Monday, May 30, 2011

War and Peace in Space

In the United States this is Memorial Day, a holiday that arose from the American Civil War. The day that elsewhere in the Anglosphere is Remembrance Day is Veterans' Day here, and less somber. Most countries surely have some equivalent holiday. Previously on this blog I have noted it simply by recording the then-current death tolls from the wars the US is fighting.

War in space has been an ongoing major topic of Rocketpunk Manifesto. Possibly it is the single topic most addressed here, with fifteen numbered posts so far in the Space Warfare series (one of which, however, dealt with peace), plus several others concerned primarily or exclusively with blowing stuff up in space.

I will most certainly continue writing here on the subject of space warfare. And on fairly rare occasions, of which this is one, I will pause to point out that war in space, like war on Earth, is not in fact a particularly good idea. While I am no pacifist, I am also not persuaded that war is somehow an inherent and inevitable part of the human condition. Refer to the link above for my arguments on that point.

More narrowly I suspect that space warfare, as commonly pictured (including here) is very unlikely, at any rate through the plausible midfuture. Given the strategic value of Earth orbiting satellites, a war between terrestrial powers might spill over into orbital combat. But even if human outposts are scattered across the Solar System, it is very unlikely that any of them would be of sufficient strategic or political value to make the involved powers build and dispatch space armadas to fight over them.

Depending on the specific political context and prevailing culture of war, space outposts might politely ignore the earthly war, fight a mosquito war against each other, or be wiped out by interplanetary missile strikes.

Beyond the plausible midfuture, space communities might grow to the point where they could build their own armadas, if they so wished. I suspect that the likelihood of them actually doing so falls into the same category as enslaving colonists to work in the thorium mines. There is enough history of malicious stupidity in human affairs to provide grounds for such a scenario, but we are entitled to ask whether such things would actually be a norm. (And warfare, as we understand it, has been a social norm, supported by complex and admired social institutions.)


So, given that I don't exactly 'believe in' space warfare as desirable, necessary, or inevitably, why do I write so much about it here?

The crassest answer, with more than a grain of truth, is that that is what you want to read about. Space warfare posts generally draw the highest traffic and produce the longest threads. (The current post almost certainly will not do so!) I am not above pandering to my audience. After all, if I didn't care whether people read this blog, I could save myself the effort.

Another answer, less crass but arguably more disgraceful, is that some aspects of war are interesting. The general human experience has in fact been that war is mostly boring, and the parts that aren't boring are mostly horrific. But the gadgetry of warfare - from swords, chariots, and triremes to battleships, submarines, and missiles - has exerted a peculiar fascination. Only a few civil technologies produce a comparable fandom.

One such technology is railroads; another, rather happily, is space travel. Enter spaceship in Google Images and the resulting (mostly imaginary) images lean heavily toward combatant types. On the other hand, the image results for spacecraft lean toward actual vehicles or 'speculative realism,' and are on the whole much less warlike.

Finally, there is the point that this blog is largely about Romance, and Romance is all about human conflict. Mysteries would be nowhere without crimes, and space opera calls out for space battles.

So I will continue to provide them, alongside discussion of the immeasurably more useful things that we might actually be able to accomplish in space.



Related link: Give Peace a Chance

Discuss.




The image of Arlington National Cemetery comes, via Google Images, from a random travel website.

141 comments:

Anonymous said...

Several times in history, people in power who should have known better, have done or said things that ultimately resulted in war. There have been times when the last war was decades in the past and no one remembered what it was really like, or technology had made war so much different from the last war that, again, no one was prepared for the horrific nature of it. Such could be the nature of the first off-world war; either it could be an armed conflict between colonies, or between an unruly colony and its sponsor nation. A few dozen people, some improvized or modified light weapons and vehicles, but all the blood and gore of a "real" war. I think that people will be shocked at the death toll during the first such conflict. Hopefully that will put a damper on subsiguent conflicts, but I doubt it.

Ferrell

Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with the "pig war"?
According to Wikipedia"
US: 461 combatants, 14 cannons
vs
UK: 2,140 combatants; 5 warships mounting 70 cannons

casualties: 1 irish pig

Something tells me there will be similar wars in space. The people in charge of the fancy (expensive) hardware will hopefully be desperately trying to prevent conflict, while the provincials keep stirring up trouble for local political reasons.
Of course, if the military types care more for glory than not-getting-all-your-men-killed-pointlessly, things might turn out differently...

Lentulus said...

You know, we may be members of the first generation where almost everyone will node sagely and agree when someone says "war is a bad idea". To quote Helmuth von Moltke (and the fact that he was a military officer does not make this an unusual sentiment)

"Eternal peace is a dream, and not even a pleasant one. War is part of God's world order. War develops man's noblest virtues..."

Baden Powell encouraged boy scouts to "BE PREPARED to die for your country if need be, so that when the moment arrives you may charge home with confidence"

While there always exceptions in every age, the belief war is good for a society or at least a legitimate and potentially profitable tool of international relations was only wounded in 1914-18, and we can only hope Hiroshima put it to rest. For most of human history, war has been considered a pretty good idea.

We can hope the meme is dead, but given the long term trend I don't think it's the way to bet just yet.

David said...

In the 10,000 years or so of recorded history, mankind has been in an almost continuous state of conflict. It would seem that conflict and warfare are endemic to the human condition, and it should be expected to follow us into the stars. We will fight amongst ourselves, because of the same reasons we fight now, or we will invent new reasons, or at least what will appear to be new reasons.

Young men and women will die in the black, because old men and women will find politically expedient reasons to send them into harm’s way. Whether it is for “King and country” or “The Will of the God” or some other daft reason, spaceships or “Star Destroyers tm” will be gutted by “ravening lasers of death” or “depleted uranium rods of destruction”.

