The vogue for “smart” traces at least as far back as the “smart bomb,” precision-guided munitions made to be more accurate than the dumb bombs of wars past, which tumbled out of planes and exploded wherever they happened to land. Smart bombs were first used in Vietnam, but during the Persian Gulf war, they became media stars, with generals and news anchors presenting footage of the weapons in action, until the moment the screen went to static as the bombs obliterated their internal cameras along with the target. Much like that well-timed static, the “smart” in “smart bomb” does some ideological work, masking the inherent violence and mayhem of aerial bombing. A smart bomb is an unerring one. It adds an aura of sensible technocratic efficiency to an inherently messy, bloody affair, occluding the simple fact that bombs are horrific creations.
Jacob Silverman, “All Knowing”, The New York Times Magazine (19 June 2016), 14.