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These locust-like clouds of death and destruction are today used by the advanced nations as the first wave of attack in war, rather than artilliary barrages, cruise missiles, or aerial bombings. Partly for their terror value, as by now everyone on the globe as seen graphic video of troops, tanks, aircraft and warships meeting pestX clouds in combat-- with devastating results.
PestX clouds can penetrate almost anything short of heavily armored spacecraft or undersea vessels, and human flesh and bone are like jello to them. If denied penetration to vulnerable parts of an enemy, the pestX clouds can simply gum up the works of exposed moving mechanical parts such as propellors and rotor blades, or do other damage, such as blocking gun barrels and missile tubes to induce misfires and explosions.
PestX clouds/carpets are typically composed of immense numbers of flea-sized/gnat-sized micromachines, that may fly, crawl, jump, or swim for mobility. The clouds/carpets may function in a standalone mode of 'collective intelligence' perhaps equivalent to a bee hive or ant farm under some circumstances, but typically are supervised in near-realtime by satellite, submarine, or aircraft hundreds of miles distant.
PestX technology has largely replaced elite covert military units of human beings. PestX has also replaced first strike Marine landing forces as well in invasive assaults on enemy territory. Soldiers are still used, but mostly only follow far behind in the wake of PestX clouds/carpets attacks.
Flea-size micromachines are closer to reality than true nanotechnology in the near future-- and will almost certainly be used as weapons of war, like a plague of high tech locusts.
-- August 1996 Taipan Future File, Agora, Inc., Nanothinc
9-1-98 Newz&Viewz: Will crude nanotech "Gray Goo" become a standard defense against military micromachines of the 21st century?
"Gray Goo" usually refers to one of the ultimate disaster scenarios for nanotechnology running out of control and converting the entire planet and its population into some useless form of matter such as lint or dust balls or a great wad of spent chewing gum-- i.e. Gray Goo.
However, we'll surely see useful and practical micromachines much sooner than we will nanotech, since micromachines are likely easier, cheaper, and simpler to build by orders of magnitude than true nanotech (micromachines are considerably larger and less demanding in general of their makers).
For those with real fears of the god-like powers nanotech could bestow upon the human race (creating the 'liquid metal' assassin from the film Terminator 3 could be kindergarten level nanotech someday), I'm afraid the earlier advent of micromachines won't make you rest any easier. You see, perhaps 40-80% of everything we today envision coming from practical nanotechnology will likely be available sooner via micromachines. So nanotech-like risks and/or benefits are closer than most comprehend-- it's just that they'll actually usually come from cruder micromachines instead over the next three to eight decades.
The most frightening realm of micromachines of course will be in weaponry. Imagine robotic plagues of locusts which could easily defeat and destroy in seconds the very best weapons systems and soldiers anyone possesses as of today (1998). I'm talking about immense swarms of robotic insects which could kill or incapacitate entire aircraft carrier battle groups in minutes, and reduce to scrap nuclear missiles before they could even leave their launchpads.
Now imagine these things the size of fleas rather than locusts.
But recent research is showing some possible vulnerabilities of such weapons. Namely, good old wear and tear.
So! Increase the "adhesive wear" on micromachine weapons sufficiently, and you'll stop them in their tracks. The earliest and crudest micromachines might be vulnerable to something as easy to create as higher humidity in a region. To stop more sophistocated micromachines later on, you might require something that's the equivalent of 'gum' or a monkey wrench for their scale-- or "Gray Goo"-- the spent chewing gum nanotech output Eric Drexler has cast as the villian in a nanotech Doomsday scenario.
Yes, confronting a micromachine cloud/carpet of insects with a 'pesticide' of nanotech assemblers which do nothing more than create "Gray Goo" inside the workings of the micromachine insects may well become a standard military defense sometime during the 21st century.
Keep in mind that creating a fairly useless and simple material like chewing gum to foul up micromachine gears would likely require only the simplest and crudest nanotech means. But if even that early level of nanotech was unavailable, you could likely achieve the task with special Gray Goo making micromachines too....