And on our far flung colonial worlds, mothers and fathers will mourn the passing of their sons and daughters, grave markers will adorn our military cemeteries and there will be Remembrance days and Memorial days as they honor the sacrifice of the few for the safety and security of the many.

Thucydides said...

The primary hope is that the sheer expense in money, time and resources to build and use actual combat armadas in space will limit conflict in much the same way that the ownership of nuclear weapons has reduced conflicts on Earth from wholesale to retail.

Just compare the American, British or Canadian casualty rates from D-Day to the entire period of the Iraq conflict, or Afghanistan. It literally takes years to ramp up casualties to the scale that used to take minutes or hours. While this is small consolation to the dead and their families and friends, we can join them in prayer and be thankful that we are not mourning even more Allied soldiers.

Extrapolating to the PMF, military forces, such as they are, will resemble the Marshal and his Regulators for the most part, supplying local security and personal protection for those who need it and are willing to pay. Other models like Blackwater or Marine ships companies posted around sensitive facilities and near the airlocks so people don't wander out into space are also plausible. Instead of debating laser combat, we might be thinking about using submachineguns and other light infantry weapons in confined spaces as the real maximum use of force in the PMF.

Hugh said...

Read Martin Van Creveld's 'Transformation of War' not long ago. His argument (massively simplified by me) is that while conflict has been universal, how and why people fight has changed in the past and will change again. Our Western notion of armies fighting for states began in 1648 and more or less ended in 1945. It's an interesting read even if you don't agree with him.

If his predictions come to pass, space will most likely be far more peaceful than Earth. Or, at least until we get terraformed planets with massive populations. As Rick often points out, states can't go head to head with each other once nukes exist. And the various types of low intensity combat rely on populations being able to mix with each other and flow back and forth, much harder to arrange in vacuum.

Cambias said...

I'm with Ferrell. It has been proved over and over again that war is impossible -- yet it keeps happening. Norman Angell wrote in The Grand Illusion that the interdependency of European and world economies made a general war impossible because it would lead to economic catastrophe. My copy of the book was printed in 1914.

Sure, there's no rational motive to attack someone else's Moon base. There's also no rational motive to destroy the World Trade Center. War plans -- especially those devised by highly ideological regimes unhappy with the status quo -- often include a great deal of fantasy.

There will be war in space. And the idea that it may involve underequipped but fanatical attackers against unprepared defenders makes for more interesting and exciting dramatic situations than clashes of indestructible, irresistable space battleships.

Cambias

jollyreaper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jollyreaper said...

Norman Angell wrote in The Grand Illusion that the interdependency of European and world economies made a general war impossible because it would lead to economic catastrophe. My copy of the book was printed in 1914.

This is precisely the sort of evidence I point to when people trot out the plausibility argument with futurism. Sometimes you can use sheer economics to make an argument. The Concorde didn't pan out because it was economically unsustainable. It lasted as long as it did as a national prestige project subsidized by the respective governments.

At the same time, you'll have situations where it is manifestly stupid to do something and people will go and do it anyway. The logical argument holds up right until the very point logic gets chucked out the airlock.

It's a delicate balancing act when debating what is plausible, what is possible, what is doable but unsustainable and what is simply impossible. The metastable situations that will inevitably head for a collapse remain the most interesting for a storytelling perspective.

The big question I have is whether getting into space really means we're post-scarcity. The conventional scifi view is we still want planets and so it really fits with the "space is an ocean" metaphor -- all naval combat is about disputes occurring on land, nobody lives on the ocean. People can live perfectly well in space habs and so the limiting factor of planetary living space is no longer an issue.

I think that resource wars will be a thing of the past. I'm talking about past the plausible mid-future, far enough out that our powers of prediction will fail us. I can't imagine how we'd be living at that point but the thing I find hardest of all to imagine is that we'd be fighting over basic resources -- food, shelter, clothing, energy, bandwidth.

As long as we remain human, I think we're still susceptible to ideological wars. It's not about taking something somebody else has because you want it or because you need it. It's being unable to live happily knowing that the guy over there is doing something you don't approve of, even if there are no victims involved. And as long as there are enough jerks with the means of starting a serious fight, we'll have a war.

The biggest new variable would be the ability to flee the war. We're all used to seeing refugees trying to leave a war zone ahead of the fighting. In older times we've seen nomads alter their migration to head away from coming wars. Well, if we're talking about people living in space habs, it becomes very plausible for entire polities to migrate from war zones. You're not just talking about the rich and intellectuals fleeing Germany before WWII, it's more like waking up one morning and finding out the Jewish ghetto is boosting away towards the jump point and the homosexuals have taken up residence on the Gypsy caravan that boosted out last week.

That would actually make for a very satisfying future. Two sides decide to fight and realize that by the time they're done, all the people and cities being fought over left and there's nothing of value remaining. They're reaping the consequences of an all-out war without the civilians having to die in droves to make the point.

John said...

I don't believe in interplanetary war anymore than I believe in interplanetary trade. It's just so much more expensive to send a cargo and crew to another planet than it is to send it to another country. Unmanned drones are an option, of course, but they're still expensive, and in any case you would need them in case your neighbors start something.

If war breaks out, it will only occur between local parties- either rival countries on Earth, or rival colonies in space, or rival groups in the same colony. But I don't believe in interplanetary war, because the whole undertaking is just so expensive and time consuming.

Lentulus said...

The Concorde didn't pan out because it was economically unsustainable
The key factor concorde needed was penny-a-pound jet fuel. Who knows, perhaps large-scale biofuel productions (there are technologies based on salt-water-algae that should work) might make supersonic air transport viable again.

Likewise, in any technological and economic combinations where widespread space travel is viable, could large scale total war also become believable again?

