Re: near-anything boxes allowed to be in the hands of the public?

Date: Sat Mar 11 2000 - 07:31:57 MST

In a message dated 3/9/00 6:45:22 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> While the destructive potential of nano is arguably greater than that
> of nuclear war, given the slowdown in military procurement since the
> end of the Cold War I _expect_ the nano industry to be dominated in
> its early phases by civilian technology development. My hope is that
> the polycentric world order of today means that we're entering a period
> like that between 1870 and 1914 when, apart from the battleship race (the
> ICBMs of the day -- big, expensive, and of militarily dubious utility),
> the armies of Europe made little technological progress.

This seems like a very insightful historical analogy to our own time, in many
ways. Lately I've been thinking that the period between the Franco-Prussian
War and WWI might have some lessons for the current time, in many ways. That
was also a long period of relative peace in the relations of the "Great
Powers", and was also increasingly seen by contemporaries as a kind of Golden
(or "Gilded") Age (see Twain's writings). However, it seems that the
military and geopolitical predominance of the US is greater now than that
enjoyed by the UK in that period.

> (Barbed wire, machine guns, and war gas were _all_ available off-the-shelf
> in 1871, during the Franco-Prussian war -- they became commoner over the
> next 45 years, but generals in 1914 still believed in cavalry attacks
> as fervently as they had in 1814, and real progress towards new engines
> of destruction had to wait until an actual major conflict broke out and
> the then-extant tools proved inadequate.)

Here I think things HAVE changed. The historical truism that "generals
always prepare to fight the last war" may have finally passed the time of its
merit. This may simply be a function of the naturally conservative military
command structure FINALLY coming to terms with the reality of steady
technological progress.

> If we are lucky, our military will be happy with their smart bombs,
> F-22's, and stealth bombers until around 2030 or so -- and the nano
> security problem will be a police/social one rather than one involving
> weapons of mass destruction. If we're _very_ lucky, the existing
> political order will disintegrate under the weight of its own internal
> inconsistencies before there are widespread military applications of
> nanotechnology.

I've been saying for some time that the F-22 may well be the last significant
manned warplane, and will come to dominate the skies exactly 100 years after
little Spads and Fokkers sputtered and spat at each other over the trenches
of the first World War's battlefields. Its successors are already beginning
to take shape on CAD systems:

That item presages the multi-role semi-autonomous robot warplane, conceptual
designs for which I've seen and which I've heard are being considered very
seriously in terms of their strategic and tactical significance. These will
in turn be delivery systems for smart sub-munitions and sub-sub-munitions.

One of the main characteristics of these kinds of vehicles is their
significantly lower cost than current- and next-generation manned fighter
aircraft, since they 1) don't have to carry pilot-support systems and 2) can
be built with much lower service-life expectations in terms of numbers of
hours of total system operation. They also have significantly enlarged
flight and tactical envelopes, since they don't have to be constrained by the
limit of g-forces a human can survive and can be risked in threat
environments much more dangerous than those to which a modern democracy will
expose the lives of their fliers.

The point of this digression is that the military think-tank establishment is
already developing a mind-set that could evolve into one adaptable to
"nano-war": The factors described above in connection with anticipation of a
strategic and tactical environment characterized by a tiered deployment of
increasingly autonomous and smaller and smaller munitions seems capable of
evolving into the ultimate development of "robo-warfare" at the molecular

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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