-- "Testing 'Invisible' Machines: Sandia's Reliability Tests Advance Future Of Micromachine Systems", Sandia National Laboratories, 6-11-98
Technology closely related to PestX also serves as something eerily akin to 'living skin' coating the exteriors of the most highly advanced aircraft/spacecraft of this time (mostly military craft). In these circumstances the technology serves as almost instantaneously 'self-healing' outer skins, as well as redundant control surfaces. Such aircraft/spacecraft are very difficult to put out of commission with anything but a direct and devastating hit-- and even then timing is often important too, such as striking the craft at its most vulnerable, during landings and take offs, etc.
Other attributes of some warcraft of this period (as well as commercial craft ruggedized to survive terrorism or peripheral involvement in military skirmishes) include cold plasma second skins of various sorts, serving a variety of purposes.
Star Trek style deflector fields were already in the prototyping stage in 2000 AD. The technical term for them is "cold plasmas", and they could be applied to a wide variety of uses, from cloaking technologies to non-destructive decontamination of objects and food in just minutes, to more efficient lighting for homes and businesses, to deflection or buffering of energies from microwave, laser, or particle beam weapons.
Cold plasmas are low to medium temperature ionized gases. They can be adjusted to fit different requirements by changes in their frequency, which modifies the density of the plasma. However, higher densities require higher energy inputs.
Cloaking of combat aircraft may be one of the closest to reality applications. The earliest such craft may require some sort of electro-magnetically transparent second-skin to contain the plasma in a protective layer about the platform. Then, when radar waves strike the craft the plasma can completely absorb them, rendering the craft effectively invisible on scopes.
Ablative plasma shields against projectiles might work by some solid shield material flashing to plasma when struck by a projectile to use the plasma's capabilities against the weapon while also solving the containment problem. But such impact-dependent shielding has many shortcomings.
In the longer term ablative shields would likely be controlled by defensive computers which would electronically flash a given section into cold plasma at the optimum time and range to defend against an incoming beam or projectile weapon. Multiple layers of such ablative armor would be present on some craft for such purposes. In other cases numerous heavily ablative armored robotic drones would buzz about a larger craft, maneuvering into position and deploying their own armors in a similar way as described by the computer triggering above.
The time frame for cold plasma protection against solid projectiles or lasers is given as decades, at the least (from 2000 AD). Apparently both of these threats would require plasma of such density as to almost be solid in nature.
-- Trek-Like 'Cold Plasmas' Shield, Cloak By James Schultz, Special to SPACE.com, 25 July 2000
Super-cavitation technologies play an important role in many instances too today, including both commercial and military related transport and other devices.
Rocket propelled torpedoes and submarines which can travel at supersonic speeds underwater? Prototypes of the concept already existed prior to 1990 AD, developed by the Russian military. Related technologies could also be used to double the top speeds of circa 2000 AD hydrofoil surface craft and enable a new generation of underwater mine-killing guns.
The core of the new technology is super-cavitation, or a more extreme version of the phenomena of cavitation long associated with underwater propellors. In cavitation water pressures upon certain fast moving solid surfaces will drop so much that the water near them will vaporize, forming bubbles, which has long been a source of wear, inefficiency, noise, and other problems for marine vessels and pumps. Cavitation can occur in air too, but the lower densities compared to water greatly reduce its impact there.
In super-cavitation the phenomena is purposely amplified to absurd proportions to transform it from a problem to a quantum leap in underwater movement.
A very nearly flat-nosed object traveling at least 180 kmph could transition to a state of super-cavitation where almost its entire bulk exists in a bubble, thereby relieving it from the normal high drag of underwater travel. In practice, some venting of the rocket propulsion system's exhaust out the nose has been necessary in prototypes to enlarge the bubble to encase the entire object until sufficient speed is attained. Enormous strength is also necessary in the nose materials.
500 kmph torpedoes existed in the early 90s which required ejection at high speed from a submarine to enable rocket firing afterwards. It may be that future subs may contain something like linear accelerators to perform such ejections.
