the social stigma wears off, and the capacity to have some sort of semi-valuable chance encounter via the comfortable channels of social media grows. Anyone can date online—mothers, college students, baby boomers, even older folks. It’s as easy as getting an email address, and adjusting oneself to another new normal of networked naturalness. Drones of a certain age are reaching that point in their lives when there are multiple worse options than this. Drones are thinking that it’s worth a shot.

Drone date online, but drones don’t think about it the way that humans do. Drones don’t have consciousness, and so they don’t desire or love–at least not in the way we think about it. In fact, “date” is probably a misnomer, but when translating between our human vocabulary and the algorithmic inner sense of an unmanned aerial vehicle, this rough equivalence is the best we can do. They aren’t dating as the end result of a socialized biological imperative. They aren’t looking to fulfill the fairy tale story they have accumulated in their minds over the course of their sexual and social development. They don’t have a psychological need to seek companionship, and to mirror their egos in their image of their closest acquaintances. They don’t have a sex drive that requires recurring fulfillment in the form of performative body narrative.

130329_ScanEagle_2Drones’ reproduction is outsourced to a separate life system. Like the larval stage on an insect, or the mycelium of a fungus, they are a significant part of the lifecycle, but not the part that engages in gamete swapping. They are the non-breeding cycle-part of their mega-organism: the military-industrial complex. The breeding part happens in budget negotiations of the vote-loving Representative Government, and in the contract negotiations between the State’s armed forces and Lockheed, General Atomics, and other contractors. And then, after a bit of technological gestation and the creation of a number of good homeland jobs, the drones burst from the skunkworks egg sac like newly born spiders, catching on the wind, riding around the currents of the globe, to life a lifetime of spying, bombing, sunning themselves on the secret tarmacs of the world, to be the gargoyles hanging from our informational downspouts, to hang out around the playground and the convenience store, bothering good citizens with their language and their music. Each drone secures the terrain and the sustaining resources of the organism like a system of airborne, hovering roots, until eventually they crash, break down, or are obsoleted, and the cycle can begin again. It is a beautiful thing, this unmanned, aerial birds-and-the-bees system. But like our lives, the temporality of drones between birth and death is also filled with mundane stretches of inactivity. Not every day can be a double tap. There is not always a vehicle to track. And so, drones date. They, as we say, “pass time”.

Drones date online in this way. They log on to the online dating site for drones. They get an account, and fill out a profile. Then the collection of data can begin. Drones watch each other, as they watch each other watching each other. Drones are always collecting data, and this is a fundamental aspect of their dating process. Who can say what it is the drones see in each other. We think they are long, gangly, faceless things, with hardly any variation to think of other than their inexpressive model numbers. Sometimes it is hard to say if they are dating at all, other than that they are on a dating site and so we call what they do dating. They might just be friends, or it might be a series of one-night stands, irresponsible decisions, and lapses into the base satisfaction of desires. Is this dating? It certainly doesn’t seem to be a path towards a stable relationship. What we do know, is that from this process of online dating, sooner or later the drones end up fucking.

Fucking drones is not, from the human perspective, a very attractive affair. It seems violent at times, and on other occasions, so benign as to be utterly boring. The way that drones fuck is certainly simpler than human sex in some ways. Drones cannot rape drones, because drones do not have wills that consent. They do not have genders, imbued with power relations. GPS, avionics, waypoint routing, and a single radio call sign are just about all they have in terms of quantifiable personalities. There is no capacity for fetish or kink like we have, no story or role to play. But the way that drones fuck can also be complex, in ways difficult for us to understand. During and after, they compare camera views with each other, subtling ranking and judging. These pieces of data are the basis for all their decisions, both sexual and otherwise. In a long chain of feedback loops and Markov chains, decisions made on the basis of a single data element become new data collected. Decisions become data, and data become new decisions, across an churning event horizon of intentionality that reaches out from the present, into the future. The vast amount of data produced while drones fuck soaks through everything that drones do. Drones’ online dates are saturated with data, dripping it everywhere, staining everything around it, leaving the residue of data on the backseats of cars, the second hand Ikea couch, the favorite shirt, the dress bought against better judgment, images of it saved in cellphones to be embarrassingly stumbled upon later, posted to the wrong social network by deliciously explicit mistake. The data might be like our emotions, our raw desiring energy translated into narratives about who, where, why, and how. But then again, it might be totally different. Another weekend, and drones come to make another decision. Some drones end up fucking, some don’t. More data, more wanton displays of data. Drones update their profiles. And another weekend, and it all happens again.

