Military and Technology

Let’s look at this a different way. I’d argue that militaries don’t adopt new technologies. The tech is simply out there, but whole nations must adapt to fulfill the desires of a particular military strategy, not simply the military.

Here is the M1-Abrams. It was designed in the 1980’s. It has few secrets left, but other nations around the world still fail to produce a better tank. Why?

Because technology isn’t simply “unlocked” or “adapted”. It must be built. For that, a nation… not the nation’s military… must be capable of creating the thing. Not only this, they must also be able to balance building enough of them for a meaningful strategy, with not spending so much that the nation goes bankrupt. So for the Abrams, that means that each of its 10,000 parts (baseless guestimate) must be built in various factories. They must then be assembled together in other factories. They must then be brought together somewhere else, and they must then be shipped to wherever they need to go. Furthermore, ammunition needs to be produced, fuel refined, and replacement parts fielded. There are very few nations on Earth who could meet this demand.

Let’s look at that another way. Why does Australia not produce cars? They are well educated, wealthy, capitalist, and with many trade partners. So why not build cars?

For a nation to be profitable in the automotive industry, it must produce and sell in excess of 200,000 cars a year. The process to build a car from raw ore to a revved-up engine is so extensive that it is virtually impossible to achieve economies necessary for national profit until about the 200,000 mark. Long ago, Australia could do, even though the industry was heavily subsidized by the government. But as cars became more complex, more technical, and requiring more specialties to produce the new parts and equipment, Australia couldn’t keep up. Simply put, Australia doesn’t have enough people to sell that many cars. More than that, they don’t have enough people to build that many cars. Just as important, they don’t have a logistical trade network to connect all the people who can make that happen, nor do they have resources cheap enough to make it economical. A better way to think about it is that Australia may have enough for all these, but to do so, they would have to stop doing other profitable activities, which would hurt them in the long run. The massive investment the government would have to make to retooling their economy is such that no matter how much was spent, no matter how much technology they incorporated, Australia would never be able to profit from such as venture. So they don’t make cars. There is a reason that only a few nations in the world even try.

Keeping economics in mind, 99% of nations in the world would never in their wildest hopes be able to build an Abrams tank, even if they had the plans sitting on their president’s desk.

Nevermind this guy:

Or these puppies:

And don’t even get me started on these:

In fact, there is only one nation in the world that has the education base, technical proficiency, scientific support, economic capital, logistical networking, and manufacturing infrastructure to build all of the examples above…

The one that has them.

While there are some Top Secret classified technologies in the world, most of them could be copied in a lab almost anywhere in the world. Even a small nation could invest a great deal into solving most problems of producing one revolutionary new technology… on paper. Larger nations would have little problem figuring out how anything anyone else is doing could be done. But simply discovering it in a lab doesn’t mean much. Can you use it?

In that way, Generals don’t adapt to new technologies. They know everything that is available, to anyone. With that, they are inspired with a wishlist of everything they would need for a strategy they have in mind for the particular goals of their particular country. They must understand their nation, it’s people, it’s culture, the resources, and if its nation can fulfill that wishlist. Invariably, it won’t be able to, so a new strategy must be made with a new wishlist. At some point, someone will say that we simply can’t do more, and nations must scale back somewhere.

This isn’t a failure to adapt. It’s a failure of the nation’s economy to be capable of fulfilling the wishes of its planners.

Simply put, Russia could produce a design for a wondrous Aircraft Carrier, but they don’t have the nation to make it anything more than a model in a box.
Russia’s New Supercarrier Is A Total Pipe Dream

Is this a failure to adapt?

No, it’s just the geopolitical realities facing nations. They all know what they want and they know what it takes to get it, and more importantly if what they want is possible. When all that information is compiled they have nice reports from well-educated analysts that say something to the effect of:

“We will not win with war. Play nice for a few decades until we figure out a cheaper solution.”

So the short answer: When a country can’t adapt its production capabilities to the needs of its military, it must reinvest into new infrastructure, maybe even changing its culture to produce new technologies in a quantity that is reasonable for its goals. While that is happening, it must be diplomatic. If it can’t do either of these sufficiently, it must change its goals, or else it won’t be around for very much longer.


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Is Religion Anti-Science?

The two convey knowledge in completely different ways. To begin, “myth” doesn’t mean “lie.” It simply means that knowledge is conveyed indirectly through narrative, and that’s exactly why the stories of religion have lasted so long and impacted so many people.

Let’s think about this: Can doing enough science teach you the importance of saving?

Go ahead, think about it. I’m sure someone really clever might come up with a good anecdote, but really there is little in science that would teach us the importance of self-sacrifice of goods we could use right now, on the hope that we will have some reward later on. Science would never have come up with the question.

Religion did, though.

Let’s look at the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Atheists love this Biblical tale because it captures all the barbarity of belief, that a distant, maniacal, and very vain God commands Abraham to sacrifice the beloved son God gifted him, just to show God how much Abraham loved him. If that’s what the story was, it would be barbaric, but there isn’t much chance that it would have lasted long.

Let’s also ask this, if that was the lesson, why is there no tradition of human sacrifice in Abrahamic culture? It was rather quite common throughout the world at the time, but not with the Hebrew or those that came after, even with this story where God asks specifically for it. Why is that not a thing?

A better answer is looking at the meaning of all these elements and what it says about the culture that gave us the story.

I really want you, the reader with an open mind and a willingness to see the world differently, to take yourself back to a time before our modern civilization, before civilization at all, and think about what it was like for our cavemen ancestors. In fact, even earlier than that. Think back to a time where our species lived on the margins in the strictest of means. Every day they could die from nothing more than starvation. Now, you ask how could our more ape than man ancestor be convinced to hunt some food and not eat it right then and there, when their entire life, the universe told them very clearly to take whatever you could right now or you will surely die. You couldn’t, but that is what we did some 20,000 years ago when we started taking these ideas necessary for the evolution of man and putting them in a narrative.

We looked around and said, “You know, if I eat this now, I will live well, but if I save it, then I can live longer with less risk.” How profound is that? How monumental was it that the first person who said this somehow transcended some plane of existence that apes before him never could. They didn’t even have words for such ideas, but still managed to become more than simple beasts with a few thoughts we today would think trivial, but to them, may have been the equivalent of single-handedly inventing the Saturn V rocket, which took man to the moon (which we’ve lost the technology to build today.)

That’s important – that knowledge is gained, but also lost, as well. We aren’t all descendants of that first guy who thought of saving his fruit or the first people who thought to share resources. I’d say that even if he did have that great idea, there was still a 99% chance a lion got him, or maybe some disease. It was probably tens of thousands of people who had the idea before one survived long enough to teach others who would survive long enough to have an actual behavioral advantage from the epiphany. Just as such, the first guy who thought to share probably got clubbed to death by some jerk who stole the rest of his food. That probably happened to thousands more who had the notion. Probably, many thousands more who did learn to get along were slowed down by the effort, as are all who are first learning to be friends, to say nothing of those who invented the concept. One of them died or was a drag on the relationship, and the better off of the two bailed. How many eons passed before a stable tribe could form based on the concept of sharing?

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m telling you a story, and that’s what turned everything around for these people.

When people started telling how to survive, how to treat people, and how to view the world in the form of a story, we became something profoundly different than what we were. For two million years we wandered aimlessly, always on the brink of extinction, but then, 20,000 years ago everything started moving much faster. Our transfer of knowledge accelerated exponentially. People need to think about the fact that 6,000 years ago, there were no words. No one had any form of written language, but today we have our footsteps on the moon and people seriously believe we can have a colony on Mars within my lifetime. How amazing have the last 20,000 years been?

Now, we need to realize something. Religion did this. We saw our world and experienced what lessons it had to teach us. Then we crafted those lessons into narratives that gave us the guide by which to live our lives. The stories that impact people on deep, deep levels is what religion is and why we aren’t still living in caves.

Think back to Isaac and Abraham. Why isn’t there a human sacrifice cult in Hebrew tradition? Because that isn’t the moral of the story. It is the story about the willingness to sacrifice what you have to the unknown if you want better, and that that sacrifice has to be one of great meaning, to give up your food or your wealth, or your land to a risky future that you don’t know for sure will ever reward you back. This idea is the premise of everything from farming, where people could take seeds they could grind or eat and plant food, and even more so when they gave up their best crops for the seeds they bore, evolving the food we eat today. Just as much, this idea of sacrifice is the premise of modern-day saving, investing, and finance. Imagine the culture that could encapsulate that idea in metaphor, to pass on in a moving enough way to their descendants thousands of years later. Our students in school can barely sit through a Sciclassroom room they are paid to go to. Ask them if they remember any of it 10 years later. Good luck, but here we are 6,000 years later still wired for doing the wise thing of saving what we can, investing it in the unknown in a hope of future returns, talking about a culture that… for some reason… is still impacting our lives today.

Think about the original stories, the first stories of religion even beyond the Judeo/Christian tradition. Go back as far as we have records, to the time of the Ancient Sumerians, where the hero god-king slays a mighty dragon which was born from the sea to create the land and all the people. You think there is no significance to those metaphors?

The God-King, Marduk, born of gods, possessed many eyes and spoke magic words. He was born a powerful man from a powerful family, literally gods, and from this, we see that we obviously knew that children are greatly influenced by their families and that if you are a bad parent, your children and your line will also fail. He also had many eyes, which has long been narratively synonymous with wisdom, that someone with great vision is one who can see far off into the future, meaning that Marduk didn’t simply have many eyes, but that he was wise and knew many things. He also didn’t speak magical incantations but could say things that moved people in ways that others couldn’t. Sound familiar?