By 1997 USAmerica possessed super-cavitating underwater bullets achieving close to 5400 kmph, but of very limited range (12 meter underwater ranges are being discussed for mine-kills in 2000 AD).
Future SC torpedoes may use aluminum fueled rockets. SC submarines would likely use nuclear power plants.
One problem with super-cavitation-based propulsion may be environmental. It may produce such a horrendous acoustic din underwater as to damage sealife, such as dolphins and whales. Engineers may eventually find a way to tune the acoustics to something less injurious however. In the meantime, parties at war likely would care little about sealife and use the technology without regard for same. In peacetime, perhaps only limited testing would be performed with such devices.
Another problem is manueverability. SC transport tends to be a straight-line deal. it could be difficult to avoid high speed collisions with obstacles, via present-day SC technology. But it may be that selectively increasing the number and size of drag surfaces presented by an object will remedy that (while reducing maximum potential speeds). Also note that increased sensitivity and range of object detection technologies and the already existing Global Positioning System could do much to lessen the need for changing a straightline course. If a ship or whale could be detected several hundred km away a SC vessel might be able to slow down to change course then speed up again.
Over the long term it appears that a super-cavitation revolution in submarine propulsion would lead to underwater craft tending to be more like aircraft. That is, large SC craft might usually consist only of commercial freighters, with military SC craft tending to be the size of circa 2000 AD military combat aircraft or smaller. Indeed, combine the limits of SC with the restrictions on high-G launches with human crews, the better reaction times (and greater efficiency and zero pilot risk) of computers, and it would seem virtually all future SC military craft would be relatively small, unmanned, robot devices. But they might possess a large, slower mothership performing a role similar to that of 20th century aircraft carriers for the smaller watercraft.
But super-cavitation technology might also be applied to aircraft, giving them brief stints of hypersonic speed when required, either for orbital insertion or escape from nearby threats. Note that SC transport requires a shape much like that of a rocket. Which adds all the same costs and limitations of a vessel like the space shuttle to such a program, where some more typical aircraft functionality is also desired in the same craft.
Again, relatively small, unmanned robot aircraft can offer a remedy. The bulk and complexity normally required to fit a human crew can instead be used to make the aircraft a transformer of sorts, reshaping itself to perform either as a runway launching and landing, slow moving, fuel sipping surveillance craft in one instance, and a screamingly fast, fuel gulping, hyper-sonic rocket in another. There might also be an intermediate stage of supersonic craft for still more flexibility in the asset.
At some point a certain type of such transformers might also boast one or more adaptive conversions for underwater travel. Such combined sea and air capable combat robotic craft could be a terrifying weapon beginning at some point in the 21st century.
Keep in mind that concepts such as super cavitation might actually be applied more quickly and easily in the field of aerodynamics than hydrodynamics, for a variety of reasons. Thus, we might expect the earliest examples of super cavitation technology used in war to appear roughly simultaneously in the air and water, with perhaps aircraft and air weapons eventually making at least as much use of the phenomena as water systems (if not more).
-- New Scientist: Faster than a speeding bullet by Duncan Graham-Rowe, From New Scientist magazine, 22 July 2000
The war machines of the developed nations have also better perfected their use of weather control over past decades. Not only may they usually reliably predict the weather over a four to six week period now, but they may also change it to some degree (though there's a great deal of international argument over their rights to do so, as there's often a price paid in climate byproducts for innocents elsewhere-- and those consequential effects are often wildly unpredictable in form, schedule, severity, and location, impacting the manipulator's own nation at times in a striking 'what-goes-around-comes-around' seeming phenomenon).
|-- Emerging Military Technologies, Volume 48. No. 1 January/February 1995; apparent author Steven Aftergood|
Small amounts of weather control were actually performed with varying degrees of success as long as 90 plus years ago, but only in the past few decades has the technology appeared sufficiently practical to be regarded as a weapons system in its own right.
