Here's some warfare theory (a little studied field that's currently claimed/overrun by political scientists, regional experts, psychologists, and historians). I find the below a useful model for thinking about drones/bots/bio-engineered organisms. Mileage will vary.
Open (source) warfare enables individuals and groups to take on much larger foes. In short, it allows the weak to defeat the strong.
One of the factors that makes open warfare so potent is superempowerment -- as in, the power of individuals and small groups is amplified via access to open networks (that grow in value according to Metcalfe's law = Internet growth + social networks running in parallel) and off the shelf technology (that grows rapidly in power due to the onslaught of Moore's law and the market's relentless productization).A subset of superempowerment is replication.
Replication is achieved through the manufacture and deployment of devices, software programs, or organisms that can operate independently (autonomously or without requiring active human control) in a target environment. In short, this is a way technology can produce the equivalent of adding, albeit currently limited in terms of capability, new members to a group. Already, high levels of replication can be accomplished through the repurposing of inexpensive, off the shelf technology that's well within the reach of individuals and small groups.
Specifically, replication is realized through the design, deployment, and operation of:
- autonomous software (bots, worms, etc.),
- autonomous robotic devices (drones, crawlers, etc.), and
- genetically-engineered biological organisms.
In the simplistic form of replication, these devices and creations are manufactured en masse and deployed into the field of battle. In an advanced and even more effective form, self-replication is used. In self-replication, these devices, software, or organisms create copies of themselves using materials found in the environment they are deployed into. Self-replication is a process that we already see in use with software bots and biological organisms. With self-replication, tens can become thousands and thousands can become millions. The superempowerment conferred by replication also grows multiplicatively through improvements in the intelligence (see below) each device, program, and organism is bestowed with.
Here's a video that shows the state of the art in autonomous drones. It's an example of how quickly the multiplier provided by replication is accelerates as the intelligence of the autonomous device is improved.
NOTE: I'm in the process of working through some of the thinking on open warfare. It's the result of attending the excellent "small violent groups" conference I keynoted at Pitt.