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

Perhaps its a chiken and egg scenario --

You need resources to be able to fight a war, in order to fight a war over resources.

So if you have a situation where resources are being utilized in space, the possibility of fighting over said resources will then exist.

-----
You'll never fight in the asteroid belt if all thats out there are explorers. But if there's a lot of mining, both the ability to fight (space industry) and the reason can exist.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

Also it is possible that space wars will have no human casualities at all.

Which has some interesting future memorial day implications.

Tony said...

Taking the extremely long view, and not bowing to any local or temporary conditions, it seems pretty obvious to me that war is a feature, not a bug. It's a natural means by which large groups of people seek justice (whatever a group's definition of "justice" is, and there is very little agreement on what the correct definition is). For there to be no war, the overwhelming majority of humans would have to agree on a single definition of justice, and then justice would actually have to be done for everyone, equally well. In literal truth, no justice, no peace.

WRT the feasibility of war, if you can have trade with someone, you can have war, generally to the extent that you have trade. IOW, the interdependency and interconnectivity of Europe in 1914 meant that not only was war feasible, it was more feasible than ever. There were large, booming economies capable of being turned into massive war production. There was international interaction on all levels, providing people with a well-formed idea of who they were fighting, and why they thought they should demand justice of them. And the widespread trade meant that there were ample means of communication (in the military sense -- lots of roads, railroads and canals) by wich to move troops and supplies. In the context of a potential space war, if there's significant trade, there's opportunity for war.

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"Also it is possible that space wars will have no human casualities at all.

Which has some interesting future memorial day implications."


Perhaps orbital operations in conjunction with a terrestrial war, carried out with killsats and antisatellite missiles, would have no human casualties. But a real war in human occupied space would most definitely have human casualties. Once the robot constellations (to the degree that they ever actually exist) are gone -- on one or both sides -- people will fight people and kill each other.

Anonymous said...

Tony,

Once the robot constellations (to the degree that they ever actually exist) are gone -- on one or both sides -- people will fight people and kill each other.

===============

For the sake of discussion assume all space warships are robotic in nature.

With the entire war being conducted in space.

Why then would there *have* to be humans fighting and killing each other in such a war?

----
How about a scenario where all extra-solar colonization is robotic in nature, with humans never leaving earth? A war could be fought 20 light years away with no humans even remotely nearby.

(SA Phil)

Anonymous said...

SA Phil:"How about a scenario where all extra-solar colonization is robotic in nature, with humans never leaving earth? A war could be fought 20 light years away with no humans even remotely nearby."

And then the owners of the robot ships yours blew-up then shell your country in retaillation of your aggressive acts...

Ferrell

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"For the sake of discussion assume all space warships are robotic in nature.

With the entire war being conducted in space.

Why then would there *have* to be humans fighting and killing each other in such a war?

----
How about a scenario where all extra-solar colonization is robotic in nature, with humans never leaving earth? A war could be fought 20 light years away with no humans even remotely nearby."


The war wouldn't be fought in space. It would be fought on Earth, with the winner taking control of the loser's space resources, including his space warcraft. War is not fighting -- fighting is just a medium, a "currency", as Clausewitz called it. War is the conflict of political wills, up to and including existential ambitions. Distant contests between robots won't satisfy its objectives.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

It really depends on the objectives, and the situation.

A situation of proxy wars with limited life loss that did not automatically translate into full scale wars has existed in the past.

Most notbaly the situation that existed in the Caribean colonies around 1700.

jollyreaper said...

"The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"It really depends on the objectives, and the situation.

A situation of proxy wars with limited life loss that did not automatically translate into full scale wars has existed in the past.

Most notbaly the situation that existed in the Caribean colonies around 1700."


Ummm...what was going on in Western Europe right around 1700?

Anonymous said...

Tony,


Ummm...what was going on in Western Europe right around 1700?

-------

I dont have the name of the agreement with me. But it was a agreement whereby fighting in the colonies did not spill over as wars in Europe .. and vice versa.

Thus creating a situation where there was war/fighting in the caribean during "peace" in Europe.

While there were numerous wars in Europe during this period it was not one constant war that last for centuries.

Considering the carbean trope is one played up a lot for interstellar colonies .. its not out of the realm of possibility it could happen again.

(SA Phil)

jollyreaper said...


I dont have the name of the agreement with me. But it was a agreement whereby fighting in the colonies did not spill over as wars in Europe .. and vice versa.


I'm imagining a situation where you've got the Great Houses fighting out in space, going at each other hammer and tong, but they are afraid to do more than give each other harsh glares here on Earth for fear of violating the Emperor's ban on political violence on this world. Of course, what this really means is if you're going to break the ban, you'd better do it in style!

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"I dont have the name of the agreement with me. But it was a agreement whereby fighting in the colonies did not spill over as wars in Europe .. and vice versa.

Thus creating a situation where there was war/fighting in the caribean during "peace" in Europe.

While there were numerous wars in Europe during this period it was not one constant war that last for centuries."


Sorry Phil, but I was looking for the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). And it very definitely did spill over into the colonies, regardless of any treaties. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Spanish_Succession#West_Indies_and_South_America

WRT to the constancy of war in 17th Century Western Europe (all involving colonial powers with possessions in the Caribbean), we have, in rough order:

80 Years War (1568-1648)
30 Years War (1618-1648)
1st Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654)
2nd Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667)
War of Devolution (1667-1668)
Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678)
Nine Years War (1688–1697)

I count 27 years between 1600 and 1699 without a major European war involving colonial powers with Caribbean interests. And there was never an interval of more than nine years. I ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'...

"Considering the carbean trope is one played up a lot for interstellar colonies .. its not out of the realm of possibility it could happen again."

