Re: more national missile defense showstoppers

From: Spike Jones (
Date: Sat Jul 01 2000 - 18:50:23 MDT

> >Spike Jones wrote: If you wish, I will share from an
> > insiders view, what is the biggest obstacle to a successful missile shield.
> > Any guesses?
> S.J. Van Sickle wrote: ... a "salvage fuse". Give the warhead the ability to
> detect that it is about to be intercepted (short range radar an/or IR
> detector) and have it detonate just before...My guess...steve

A technique that falls under the category of "how to defeat
penetration aids." Please allow me to punt that one for now
and share what looks to me like a much more forbidding problem.

The skills required to build the NMD are the same skills required
to design commercial systems which are worth more. In Sunnyvale
the local companies can offer young engineers a lot more money to
start, higher raises, plus stock options and a BMW, things that
defense companies cannot do and will not be able to do any time
in the foreseeable.

Defense systems evolve. If a system is put in place and does not
constantly change and improve, it will eventually be defeated, as
ignominiously as was the Great Wall of China and the Maginot Line.
In order for a national missile defense system not follow the same
fate, it must continue to evolve, even after it is deployed.

We dont have enough people. That situation is getting worse as
time goes on, for several reasons, such as:

1) We are imagining more and more applications for advanced
control systems. For instance, we want robots that can go out
and wash our cars, mow the yard, change the baby's diapers, etc.
In those examples, the actuation systems are easy, the control
systems are difficult. But possible.

2) The payoff for advanced control systems is getting ever greater.
We sited earlier the difficult situation of janitors in the Silicon Valley,
as rents go up 20% a year while their salary goes up 5%. They
already cram 8 to 10 of them in a 2 bedroom apartment. What to
do? Some lefty politicians have suggested rent controls for those
in the service professions, but that will be only a temporary band-aid.
What we really need to do is invent robots that clean offices at night.
Again actuation easy, control difficult.

3) No one has yet figured out what to do with the children while
both parents are at their jobs. We need robo-nannies in the worst
way, preferrably ones that can drive. As soon as such things are
available, soccer moms will be instantly replaced by soccer robots.

4) Robots as servants and companions for the elderly, again
preferrably with drivers licenses.

5) Robots as sexual companions for nerds and the kinky.

6) Robots to clean and maintain everything, including themselves
[especially if they are used as in application 5 above.]

If a young PhD has the skills to guide an orbitting robot capable
of identifying a threat and focusing a laser on it, then she can
also tackle any of the above example problems, and make
a lot more money doing it [especially if she can do a convincing
job with application 5 above]. This I see as the biggest difficulty
in making and keeping a National Missile Defense. On the
other hand, those capable of building threats may also realize
they could do muuuuch better building plowshares than swords.

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