Military weather control experiments in Britain in 1952 may have caused a record flood which came near to wiping out the village of Lynmouth in Devon. As of mid-2001 the flood will remain the worst ever experienced in the UK. Witnesses to the event say the sky displayed strange colors like purple, yellow, and green.
-- Rain-making linked to killer flood by Andrea Graves; New Scientist; 30 August 01; newscientist.com
In 2001 US scientists were able to make a cloud disappear by absorbing its moisture. A powder of Dyn-O-Gel dropped through the cloud did the trick.
-- Storm experts make cloud vanish by Marina Murphy; New Scientist; 01 August 01; newscientist.com
Unfortunately for those who possess this new power, it is no longer as awesome to potential enemies as it might have been a half century or more earlier. The rising tide of technology has elevated forces the world over to levels where only the most severe weather extremes are much more than an inconvenience for modern forces. Of course, more primitive forces (as well as many civilian populations even in the developed nations themselves) remain nearly as vulnerable as ever to bad weather. The only trouble is, those states and civilian populations vulnerable to weather manipulation are not typically the ones challenging the super powers of the day. So today weather control is most often used to reduce the capabilities of enemy space launch and airbase facilities.
Anyway, in those few instances where it is cost-effective to exert military control over the weather in the 2060s, the effects include (assuming a target beginning with a normal baseline of climate for its location) up to a 25 degree difference up or down in local temperature over a region a hundred or more square miles in area, within only a matter of hours, blizzards with up to 14 feet of snow in a few hours, monsoons and related flooding, terrifying extended lifespan severe thunderstorms and high winds (which may or may not produce tornadoes, and on rare occasion develop into hurricanes which may escape the control of the military), severe droughts, and more. How long may such effects be sustained? It varies according to many factors, but usually one to two weeks can be sustained at substantial cost to the party paying for it.
Beyond the 2060s, weather control as a weapon becomes relegated mostly to use in riot control of civilian populations, as well as a handy way for governments to force people to evacuate a given area when ordered. Though, under special circumstances, and in combination with other systems, it'll still help resolve a few of the more intense diplomatic problems on occasion, in centuries to come (usually because it becomes so rarely used this way that some parties 'forget' it's still available, and neglect basic precautions).
In 2000 it appeared theoretically feasible (according to computer simulations) to nullify or stop tornado development with suitably targeted microwave beams. A network of solar powered weather control satellites in orbit, armed with microwave beam weapons, could possibly nip developing tornadoes in the bud, as well as perform other weather-related manipulations. Such a network would also be valuable for certain military uses.
The likely reduction in weather-related damage which such a network might affect could justify its construction by governments for reasons of military defense and/or infrastructure protection, as well as the insurance industry, to minimize future financial losses related to uncontrolled weather events.
-- Scientist Plans to Zap Tornadoes with Microwaves By Bill Rosato, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, August 9 2000
Virtually all submerged and airborne combat craft of the developed nations are either unmanned or remotely piloted. A great deal of commercial aviation these days also operates without need of human pilots in the cockpit, or with them available only for backup purposes. And private aircraft gained 100% auto pilot capacities (on the high end) as far back as 20-30 years ago-- well before mid-range autos.
|-- Emerging Military Technologies, Volume 48. No. 1 January/February 1995; apparent author Steven Aftergood|
In major military actions still involving human participants on-site there are now two major categories of warrior involved (within the armed forces of the most advanced nations): first, 'hamburger' soldiers: soldiers equipped much like the elite of the 2030s, only with some updates of equipment and tactics (sometimes including a unit enjoying its own dedicated PestX carpet or cloud). 'Hamburger' soldiers are so named because they are among the most vulnerable combat elements in the field now, due to various technological and tactical advances.