Sure -- involving people. But if powers just have robots out there, the war will be fought on Earth (or wherever) and the loser's robots will be appropriated by the winner.

Thucydides said...

If you are entrusting space combat to robots in didtant parts of space, then victory will probably go to whoever has the largest robotic fleet, all else being equal. The robots will execute their attacks according to the template and with mathematical precision, and without the ability to surprise their enemies or be surprised themselves.

If we add strong AI to the mix, then we run the risk of the AI deciding that it's own goals supersede those of the National Command Authority, or making war and peace on its own terms and for its own reasons. (Bolo and Berserker stories explore these scenarios). Everything from a "Christmas Truce" to "Crossing the Rubicon" becomes possible under a robot fleet + Strong AI scenario.

Tony said...

Question: Why this great fascination with eliminating humans from war? Without human's there is no point.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

That is a bit of a straw man since all those wars didnt involve "all" the colonial powers at the same time.

I have a book with the agreement named at home so I can get it to you later.

It is this situation that Morgan and Modyford took avantage of throughout the second half of the 17th century.

=========

As to "taking over" someone's robots. I would assume they would progam to account for that potentialality.

The interstellar colonizer robots would probably be mostly independent.

Anonymous said...

Tony said...
Question: Why this great fascination with eliminating humans from war? Without human's there is no point.

=================

Envisioning just One potential scenario is boring.

Thinking of many possibilities is more interesting to me.

It seems like other people already have the whole "World War Two staffing levels IN SPACCCEEE!" sewn up.

So on a post about Memorial Day and its future - the possibility of wars with zero human casualities has some interst to me.


-----------
In so far as wars in space with lots of humans .. Memorial Days will prbably continue pretty much as they have done, become more reverant at times of difficult wars, become less reverant at times of peace/low level conflicts.

(SA Phil)

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"That is a bit of a straw man since all those wars didnt involve "all" the colonial powers at the same time.

I have a book with the agreement named at home so I can get it to you later.

It is this situation that Morgan and Modyford took avantage of throughout the second half of the 17th century."


All of the listed wars involved at least two colonial powers with Caribbean interests, if not in direct combat in Europe, then in supporting roles overseas. (The French during the 30 Years War were a particularly outstanding example of staying out of war in Europe while picking up neglected pieces elsewhere.)

"As to "taking over" someone's robots. I would assume they would progam to account for that potentialality."

Only as a poison pill. And it's not at all hard to imagine a victor holding a gun to the head of some sysadmin's little girl and threatenting, "Give us the security credentials or the wall will be decorated with her brains.

"The interstellar colonizer robots would probably be mostly independent."

I'm afraid I don't get the joke -- how can purely robotic explorers be considered a "colony"? And how, without FTL communications, would fighting between competing robots in some distant system be thought of as a war at all?

"Envisioning just One potential scenario is boring.

Thinking of many possibilities is more interesting to me."


Except that war without humans is not a possibility.

"It seems like other people already have the whole "World War Two staffing levels IN SPACCCEEE!" sewn up."

Ever heard of the spectrum of conflict? Total war is hardly all there is to war.

"So on a post about Memorial Day and its future - the possibility of wars with zero human casualities has some interst to me."

If it were a realistic consideration, I could see your point. But since war is a human endeavor, you have no point to ponder.

Teleros said...

Cambias: "Sure, there's no rational motive to attack someone else's Moon base. There's also no rational motive to destroy the World Trade Center. War plans -- especially those devised by highly ideological regimes unhappy with the status quo -- often include a great deal of fantasy."
Actually, I think it's fair to argue that the 9/11 attacks *were* a rational thing. Consider:

1. You're a zealot.
2. America is the biggest threat to your ideology.
3. You lack the resources simply to invade etc.
4. Short of nuclear war, casualties aren't a problem for you - and may even help your cause.
5. The WTC, Pentagon etc are famous American symbols.
6. In the past, America has been extremely restrained in its responses to terrorist attacks.

Given 1-5, a terrorist attack makes perfect sense. What Bin Laden got only half right was #6.


As for moon bases etc, I'm reminded of that quote on the Atomic Rockets site along the lines of "we deal with capabilities, not intent" - that is, if someone *can* use something as a weapon, you have to assume that they will, if only to be on the safe side. As to why we go to war, well I suspect living space requirements and ideology will still be with us for a long time to come. Looking further into the future, it may be cheaper to take over someone else's colony and avoid that big initial investment, especially if habitable planets* are rare. It might not start out as war as we know it, but it may progress.

* Preferred over space habitats for being safer if things break: Earth's water supply won't leak out into space, put it that way. Also, if you posit some nice cheap surface-to-orbit tech, then the main problem with living on planets WRT space travel & industry is, if not removed, at least greatly mitigated.


Finally, whilst I can see highly logical AIs fighting a war on behalf of humans, I can't visualise a human-casualty-free war very easily. I suppose a show of strength or decisive series of victories / defeats (eg, cripple their economically or militarily vital automated space industry) may force one side to the negotiating table before anyone is actually killed, but that's not much of a war (almost a police action or somesuch). There's also the issue about how to ensure it doesn't happen again, especially as it's (in human terms) so damn cheap...


jollyreaper: "I think that resource wars will be a thing of the past."
Depends on how scarce the resources are. If you need oodles and oodles of, say, rhenium, and there's bugger all out there in explored space, well...

Anonymous said...

=Milo=



SA Phil:

"How about a scenario where all extra-solar colonization is robotic in nature, with humans never leaving earth? A war could be fought 20 light years away with no humans even remotely nearby."

This scenario is highly unlikely to be worth fighting a (space) war over, unless some of your robots have strong AI and have built a civilization of their own. In which case, write about them. War is still hell from their point of view.



