6 Ways Military Technology Is About To Become Terrifying
Military technology has progressed long past the days of spending two minutes loading your musket and hoping that your enemy is four feet away. In fact, the capabilities of most modern armies are not only terrifying, but advancing in some very weird directions. Look at how ...
The Human Brain Will Be Weaponized Sooner Than You Think
Imagine a heavily armed aircraft or armored vehicle that you can operate with your brain. Can you think of even a single way that could go wrong? Of course not. You'll thus be pleased to know that we can already operate drones via mind control, and it's not such a huge jump to envision us one day being able to control combat helicopters and fighters through the power of thought. ("Captain, that F-35 is flying like it's ... depressed?") Indeed, future pilot training may very well include brain surgery as part of the curriculum.
Meanwhile, the Chinese military, presumably getting out in front of any kind of sexbot uprising, can now telepathically control robots, apparently.
Strangely enough, some experts are worried about the inherent ethical and legal ramifications of weaponizing the human brain. That link is to a 2012 report on the use of neuroscience for policing and military purposes, and it expressed concerns about turning our soldiers and civil servants into "super soldiers," with their willing brains "plugged directly into weapons systems" and turning them into "amoral, combative automatons." That actually sounds, umm, optimistic?
And then there's cognitive enhancement via electrical brain stimulation. It might sound kind of hideous and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-y at first, but this area of science (along with its associated health applications) could definitely wind up being a huge advancement for our species. Yet there remains much trepidation regarding how nations might use neuroscience in malignant ways, because of course there is. Even within the realm of science fiction, this kind of thing turns out OK approximately 0.0% of the time.
The Future Of Warfare Is Confusing Robots
The ultimate goal, of course, is to get weapon systems that don't need a human at all. Soldiering is just one more job we're trying to automate away as quickly as possible. So when the soulless metal ones come to your city, what's the best tactic to defend yourself and those you hold dear? Handheld EMP gadgets? Painting-a-fake-tunnel-on-the-side-of-a-wall-type trickery? Actually yeah, it's that second one.
Geoff Manaugh, an infrastructure theorist who was moved by a recent incident involving a self-driving Tesla manslaughtering a pedestrian, explains how the most effective countermeasure against robot aggressors may be to simply "redesign your city, even down to the interior of your own home, such that machine vision is constantly confused." Yes, literally rearranging the furniture will stop any and all hypothetical Megatrons.
It turns out that things like light-absorbent fabrics, smoke emitters, and something as basic as a preponderance of mirrors can play havoc with a machine's sensory apparatus. Sure, it's not very fair, but keep in mind that it won't be long before they're our equal at being sneaky, no-good bastards. Obviously a global ban on autonomous killdroids will be inevitable at some point, but even more obviously, there are a lot of people who couldn't care less about playing by the rules. So we may need to incorporate absurd AI-confounding remodeling into our surroundings so "a military robot wheeling its way into your home thus simply gets lost there, stuck in a labyrinth of perceptual convolution and reflection-implied rooms that don't exist."
Ha. Stupid-ass robot.
Railguns Are Now A Reality
Aside from the BFG in Doom, the fictional weapon that nerds would probably most love to see become a reality would be the laser rifles from countless sci fi flicks. And while China may be trolling us with their claims that they have a face-melting laser weapon, they are definitely not screwing around when it comes to another weapon that gamers lust after:
The answer to your question, startled Twitter person, is "a railgun." Yes, the ultimate heavy weapon from games like Quake and Metal Gear may soon come standard on Chinese ships. If you're not aware of the principle behind these epic bringers of kablooey, they use electromagnetic fields instead of gunpowder to send projectiles through the air faster than anything Han Solo could ever hope to dodge. Basically, if your opponent has one and you don't, you might as well forget about going to battle stations and just start applying the shark repellent.
Obviously the U.S. has a more impressive version though, right? Ha ha, nope! Due to "shifting budget priorities," we're behind the curve on this one. But wait, according to the admiral in charge of spending money on booms, we're still in the naval railgun fight:
" fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it. We've demonstrated it at lower firing rates and ... shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range."
First of all, we can only hope that he said "crank it up" in a "Macho Man" Randy Savage voice, because otherwise it just sounds weird. Secondly, this kind of progress means that the Army wants to get in on the action too. That's how all of this works -- once somebody has a new toy, everybody wants it.