Or the dragon born from the sea. Do you think there is any reason why so many myths from the world feature the great evil as resembling a snake? Don’t you think that there is something deep-seated in our mind about the innate evil of serpents that is captured in these metaphors? Go back 80 million years and ask our rodent ancestors what they thought of snakes and you’ll find a very ancient and very primitive part of our brain that still fears them long after we became the master of slithering things. Now make it huge, give it wings, and make it spit fire. The dragon is pure and unadulterated fear, hardwired into our minds.

But even more amazing is what neuroscientists discovered later, that the part of your brain that is triggered by fear of snakes is the same part which is wired to ignore things we know we need to do, things that begin as something simple, but then grow into these overwhelming beasts that devour our lives. So every story you’ve ever heard about dragons since the beginning wasn’t some imaginative tale, but a deep, almost innately, understood strictly human narrative urging us to acknowledge our deepest fears and conquer them.

But why the sea? Long ago in narrative the sea symbolized chaos, not the type of chaos of high stress, but the unknown from whence everything came. It was a place of great creation, but also fear, because no one could know how far it went or how deep it went down. It was to them endless and unknowable, which made it terrifying. It was at the same time a source of endless potential and endless calamity and destruction.

So what does the hero do? He slays the dragon from the sea, creates from the corpse of the dragon that which makes all of our lives possible — the land. He creates order.

So the first story wasn’t just about a cool quest or even a creation myth to explain a universe in possibly the weirdest way imaginable. Let’s look at these metaphors, so complex that people of the age couldn’t have possibly understood why they felt the way they did, but they knew how they felt, and knew what needed to be taught, and through the power of narrative, told a story. It was a creation story, but quite honestly, no one then cared about that. They wanted to teach something far more important to the lives they lived then.

The story of Marduk was a story to teach men how to behave.

The story of Marduk is not a creation myth, but one of a wise and charismatic leader who confronts his fears, and defeats the chaos in the world around him and creates order for himself and for others. This is the quintessential text of how to be a man. So important, that the Sumerians kings had to always compare themselves to Marduk and ask if they were good. It’s also no surprise that once myths like these became widespread, the Sumerians rose up to become one of the first civilizations spanning multiple cities and lasting for centuries.

There is a reason that myths work as well as they do. They are stories built on many layers of understanding from the conscience to the subconscious, to the instinctual to teach lessons in ways that make them necessary for new people to survive. Science can’t do that. It can titillate our senses with the grandeur of new insights, but science doesn’t affect us in the way these old stories do. It doesn’t convey meaning to the world, give us direction as people, or in any way tell us who we are, what we were, who we are going to be.

And no, no it doesn’t. The moment you try to make science do these things, you’re personifying that which isn’t human. You’re giving character to data. You’re building layers of meaning above raw facts. To make people care about Science, you have to do it by telling stories, and conveying knowledge through narrative. You don’t believe me? Consider the apocalyptic overtones attributed to climate change, the gravitas and mystery of the black hole, or the vast and unknowable scope of the universe, both immense and small. Take Carl Sagan, one of the most famous scientists of not so long ago. He wowed the world with explorations of the universe and then terrified us with omens of “nuclear winter”, where dust and fallout from nuclear war would blot out the sun and lead us to a new extinction event. It’s odd this was so compelling, no? This image of nuclear winter combines the burning of the world by the fire of Biblical Revelation and also the freezing of the planet not unlike the religion of the Norse. Powerful themes, so powerful we still believe in this idea of nuclear winter even though it was proven that all the bombs in the world couldn’t cause the types of years of devastation Sagan predicted. Even in the 80’s, we knew that in the worst case scenario we could have a Nuclear Autumn, of the world a few degrees cooler for a few years. Still, the idea of Nuclear Winter remains to bring fear to children, to teach them how to live, and to guide our leaders.

While real scientists do their work well, the ambassadors of Science are little more than great clerics of a mythology that doesn’t look backward, but forward.

This isn’t a complete dismissal of Science. Good scientists even agree with the sentiment. Just ask them how hard it is to get published, especially when scientific journals only really want to publish findings that are “groundbreaking”, “revolutionary”, or “highly controversial”. If we are playing the work of good scientists, then most of what you do is boring and what is to be expected, however try to get a paper published that proves something no one cares about or one which has no political incentive to anyone, and the big one, one which disproves another discovery. There are whole journals which exist to doing nothing but provide a venue for scientific works which are examining the findings of other scientists, the fundamental act of Scientific research… because no one would read them. The problem of bad science becoming social norms is even worse and explored at length by one of my favorite scientific YouTube channels, Veritasium. Is Most Published Research Wrong?

And have you ever tried to request funding for a research grant? Better bring the wow factor there too.

But while we continue with our P-hacked essays self-selected for their ability to wow the readership of science journals more than their ability to inform us on the nature of our world, and when only the most terrifying or awe-inspiring of this break out to touch us in the broader culture, usually through some post-apocalyptic thriller marketing itself as a “warning of a possible future”, rather than a “warning of science-based horror fiction run amok”, I have to ask… why are people so critical of religion for being the misleading institution?

And that’s also something worth noting. Science is progress, no? Science marches on, but can science alone predict the destruction of those who wield it carelessly? Don’t forget about the creation of narratives. Science can’t do that alone. Science only records things we see. That’s it, that’s all it does. The moment you try to make a story out of it… you’ve just created a work of fiction.

But religion does this quite well, giving us lessons against our own destruction and a caution against recklessness. Or do you think it coincidence that every great civilization has a Flood myth? It isn’t just the Abrahamic religions that believe in something like an ark. It’s interesting, don’t you think, that every religion has this same story, one which is perhaps 10,000 years old. I believe even India has a myth of the entire planet covered with water, and all the good people escaping to canoes to survive the waters and rebuild the world. Let’s not forget what waters mean, the chaos and the unknown. Did these civilizations experience some great war, famine, disease? Who knows, but they knew to be afraid of losing themselves. It is a story of caution, not just as individuals, but of whole societies from the disaster of losing their way; too much progress, as it were.

At the heart of this question, is a controversy — Creationism vs Science.

It picked out one of the most extreme cases in religion to justify a belief of all religions. The above image is, therefore, somehow representative of Religion, as in religion with a capital “R”. Literally every religious person on the entire planet falls under that description. Now, normally the creationist people are matched with evangelical Christians. Well, here I am a guy who argues for evolution, the Big Bang, carbon dating, and can probably explain most of these better than your average person who just loves their science. But I am also as Southern Baptist as they come.

So why is that such an extreme minority of extreme people are allowed become representatives of a much broader culture, even billions of people? We’re willing to call that out when other people do it. Look, you can point to creationists and say they represent all of us. I can point to Stalin and say that represents the other guy. If we are claiming the moral high ground here, I win with the guy who believes man and raptors hunted side by side rather than the guy who hunted down Christians and murdered tens of millions of people.

That’s because there are many people who know nothing of the sciences they preach. They don’t care. To them, “Scientism” is just the religion they choose because on some level they simply hate religion. This is especially true of Christianity. Anything which can make it easier to belittle the other rather than acknowledge what they bring to the table is much easier than respecting the fact that they survived and evolved civilization for thousands of years, even created the Scientific Method, not in spite of their beliefs, but because of them.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself to explain the fine-tuning argument.

As science allowed us to rid ourselves of the creation myths and “God of the Gaps” explanation for why things happened, we started to see that throughout our universe, the whole universe, every part of it followed certain laws which did not change and which the universe itself required to remain so that it could exist. Some of these constants were things like C, the speed of light. The speed of light through a vacuum is always 299,792,458 m/s, never more, never less. It isn’t like throwing a baseball on a train, you can’t add the velocity of one to the other. C is always C and nothing else. But there are others.

  • N, the ratio of the strength of electromagnetism to the strength of gravity for a pair of protons, is approximately 1036.
  • Epsilon (ε), a measure of the nuclear efficiency of fusion from hydrogen to helium, is 0.007: when four nucleons fuse into helium, 0.007 (0.7%) of their mass is converted to energy. The value of ε is in part determined by the strength of the strong nuclear force.[13]
  • Omega (Ω) is the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the Universe. It is the ratio of the mass density of the Universe to the “critical density” and is approximately 1.
  • Lambda (λ) describes the ratio of the density of dark energy to the critical energy density of the universe, given certain reasonable assumptions such as positing that dark energy density is a constant. In terms of Planck units, and as a natural dimensionless value, the cosmological constant, λ, is on the order of 10−122.[15]
  • Q, the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass, is around 10−5.

None of these sound like big deals but imagine a world where the electron rested some distance farther from its proton core, where the speed of light was different, where gravity itself was more, or less powerful. It wouldn’t just be that we would float away. Our universe would cease to exist as we know it. More importantly, the Universe would never have come to be at all.

  • If N were significantly smaller, only a small and short-lived universe could exist.[12]
  • If ε were 0.006, only hydrogen could exist, and complex chemistry would be impossible. If it were above 0.008, no hydrogen would exist, as all the hydrogen would have been fused shortly after the big bang.[10]
  • If gravity were too strong compared with dark energy and the initial metric expansion, the universe would have collapsed before life could have evolved. On the other side, if gravity were too weak, no stars would have formed.[12][14]
  • Lambda (λ) is so small that it has no significant effect on cosmic structures that are smaller than a billion light-years across. If the cosmological constant were not extremely small, stars and other astronomical structures would not be able to form.[12]
  • If Q is too small, no stars can form. If it is too large, no stars can survive because the universe is too violent.

Virtually every fundamental law of the universe is one which cannot change or else life itself would not be possible, much less a life where you and I could sit around debating if it happened at all. This is the Anthropic principle or the argument for a Fine-tuned Universe. It suggests that (not a scientific theory) the level of complexity, interrelatedness, and overwhelming chance required to create a universe where the evolution of a thinking sapient entity was not a chance event, but a foregone conclusion that would definitely eventually happen, suggests something greater than the Universe itself. It suggests that some thinking, planning entity structured those laws to allow such a universe to be created. To put it another way, when Sir Issac Newton began studying astronomy, he suggested that the uniformity of the planetary system is proof that someone chose to make it that way.