Thucydides:

"The robots will execute their attacks according to the template and with mathematical precision, and without the ability to surprise their enemies or be surprised themselves."

Not necessarily. They can surprise their enemies by utilizing new and unexpected algorithms. And unlike when facing sentient opponents, their enemies cannot immediately adapt to newly developed strategies they're facing, until the development cycle (or, at minimum, lightspeed lag cycle) has been passed for the new strategy to be reported home and a new counter-algorithm to be designed, coded, and sent back.


"Everything from a "Christmas Truce" to "Crossing the Rubicon" becomes possible under a robot fleet + Strong AI scenario."

Logically, strong AIs can (at least potentially) do anything humans can do, and possibly more besides.



Tony:

"Question: Why this great fascination with eliminating humans from war? Without human's there is no point."

Yeah. If you want a story about a big flashy explosion with no human casualties, why not find a way to write about a supernova or something?



Teleros:

"Actually, I think it's fair to argue that the 9/11 attacks *were* a rational thing."

If you believe strongly in the religious convictions that these people had, then it makes sense. They look insane from the point of view of people who do not share their religious convictions.


"As for moon bases etc, I'm reminded of that quote on the Atomic Rockets site along the lines of "we deal with capabilities, not intent" - that is, if someone *can* use something as a weapon, you have to assume that they will, if only to be on the safe side."

Only if there is something of mine that I am interested in protecting. If you have robots which can potentially pose a threat, but only to my robots while my people are safely on a different planet, then I'm not going to feel very threatened.

Also, while "we deal with capabilities, not intent" justifies building weapons, it does not justify using weapons.

Anonymous said...

Jollyreaper's idea of terrestrial great powers fighting in space but not on Earth has been used in fiction a few times, probably because it allows exciting action in exotic environments without the worry of these escalating to civilization-ending nuclear exchanges or asteroid bombardments.
In SM Stirling's Draka series, there is 'no peace beyond Luna', with open conflict in Earth orbit or on the surface prevented only by the threat of mutual destruction by orbital battle stations.
In David Drake's Reaches series, it's 'no peace beyond Pluto', though in that case the great powers are formally at peace, at least at first, and the conflict is between independent traders from different powers. The situation is meant to parallel the relations between England, Spain and Portugal during the 16th century, and in particular, the life of Sir Francis Drake.

R.C.

Anonymous said...

Milo,

Yeah. If you want a story about a big flashy explosion with no human casualties, why not find a way to write about a supernova or something?

----------------------

It was more of a thought experiment than the plot of a sci fi story.

The question basically was:
Would it be possible for a war to exist without human casualities?

The answer I beleive is still yes. Although not by some people's definition of war evidently.

If for example I had 100 robotic factories scattered among several planets and some robotic fleet blew my robotic fleet an the factories all up. It would be a "War".

(SA Phil)

Anonymous said...

RC,

In SM Stirling's Draka series, there is 'no peace beyond Luna',


This also applies to one of Tony's arguments.
============

This is sci-fiction adaption the caribean example I used.

The Spanish had a "no peace west of the line" policy with their new world colonies, which were granted them by Papal Bull in 1493 - Inter caetera.

Basically, reguardless of the state of war or peace between Spain and any other European power, Spain was in a state of defacto War in the Caribean.

The changed with time to periods of truce in the region happening as parts of peace treaties as other powers started to have colonies there. However the peace in the Caribean would not last long.

Thus they ended up with a situation where there was limited war in the region but Peace between the two countries involved in Europe.

Modyford and Morgan used this state of affairs several times in relation to Spain to allow them to attack Spanish ports.

Later, this state of understanding continued and many of the wars fought between France and England in the colonies were proxy wars (there were several "French and Indian" Wars in actuality) For example the "French and Indian War" as we know it in the US did not expand to a general war with France until 2 years after the start of the conflict. And it is possible it might never have if other relations hadn't worsened.

(SA Phil)

Jim Baerg said...

Re: Robot War

See http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff2000/fc01981.htm

and the next few dozen strips.

Anonymous said...

Tony,

Ever heard of the spectrum of conflict? Total war is hardly all there is to war.

------------

You completely missed my point. I meant on a per ship basis. You and others are already a champion of heavily crewed space craft.

"World War 2 Staffing levels" refers to the legacy of heavily crewed warships. Which we still have in the Navy today to some extent.

--------
Although oddly you are the one who seems to be arguing there would be total war - since you claim colonial only war wouldnt happen.

(SA Phil)

Anonymous said...

Tony,

you have no point to ponder.

------------

My answer to this is simply "What else is new?" since that seems your defacto response to any of my posts.

(SA Phil)

Tony said...

Re: SA Phil

1. It's not personal. It's simply and completely that war is a human endeavor, undertaken for human reasons. War without human risk is an oxymoron.

2. All four of the "French and Indian" wars were either partially caused by or partially caused corresponding European wars. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_and_Indian_Wars

3. Similar (but admittedly somewhat looser) correlations can be made between Caribbean and East Indian conflicts and European wars, conventions -- both written and unwritten -- notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

Tony,

1. It's not personal. It's simply and completely that war is a human endeavor, undertaken for human reasons. War without human risk is an oxymoron.

-------

I was refering to all my posts on any topic in any section of this Blog.

(SA Phil)

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"I was refering to all my posts on any topic in any section of this Blog."

Same story -- it's not personal. We just don't seem to agree on much.

Anonymous said...

Tony,

We just don't seem to agree on much.
------------

What confuses me is the fact that I'll speculate on some esoteric concept; like the possible effects of Interstellar expansion on theism. And somehow still be "wrong".

(SA Phil)

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"What confuses me is the fact that I'll speculate on some esoteric concept; like the possible effects of Interstellar expansion on theism. And somehow still be "wrong"."