We Have Bullets That Can Steer Their Way Into Your Face
Another fictional weapon that fans of Call Of Duty and mediocre Angelina Jolie movies alike would love to see become reality has to be the bullet that you can redirect mid-flight. So I guess this article is good news for some people, because this is actually something we've had for awhile.
And what does such a thing look like in action, you ask? Basically, it confuses your brain over whether you should be saying "whoa" or "getthefugouttahere."
The fun-loving psychopaths at DARPA have been fine-tuning the EXACTO program for years now, with their "smart bullets" making it "possible to counter environmental effects such as crosswinds and air density, and prosecute both stationary and moving targets while enhancing shooter covertness." That's military speak for "Even an unorganized, grabasstic piece of amphibian shit like you can knock the balls off a mosquito three counties over."
Of course the Navy, never happy with letting the ground-pounders have a fancier car in their garage, is developing their own smart ammo that should be operational this year. To protect themselves from multiple incoming threats happening at once, the MAD-FIRES system is designed to be a "medium-caliber guided projectile that would combine the guidance, precision, and accuracy of missiles with the speed, rapid-fire capability, and large ammunition capacity of medium-caliber bullets." Is it weird that their phrasing sounds like they're selling a car? "It's the comfort of a sedan, with the versatility of an SUV. It will splatter all who oppose you."
The Space Wars Are Kind Of Already Here
It is indeed an exhilarating time to be alive, as the White House has recently announced a brand spanking new branch of the military: the Space Force. Scoff all you want, but the U.S. Air Force's X-37B was launched in 2011, and the classified payloads it's been hauling up into orbit are surely for benign purposes and couldn't possibly have anything to do with its future possibilities as a weapons platform. Also, the X-37B is unmanned, which means that we're about two years away from a movie in which Will Smith fights an evil one.
But you can't have something called a SPACE FORCE without the commitment to exploding the bejeezus out of any satellite that looks at us funny. And there's already a veritable cornucopia of ways to accomplish that goal. They range from the sort of missile technology that China and Russia have been testing (and hope to have operational in the near future) to the ground-based weapons project called THEL (Tactical High Energy Lasers) that the U.S. and Israel are jointly working on.
The THEL system doesn't zap satellites out of the sky like an especially pissed-off fireworks show. It's a deuterium-fluoride-based chemical laser that can temporarily blind them (in addition to zapping rockets/mortars/artillery out of the air). Not to sound like a broken record, but Russia and China also blah blah blah.
Most exciting of all, before you know it, just about everyone will likely be slapping laser arrays on the noses of their airplanes. Then we can all laugh at those who scoffed at the thought of death rays from the sky as we frantically wrap ourselves in tinfoil and scurry into our underground shelters for the duration.
But perhaps the most frightening prospect in the arena of satellite warfare comes not from cutting-edge technology, but rather the opposite. For decades now, experts have been fretting about the "Kessler Effect," which posits that all the accumulating space flotsam that's floating around in low orbit is going to become a huge problem. And said space junk could quickly reach critical mass should a plain old crappy ballistic missile filled with ball bearings (which could be fired by any low-tech state like, say, North Korea) cause a calamitous chain reaction and recreate the most exciting scenes from Gravity.
And if you think there's nothing to fear from a flying BB, remember that all it took was a tiny particle the size of a paint chip to put a sizable dent in the International Space Station a couple years ago, scaring the Tang out of everyone onboard.
Soldiers Are Looking A Lot Like The Ones From A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Sun Tzu once said that half of the battle is looking way more wicked sweet than your opponent, and many modern armies are taking this to heart.
Taiwan rolled out the above getup for their special forces in 2013, presumably as part of a UN mission to provide security from machete attacks at Camp Crystal Lake. There is some function to the intimidating ensemble, as those masks aren't designed for hockey pucks, but instead for deflecting any projectile up to a .357 Magnum round.
The Sith-friendly combat armor that Russia plans to have battle-ready in just a few years is much more high-tech:
With bells and whistles like a powered exoskeleton, ballistic protection, and a heads-up display, the design seems ideal for any galactic weapons contractor looking to clinch a fat First Order account.
As for the United States, the look is significantly more heroic, with the sleek components of the Pentagon's new TALOS armor suitable for any brain-bug-busting member of the Terran Federation.
This climate-controlled, bullet-deflecting "Iron Man suit" is intended for point-of-the-spear SOCOM operators (and eventually the infantry in general), with a direct video feed to an Eyepro in the helmet.
And considering it cost $80 million over the first four years of development, let's hope it at least also includes a Hulu subscription for the visor.
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