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November 17, 2006


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TM Lutas

Forget coopting the cadre, coopting the bots themselves is a big problem. All you need is very good code crackers and you start taking over the other side's forces. That's a very scary bit of warfare.


Wouldn't multiple technologies and platforms come into being since the cost is significantly lower than building up a traditional military force? This would mean that there would not be a monopoly of this technology and anyone with the resources and initiative would be able to build such a system. There would be countervailing forces that could keep such technology in check over the longer term, but it would present problems in the short term when such a system is initially disrupted or co-opted.


James Bowery

As in any game theoretic arena, reciprocation is your _only_ option once you allow high rates of mixing of non-kin groups. IF YOU CANNOT IDENTIFY YOUR ATTACKER YOU CANNOT ALLOW HIGH RATES OF INTERACTION BETWEEN NON-KIN GROUPS.

Ultimately this means that a planetary surface is not the right place for a multicultural technological civilization -- too much heterosity (novel localized diversity).


It's a bit too early to make predictions about the actual impact on warfare of a technology which does not exist yet. Until we can get a more accurate idea about the actual capabilities of such things, like endurance,mobility, offensive power and vulnerabilities speculating about them it is like speculating about strategic bombers when the Wright brothers were tinkering with their first plane. Nobody would have anticipated radar vectored fighters and others countermeasures back then.
For example how are these things supposed to get to the battlefield?
Can they reproduce themselves? If so can it happen anywhere or do they need a particular mixture of raw materials at hand? And so on.
I can see that there is a very strong tendency towards robotic armies.But the actual impact of nanotech is an unknwnow.
It might end up like the equivalent of chemical warfare today,which is to say a secondary element of warfare, despite the fact that it was once regarded as a big thing.


Fair warning. If I ever become a billionaire, I'm building my own robotic army from the nano-level to T-Rex size killer androids. ;o)


John, it's wrong to describe these as "nanobots." The article says the Israelis are developing UAVs that will be about the size of hornets. That's hardly nanoscale. The fact that they are supposedly going to use nanotechnology in the development process is pretty much irrelevant; just about every futuristic technology being developed is going to use nanotechnology (a broad, amorphous catchall term to describe all kinds of chemical, electrical, and other types of engineering at a nanoscale).

Obviously, these mini-UAVs will not be self-replicating. It's possible, I suppose, they could be designed in such a way that it will be inexpensive to manufacture them, but then again it could turn out to be extremely expensive (military contractors are not exactly renown for their economical manufacturing of weapons systems), and in either case manufacturing them in bulk will likely require a sophisticated and expensive factory.

So, the days "when you can replicate nanobots at a infinitesimal fraction of the cost" are probably quite a long ways off, and more to the point, this particular Israeli project is almost completely unrelated to "replicating nanobots" except perhaps as a harbinger of things to come. In the near term (the next couple of decades at least), we will not be dealing with swarms of nanobots.

What the Israeli project actually foretells is an arms race between rich and technologically sophisticated nations. There is plenty of room for competition in several dimensions -- size, speed, range, aerial maneuverability, communications & control (including programmability and AI), lethality, functionality, manufacturing processes, and so on -- long before we ever get down to the nanoscale and swarming, self-replicating sci-fi or other Crichtonesque silliness. This competition is going to be enormously expensive and garage tinkerers or poorly funded small groups are not going to be factors.

John Robb

Walter, point taken. However, almost anything that small is going to pick up the label nanobot in the public's perception. I'm not sure this will only be a government activity. I suspect we are going to see platforms and development tools develop in this area that will allow lots of individuals to hack their own bots (swarming programs are already being used in the design UAV recon systems). As far as costs, they will fall relatively rapidly depending on the bulk production of components.


"If I ever become a billionaire, I'm building my own robotic army from the nano-level to T-Rex size killer androids"

Personally I see a very strong drive towards robotic armies, made of units ranging from robotic tanks and planes down to things like insect size UAVs for reconnaissance.
Casualties aversion and others concerns are bringing us there as fast as technically possible. Whether we will see some poor hapless robotic tank being ripped apart by nanobots swarms is something I am more skeptic about.


A year or so ago, I saw a story about UAV helicopters designed in India for crop-dusting. They had about a three foot rotor span in the picture I saw.

The Indians were very enthusiastic about them and quite ready to export them around the world until they remembered the Pakistanis and decided that perhaps it would not be quite prudent to make such things freely available. I don't know where the situation stands now.

I like to imagine such UAVs and smaller as "eyes in the sky." Equip them with RAMAN spectroscopy and you can zero in on a variety of chemical compounds and thus "malefactors" with great ease.


We should also get some nice superempowered exoskeleton armor along the way.

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