This isn’t science, but it does shake up many of the notions that science disproves God, however, atheism offered its own anti-scientific notion to counter it.

This is where multiple universes come in. The concept of the multiple universes theory suggests that our Universe is nothing special, but one of many universes, an infinite number of universes actually, in which the laws so happen to work for us to live as we do. The other universes are out there, but they function under different laws and are outside of our view, as any means we have to study them would be built instruments of this universe, and could never be made which could experience anything outside of it, nor especially something of a different universe with laws fundamentally different than our own in every way.

Simply put, let’s review why we have a hard time proving God.

We have no means to observe or measure something which exists beyond our physical universe and which functions under different laws than our universe, or as Christopher Hitchens, one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism” said:

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Exactly the same argument can be levied against this idea that beyond our own is an infinite number of other universes that just so happen to not be so nice and which we can never detect nor disprove. So it isn’t that I don’t think the Multiverse is cool, especially when my favorite superheroes do it, but it isn’t in the slightest what good scientists would call Science. I mean, you can continue to believe it, but I just don’t have that kind of faith.

Here’s the bottom line, religion is not about disproving science. It isn’t about proving anything. Religious texts are not scientific texts meant to explain the universe as it is. They are moral texts created to help people lead better lives. Maybe they are divinely inspired guides by an all-knowing benefactor, or maybe they are simply the wises meditations of countless generations filtered to such a fine degree that they impact on us on deeply profound levels. Either way, science and religion are not at odds, and once the science and religion camps accept this truth, then both will lead happier and more productive lives. Furthermore, religion will no longer feel the need to be something it isn’t, while Science can finally deal with the reality that it simply doesn’t have all the answers, and maybe shed a bit of the arrogance when it starts accepting how many of the answers it does have are simply wrong.


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Google Employees Blacklisting Conservative Peers

Image result for Goolag

The context of this is an Inc article which states that Google is not specifically blacklisting conservatives as much as there are a documented number of Google employees and managers who are internally blacklisting fellow employees from working as part of teams with them.

From the article Google’s Other Ugly Secret: Some Managers Keep Blacklists

… An unknown number of Google managers maintain blacklists of fellow employees, evidently refusing to work with those people. The blacklists are based on personal experiences of others’ behavior, including views expressed on politics, social justice issues, and Google’s diversity efforts.

Inc. reviewed screenshots documenting several managers attesting to this practice, both in the past and currently, explicitly using the term “blacklist.”

It also states, to reiterate, that this isn’t condoned by Google officially.

A Google spokesperson told Inc. that the practice of keeping blacklists is not condoned by upper management, and that Google employees who discriminate against members of protected classes will be terminated. It’s not clear whether that principle applies in Damore’s case. Although political affiliation is a protected class according to California labor law, the views expressed in the manifesto and echoed by others who oppose political correctness do not seem to merit legal protection.

That should be enough information to place this in a proper frame of reference, as the question itself is a little misleading.

The question with what most of the Right usually thinks comes down to whether or not we agree that a business has a right to do whatever it wants. I would fall into that camp, however, I believe in the law that is already set forth and that companies have an obligation to follow that law. California law treats political affiliation as a protected class, therefore, being that we’re now seeing employees fired for “views that are inconsistent with the mainstream”, as the article puts it, then we are dealing with a question of if Google need to rethink its internal positions before it starts suffering some major legal problems. We also need to contend with the fact that Google itself isn’t the one acting in a partisan discriminatory manner by refusing to hire based on partisan lines, but rather, it’s employees coordinating internally to discriminate other employees by way of denying them access to projects or future promotion opportunities.

So I have to ask where the line is. The law is the law, and while most Conservatives or Libertarians might argue whether a law should exist, they agree that a law that is in the books is to be honored. This is especially true of the Conservatives as a major vein of Conservatism is respect for the law as without it, society descends into anarchy. The question comes in whether the employees have crossed the line in blacklisting people for holding Conservative views and more so than this, if Google itself is to be held as complicit with this discrimination on grounds of being unresponsive to the continued behavior of their employees to systematically limit the potential of its employees who have dissenting opinions.

As far as what do Conservatives think, obviously it sucks. There is a growing body of evidence that Silicon Valley culture has an intolerance to anything which fails to fall in-line with it’s Progressive Technocratic culture. While rarely do we see explicit intolerance stated by the companies, we do see numerous times where individual employees or even teams have the ability to exercise their intolerance over crucial elements of various products, such as manipulating Google’s pagerank, the Facebook feed, or Twitter’s trending topics. Given the overwhelming power these companies have over daily life, and the dominance of what appears to be a monocultural atmosphere with expressed amity with the rest of the country, I’m wondering if the tech bubble is going to burst when words like “anti-trust” start being raised more seriously. Companies who don’t take this form of expressed ideological intolerance seriously, such as Google with their blacklists, may see a day where they meet the fate of companies like Standard Oil.


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Uncertain Future – About the Author

Thank you for reading, seriously. You’ve probably wondered why I would bother writing a 16,000 word essay on every terrible thing that could happen in the next twenty years.

That said, I wanted to write on this subject in particular, is a matter of background. I am a Marine, honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 2008. My primary military occupational specialty was Tactical Data Network Specialist and this was the role I carried on my first tour in Iraq in 2005 along with my second in 2007.

My job centered on building and maintaining the information network with which mission critical information and communications were carried out. Our responsibility was to ensure that that data network was secure from outside threats both physical and through our network. I maintained my base’s SIPRnet that is discussed over and over in the Manning case. We knew the information was critical, mission-important and not necessary for the general public at their malls. Below, you’ll see what were effectively my area of operations during 2005. Yeah, starting to see why I care so much about internet and military security so specifically now?

Since leaving active duty, I went to college and became a writer. It is through writing that my greatest achievements have been realized. I’ve met people I never thought I would and learned lessons I never would have imagined. In that time, I’ve focused on educating others about the military. From Iraq to what it was like and what it means to be a military veteran, there was so much that needed to be understood. In doing this, I’ve learned a great deal about the conflicts of our world and the dangers we face. Since growing to understand all of this, it’s been a personal mission of mine to explain all of this to as many as will listen. That said, it’s also been among the great joys of my life to build and be a part of a community dedicated to understanding the world, its dangers, and bravely pushing through to live in the world we all want so badly. That said, there is another reason why I have been writing so hard this last week.

A few months ago, my wife peed on a stick and now my life is going to change forever.

This is my daughter Gabi and in July we look forward to introducing her to all of you. Nevermind the blue bear, trust me there was some confusion. That said, because I am about to be a dad, this could be one of my last posts like this where I get to drive my focus towards a single massive project, eating away my time for the benefit of others. A good dad has to provide a future and sharing knowledge pro bono, while an endless source of self-fulfillment, doesn’t give Alex the life I want him to have. I’ve been very lucky where I work to be able give time to my second profession. Where do I work? I’m a teaching paraprofessional in Oklahoma. I work with the kids at our school who make bad choices. In my room they mentorship and discipline, learning to write essays and pick up trash in the way only an obsessive compulsive Marine writer could make them.

That said, being a teacher, let alone a paraprofessional teacher, isn’t all that great. The benefits don’t provide much, and the pay is terrible. According to the Washington Post, Oklahoma ranks 48th this year in Teacher Pay at about $44,000 a year [84]. Yeah, and as a para… I can expect about a quarter of that. Did I mention that my wife is also a teacher? If you would like to know what it is like for our house take a look at the title of this little gem: Superintendent: Budget Cuts ‘Worst Financial Crisis To OK Schools In Decades’.

That said, the last real chance for me to keep writing projects like this is to appeal to people like you. Over the last year and a half, I have been submitting my work through the crowdsourcing website Patreon. If you follow me, you’ve probably seen my little at the bottom asking you to pledge to my campaign. My supporters have literally changed my life and allowed me to do projects I never would have imagined, all the way up to the point where I was finally able to write my own book The Next Warrior. Still, if want to give my son the life I really want, I need more. That’s why I’m going full mercenary, and writing one of my longest answers ever, just to get your attention. If you really like my submissions, I really need your help.

This is a link to my Patreon Support Page: Jon Davis is creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays. Here you can pledge any amount you like and every time I submit an article, post, or chapter to one of my books, you’ll donate that amount to the Jonathan Alexander Davis College Fund and/or Leaky Roof Trust. There is also a monthly maximum that you can elect to make, so you don’t have to worry about me writing fifty articles at a time. The only ones that make Patreon are big articles… kind of like this one.

By supporting me, you also support others. 20% of my donations go to other Patreon users as well, namely other veterans like me. So a donation to me helps others veteran artists as they grow, cope, and share their own experiences with the rest of the world. So once again here’s that link: (PS – Baby/Veteran/Poor Teacher – needs your help) Jon Davis is creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.

That said, If you’re reading this far, I’m sure you’ve already upvoted, by the way (cough). All kidding aside and with deepest sincerity, I enjoyed every minute of the research and writing that went into it, and hope each and every one of you enjoyed it too. Thank you for reading and sharing.

Semper Fidelis,

Jon Davis

Uncertain Futures – XIV – The Destabilizing Power of Technology

3D printing is going to be a universal game changer.

The above is a schematic for a weapon of the future. A gun anyone can print at home with parts printed in a 3D printer. While this is a step back in the actual technology of the gun as far as reliability, accuracy, durability, and safety for the end user, once the means to “print” a gun becomes ubiquitous, it is going to be a real democratizing force.