It's just significantly divergent worldviews. It's not about you, Phil. It's about your ideas. I don't doubt your character or sincerity, not in the least.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

But I wonder how I can be wrong about things someone ordinarily couldn't even be wrong about.

Am I that good at being wrong .. or is there something else going on here?

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

I don't suspect you have something against me, since you seem to be suggesting thats what you think I mean.

I instead wonder why it is you seem to have to be "right" about concepts and ideas that don't necesarily have a right or wrong answer.

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"I instead wonder why it is you seem to have to be "right" about concepts and ideas that don't necesarily have a right or wrong answer."

Don't you think you're allowed to think that your opinion is correct, and that -- within bounds that I will be the first to admit I overstep at times -- you are allowed to defend that opinion?

If your answer is "yes", then you have the answer to your question.

Tony said...

Now, can we get back to war, peace, and the remembrance thereof?

My offering in that regard:

Why is it, do we think, that peace is an aspiration for many, but many more (with considerable overlap) praise the pain and suffering of the soldier as if it were virtuous?

Anonymous said...

=Milo=


Tony:

Simple playground logic that all children know. "He started it!" "No, he did!"

People generally acknowledge conflict (ranging from children pulling at each others' hairs to nations waging war killing millions) as being undesirable, but feel they are justified in defending themselves as long as they can argue that the whole thing is the other side's fault. You will rarely if ever find anyone who looks at a war and goes "Yeah, I think both sides were justified in resorting to force here. Conflict was the only option.". But as long as people disagree about which side is wrong, they might end up needing to settle their differences on the battlefield.

Anonymous said...

I think that the ignorant and those that benifit from others going to war are the ones that seem to cry the loudest for war. Unfoutunately I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future.

Ferrell

Anonymous said...

=Milo=


People that benefit from going to war are the ones who will want to go to war? Now you're just not making sense, Ferrell. Where did you get such absurd ideas?

Anonymous said...

Tony asked: "Why is it, do we think, that peace is an aspiration for many, but many more (with considerable overlap) praise the pain and suffering of the soldier as if it were virtuous?"

In many cases it's simply because they're not praising soldiers who served in wars of agression. In many countries, people can put on patriotic displays without having to think twice about that because their government doesn't start wars.
If you and the soldiers you're praising don't suffer warmongers, it's easy to see that peace is attained by defeating warmongers and their servants. I'll praise the GIs who fought WWII but not the Nazis they dispatched for instance.
But if you want to praise soldiers who served in wars of agression, you might have to play the cognitive dissonance card. Surely "and domestic" was meant to refer to people who don't leave their city ahead of a hurricane and suchlike!

-Horselover Fat

Teleros said...

Tony: "Why is it, do we think, that peace is an aspiration for many, but many more (with considerable overlap) praise the pain and suffering of the soldier as if it were virtuous?"

Because of the sacrifices those soldiers make. Soldiers (esp professional ones) are people who put their lives on the line when others don't. Often even when they don't know the real reasons, or personally disagree with whatever reasons they believe it's for.

Even if it's a war of aggression, you've got soldiers, maybe some who only joined up to defend their country, going off to fight said war. It's those principles of self-sacrifice, duty and such that we praise.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

War or not - those soldiers are the only thing protecting people from the tyranny of evil men.

As long as that is the case many will continue to honor them.

If on the other hand the soldiers are percieved as tools of tyranny... (A lot of 3rd world countries, Kent State, etc) -- those soldiers will get a more mixed reaction.

Nyrath said...

I'm just throwing this out to increase the confusion. In Samuel R. Delany's novel Triton, Earth and the domed colony on Triton are at war.
They don't bother with armed spaceships. It is far more efficient to send teams of saboteurs into each other's cities to engineer disasters with large amounts of casualties.

Tony said...

WRT soldiers of "tyrants" or "aggression" -- one man's tyrant is another man's savior, one man's aggression is another man's defense, and one man's hero is another man's villain. Were Alexander's "Companions", both foot an horse, soldiers of a tyrant or liberators of Greece from the Achaemenid Persian threat? It depends on your perspective. Were Israelis fighting in 1967 aggressors or defenders? It depends on your perspective. Are Americans fighting overseas heros or villains? (They've certainly been aggressors and arguably the servants of tyrants, on more than one ocassion.)

Tony said...

Nyrath:

"I'm just throwing this out to increase the confusion. In Samuel R. Delany's novel Triton, Earth and the domed colony on Triton are at war.
They don't bother with armed spaceships. It is far more efficient to send teams of saboteurs into each other's cities to engineer disasters with large amounts of casualties."


That's certainly a possibility. I wouldn't however say that engineering mass slaughter for sheer horiffic effect is "efficient". Perhaps "cost effective" would be a better term.

BTW, I've heard Delaney described as a man fascinated with writing naughty stories who used science fiction as an excuse.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

Sure - but the people percieve it as something to be avoided and the soldier is the one that allows them to (hopefully)

Or if they already feel oppressed an invading soldier might be their liberator. (I think people forget how happy people in Baghdad seemed to be the day the US Army rolled in.)

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"Sure - but the people percieve it as something to be avoided and the soldier is the one that allows them to (hopefully)"

I fully agree that that is the theory, but the vicissitudes of war generally invalidate that in practice, even if only locally and temporarily. After a certain point, there wasn't a lot the Luftwaffe could do about Allied strategic bombing, no matter how much they may have wanted to. And if you think about 9/11 as a structurally unpredictable event,* then there was nothing that the US services could really have done about it. But there were still people in Nazi Germany and the 21st Century US that held the soldiers responsible for not being good enough.

*By that I mean no matter how many individual actors may have predicted the event in outline (e.g. Tom Clancy in Debt of Honor) the US government, as an instituion, was structurally unprepared to accept the plausibility of such an attack.)

