Prabal Nandy (nandy@U.Arizona.EDU)
Thu, 8 Apr 1999 19:10:00 -0700 (MST)
> > Heh heh. The solution: "Don't write stories focused on the technology!"
> But on the other hand, if you omit the high-tech aspect entirely, you end
> up with exactly the conversation we're having now - i.e. why no VR in
There is an alternative, simply propose something completely 'out there'
it seems almost indistinguishable from technomajik. For example, if I was
to write a Giant mecha story taking place 400 years in the future, I would
suggest any number of things, from massively distributed robotic systems
to downloaded core pilot consciousnesses to vat-bred biomechanicaloid
beings with conscious human thought patterns hypnoprogrammed into them,
etc etc.. Any one of these systems is an extreeme extrapolation of
today-tech, yet is bizzare enough to not even require explanation.
Frankly, my belief is that the moment a writer starts trying to justify
his 'science' in his 'fiction' he becomes susceptible to
> Gundam? perhaps the best bet is to skip the near future and set things in
> the distant future/distant past/an alternate universe so that you can set
> your own technological rules.
Which is something that "Escaflowne" or "Dunbine" does with aplomb!
Frankly, I think that is a legitimate and cool way to go.
> Treaty to get rid of certain types of weapons, but a third deus ex machine
> would be required to get rid of modern communications technology. Ideally
This is the classic "Foundation Effect", i.e., computers and robots are
banned/missing for some contrived reason to explain why this future world
lacks any technologies that weren't available when the book was written.
> you'd have a scenario that banned radar, nukes, VR, and every other
> post-World War I technological innovation. <grin>
Heh heh heh.... yepper!
> > Right now we already have fighter-aircraft linked into VR-headsets to
> >allow pilots to control them remotely, expert systems that can take off
> Putting aside my reflexive skepticism that this stuff really works as
I had a friend trying to take off from a runway where a drone aircraft
was, in a sythesized voice, trying to get permission to take off on its
own. Very interesting situation.
> advertised (unlike, say, stealth fighters that don't work in the rain!),
> there's always the Minovsky gotcha. And a second notion occurs to me: Past
Expert systems then. Basically, like the "Gundam Mobile Doll" which I
consider to be the Gundam Universes' way of handling modern computing
technologies. I.e., you give the robot a target and a vector, or a set of
mission parameters, etc, and then let it go and wreak havok! Works for me!
> machine itself? Take the $2 billion B-2 bomber, for example. If I were
> designing that thing, I'd tear out the ejection seats to make sure the
> pilot had maximum incentive to keep the stupid thing in one piece!
We are _already_ in a situation in Kosevo now where it's cheaper to
_buy_ the target with the price of the bomb we're using to destroy it
with, than to actually detonate the bomb.
You'll note, however, that this has done nothing to deter modern
warfare, and it never will. War may be incited and perpetuated based on
economic factors, but it will never be _waged_ along economic lines. It's
not our nature.
No, instead we are leaning towards a completely computerized,
robot-controlled military. The F-22 is our last manned fighter aircraft,
from now on it will be UCAVs all the way. Once our last ALCMs are used up
bombing the hell out of the post-communists in Europe, Boeing will start
producing the new 6,000Km ranged follow-on to the Tomahawk. Look forward
to a video game war in the next 20 years where you can follow our missiles
into combat from their launch from Virginia, across the Atlantic, and then
take the 'controls' as the missile selects a target and homes in on its
destination thousands of miles away.... all over the Web! Virtual-Warfare,
it's the wave of the future.
What's really neat are the 'virtual vietnam' scenarios where we'll be
able to use small flying robots and telepresence controlled light tanks to
go fight a 'dirty' war in the streets of Serbia or New York while our
brave soldiers control them from bunkers hundreds of miles away. Hell,
it's so easy we might even let Senate Appropriations committee people
pilot them for fun. American companies stand to make a massive fortune on
this sort of technology for war/entertainment purposes, making tons of
money showing the "Third World Country of the Week" getting pounded on
Fox's "When Nations Attack".
Think it's too crazy to be true? Stick around for another year or so.
> everything from planes to robot infantry could be remote-controlled by
> human telepresence operators and/or AI systems... in fact, you could run
> things like a strategy game, directing your AI-controlled minions at a
> macro level and then taking control of individual units for hands-on
> micromanagement (much like Dorothy mass-controlling mobile dolls at the end
Already exists to a certain extent, but yepper!
> of Gundam W). In this scenario, infantry and tanks would be replaced by
> remote-controlled robots, and a blurring of the lines might give you a
> fusion of the two - a tank-sized trooper, essentially a remote-controlled
> How's that for a VR/mecha fusion?
I like it! But I'm pretty sure it's already been done. At least, I've
definately read either a SF story or a tech-report about just such a
thing. Actually, now that you mention it I'm concerned that it might have
been a tech report.
> > It's the defects in the human flesh causing the problem. Our brains are
> >easily overloaded
> Actually, I see there's an ongoing research project to try and determine
> whether some people are more likely to experience these symptoms than
> others; if so, the goal is to work up a procedure for identifying those who
> are constitutionally "allergic" to VR. The very notion suggests a sort of
> two-tiered society, not unlike that of Gattaca. Combine it with the
> robot-armies scenario, and you have a guerilla war between VR-deprived
> rebels and the telepresent elites! :-)
Hey, now that's a good idea, though I'm pretty sure I read a Poul
Anderson story or something that was based on a very similar idea. It's
effectively a newtypes versus oldtypes kinda war except now all the NT's
are evil and the OT's are good!
It might make for a nice Neo-Gundam series... the heroic Oldtypes in
their ancient Manned-machines fight the evil forces of Zeon, the
all-Newtype core-consciouness humanity living among the stars for
supremacy of Earth and the combined human future! Independants versus the
Virtual-Reality Massmind, men and their machines versus endless hordes of
AI-programmed killer robots, etc. It would be particularly interesting to
see how poorly a war is waged by a culture of VR-addicted faddish
technophiles and entertainment addicts as opposed to a small but
determined group of singleminded men and women. Neat.
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