While I know many people are going to think about the United States when the topic of gun violence comes up, the US actually won’t be where the real story is. Here, we have a system built around the assumption that guns are readily available and have built a society around this fact that attempts to allow responsible gun use without forbidding it outright.

In other parts of the world, where guns of any sort are criminalized, they have no means to prevent the sudden appearance of massive amounts of undocumented and unregistered firearms. Where many people live under harsh government rule, and also have no rights to gun ownership, this could be a lethal combination. Consider China, where 93% of the people have no democratic representation because they do not qualify for the “high standards” of the Chinese Communist Party. At a time when 3D printing might already upset the economy there, the sudden appearance of so many weapons could plausibly result in the end of a regime. Consider also the case of the Middle East. Actually, I’m just going to let you imagine that yourselves, considering that the Arab Spring happened just because all these people had access to Twitter. Syria and Libya showed us how far some people are willing to follow that through… and those conflicts are having repercussions across the globe. Seriously consider the implications of universal access to weaponry, which if all the 3D printing evangelicals are declaring is true… is exactly what will happen.

I’m just going to be honest about this, a lot of people are going to die. The numbers are going to be so staggering that the current gun debate in the US is going to seem like a cruel joke. I don’t really know how to stop this once 3D printing technology becomes more universal, but the truth is that it is something that should be considered in any long term questions about the future of the technology. No one expected Twitter to be a force for international upheaval, but it became so. 3D printing is opening a lot of doors for amazing new things, but once weaponry via such a medium becomes commonplace, much of the world is going to change.

I will say this, as threatening as this posts appears, I am optimistic in the long run. While I think that many, many terribly undemocratic regimes are going to be challenged, some overthrown, I think that 50 years out from now, the democratic nature of a universally armed populace is going to have a massive effect towards the propagation of civil liberties among the the bottom billion. Once they are provided with the ultimate liberty, the respect of their leaders, they will be empowered like nothing we have produced for them before.

I don’t imagine a dystopian future where everyone has a gun and is murdering everyone else. There are more guns than Americans in the United States. Despite this fact and what the news reads, most of us have never experienced gun violence in spite of unknowingly passing hundreds every day with concealed carry licenses. I don’t imagine a utopia either. There will be gun violence. If mental health is not considered an important factor in gun ownership debate for the rest of the world as it currently isn’t in the United States, they will face the same staggering gun suicide rates that we do, and they will experience the same shooting sprees that dot our headlines periodically. Either way, the United States needs to lead the world in how we solve gun rights issues because soon, every single person in the world could be armed with a gun they made in their garage.


On the Future of Ammunition and the 3D printed Gun

Numerous people have made comments about a perceived failure of what I am trying to explain. The most logical of these arguments centers around the problem of ammunition, so I’ll give it special attention as I try to address some of the others.

I’ll give credit to those who thought far enough ahead to realize that ammunition is going to be a major choke point in the arming of any population, be it national militaries, or a collection of free individuals. The way we think about ammunition today would not work for a system where 3D printed guns are made illegal. Even the one pictured at the beginning of this post would not be able to work without some form of continual ammunition source. However, what many need to understand about ammunition is that it isn’t as rare as most of us think… or even, in the case of 3D printed weapons, as necessary.

I want it to be clear, we aren’t talking about making every piece of a weapon, from the barrel, trigger, and down to the ammo, from a 3D printer just for the sake of saying we did with some novel technology. That scenario is so specific that it also is impractical. The revolution in the dynamics of humanity’s relationship between itself and the gun will change because the hardest parts of weapon acquisition will be made easier through the use of these new machines and processes. We are talking about overcoming barriers and getting around the traditional, well established means by which most defense and security assumptions are made. To help illuminate this, the general populous and well established industries, and nations don’t specialize in this sort of grand thinking. This is the specialty of terrorists, insurgents, and anyone who views their survival tied to the use of unconventional warfare as a means of overcoming the grand and deeply entrenched mechanisms in place by the stabilized and powerful forces they compete with. For these people, the need to create a weapon system, from beginning to end through some novel form, isn’t necessary. What is necessary, to them, is a means to overcome an the few obstacles which exist that narrows their wider ability to compete, in this case, the banning of factory line weapons. After the logistical choke point can be overcome, in this case with the production of an untraceable weapon, then we will start to see the hidden potential of these clandestine/revolutionary/terrorist/black market actors have had available all along, but thus far ignored because they didn’t have the key resources available to act on them. One these key resources after the creation of a gun supply will be ammunition, but this can be produced via other processes, all of which are already well documented, and well known, if you only know where to look.

1) Ammunition isn’t as rare as you think.

My father-in-law was an avid shooter. Like me, he didn’t come from wealthy stock, so to support our mutual love of the sport, he introduced me to the fact that it was easy to make bullets at home. I was, at the time, under the belief that the only place to get ammo was a store, so finding out that it was possible to make it at home was a revolutionary concept for me. Not only for me, but for what that means in the way of insurgency warfare, a topic I’ve written about often given my history as a Marine deployed the Iraq War.

Guides to making bullet cartridges are available throughout the internet. While you may not be able to 3D print these, there really isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel when the means to just build it are so readily available across the internet. – How To Make Your Own Bullets Today. Usually, the only logistical choke point involved here is the creation of the metal cartridges used to store the primers and propellant. Having said that, there is an abundance of knowledge on even the homemade creation of these with none too rare supplies available to the average machinist.

I’ve even seen another video that clearly demonstrates how to create a complete working bullet, at least functionally speaking, out of everyday household items that would be economically impossible for any government to outlaw.

Granted, anyone who watched carefully will note that the weapon produced was not lethal to the extent that a modern military grade rifle is, but I’m using it as a proof of concept in the point that ammunition is not the rare commodity that many people seem to be basing their long term national security on. It is also important to know that when people are creating ammunition stores in their own homes, quality controls won’t produce the kind of reliability that one could expect from respected ammunition manufactures, such as those used by the military or major distributors of guns and ammunition. That said, these kinds of “cook houses” aren’t uncommon in any black market/insurgent enterprise. A simple house in the middle of the desert could be converted into an ammunition factory  with five guys pushing out a thousand rounds a day. I’ll use the example of Palestinian terrorists. It would be not unlike how the Qassam rocket is produced to aid Palestinian terrorists.

In the Hamas/Israel example, one of the most used rocket designs, the Qassam, can be built for as little as $800 American. Considering what that can do with it’s 9 pound warhead over a 17 mile range, that’s a pretty good deal.

Do cheap, readily available civilian drones potentially pose a new and unique threat in terms of terrorism?

These individuals have created entire missile factories inside their homes for the purposes of shelling Israeli cities. Similar sites also existed in Iraq, as well. They are able to use mostly scrap, publically available legal chemical products, and some rough designs to allow good engineers to train moderate to mediocre engineers in the art of building these projectiles. In this way, a modern missile has been in the hands of terrorists for many years in various parts of the Middle East.

That is, if you even need to produce the ammunition. Kyle Murao earned a research award for his summary of a report put out on where groups like Syria get most of their ammunition. The results were shocking by some accounts.

…here’s the short answer to the question [of where does the Islamic State get its Ammunition]: Everywhere. China. The USSR/Russia. The US. Eastern Europe. North Korea. The Sudan. Iran. All told, of 1,730 identifiable new and expended small-arms cartridges, CAR identified the markings of manufacturers in 21 different countries all over the world.

Source: Conflict Armament Research. “Analysis of small-calibre ammunition recovered from Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria”

What the report showed was there was still a healthy black market for ammunition, readily flowing across the world from any location to virtually any other location on the map. Given that premise, I don’t really see why we need to ask the question of where an insurgency force would need to look to get ammunition. As Murao put it well… everywhere.

Where is ISIL getting their ammunition?

2) Is that even a gun?

The thing that I think many people are having problems with is the lack of understanding about what 3D printing is going to mean. Some comments have said that the weapons are limited by the limitations of plastic guns, being mainly, that they aren’t durable and their fire isn’t reliable over time. This is true, but the statement comes with a belief that the printers will only work with plastic, or that they will only be basic copies of designs made today. Both of these assumptions have already been proven false.

Firstly, the limitations of material use are nowhere near being fully explored, while the current generation is mostly creating products through plastics, metals have also been used, and even biological and organic materials. That is to say, even organs made of living cells have been made through printing.

The point of explaining this is to say the 3D printed materials are going to have ridiculous properties that defy many of our common understandings of how things can be made. Most people say that with optimism, but as this post should show, that too can be a very frightening concept. To make my point even more clear, the world’s first metal 3D printed gun has already been made. The world’s first 3D printed metal gun is a beautiful .45 caliber M1911 pistol | ExtremeTech

Now, consider modern forging of weapons. The entire weapon’s metal components are cast from a single alloy and set. What, however, would be the properties of a barrel made millimeter by millimeter, from the inside to the outside? Could one not create a weapon of many varying alloys, layered to combine the properties of several metals throughout the length of the weapon in a way that traditional metal casting never could? What if a coil of copper could be set in during the curing process, producing a magnetic current as the bullet passed through the barrel, either slowing down or speeding it up before escaping the weapon? Consider pockets of a different material homogeneously interwoven throughout the weapon that had the property of absorbing the vibration of the weapon. This would have the effect of both reducing the need for a large buffer spring and completely eliminating the need for a silencer without slowing down the round as silencers do. That’s a weapon design that would be a major upgrade for both snipers and assassins.  I’m not saying that any of these particular ideas would work. I’m not a physicist, so my ideas might explode the weapon and kill the user, but once we get away from the idea of the cast-metal weapon, someone will create new designs that will fundamentally alter the way we see the material that these weapons are made of.