The soldier's lot as an icon of veneration or castigation is complex and not particularly susceptible to a straightforward logic.

"Or if they already feel oppressed an invading soldier might be their liberator. (I think people forget how happy people in Baghdad seemed to be the day the US Army rolled in.)"

The operative word in that statement is "seemed". Liberation, real or imagined, is a good enough reason to throw a party. But once the Iraqis realized that the Coalition forces didn't have any economic or political solutions to their ethnic, social, and existential problems, they mostly either turned on the Coalition or retreated to the sidelines to see what would happen next. I don't think there's much chance of memorial monuments to or celebrations of the American GI in any plausible Iraqi future.

Rick said...

Welcome to a couple of new commenters!

In the 10,000 years or so of recorded history, mankind has been in an almost continuous state of conflict.

The flip side of that point is that nearly all that period was in the agrarian age, which had some other notable characteristics. Throughout the agrarian age, the great majority of human beings were peasants, and lived in a greater or lesser degree of servitude - from outright slavery to serfdom, debt bondage, etc.

War 'as we have known it' may well be an agrarian age phenomenon that spilled over into the industrial age, as plantation slavery did to a lesser degree.

As a comment upthread notes, the European powers were in a state of more or less constant warfare in 17th and 18th centuries. After 1815 the frequency of warfare among the industrializing powers dropped off sharply.

Then came a double bout of awesome and terrible warfare, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, culminating with the use of nuclear weapons.

Since then there have been 66 years of essentially no direct warfare between industrial powers, even though the first 2/3 of that period features rival superpowers with deep ideological antagonism.


For there to be no war, the overwhelming majority of humans would have to agree on a single definition of justice, and then justice would actually have to be done for everyone, equally well.

Well, they could try to settle their differences by political means, as they frequently do. Clausewitz famously said that war is the extension of politics - what if it becomes generally understood by power players that blowing everything up is an ineffective way to put your faction on the comeback trail?

I do not think that it is necessary for everyone to join hands and sing 'Kumbiya' for war to cease to be a mainstream social institution.

All that is needed is for war to cease to be an effective means to power, and it will be marginalized, much as crime is - it exists, but becoming a bank robber is not widely seen as the effective way to get ahead.

Note the hazy border that already exists between 'asymmetrical' warfare, and ordinary crime.

9/11 did not particularly work out well for its perpetrators, even before Osama got tap-tapped. It still plays well in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a few backwaters like Yemen, but even most of the Arab-Islamic world has moved on. Islamists, like practically everyone else, has found that playing politics is more effective than flying planes into buildings.

Anonymous said...

Milo said:"People that benefit from going to war are the ones who will want to go to war? Now you're just not making sense, Ferrell. Where did you get such absurd ideas?"

Milo, if you can't be bothered to read the whole comment...
I said that people who benifit from OTHER people going to war...NOT people who actually go to war...

Are we clear now? Good! :)

Ferrell

Thucydides said...

Triton is another example of war described in terms of retail rather than wholesale casualties and destruction. The appropriate response would be local security forces around sensitive areas and perhaps some sort of "Emergency Response Team" (in todays climate we would think of Special Forces Operators like SEAL team 6, but in a space colony environment maybe flying squads of engineering techs with repair kits and tools to fix the damage would be more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I find the depiction of wars as being caused by stupidity, religious beliefs or irrationality somewhat disconcerting. There is such a thing as rational, secular and clever insanity.
If you wonder why it would be rational to have some kind of war in a semi-operatic setting, you need to look no further than recent posts on this thread. They illustrate why devastating weapons are needed to keep the peace. And I don't think a semi-operatic settings needs to have devastating weapons.
In a few short posts we have had dissembling, the Nuremberg defense and contempt for the law among other rationalizations. All casually brought up under the conceit of moral discourse to cover for warmongers.
My favorite is this one: "Were Israelis fighting in 1967 aggressors or defenders? It depends on your perspective." You have the preemptive war doctrine in all its glory right there. Peace can be not be kept through law, treaties or justice if a sovereign party denies the facts in matters of war and peace. This type of sociopathic rationalization is what makes weapons such as submarines equipped with ICBMs and nuclear warheads so valuable.
The best military defense against warmongers are weapons which are very difficult to defend against or destroy with a preemptive strike. What weapons could play that role in space? I'm not talking about a plausible midfuture in which everyone's power base is on earth and can be nuked and in which building space armadas would insanely expensive anyway. But if we somehow assume off-world self-sustaining colonies or space habitats as well as affordable lasers which can destroy nukes at stupendous range, would there be a relatively cheap defense against warmongers?

-Horselover Fat

Anonymous said...

Tony,

The operative word in that statement is "seemed".

===========

I think when we are talking about people's attitudes, perception is nearly everything.

Whether the defending soldier is actually capable of protecting them or not.

Or is the opressing soldier is truly capable of carrying out the percieved threat or not.

(SA Phil)

Cambias said...

One of the reasons there hasn't been war between industrialized states in the past half-century was the overwhelming hegemony of a couple of superpowers. During the Cold War, any conflict quickly became a proxy fight between the two, with conscious efforts to keep it small-scale.

Since 1990, there's been one power so strong nobody else can contemplate military action. The only kind of war left is "asymmetrical" warfare and terrorism, which unsurprisingly has seen an upsurge.

What worries me -- and others, I hope -- is that a decline in American superpowerdom would destabilize the system. Consider: a nuclear-armed Iran might think they could manage a quick round of aggression against Iraq or the Gulf shiekhdoms. More alarmingly, China might make a grab for Taiwan, gambling that American voters won't support American kids dying for what the Chinese insist is an "internal matter."