Second are the 'dream-mare' soldiers: personnel essentially wearing considerably technologically advanced versions of circa 1998 Comanche helicopter/Abrams battletanks, or other armament functionality as appropriate to the mission and environment. The label comes from the paradoxical nature of these behemoths. Many 'hamburger' soldiers would far prefer the safety, firepower, and pay of a dream-mare assignment in combat-- and also plan to 'run-like-hell' if they (as a hamburger soldier) ever encounter an enemy dream-mare in battle. Another nightmarish aspect of dream-mare gear is the wearer instantly goes from enjoying heavenly protection to enduring hellish torment, if their side in a battle loses air/space superiority in the combat zone, even for a mere matter of minutes. For at that point dream-mare soldiers often become the highest priority targets anywhere around for enemy air and space forces.
|-- "Be More Than You Can Be; the military is using molecular technology to produce super soldiers" by Tyler Schnoebelen, villagevoice.com, 7-14-98|
These 'dream-mare' soldiers (when encased in their armored battlegear) are essentially cyborgs as large as houses, capable of terrifying speeds, mobility, and destructive power. Built from state-of-the-art micromachines, semi-conducting carbon composites, and other advanced technologies, these monsters eclipse the wildest dreams and nightmares of weapons designers from previous eras.
For all their awesome power though, 'dream-mare' soldiers only dare appear on battlefields where their own forces control the skys; for airborne threats are deadlier still today than dream-mare warriors. Dream-mare warriors are also limited by their great size from participating in actions carried out in cramped quarters; i.e., 'hamburger' units are still required for the taking of many urban environments, etc.
There's fully robotic versions of dream-mares in use too-- but they're judged significantly inferior so far to manned versions, for a variety of reasons, and usually lose any struggle with a manned dream-mare suit. But this is only the case on the ground, where combat can often get much more complicated than in the air or sea. In air and sea, robot (or remotely piloted) craft rule.
However, there's a wealth of robotic weapons platforms on the modern-day battlefield, that still rack up tremendous kills of 'hamburger' soldiers, and occasionally even down a dream-mare warrior or two. And the robot platforms are gradually getting better...
For the vast majority of military personnel throughout the world, life has never been better. They are well paid, highly trained, and typically sit in air conditioned quarters far from any physical conflict, spending much of their time playing with combat simulations involving state-of-the-art high tech toys. Most never see real combat, or even participate in same from remote locations. At their worst moments, they endure hectic scenes reminiscent of the work of civilian aircraft traffic controllers from the late 20th century. Of course, there remains a tiny minority of personnel who must still face deployment in the field as 'hamburger' soldiers...but they represent maybe as little as one person out of ten or twenty in the active armed forces of developed nations today.
On a somewhat related matter: USAmerican politicians and their military industrial complex 'sugar-daddies', frustrated and alarmed by the decline in military budgets and related profits over past decades, as well as their discredit by such obvious debacles as the wasted aircraft carrier and submarine monies of past years, constantly cast about for new ideas to increase military or security budgets again, and so refill their private coffers. Many boondoggles rise from this process, only to be shot down in the light of day. The more secretive measures last longer, but often fall victim to other events. Perhaps one of the worst attempts is the proposal to dig out enormous secret high speed train tunnels deep beneath the continental USAmerica, with periodic undergound cities built at major junctions. Supposedly this immense project would provide last resort shelter for a sizable portion of USAmerican citizens (mostly the women and children, with children being highest priority, and women of child-bearing age second), as a sort of 'life-boat' against major nuclear or bioweapons attacks, or cosmic collisions, as well as a high speed transport for defense of USAmerica itself in time of war. In peacetime, the highspeed, ultra-secure transport system would be available at a premium for the use of citizens (and free to high level politicians). The project actually gets some funding for a while, but eventually is killed (a much smaller version of this project is virtually completed in secret however, for the exclusive use of certain powerful figures of the American elite; by the time the public learns of it though, it's largely irrelevant).
