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The future of war is the distant past

Posted September 24, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Further to my review of Ghost Fleet a while back, I came across this interesting note on Motherboard.

Last year, the Naval Academy made two distinct changes in how it operates—one that’s a natural progression in cyberwarfare, the other a clear response to how thoroughly we rely on that technology.

“First, they've created a cyberwarfare center and created the first class of midshipmen who will be cybersecurity majors,” cybersecurity and military expert Peter W. Singer recently told me. “Second, they required that every midshipman learn how to do celestial navigation like they did back in the 1700s. We're preparing both for a world of cyberwarfare and, ‘oh my goodness, what if I have to go back to navigating by the stars?’”

I can imagine a situation where even a limited war in space or cyberspace ends up trashing civilisation because we've come to rely so much on this stuff. You blow up enough sateillites, for instance, and you can forget about launching any more for hundreds of years because it's just a debris field up there.

I probably should have made more of this in AoT.

29 Responses to ‘The future of war is the distant past’

Rob mumbles...

Posted September 24, 2015

The debris field is in Wall-E . The spaceship takes off and sucks its way through a myriad satellites. I liked that bit as a visual image, the reality however is really grim. High speed junk field and its the asteroid belt from Empire Strikes Back. I do like how they plan to bring the mess in space down. Lasers to move the debris and make it fall to earth and burn. Because lasers. I can just imagine the calls from the Captain when the satellites go down 'does any one here know anything about stuff? ' everyone looks at their now bricked smart phones 'No?, Ok, well we might have to go find a book on how to do stuff'. 'Do we have books on stuff?' 'the library got turned into a gaming & internet lounge, so No sir!'

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Nocturnalist mumbles...

Posted September 24, 2015
It's the premise you see come up in SF every so often - all the brilliant futuristic uber-weaponry gets so good at cancelling itself out that everyone ends up jabbing each other with sharp sticks again.

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Halwes swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 24, 2015
I've been thinking about a concept where a human's life is credited at birth with a 90 year life span. Throughout that life though you could sell life credits back to the state for an easier existence or hedonistic pursuits. This would be, on the surface, done to conserve earth's resources. For example one life credit might get you a night with Amanda Vanstone while 50 life credits might get you a night with Elle Macpherson. You get the drift. The concept would then move on to how the rich and the state corrupt this scheme at the expense of the masses. A man wakes up at 45 and realises he's sold the next 44 already etc. My question is have I read this or seen a movie of it and then adapted it as my own like all my other "original" ideas!

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted September 24, 2015
There's a Justin Timberlake movie called 'In Time' which has a vaguely similar premise. IMDB describes it thus: "In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage - a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system."
But your idea is original and different enough to be worth considering.

Rob asserts...

Posted September 24, 2015
THX1138 has a credit number counting down during the film. By the end of the movie, the main guys credits hit 25 after going on a non-drug crime spree. as he leaves the underground city, the cop warns him his credits have been used up and the cop can no longer help him (or pursue him)

pi would have you know...

Posted September 26, 2015
Halwes, an interesting idea, and I don't think I've ever read that as a concept in anything I've read before.

pi is gonna tell you...

Posted September 26, 2015
Halwes, an interesting idea, and I don't think I've ever read that as a concept in anything I've read before.

What would be cool is what particular angle of the characters you might want in order to tell the story. Anti-hero? Good people? People who wind up feeling like they've been cheated? As one of the cheaters? Or as of one that was of the cheated?

If I was capable of writing a detective novel...

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Lobes mumbles...

Posted September 24, 2015
Further to Ghost Fleet, Ive just spent a week on Oahu during which time I was reading the book. It was a great experience being able to read chapters set in places I was visiting daily. The Outrigger Moana, Ward Street and Ka'ako Park are all much larger in my mind thanks to the confluence of holiday reading and holiday. No real corrections to report other than the fact the authors dont seem to have the surf breaks dialed in as well as they do the dry land locations.

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Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted September 24, 2015
The U.S. Army, I believe, still makes privates learn the basics of land nav with a compass and a topo map. As one progresses in their career they get to do more such land nav without all of the high tech bells and whistles.
OTOH, we did ditch bayonet training. Go figure.

JG ducks in to say...

Posted September 24, 2015
Interesting idea, Halwes, if somewhat a dystopian vision. Could mix it up with notions of euthanasia, the right to live and/or die, elitism and power, human overpopulation and the strain on resources.

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Sparty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 24, 2015
1st five minutes of the new season of Doctor Who (UK) sums up the whole "the next war will be fought with nukes, the one after, with bows and arrows" scenario perfectly.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted September 24, 2015
RE: the orbital debris. Field understates it; bogeys are not inert on a 2 D Plane. they have vectors & inertia + two gravity wells + spin + interactions with micro debris too small to detect = Impossible to model past a very short time frame.