To complete my point on the strange properties that 3D will offer, I’d like to talk about another novel weapon system that just didn’t work out. Below is the Metal Storm system.

The Metal Storm is weird. That’s all that can be said about it. It is a weird gun. Here’s a description:

Metal Storm used the concept of superposed load; multiple projectiles loaded nose to tail in a single gun barrel with propellant packed between them. The Roman candle, a traditional firework design, employs the same basic concept, however, thepropellant continues to burn in the Roman candle’s barrel, igniting the charge behind the subsequent projectile. The process is repeated by each charge in turn, ensuring that all projectiles in the barrel are discharged sequentially from the single ignition. Various methods of separately firing each propellant package behind stacked projectiles have been proposed which would allow a “single shot” capability more suitable to firearms.[3]

What is unique about the Metal Storm is that it has no ammo magazine. Even more weird is that it has almost none of the parts we traditionally associate with a gun. The magazine and the barrel are basically the same thing. It also fires using magnetically charged rounds. Because they cut out almost everything that we believe makes a gun a gun, they were able to do something remarkable. While the average infantrymen armed with an M-4 could maybe pull off 100 rounds a minute accurately, and the most advanced machine gun in the US arsenal is capable of 6,000 rounds a minute… the Metal Storm system is capable of firing at a speed of over 1 million rounds a minute. That’s ludicrous.

Now, I want to be clear, the Metal Storm isn’t 3D printed, and the company behind it had flaws, along with the practicality behind the idea of who really needs to fire 1 million rounds a minute to the point that the company had to shut down. The Metal Storm as a case study, however, shows us one remarkable thing. Guns aren’t what we think they are. By eliminating everything but the bullet and the barrel, Metal Storm created a remarkably lethal weapon system that made people ask, “Is that even a gun?” The damage the system inflicted on practice targets made it clear that it was. 3D printers will do the same, or to be more precise, the revolutionary new ways in which 3D printers will allow people to create materials, will change the way we see everything about the gun, including the ammunition it fires.

Closing

3D printers are the future of small arms. They will be something that will empower people that currently have none. Many of these people shouldn’t have it. Of course there will be people who will use these weapons for harming other people who are good. Eventually though, this just simply won’t be something we can control.

I think that many people have a problem with idea of guns becoming so universal. They fear their country may become the Wild West that they believe the United States to be. One commentator even offered the opinion that:

For every smart, good person, good citizen that gets a gun to do good, there are hundreds of crazy, unbalanced, criminal and ill intentionned [sic.] people that will get their hands on guns. Having guns being so available will only make situations more dangerous.

While I’m not making a moral judgement here, I respond that this thinking is fundamentally, and absolutely wrong. There are over 300,000,000 guns in the United States. Assuming that a gun owner owns three, that’s still one hundred million gun owners. This means that if this idea were true (hundreds of crazy, unbalanced, criminal and ill intentioned) there would be hundreds of millions if not tens of billions of people running amok on killing sprees and committing violence. This math, and this assumption, simply do not add in the real world.

In fact, the opposite is true. For every one person who does something wrong, there are thousands who use guns responsibly. This response seems to be implying, that banning guns is the only rational way to solve the problem, but this only punishes the good while the bad won’t follow the law anyway.

Having said that, I want to talk about tyrants and oppressive regimes. Another person made the comment that a modern military, such as China, could never be threatened by plastic small arms distribution among the general populace. In fact, they said it was absurd.

“If anything, technology has swung the balance of power toward the tyrants.  Consider this; What is the larger potential factor, 3D printers, or drones?”

This imbalance of power is the reason for the American 2nd Amendment. It is an attempt to create a large and reasonably well armed populace to ensure that a nation’s government respects its citizens enough to remember that the government is in service to, not in ownership of, its people. This is the reasoning for the statement of the democratizing power of the 3D printed gun. To echo others, “God did not make men equal. Sam Colt did.” To this last point, asking which is the more important, Drones, or 3D guns, I’d like to remind readers that throughout the Iraq War, the Americans were armed with the world’s greatest technology, including drones and more powerful guns than any others in the world. The Americans were repeatedly put against the ropes not by a force equal to us in either size or armament, but by unconventional means, like a well armed populace, unconventional uses for conventional weapons, and media interference. One needs to consider what kind of force held a collation of the most modern militaries in the world at bay in Iraq (remember that I was there) and ask again what people with limited means can do against superpowers. Tech does not, as it never has, guarantee victory.

This isn’t really relevant here, though, since we aren’t arguing about the strength of 3D guns versus the power of drone warfare. The question is what is the next leap in small arms technology. Drones aren’t the future of warfare, they are happening now. They are here already. The next generation of them will be amazing to witness, but we are already aware that. That’s why I said that 3D printing was the next leap forward. However, 3D printing could open the door towards new people getting access to drones, but I digress.

Now consider the statement about a drone empowering a tyrant. Consider a tyrant who bans the use of guns and sits behind a wall of automated soldiers. Their defenses are impossibly strong against any uprising that has ever happened. They have firm control over all imports and know exactly what is coming in and going out of the country. This makes their regime feel very comfortable in their seat of power, perhaps too comfortable. Security lapses and then something terrible happens.

I stumbled on this a while back and it has always helped to give me perspective on just how fragile our security can be.

Frankly, two small bullets killed over 100,000,000 million people because tensions became too great, regimes became too oppressive and a very few people had the means to act where very powerful people became careless and too comfortable. This event changed the world in ways so profound we can’t picture what it would be like without having him killed. My concern is that a world that has framed themselves around the belief that there is one and only one right answer being that all guns should be removed from all people, will not be prepared for a time when they can’t control a time where they are universal.

This is why I say the United States needs to lead the world in how we solve gun rights issues. As I have said, we are a population that already has as many guns as people, and we aren’t a small nation. We are extremely large, but also extremely diverse. Diversity spawns new ideas, but it also causes great tension. Given this dynamic and the freedoms we do still enjoy, we are the only metric with which the world will be able to gauge themselves once firearms become universal. I’m not saying that the United States is morally superior to places like Europe. They have had a history that allowed them to live without guns for a while, but the United States is the only country that sought to find a solution that involved their existence. For that reason, we will be who the world looks to in how they will deal with that future reality, as well. This is why we need to come to work to solve it here and now, as the American solution will echo throughout the 21st century.

To be honest, I’m not saying whether this future is ethically right or wrong. I’m just saying it is going to happen, and that we need to deal with its implications, or learn at least, how to cope with them.

Uncertain Future – XIII – Drones

Do cheap, readily available civilian drones potentially pose a new and unique threat in terms of terrorism?

Absolutely.

I was doing research for a book I am writing on the future of war, and I explored this topic. Since using drones to commit terrorist actions hasn’t really been a thing yet, (Criminals yes. Terrorists, not quite) I decided my best place to research would be to drive down to a local remote controlled hobby shop near where I used to live and just ask a few questions. I had to introduce myself as an old Marine and Sci-Fiction writer before asking any of my other questions, because leading off with, “I’m interested in knowing how I could make a flying bomb.” would have probably not gone over so well. What the guy said amazed and terrified me, more so, his assistant who quickly developed a new respect for his nerdy boss.

What the conversation left me with was a firm understanding that terror drones will be a part of the future of warfare that the military is, unfortunately, going to have just as many problems with as we give to the bad guys. Here are a few of the key take aways that I have developed from the conversation with my friend at the hobby shop and my own experiences in Iraq fighting a counter-insurgency war.

We are taking about VBIEDs – Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices which, during my day, meant car bombs that were either parked or driven to places where they were used. In the future, we might start seeing these things in the air. A few things need to be kept in mind though when thinking about VBIEDs or IEDs of any kind.

1) Payload

The most important element for a terrorist weapon is the devastation it can inflict. During the Iraq War, that devastation was massive. That’s because the terrorists had access for much of the war to unused artillery rounds taken from Saddam’s Iraqi Army after the fall of his regime.

I’ve seen more Humvees leveled by these things than I care to remember. They are seriously massive communicators of destruction, but also, serious limiters of capabilities if we are talking about drones.  Those things weigh around 40 to 80 lbs. Yes, it would be terrifying if one of those dropped from the sky (they are artillery shells after all), but there is no practical way for most drones available today that are terrorists (I’ll get to that in a minute) to carry something like that. Take Amazon’s plan to start droning things all over major cities. They are limited by weight because those adorable little propellers are not going to be able to carry something as massive as an IKEA bookshelf (between 40 to 80 lbs).

That means that the weapons are going to have to evolve, or at least become more potent. They aren’t going to be able to carry massive bombs capable of doling out huge earth shattering explosions. They are going to need to carry smaller explosives. That doesn’t mean they will be less deadly. No, in the future it might be possible to load up pipe bombs, smaller IEDs, loaded with shrapnel in the form of screws, bolts, nails. This weapon doesn’t level buildings or destroy armored vehicles like the above option did, but it has the ability to brutally maim people who are close enough to the blast, making them visual advocates and symbols for the depravity of the terrorists for years to come. Drones carrying these could fly it directly into a crowded restaurant, through the window of a politician’s office, or even over the stands of a crowd at a sports stadium.

2) Cost

Cost is king for weapons manufacturing, as with anything. Terrorists aren’t going to have the multimillion funds that first world nations do to produce highly sophisticated weapons like the Reaper or Global Hawk drones used by the Americans, nor will they have their $80,000 Hellfire missile. Terrorists run on shoestring budgets and they’ve done quite well at it.

Part of my conversation with the hobby shop guy dealt with cost. I had a design for a terror drone and he made me realize just how bad an idea it might be. For example, for the situation above that required a pipe bomb in a stadium, you would need at least a few thousand dollars to make such a weapon. That sounds like nothing compared to the costs of creating the F-35 Strike Fighter, but when you think about the volume that terrorists need to create the terror effect they desire, those costs are extremely prohibitive. Take the below for example. These are estimates on the number of rocket attacks which were delivered from the Hamas terrorist organization.

