New market for near-future mil-SF stories! Erm, US Central Command?

Paul Raven @ 21-07-2010

Major General (retired) Robert Scales is a big fan of Orson Scott Card, and he’s found a receptive market for his own fictionalised visions of the future: the guy who may well end up in charge of US Central Command.

Earlier this year, Scales and Mattis were sharing ideas about the next generation of small units — something the two iconoclastic senior officers have done repeatedly over the last six years.

But rather than codify the notions into a formal policy paper or into a PowerPoint briefing, Mattis asked Scales to write him a story. “One of his favorite pieces is Ender’s Game,” Scales says, referring to the science-fiction classic. In that spirit, Scales penned “Jerry Smith’s War: 2025.”

I’m not sure he’s quite up to the prose standard we choose to publish here at Futurismic… 😉

In truth, Scales has been doing futurist work for the US military for years, and this latest effort is part of his push to upgrade small in-the-field units with networked technologies: head-up displays, multiple channels of communication between memebers of the unit as well as between the unit and the command and support infrastructure, so on and so forth.The sort of stuff we’ve been reading about in novels for decades, in other words.

In fact, I wonder just how many ideas Scales has pitched which were thought up by (proper) sf writers first? I hope he does his due diligence searches on Technovelgy so he can give credit where it’s due… after all, I bet he’s raking down much more than SFWA professional per-word rates from his buddies at the Pentagon.


Live action replays and analysis moves from the sports field to the battlefield

Paul Raven @ 04-06-2010

The Harris Corporation supplies instant replay systems to big-brand sports teams, but they may just have cracked a whole new market… one with a budget that (inexplicably) never seems to shrink. The Pentagon has decided that the ability to collect, replay and analyse battlefield video feeds will make it easier to score touchdowns instil shock and awe liberate oil people from oppressive regimes, and they’re working with Harris Corp toward that end:

The system, called Full-Motion Video Asset Management Engine (FAME) uses metadata tags to encode important details — time, date, camera location — into each video frame. In a football game, those tags would help broadcasters pick the best clip to re-air and explain a play. In a war-zone, they’d help analysts watch video in a richer, easier-to-grasp context. And additional tags could link a video clip to photographs, cellphone calls, databases or documents.

Makes a certain amount of sense, but I suspect there’ll be a point where a greater volume of incoming data will become counterproductive, and your multiscreen generals will be so caught up looking at the trees that they forget there’s a forest… which would be business as usual, I suppose, just with more cool toys for the folk behind the front line.

And hey, here’s a potential monetization stream: edit together and sanitise the daily rushes, offer ’em as live streams to warporn fans… or sell the material and outsource the marketing to someone with more experience, like ESPN. Man, this thing’s really got legs – anyone wanna form a collective to buy up Harris Corp shares?


Marine animals join “War on Terror”

Paul Raven @ 20-05-2010

It might help curb your concerns about terrorist attacks channeled through nature to learn that some of God’s creatures are fighting on the side of righteousness: the US Navy has a Marine Mammals unit that trains sea lions and dolphins to detect and apprehend terrorists trying to sabotage or disrupt coastal infrastructure [via SlashDot].

Apparently the unit has existed since the Vietnam War… how in hell did they not get their own TV show?


Military drone pilots could be prosecuted as war criminals

Paul Raven @ 29-04-2010

A while ago, we were wondering whether killing a drone or UAV pilot counted as a legitimate act of war. Still no word on that one, but there’s more bad news for the CIA drone pilots in the form of a professor of national security law who suggests that the drone pilots – and their superiors – could be prosecuted for war crimes in the countries where their attacks take place:

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

Somehow I can’t see that stopping the AfPak drone war any time soon, especially given how popular UAVs are with the US military nowadays – it’s gotta be easier to sign people up for battlefield wetwork when they can do it with no risk of being shot in return, I’m guessing. And hey, laws can always be superceded (or just plain ignored), especially if you end up winning.

Then again, they thought Nam would be a cakewalk, didn’t they?


Crop circles

Paul Raven @ 09-04-2010

Nasca-influenced crop circleBoingBoing is currently playing host to one Jaques Vallee as guestblogger, and he’s been riling up the (admittedly easily-riled) BB comment-swarm by talking with some degree of seriousness about crop circles. [image by trodas]

I’ve got a real weak spot for crop circles, because I grew up in a part of the UK countryside where they have always been prevalent, and because as a teenager I was already waist-deep in genre fiction, occultism and conspiracy theory (yeah, I’ve totally seen the fnords, man). Nowadays I consider myself to be a lot more critical and rational than I was back then… albeit tempered with an awareness of how compelling the less-than-rational explanations for odd occurrences can be. In other words, I try not to knee-jerk on weird happenings (though I don’t always succeed – I’m still human, or at least I was last time I looked).

Now, the rational explanation for crop circles is that they’re man-made hoaxes, and indeed, some of them are almost certainly exactly that. But Vallee trots out some items that lend a certain degree of credence to a rather wilder theory… namely that the tin-foil hat brigade are right, and that crop circles are evidence of some sort of energy weapon research:

(1) the phenomenon began with single circles that English and U.S. weather scientists first tried to explain as atmospheric vortices. Soon there were multiple circles in various geometric combinations, and in following years the designs became increasingly complex, leading to the idea that we were witnessing a classic, step-by-step program of technology development–not an atmospheric anomaly but not some sort of paranormal effect either.

(2) Given that SOME of the patterns were obviously man-made hoaxes, it was possible to compare the effect on the plants in genuine versus bogus patterns. Under the microscope the results were clear: if you push a board across a wheat field to flatten it, you will break the stalks between nodes because the nodes are thicker and stronger. But in the unexplained, complex patterns the nodes themselves were exploded, often keeping the fibers intact. Conclusion: something was coupling energy into the plants in the form of heat (as one of the respondents to my first post actually stated). Therefore the idea of a beam weapon is indeed one of the scenarios to consider.

(3) The crop circles are close to ancient megalithic sites, which excites the curiosity of New Age tourists from America, but they are even closer to the most highly classified military electronics labs in Britain. In fact the roads to some of the fields run between two high fences behind which defense companies are doing research, and Army helicopters routinely patrol the area.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the points above make a conclusive and compelling case, but the second item points out that, if the more complex crop circles are hoaxes, then they’re being hoaxed using a method of which we’re not yet aware, and by a group more sophisticated in its thinking and planning than the drunken agriculture students who are traditionally blamed for them.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, really, except to say that as useful a tool as Occam’s Razor may be, it falls down in situations where the evidence is insufficient, inconclusive, or both. And that sometimes finding the simplest answer to a question merely throws up more questions, often not so easily answered.

Or to put it another way: if we assume the complex-patterned crop formations that feature burst nodes in the damaged corn are all hoaxes, who are the hoaxers? What are their methods, their motivations? I’m in no way suggesting that I’m sold on the idea of crop circles being energy weapon research detritus (if that were the case, why would the military researchers have made them consistently larger and more prone to attract public attention as the years have passed?), but once you start looking at the questions arising from the simple rational answer, the simple rational answer stops looking quite so simple and rational.

It’s thought-trains like this that make me miss Mac Tonnies. I have a great admiration for people who actively court the sort of public reaction that Vallee bemoans in his BoingBoing post; even if they’re wrong, I think they’re doing something very important for our culture as a species.


« Previous PageNext Page »