vd-drone-408x264Drones date, drones fuck, drones separate without needing to break up, drones have varying qualities of sexual encounter, drones wonder if they are doing things the right way for a drone of their age, socio-economic class, and decade, without formulating any particular philosophies of life or making any substantial changes. Drones talk about it, drones write about it, drones watch TV shows about it. Drones get asked by their family about it, and drones tell a little, or maybe tell a lot, but either way drones don’t really seem to talk about it in a way that fully explains it. Drones get drunk, they talk about dating with their friends that are drunk. Drones express their true ideas about dating, why they do it, what they think it means. Drones throw a bottle in the street, smoke the last of their cigarettes, break into an abandoned building and stand on the roof. But when drones wake up, it is only a matter of time before they go on a date again. We humans look at this data, as if we could understand any of it, and then we just move on. Humans have pastimes too.

My mind compares the drones that are dating online to the teenage drones: the ones we are more familiar with. The teenage drones are disaffected youths with a little bit of drone culture to throw around, who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and who are coming around to thinking that they might not want to be anything. Teenage drones wear clothes they have never worn before, try drugs for the first time, get in some situations that they’ll later regret. But as we are seeing, for some drones this romantic rebelliousness will one day transform into the decision to turn on the network, create a dating profile, and fill out survey questions in the hopes of finding a match, and then doing something with that match. A different part of a drone’s life, with a different sort of response to the data. At some point, the data that has accumulated changes the way that they respond to further data. Drones can’t be teenage drones forever, and then they must eventually be something else. Drones quit smoking, but won’t mind dating someone who does. Drones make a rule that they will fuck on the first online date, but only sometimes. Drones think that being politically similar to a potential partner is not as important as having good sex. Drones are here to look for a long term relationship, but won’t ignore the chance of a good connection in the meantime. Will there be a next step of life, after drones dating online? What will it be?

art729-drone-farms-620x349Not every drone dates online, of course. There are different reasons that any one drone might choose to date online, but the thing that they all have in common is that they are there. What does this allows us to say about drones that date online? Are they lame? Nerdy? Ugly? Anti-social? Slutty? Desperate? Too trusting? Not trusting enough? Are they nothing? Less than nothing? How should we judge drones that act this way due to their data? Have they had too much data, or too little? Is it the data that is sometimes wrong, or is it what they do with the data? How can data be wrong?

Drones need help. And they are also fine on their own. Drones don’t need psychoanalysis–they don’t have the consciousness with the sense of self-censorship and self-help that would encourage them to try to “get to the bottom of” their drives. And yet they could use some working-through. Drones don’t need counseling–their sense of empathy is not behind the reason that they fuck each other from Friday night until the early hours of Saturday morning, sometimes without only the minimal of data exchanged, other times with far too much. And yet sometimes drones just need to talk. Drones don’t need Object-Oriented Ontology or any other philosophy–the copies of the drone version of The Four-Hour Work Week and other novelized pyramid schemes just end up going to the donation bin when drones are in between apartments. And yet, drones have no idea what is going on. Drones just need to go on a good online date. They haven’t had a good one in a while, and it would really be nice if they could just have a good online date this Friday. Not with fucking, necessarily–there’s been plenty of that. But a really nice online date for drones would be just the thing.