It can be a lot. Below is Iraq. Terrorists are featured in red.

As I said, when you deal with high volume operations, unit costs can be prohibitive. In the Hamas/Israel example, one of the most used rocket designs, the Qassam, can be built for as little as $800 American. Considering what that can do with it’s 9 pound warhead over a 17 mile range, that’s a pretty good deal.

But to produce a drone, like what we think of as drones that can carry the kinds of warheads we are talking about will be much more. Some tech analysts have stated that the Prime Air drone (Amazon) could run as much as $50,000 a piece to deliver a 5 lbs “package” to anywhere within 10 miles (in under 30 minutes though!). That is way too much for a sensible terrorist to ever consider paying, especially when you consider that if those things are near enough to the ground, they are getting shot down by everything from surface to air missiles to slingshots.

What my colleague instead suggested would be something akin to balsa wood gliders. Balsa wood is an incredibly light and cheap material used for toy planes and RC hobbyists. Taken from the hands of children and old men, though, these tools could be used to some devastating effect. They are made of cheap materials which are widely available. You can even buy them in kits. Once they reach altitude, they don’t have to use the engine for guidance and can glide silently to their terminal destination. And lastly, they are small, made of light materials, and slow moving. I am not an expert on radar, but that scary. It sort of sounds like a large bird.

I’ll provide this as a proof of concept. Note that the vast majority of the cost of this plane goes into its aesthetics and ensuring it can be recovered, both unnecessary for a suicide drone. It’s also important to know that the RC – Remote Controlled – element isn’t necessary. All flight paths can be programmed into modern systems.

3) Complexity

One of the things that has prevented more people from suffering the threat of terrorism is the complexity involved in various systems. Bombs are pretty complicated to build and not just anyone can make one. Since, historically, terrorists have had two main pools of recruiting to choose from, fanatics and the unemployed, rocket scientists have not been easy for the average terrorist leader to come by. Most of the time, a few key bomb masters, such as an Algerian chemistry student who joined against the French forces in the Algerian War, are the leaders of the munitions manufacturing process. When they are killed, they take with them large amounts of the enemy’s capability to do harm. If they don’t leave quality apprentices, then the movement may have been ended with the death of only one man. Usually, those individuals who carry on in the master’s footsteps are less capable in most regards.

Take colloquially, the example of Jesse Pinkman.

In the show Breaking Bad, a brilliant chemist, Walter White teams up with scumbag degenerate methhead Jessie Pinkman in a scheme to cook meth. In the early part of the show, it is comical to see how inept Jessie actually is at the science of cooking. Walter bestows his knowledge and by the time that the series ends, Jessie is an expert of cooking meth as good as Walter is.

There is a point to be made here, though. Even at the end of the show, Jessie isn’t as good at cooking than his teacher Walter. Even after a year of intensive training, he is only an expert of cooking Walter’s way. He will forever lack Walter’s expertise in the science of chemistry, which would allow Walter to produce many, many other kinds of recipes, most completely harmless or beneficial to humanity, if he chose. Jessie may know the way he was taught, but could never produce alternative products or where he wasn’t allowed to use quality materials and processes similar to his teacher’s. He can’t improvise like Walter could.

Wow, that was tangential example, but it serves the point that complexity in operations is an extremely limiting factor. You take the few evil geniuses out, then their apprentices are left without the ability to improvise on parts, resources, implementation, or usage because they came into the act of making bombs as a terrorist who only cares about killing and not as a lifelong scientist who then joined a terrorist operation.

Now let’s take that bomb and stick it in a drone. The first obvious problem is that you are going to need people who can build and service drones, something very few people know how to do yet. The information is out there and growing in the RC communities, but it still isn’t a respected art form in the terrorist world. So let’s say we take out a few of the engineers who know how to make the birds fly. That will be a setback for them. Let’s say instead, we take out the guy who knows how to program them on their automated missions. That’s a major setback. Let’s say we take out the guy who knows how to build the warheads. That’s a huge setback because now the other two are demoted down to nerdy RC enthusiasts. Now, let’s say that they have all these geniuses rolled up into one. How replaceable is that guy? How long before he can pass off what he knows? How hard would it be to disrupt the communication networks he possesses? How devastating would killing that one guy  be? Would his people be able to adapt?

Depending on the complexity, not often, but in some cases, yeah. In the case of the Amazon Death Drone, no. What happens if the terrorists are cut off from making the engines that powers the propellers? What happens if the application they use to pilot the drone is brought down? What if the chemical they use to either fuel the thing or build the bombs gets internationally outlawed or embargoed? As I said, will they be able to adapt, or a better question, how many compromises will these people be able to make before the weapon is no longer lethal?

The fact is, terrorists have to keep weapons system as simple as possible or they can’t replicate their processes. For a terrorist organization to work, it can’t revolve around the genius of a few masterminds. It needs to be weapons that can be produced by many people, even those with very little education. Pinkman could keep a drone program up for a while, but eventually, he wouldn’t be able to adapt to circumstances and changes in the environment in the way that Walter White would.

Sorry, I spent way too long making that point. There are, however, alternatives that are simpler than what we normally think of as drones. These methods already have abundant supplies and designs in existence for the would be terrorist to experiment with and provide the flexibility he needs to do terrible things. The hobby shop guy I talked to was really adamant about the balsa wood, enough I realized he’s thought of this before.

What do I see happening?

I hypothesize for my story that weapons like the one pictured above, (yep) may be loaded with apps created with the purpose of using GPS enabled phones to autonomously steer planes like this. Being that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, isactually funding efforts to make software programming something that is super simple for everyone, this feat might actually not be as complex as think. Thanks DARPA. Once in flight these planes, perhaps a few hundred dollars a piece up to the point, might be capable of being loaded with small pipe bombs or, more practically, napalm. Napalm is any chemical that has two qualities, it is very sticky and it will burn a long time. Napalm is also extremely cheap, made from readily available materials anywhere, and easy to use. There are even recipes all over the internet that will make you sad about humanity. Being that the plane itself becomes part of the warhead using napalm, it will literally be a weapon raining fire from the sky. En masse, that can be a weapon that is devastating, cheap, and easy to use.

Oh, and if you were keeping track, the military definition for this is a cruise missile, but thanks to the advances in modern military technology, available to just about anyone for only $500. Enjoy the future.

Uncertain Future – Part XI – High Value Protection

High Value Body Guards and Military Contractors

Executive security is the industry of protection for VIP and High Value Individuals. While this includes those who specialize in shuttling primped up primadonna starlets like Justin Beiber from show to show, unharassed by throngs of fans, there is a much deeper need for experienced, battle ready security teams.

Due to the attention grabbing nature of these massive catastrophes, many other acts of overt criminal activities have grown in practice, but go relatively unnoticed by those not engaged in foreign policy news. First among these is the threat of kidnapping. While assassination or general acts of terror surely rank high on the list, kidnapping has a special role to play in the story of international chaos that exists today and which will continue in the future.

To understand why this is, one needs to understand how criminal empires and murder crazed caliphates primarily get funding. According to documents discovered following a raid of a prominent ISIS leader [56], the organization is funded massively through the use of kidnapping with the purpose of ransom. CNN and Business Insider investigate further to show the staggering amounts of money generated by these tactics [57] and the rationale for why the act of kidnapping is really such a good idea for such criminal and terrorist organizations. [58]

The kidnapping of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa rattled the international press for this reason. This time, however, it wasn’t for the sheer barbarity that their fellow news agents were experiencing, (those attempting to report the news in the region are a favorite flavor of victim for the Islamic State, along with female humanitarian aid workers  [59]) but the magnitude of the ransom being demanded. The Islamic State demanded of the government of Japan $200 million for their safe return. Like so many others, this negotiation broke down and both were eventually beheaded in brutal fashion.

ISIS’ rationale seems similar to other terror groups: Kidnappings help raise money and, if ransoms aren’t paid, make a point, such as the groups are not to be messed with and even civilians are in danger.

$200 million is sizable demand and one which could drastically help fund the operations of the terrorist organization, which is currently already expanding its reach internationally as its borders shrink locally. While these two did not turn a profit, others did. The French have denied that they have paid ransoms [60], but according to a New York Times Report [61]they succeeded in buying back the freedom of kidnapped Frenchman from the Islamic State from ISIS. A second group working for a french nuclear firm were also freed by an al Qaeda affiliate in return for money. In perhaps the greatest coup for the terrorist state, 49 captives of Turkish origin were returned, seemingly for no reason at all to Ankara. Those following the report, myself among them, strongly suspect a major payoff for their safe and uneventful return [62]. There are other reports of three hundred Christians being charged more than $30 million for their release. One victim gave in an interview with New York Magazine that his captors forced him to call his family and a friend while he was being tortured, in hopes that his anguished screams would move them to pay the ransom money. [63] [64]

“We were blindfolded and chained, and every day they would torture us,” he said. “They would come in, one at a time, and electrocute us or beat us with anything they could find.”

“But they didn’t kill me because they wanted to ransom me. One time, they made me speak to my family on the phone as they were electrocuting me. Then, they made me call a friend, who told them he would pay.”

However, the practice of criminal kidnapping for profit is not limited to the ISIS threat. Moving to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia in one last example, one only has to recount the story of Captain Phillips.  [65]There, Somali pirates attempted to take an American vessel hostage along with its crew. This practice has become common in the narrow straits between Iran and the Horn of Africa. Massive ships with massive shipments worth billions are capable of attracting huge payouts to the pirates and the warlords who control them from the mostly European companies who control them. In the case of Phillips, though, the problem wasn’t solved by a financial transaction so much so as the extremely potent delivery of precision fire from the muzzle of US Navy SEAL Snipers.