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spokey mumbles...

Posted September 24, 2015
Which bring the question of what analog books to have on hand for when we're back to sticks and stones?

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HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted September 24, 2015
I have kept my Melways.....what ya gunna do with no fkn sat nav!. ! Its a great read JB, not Clancy, but not fkn bad. I now have the Kindle e readerfor the Ipad. WENT FKN NUTS IN THE BOOK STORE THOUGH!

Guru Bob asserts...

Posted September 29, 2015
I've always found the Melways to be a pretty dry read myself...

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stevetheh ducks in to say...

Posted September 24, 2015
Old school nav-by-topo saved my broken leg in a Bluies canyon.
PLB triggered at roughly same time fellow canyoner left to do walk out and called 000 with grid ref approx 1.5 hrs later.
Guess which helped chopper find me first? He was most pleased (as was I) that position was within +/- 100m (according to chopper crew).
Handy hint - if you want to be seen quickly on a bright day, use a space blanket, the scatter shows up much better to air/eyeball search than even a signal mirror.
Good to see someone else believes in proper nav skills.

dweeze ducks in to say...

Posted September 25, 2015
Proper manual nav skills, spelling without spellcheck, arithmetic without calulators, opinions without shockjocks, talking to your (real) friends in person - I do hope that enough of us remember the basics WTSHTF.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 25, 2015
"I probably should have made more of this in AoT."

Not too late to do so.

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TexasTeaserPony swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 25, 2015
What Boylan said.

NBlob mutters...

Posted September 25, 2015
Please make royalty cheque out to: Boylan, Diablo & Associates. 3 HellMouth Business Park. Davis Ca. 95618

NBlob puts forth...

Posted September 25, 2015
& apropos of nothing, Yolo County? Yolo? As in You Only Live Once? Mind blown.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted September 25, 2015
Mere coincidence? Of course not.

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robW asserts...

Posted September 25, 2015
Using a slide rule to calculate orbitals like the astronauts did on Apollo 13: Now there's a lost skill set.

insomniac mumbles...

Posted September 25, 2015
While I think I could manage to navigate my way round on Earth with a compass if necessary, I would be toast if I was out in space with only a slide rule.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted September 25, 2015
Depending on the slide rule you have, you would be in fine shape. I bought me a really cool digital slide rule with amazing battery life - just in case civilization crumbles and we can't use computers.

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted September 25, 2015
That's right about the slide rule and space travel, because at work Astronaut Larry Hagman used sometimes get the slide ruler out on I Dream of Jeannie.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted September 26, 2015
There is a really terrific B sci fi film called Queen of Blood (starring John Saxon, so it must be good) that came out in 1966 with this initial IMDB description:

The year is 1990. An alien species makes contact with Earth through
radio transmission, notifying of an imminent visit. Alien ship crash
lands on Mars, and a rescue team is sent out from Earth.


After blast off, and off the cuff, the astronauts do all the math necessary to get to Mars using a slid rule, paper and pencil.

Such wonderful child-like optimism. Even though the alien woman ends up eating all of them during the flight back to earth. But their math was spot on.

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HAVOCK21 mutters...

Posted September 26, 2015
Volkswagen Vehicles are being fastly adopted by Military s all over the world. The VW leaves behind a think particle bloom as a result of its HIGH and UNLAWFUL level of emissions, this masks things in the bloom from IR/Thermal imagining. They are still trying to work out though, how to stop the HIGH emission levels from killing shit in the masked plume

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damian reckons...

Posted September 29, 2015
Actually I've an issue with characterising celestial navigation as a thing of the "distant past". It's like when people refer to "ancient times" and you discover they actually mean the Victorian era. Celestial navigation only emerged as useful a method to determine longitude in the late 18th century, about the time the invention of accurate clocks made it redundant. A cheap Casio watch and a stash of batteries for it would serve pretty well (though I suppose to be fair the sun shots you need to take to make use of this look like "celestial" navigation to the uninitiated). The other thing you need is a nautical almanac and ephemeris covering the time period in which they are to be useful for navigation or a computer with software that takes the place of both.
All forms of pre-GPS navigation are useful skills for seaman officers anyway and I'd be really surprised that any significant navy ever stopped teaching them. From landmark bearings in coastal navigation through to "moons of Jupiter", there is knowledge about position and the forces acting on it that you need to have to be the responsible adult in charge of a vessel larger than a houseboat on Lake Eildon.

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