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4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!

8 April 2008

Just as visionaries earn more than analysts, so do solutions of the first kind (hardware) receive more funding than solutions of the second (ideas) or the third kind (ways to attract, retain, and train people).  This is life in modern America.  This is why we continue to lose at 4GW.

The big money is in building things.  Sometimes they work, like the F-16.  Sometimes they do not, like the nuclear aircraft engine.  Sometimes they work but are too expensive to produce, like the XM2001 Crusader.  Sometimes they are too expensive to produce, but we do so anyway — like the F-22.  Now it appears that robots are the future of defense procurement, as seen in these articles.

  1. Attack Of The Genius Robot Cockroach Swarm“, DefenseTech (15 September 2006)
  2. America’s Robot Army: Are Unmanned Fighters Ready for Combat?“, Popular Mechanics (March 2008)
  3. The Pentagon’s Battle Bugs“, Nick Turse, TomDispatch (30 March 2008)
  4. “Unmanned Systems Roadmap: 2007-2032″, Office of the Secretay of Defense (10 December 2007) —  Web site; the report (12 meg PDF).  “This roadmap provides Defense-wide vision for unmanned systems and related technologies.  The Department will continue … updating it as transformational concepts emerge.  Unmanned systems wil continue to have a central role in meeting our country’s diverse security needs, especially in the Global War on Terrorism.”

Corporate profits drive decisions about investments in our future, even our continued existence and prosperity.  Research about modern history, funding wide-ranging studies of different methods to fight and win modern wars … these things cost little but still remain unfunded.

For evidence of this, search our libraries and think-tank archives for a multi-disciplinary study of insurgencies.  Nothing.  Correlating the relevant characteristics on standardized scales, calculating the relative significance of the key factors.  It would take a perhaps a dozen man-years of effort.  The results would settle several long-running debates about the nature of insurgencies.  Instead what we have today are fragmentary pictures done by individuals, each ideosyncratic and difficult to correlate or compare.

With research like this in hand, the next edition of the COIN manual, FM 3-24, could be founded on more than expert guesses.  However shocking, many studies show that experts do not guess much better than layman, even about their own speciality.  It is knowledge, based on meticuous research, that gives experts their expertise.

Solutions of the first kind:  new things (i.e., robots, autonomous flying vehicles,
software to help us understand and manipulate foreign societies).

Solutions of the second kind:  new ideas about tactics and strategy.

Solutions of the third kind:  new ways to shape our institutions
– aka politics — usually by altering how they recruit, train, and promote people.

Other posts about robots and automation

  1. 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!, 8 April 2008
  2. The coming big increase in structural unemployment,
  3. The coming Robotic Nation, 28 August 2010

Other posts about 4GW and military theory

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Post in the series “Solutions to 4GW”:

  1. A solution to 4GW — the introduction
  2. How to get the study of 4GW in gear
  3. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
  4. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
  5. Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
  6. 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
  7. 4GW: A solution of the second kind
  8. 4GW: A solution of the third kind
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. judasnoose permalink
    8 April 2008 2:05 am

    Also don’t forget the robots are revolutionizing the commercial sector as well. Not only are expensive robots the future of procurement, cheap robots might be the future of IEDs.

    Like

  2. Mikyo permalink
    8 April 2008 5:12 am

    Dr. Evil: “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?”

    Like

  3. João Carlos permalink
    8 April 2008 1:33 pm

    Some points:
    1- humans are a lot more inteligent than robots, so humans will win, and if the military try to create robots that are more inteligent than humans… well, I think the singularity will be not at our side and can be better prepare for fight the robot uprising.
    2- robots will occupy territory? If not, they will not win a 4GW.

    Like

  4. 8 April 2008 3:47 pm

    Shrinkwrapped wrote a related post a while back: “Moore’s Law & Counter-Insurgency” (6 July 2006)

    “In essence, Moore’s Law and its derivatives predict that any endeavor that is based on information processing will double in speed and halve in price in ~12-18 months. This is true in computing, increasingly true in medicine, eventually will prove to be true in bio-technology, and is already proving to be true in military affairs. As soon as any endeavor becomes primarily about processing information, Moore’s Law applies. Here is my best guess on how this can work on the battlefield; it involves Smart Birds, Smart Bats, and Smart Mosquitoes along with Smart Snakes, Smart Centipedes, and Smart Cockroaches.”

    He then lays out the scenario.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: These straight-line extrapolations into the future are often wrong. See this: “What Will Life Be Like in the Year 2008?”, Mechanix Illustrated (November 1968), in which the past 40’s year progress in transporation tech was assumed to continue for another 40 years.
    .
    * Computing evolution might already be slowing.
    * Evolution of medical tech seems to be accellerating (future generations might consider medicine as invented aprox 2000, before that were just witch doctors).
    * There is little evidence that improved tech has improved our ability to fight 4GWs. Perhaps the opposite is true.

    Like

  5. João Carlos permalink
    8 April 2008 9:09 pm

    Well, if the Moore’s Law start to apply to biothecnology, we will need fight the Singularity and the robot uprising together. They will ally against us. I guess the 21th century will be a lot funny…

    Like

  6. Steve Metz: The Future of Roboticized Warfare permalink
    26 September 2012 1:26 pm

    Strategic Horizons: The Future of Roboticized Warfare“, Steven Metz, Wordl Politics Review, 26 September 2012 — Opening:

    The new weapons that sprouted on the battlefields of World War I ultimately revolutionized warfare. At the time of their appearance, however, most of them were used in a very traditional way, making old-fashioned infantry and artillery more effective rather than ushering in new ways of fighting. Airplanes spotted targets for artillery batteries, scouted for the infantry and provided close air support. There were some attempts at strategic bombing, but due to the limited payload and range of the aircraft of the time, it had little effect. Tanks, which first appeared in 1917, operated with infantry units as moveable machine gun nests or bunkers.

    In other words, the appearance of these new weapons initially represented innovation but not revolution. It wasn’t until after the war that military theorists recognized the revolutionary potential of tanks and planes if they were used properly. By World War II, rather than helping infantry slog across the battlefield, tanks and planes had become the spearhead of fast-moving combined arms formations that could operate deep behind enemy lines, with infantry supporting them rather than the other way around.

    Cut to today: In Iraq, Afghanistan and the insurgent sanctuaries of Pakistan, the U.S. military has fielded a wide array of new technologies, with robotics being by far the most important. Today, 30 percent of U.S. military aircraft flying in those conflicts are drones. Nearly every land unit has robots of one type or the other. But as in World War I, new technologies have been used to augment existing military formations and methods. While robots are pervasive, they are not revolutionary. At least not yet. …

    Like

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