Regardless of the success of the Phillips case, piracy and kidnapping for ransom are not going away. In fact, seeing the financial and propaganda potential for such violations, the value of making such attacks has prompted many, many more. This, perhaps, has only been exacerbated by the American shift in policy that some would say encourages the practice by providing a means for private individuals to pay the ransoms of their friends and families, thus encouraging more like kind kidnappings.

Having said all of this, it is no longer safe for most Westerners to travel to the Middle East, and the growing troubles of the region are only spreading more and more throughout the Islamic world, as millions sympathetic to the ideals of the Al Qaeda and the Islamic State begin to copy their tactics and methods. Still, people still have business to do, so Westerners are still going to go there. This leads to the need for private military contractors (PMCs).

Mention of the practice of PMCs is one that elicits fear and suspicion in most people unfamiliar with how they are actually used. Often, they can’t be mentioned without imaginations of secret mercenary black helicopter events and Orwellian fears of off the books private armies. In all honesty, very few such companies are used for anything other than bodyguards for individuals of extremely high value in the region, rather than elite soldiers willing to kill for the highest dollar. The US State department often contracts with these companies to provide a greater level of security than they can do otherwise with the military for their foreign dignitaries and ambassadors, and the CIA for their foreign case officers. This is outlined well in the opening chapters of the new book 13 Hours – The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi. The book begins by detailing the lives of the contractors involved, both professional and personal. All of those in the book possessed varied military experience, some US Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Marines. They may have in their experience sets Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice, stints as the local police chief, or run warrants as bail bondsmen, and PIs stateside. Other PMCs may come from more diverse backgrounds; internationals with the French Foreign Legion, British SAS, and any number of other places and backgrounds. When I was deployed to Iraq, one team which frequented our Entry Control Point in Al Anbar Province had team members that came from as far off as South Africa, Romania, and Singapore, lead by an English Special Air Service soldier.

For the CIA and State Department, the go to is the Global Response Staff, an open secret of an organization created after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. The GRS gathers together teams of the best and most experienced operators from within the United States military with the knowledge and experience to be able to covertly guard its most valuable assets anywhere on the globe. What distinguishes these individuals from the common military they appear to be is the benefits package. Some PMCs today take in over $150,000 annually for their work overseas, on average, around three to five times what they could have expected in any given military career doing much harder work. Why they are useful is their flexibility and potency. Small teams deployed to a city can easily intertwine with the area, and adapt to cover any target that needs their level of protection. They can do this, however, without the massive overhead of the slow moving US military and sticking out like a sore thumb in places where Americans already have a hard enough time blending in. While these men (and women) and their skills don’t come cheap, they come without the prohibitive costs of deploying an entire unit of Marines or Army soldiers, which could rank in the millions, assuming an entire base doesn’t need to built for the task.

As Benghazi itself showed, the need for these individuals does still exist, and the threat of kidnapping, assassination, extortion, and any number of nefarious concerns may confront high value individuals at any time. This is why operators, such as those working with the Global Response Staff or other private military contractors will be in extremely high demand by foreign dignitaries of all nations, local government leaders, spies, journalists, and corporate executives who travel abroad, all doing business in places where business has to be done. These are the types of people who don’t want to be recorded in orange jumpsuits, a propaganda tool for murder fiends across the world. What this also means is that over the next twenty years, PMC operators of every brand and color will be in such high demand that they pop up literally everywhere important people can be seen in places where bad things often happen. What’s more, many will be more than the sum of high paid former Special Forces operators. They will be homegrown and specialized to their tasks through courses like the various Executive Protection [66] [67] courses that exist and under instruction by companies such as the American security services training company Academi [68]or the European Security Academy [69]. Both of these firms provide, alongside their training, mission support in the form of human resources, planning, and operational support. Remember that these people aren’t accountants, get creative and realize that that means  more or less exactly what you think it does.

The big change we will see as a result of this will be rather undemocratic shift in politics across the world. As the means of terrorism continues to grow, the need for higher and higher priced body guards to handle the threat will make some very rich people very safe, while leaving many others with little more than a prayer. In the end, expect to never see another photo again of any person of worth in a critical conflict area of the world without a dedicated staff of very skilled warfighters at their sides and at the ready.

Of course, this causes us to ask a very important question, where are all these extremely well paid and well trained operators going to come from?

Uncertain Future – Part X -Private Security Companies

Beyond the need for standard training, which will introduce a new vocabulary and the mindset to go with it, is traditional security, which is getting a remarkably untraditional makeover. Companies today are forming which are consolidating the need for security. Less and less often are you seeing security divisions within companies which are not in the business of providing security. Instead, the role of security guard for most companies is often filled by an agent of companies which specialize in the outsourcing of such skillsets. What this means for the future is that we won’t see the old mall cops drifting around on their segways, whose only real talents don’t actually center on tactics and prevention, but on finding a job where they are being paid to stand there.

Instead, these jobs are going to be going more and more to the larger security companies who specialize in the role. Soon, we will likely see a time where all private security for public places, such as malls, workplaces, and schools, all wear an inconspicuous similar uniform labeled with the same logo throughout. Instead of working directly for the companies that employ them, they will be contracted in, all centrally trained and networked with their other satellite offices and local police, all working under a centralized headquarters somewhere in the city, or perhaps across the globe. One such example is Sweden’s Securitas, a logo known throughout the West.

A recent article followed Securitas and the year it has had [53]. According to the Association for Financial Professionals, Securitas experienced “a sharp rise in profits for 2015 amid an increased threat of terrorism and the European migrant crisis.”

Net profit for the full-year rose by 18 percent to 2.44 billion kronor (258 million euros, $288 million), or eight percent excluding currency effects.

Sales climbed by 15 percent to 80.8 billion kronor.

In Europe, sales rose by eight percent to 37.5 billion for 2015 and by 11 percent in the fourth quarter, bolstered by the November 13 attacks in Paris and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in Europe.

The company earnings report cites the increased need for security services owed to terrorism alerts and the refugee situation has impacted organic sales growth in Western Europe, mostly in countries like France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden. They also reported a similar rise in Turkey, a country which has welcomed around two million Syrian refugees and saw numerous terrorist attacks within the last year. Securitas also saw a 24 percent increase in North American sales, as well.

Securitas isn’t alone, however. Spain’s Prosegur has a healthy share of the European public security market along with an American based security firm G4S. G4S started becoming more known for its role as the principal security provider for the 2012 London Summer Olympics, a significant role ever since the Munich massacre where eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed. They have also been called by some the largest company you’ve never heard of [54], since they maintain the third largest corporate workforce of any company Earth (660,000 employees) and are considered (loosely) by some to be the largest private military that has ever existed. [55]

While training for you and me will be mandated behavior to attempt to control and mitigate threats, and very large, very structured private security companies will provide for the broader public to help prevent the dangers, another tier of security will create a phenomenon never before seen – the million dollar bodyguard.

Uncertain Future – Part IX – Physical Security

Changing gears from cyber security to the tangible world, 2015 saw one of bloodiest years on record since the end of World War II. Terrorism that originated in Middle Eastern conflicts has spread out and is beginning to become commonplace in Europe and even starting to appear, yet again, in the United States. The Charlie Hebdo and November 2015 Paris Attacks, along with a third attempt foiled by the presence of American military veterans rocked Europe as the world mourned for them. In the US, a similar, though far less attack, took place in San Bernardino, California. Between these three major attacks, around 160 people were killed. This, however, pales in comparison to the world-wide effects of terrorism. In total, there were nearly 400 terrorist attacks around the world that we know of [51]. In that, it is likely that more than ten thousand people lost their lives in acts of pure terror. I say pure terror, not to add drama to the point, but to differentiate these acts from the similar acts of violence. Acts of warfare, kidnapping, and social strong-arming are being ignored, as their practice has exploded in the last decade to unestimatable levels.

How this will affect the world in the next twenty years is that people, meaning nations, firms, and individuals, will be taking greater steps towards ensuring their own safety in the event of attack. For many, this will see annual trainings being required at many workplaces and schools. Many are already doing this. In another answer, I described how the last decade of terror and threat of “active shooters” has led to new methods and tactics aimed at empowering the individual victim to better deal with theses threats in a way that mitigates their danger, or when cornered in the worst case scenario, confront and attempt to neutralize the attackers. One such training program is ALICE, controversial in that it actually coaches victims of an active shooter incident to fight back as a very last. [52]

Uncertain Future – Part VIII -Cyberwarfare

According to the Rand Corporation, [35] Cyber warfare involves the actions by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation’s computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks. RAND research provides recommendations to military and civilian decisionmakers on methods of defending against the damaging effects of cyber warfare on a nation’s digital infrastructure because, when nations involve themselves in the acts of cracking, all bets are off. As previously mentioned, even massive companies like Sony can be leveled by a national attack. Second, we have to ask what counts as warfare? Can it really be an act of war if no one can possibly die from it? Does it matter that this was an American company? Does it change things that it is American citizens? What does retaliation look like? The truth is, we don’t have a lot of answers for this right now, but where it might lead to is nerve racking.

Joel Brenner, a Senior Counsel at the National Security Agency, in his book America the Vulnerable, focuses on the subject of cyber warfare. He speaks at length about the vulnerabilities to the United States, some already proven and some hypothetical. One threat we may one day face which he poses, comes in the form of an attack on our infrastructure. An attack centered on the Los Angeles powergrid could hold half the West Coast hostage. A similar attack against the DOD or VA could publish every scrap of data on over 22 million veterans for the whole world to see. What’s worse, he showed how capabilities already exist that could do this.