From all the observations above a reader might get the impression that military hardware and software and forces are taking over the world in the 2060s. This is far from the truth. Military forces have actually been shrinking substantially in most nations, in an almost unbroken trend from 2000.
|-- "Global Weapons Sales Decline - Report" By Tim Loughran, August 7, 1999, Reuters/Yahoo! News Top Stories Headlines|
There's many reasons for this: The effect of greater democratization in regions of the world previously under totalitarian/despotic rule. The growing impact of market economics (excessive or misdirected military expenditures are extraordinarily inefficient). The expanding ease and lowering costs of education and training, due to computerization and the internet. Rising living standards for the majority of the world population. Significant new support for certain types of social stability due to the leveling off of population growth worldwide. Increasing productivity and efficiency effectively pushing real costs of many old but essential commodities like food, clothing, and shelter ever downwards. An explosion in dazzling entertainment and recreation options, which dilutes animosity towards others, and keeps a growing number of people engaged in benign pastimes, if not productive ones, during their free time.
Another reason military forces have been steadily downsizing is the emphasis many geophysicals place on 'focused solutions' today; that is, the specific targeting of troublesome individuals and/or organizations to solve many problems, or at least minimize or postpone them. Large military forces do little to help in such matters, compared to highly trained small units, equipped with the best state-of-the-art tools available.
Too, much actual conflict these days is of a cyber or economic nature, rather than physical. In cyberwar, the more physical assets you possess, the more vulnerable you are to attackers, as you must spread your defense and security measures thinner to cover all your resources. This has been one factor in the major pullback of physical military assets by USAmerica from overseas, over past decades. Another drawback to large physical inventories in the late 21st century is similar to what businesses discovered way back in the 20th century: obsolete inventories are enormous drains on efficiency and capital. In the military markets, where one new tech advance can almost overnight make obsolete a whole category of armaments in the field, it's especially important not to be too heavily invested in that armament in the first place. Nations like USAmerica today are still wishing they could have foreseen the rapid replacement of super carriers by towable stealthy offshore platforms converted to war use decades earlier, and so better spent their carrier money in the late 20th/early 21st.
Predictions by Frances Cairncross, senior editor of the Economist magazine:
Cairncross predicts the declining costs of long distance telecommunications (and increasing accessibility to the internet) will allow the economic rate of growth and living standards worldwide to rise more and faster than it would otherwise. So hopefully there'll be more prosperity for everyone.
* less risk of substantial military conflicts in the future, as better communications leads to greater global democracy, and democracies don't war with one another as much as other types of nations do.
Cairncross has published a book on these subjects: "The Death of Distance".
-- "An economist ponders the impact of technology" by JENNIFER FILES, The Dallas Morning News/Mercury Center, 7-8-98
The space battlefield of the 2060s.There's also spaceborne military operations to worry about. These days an enemy tries first and most to damage you via cyberassaults, as they are the easiest, cheapest, and often most effective. However, attacks on spacecraft and satellites are also common now during conflicts, and much easier and cheaper than observers from the late 20th century might expect.
Any nation with military combat aircraft today at least as good as that fielded by USAmerica in 1999 or so (which is most everyone now), is capable of firing missiles from those craft at the edge of space to knock out low orbiting satellites and other spacecraft. Other alternatives include ground-based, sea-based, or airborne lasers and other beam weapons, suitable for blinding, burning, or scrambling satellite sensors and communications. Even simple high altitude balloons may take missiles up to the edge of space and launch them, no warplanes necessary. There's also a few parties harassing satellites with enormous ballistic projectile cannons, some with amplified range due to linear accelerator technology. These ponderous cannon shots are more effective than 20th century observers might expect, as their projectiles can possess some capacity to alter course once fired. Too, some cannon shot are designed to produce a large debris field miles in diameter, that will grind up any hapless satellite which blunders into it. Small nuclear weapons may also be detonated at high altitudes to disable satellites with EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) blasts. Civilians today are not surprised when the internet and/or entertainment conglomerates suffer more glitches than normal during brief but heated conflicts between nations somewhere on the globe, as they are aware that often the supporting satellites are important targets in the game for both parties.
Lastly of course, the true superpowers may all send manned or robotic spacecraft into Earth orbit and attack whatever facilities they please, with little advanced preparation or warning.