He continues in his book to describe the threat posed by China. China is a special case in that, besides a cyber warfare branch of the People’s Liberation Army [36], China also has the added asset of tens of thousands of nationalistic, “Patriot Hackers”. These individuals form a community of cracker groups which focus on exploiting all international information vulnerabilities from corporate, to military, and even personal. This core group of international hackers has been responsible for countless patent thefts and billions in lost research and development to the benefit of Chinese corporations, but is also responsible for compromising classified information worldwide. China’s hacker community is distinctly different from that of nations like the United States, which, if a pattern could be set, would be better described as anarchistic and anti-government (remember Anonymous), and even those in Russia, who are much more geared to cyber crime for profit. China’s hackers, instead work together alongside, or at least to the benefit of, China’s national government. All this while still be officially “unaffiliated” with the government for diplomatic and legal reasons. Effectively, the Chinese have a clandestine cyber national guard, growing in capabilities and there isn’t really a thing the world can do about it.

In fact, the largest breach of security for information in an American database last year didn’t come from someone hacking some corporation to turn a quick profit. It came from China. [37] Last year, the Office of Personnel Management discovered that information over 21 million victims had slipped into hacker’s hands.  [38]The attack lasted over a year and included some 19 million people who applied for government security clearances and the information pertaining to their background checks, along with 1.8 million spouses, friends, and family members. To throw gasoline onto the fire, another 5.6 million fingerprint files of federal employees may have been lost [39], as well.

Moving Westward, Russia is a concern, as well. Having lost much of their technological edge in the last twenty years, they’re working to reclaim lost ground. Currently, when one thinks of Russian hackers, they are probably thinking of internet fraud and child pornography. Over the last few years, however, their capabilities have attempted to close the gap. Recently, in their ongoing conflict between Ukraine, Russian hackers were able to shutdown major sections of the Ukrainian power grid. [40]More concerning, however, is Russia’s attempts to control the media through the very bottom up. Called The 50 Ruble Army, Russia has copied a Chinese tactic to start employing professional commenters, people who scroll the internet commenting on content that weighs negatively against Russia with links to pro-Russian content, articles, and propaganda. [41] (Oh, yeah. Did I forget that about China, too? [42])If you speak about Russia long enough, you’ll see these guys.

But Russia and China aren’t the only concern in cyberwarfare. What’s surprising many, is the capabilities of players that weren’t normally seen in traditional spheres of  computing capability. In 2011, by all accounts, Iran was able to steal a United States CIA stealth drone, literally out of the sky.  [43]

According to Iranian sources, they were able to capture the US drone by “spoofing” the onboard GPS system. After technicians were able to hack into the drone, they broke the link with the systems remote controllers. From this point, according to the Iranian source, they simply told the drone to land in on an Iranian base, believing it to be its home in Afghanistan.  [44]Quite frankly, if any part of that story is true, that is a real head scratcher for the Americans. More so than that, given the relatively unharmed state of the drone, at least from the pictures, it very well could be true. As far back as 2012, the concept of GPS spoofing was a proven concept by researchers at the University of Texas.  [45]Given the resources of an entire nation, it wouldn’t surprise me terribly if they figured it out faster than a single American college.

Granted, the loss of our drone rattled many, but it wasn’t the first attack in the Iran/American Cyber War. Nor would it be the last.

Let’s take a step back to the 1980’s. Russia had poor abilities to produce microchips and the soviets worked to steal technology from the West, decades aheads of them technologically speaking. Because of a defector, the United States was able to know what it was Soviet spies were after. The Americans allowed flawed microprocessors to be stolen and their programs copied. These were made so well that they passed an initial inspection, only break down chemical and manufacturing facilities and overpower turbines in the Trans-Siberian pipeline. When soviet spies stole plans for gas-line pumps, they were unaware that it was intentionally designed to pump with much more pressure than the pipes were ever meant to handle. William Safire of the New York Times in 2004 was the first to break this story 25 years later. In his words, “The result was the most monumental, non-nuclear explosion and fire, ever seen from space.”

Fast forward a few decades.

In January 2010, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency visiting the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in Iran noticed that centrifuges used to enrich uranium gas were failing at an unprecedented rate. The cause was a complete mystery—apparently as much to the Iranian technicians replacing the centrifuges as to the inspectors observing them.

Five months later a seemingly unrelated event occurred. A computer security firm in Belarus was called in to troubleshoot a series of computers in Iran that were crashing and rebooting repeatedly. Again, the cause of the problem was a mystery. That is, until the researchers found a handful of malicious files on one of the systems and discovered the world’s first digital weapon.

Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled.

WIRED senior staff writer Kim Zetter [46]

A piece of code began showing itself around which became known as the Stuxnet virus, made famous for its approach to disabling Iranian nuclear refinement operations. Brenner describes why Stuxnet was so incredible. It was a worm, a self-replicating virus, which utilized not just one, but four previously unknown vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems to spread itself throughout a worldwide infection. Once spread, it sought out particular Siemens centrifuges, like those used by the Iranians to refine Uranium, and bring them down. This virus baffled engineers for months, unaware that random system outages were really the result of advanced sabotage efforts from outside the country. What it showed was the threat to even extremely powerful and well defended military systems were possible via online attack. More perplexing, the Stuxnet virus, Brenner postulates, could have only have been created by one of a very few groups who would have had the technological capability to create it, that being the national governments of either United States, Russia, China, Israel, or one of a few members of the European Community. It goes way beyond the capability of the midnight hacker savant or the college computer science nerd out for kicks. This was deliberate and ingeniously engineered attack conducted by nations.

Enter: The US Cyber Command. All the necessary ingredients are in place for the possibility of cyber-threats from other nations, or even cyber-terrorism. For all intents and purposes, the United States built them. For that reason, the United States military created the US Cyber Command. On June 23, 2009, the Secretary of Defense directed the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command to establish a sub-unified command, United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). Full Operational Capability (FOC) was achieved Oct. 31, 2010. The Command has three main focus areas: Defending the Department of Defense’s Intelligence assets, providing support to combatant commanders for execution of their missions around the world, and strengthening our nation’s ability to withstand and respond to cyber attack. I couldn’t find a video. I don’t think they want me talking about it.

Many speculate that either the US Cyber Command, or some other third party affiliate with the CIA, or even companies like Hacking Team to have created the Stuxnet virus, in conjunction with allies in Israel. As of yet, US Cyber Command has only once, very recently admitted ever taking part in any offensive actions. In the fight to retake Mosul, Iraq US forces are working with allies in the region to stop ISIS on the ground, in the air, and via the web.  [47]

Meanwhile, U.S. forces are waging a cyber offensive to cut or spy on ISIS communications in Mosul. Carter said cyber attacks are being used “to interrupt [and] disrupt ISIL’s command and control, to cause them to lose confidence in their networks, to overload their network so that they can’t function, and do all of these things that will interrupt their ability to command and control forces there, control the population and the economy.”

While this is the first admitted time the US Cyber Command has officially been used in an act of cyber warfare, it will certainly not be the last. Along with this, many fear a future where it is needed. In an answer on a similar vein, I was once asked how vulnerable the US Naval fleet was to attack.

Future state-on-state conflict, as well as conflicts involving non-state actors such as al-Qaida, would increasingly be characterised by reliance on asymmetric warfare techniques, chiefly cyber-warfare, Chipman said. Hostile governments could hide behind rapidly advancing technology to launch attacks undetected. And unlike conventional and nuclear arms, there were no agreed international controls on the use of cyber weapons.

“Cyber-warfare [may be used] to disable a country’s infrastructure, meddle with the integrity of another country’s internal military data, try to confuse its financial transactions or to accomplish any number of other possibly crippling aims,” he said. Yet governments and national defence establishments at present have only limited ability to tell when they were under attack, by whom, and how they might respond.

The US Defence Department’s Quadrennial Defence Review, published this week, also highlighted the rising threat posed by cyber-warfare on space-based surveillance and communications systems.”On any given day, there are as many as 7 million DoD (Department of Defence) computers and telecommunications tools in use in 88 countries using thousands of war-fighting and support applications. The number of potential vulnerabilities, therefore, is staggering.” the review said.

“Moreover, the speed of cyber attacks and the anonymity of cyberspace greatly favour the offence. This advantage is growing as hacker tools become cheaper and easier to employ by adversaries whose skills are growing in sophistication.” [48]

Some of those vulnerabilities are forehead-smackingly simple, once you know where to look. “You can walk around any ship, most aircraft, and you can find either USB ports or serial ports that were put there for maintenance,” said Leigher. “They were done for good engineering reasons” — to download diagnostic data, for example — “but the engineer wasn’t thinking about computer security.” What if an enemy agent undercover as a contractor or even as a civilian on a good-will tour slipped a virus-loaded thumb drive into one of those ports? What if the bad guy simply tricked a sailor into doing it for him? [49]

U.S. computer experts playing the part of foreign hackers managed to shut down all communications among the U.S. Pacific fleet, and could have shut down the entire western half of the U.S. power grid. [50]

In that answer, given everything we know about the numerous breaks in our defenses, the capabilities of hackers across the globe, and the outdated systems of much of our Navy, it is plausible a group of hackers which are well enough organized and with enough backing, could compromise our carrier’s systems. It is possible that infected equipment could be installed on the ships themselves, since it is economically impossible to produce all the technologies built for these ships in government controlled factories, nor even, all in the United States. Foreign manufacturing produces gateway points for hardware to be slipped in with infected files that could then reproduce throughout the vessel’s internal secured networks and systems. If this were to happen, it is possible that these ships could be brought down through their own control systems, locking up, halting their communications, melting down their reactors, crashing them into the rocks or even city docks, or just causing them to float dead in the water defenseless against enemy attack and unable to protect us here at home.