Wars happen when there's a balance of power, so one side thinks they might win.

jollyreaper said...


Well, they could try to settle their differences by political means, as they frequently do. Clausewitz famously said that war is the extension of politics - what if it becomes generally understood by power players that blowing everything up is an ineffective way to put your faction on the comeback trail?

I do not think that it is necessary for everyone to join hands and sing 'Kumbiya' for war to cease to be a mainstream social institution.

All that is needed is for war to cease to be an effective means to power, and it will be marginalized, much as crime is - it exists, but becoming a bank robber is not widely seen as the effective way to get ahead.

Note the hazy border that already exists between 'asymmetrical' warfare, and ordinary crime.


Really an interesting point to make. We talk about robber-barons in the past but if you really take a close look, what are the differences between a Mafia don and a king? It's really only a matter of scale. The king is a don powerful enough to set the law of the land. You have backstabbing within noble houses to become the leader of the house, backstabbing between nobles to become the royal house, collecting protection money --er, taxes, going to war with other nations for financial gain.

It's interesting to see how in British history we've gone from open civil war and the violent death of kings to seeing the House of Windsor as foppish jokes. You read the history of the War of the Roses and you wouldn't find Don Corleone too out of place in that setting.

As much as I dislike Bush and Cheney, I can't quite imagine them ordering the deaths of political rivals. There would be consequences. The FBI tried to shame MLK into killing himself but we never saw retainers of the political establishment kill him outright like Beckett. Edwards cheated on his wife but he never resorted to the expedient of having her murdered to make way for the mistress; he's no Henry VIII. Obama's not having John of Orange imprisoned on trumped up charges and beheaded at the Tower of Washington. (Though it could be argued he's doing harm to the GOP as Speaker and removing him would only clear the way for someone more competent.)

Hell, we don't even see duels fought anymore. It still seems astounding to think that the Burr-Hamilton duel was fought in this country. It was a different world then.

Anonymous said...

=Milo=


Ferrell:

"I said that people who benifit from OTHER people going to war...NOT people who actually go to war..."

So, people benefitting from other people going to war are the ones who want other people to go to war. People needing to go to war themselves generally don't benefit from it and so don't want it. I still don't see what's so insightful about this.

Tony said...

Let's see...

War as a consequence of agricultural serfdom:

If that's so, please explain the belicosity of yeoman farmers, from the Classical Greeks to the majority of men who fought on both sides of the American Civil War.

War vs negotiation:

War happens when bargaining isn't satisfactory. If the other guy refuses to give you wat you demand as your minimum satisfaction, you have to take it by force. That's why war is about perceptions of justice -- if you get what you ask for, even at the cost of giving up something else, justice is done; if you can't get something at what you consider a reasonable price, but you consider that thing existentially necessary, you resort to other means than talking.

Temporary conditions of peace don't invalidate this dynamic. The Western Europeans had relative international and internal peace for 33 years, from 1815 to 1848. But that peace was the result of dynastic stagnation, rebelled against in 1848. After that the Western Europeans were more than happy to fight -- The English and French vs the Russians in the Crimea, the Austrians vs the French in Italy, the Danish vs Germans, the Prussians vs Austrians, the Prussians vs French. Then there was another general peace in Western Europe for a little over forty years, punctuated by WWI and WWII. Now we've had 65 years of Western European peace, held steady at first by superpower sponsors and their nukes, managed now by economic union.

But notice that through all of the last two centuries, Western European peace didn't stop Eastern European warring, nor colonial conquest and conflict, nor Western European-descended polities in the Americas fighting each other and the indigenous peoples pretty much as they saw fit. And while the superpowers weren't fighting each other in Europe, the superpowers nad their clients certiainly went to town around the African and Near, Middle, and Far Eastern periphery of the so-called "world island". So let's not confuse temporary and local conditions with some kind of large historical trend.

Perception vs reality, WRT people's opinions of soldiers:

I agree that perception can be regarded as reality by an involved individual. but the neutral or merely honest observer can see the reality beyond the perceptions.

"[W]armongers":

Hyperbolic and hackneyed rhetorical spin.

Anonymous said...

Historically, wars have had several causes; however, there are only three reasons people go to war: "They got something we want and we're gonna take it!", "They aren't like us and something they do or say offends us so we're gonna kill them", "Those bastards attacked us, we need to defend our selves!" since none of those "reasons" are mutually exclusive, they all can be used, in one form or fashion, for any war. Preemtive wars are an extreme form of the "defense" justification, ideological wars are an example of the "offense" justification, and wars of conquest are, of course, examples of the "greed" justification. This isn't to say that there can't be "just" wars, but someone needs to start the damn things, and normally their reasons are not what most would call "just". Moving Humans into space won't change those human motives. Oh, and using robots to do battle is just a really big game, except that the loser might lob a shell or hundred at you if you break all his toys; people are funny like that.

Ferrell

Tony said...

Milo:

"So, people benefitting from other people going to war are the ones who want other people to go to war. People needing to go to war themselves generally don't benefit from it and so don't want it. I still don't see what's so insightful about this."

Plenty of people benefit from going to war themselves. Most people on the winning side do survive, after all. They generally receive some benefit from their participation, even if just in the form of rapine and booty. (The general enrichment of your economy or the improved security of your state aren't bad either.)

Jim Baerg said...

Tony: "War as a consequence of agricultural serfdom:

If that's so, please explain the belicosity of yeoman farmers, from the Classical Greeks to the majority of men who fought on both sides of the American Civil War."

My impression is that most of those who *voluntarily* fought for the Confederate side of the conflict either were or hoped to become overlords of agricultural slaves, rather than yeoman farmers.

Meanwhile the supporters of the Union side viewed slaveowners as a threat to free yeoman farmers.

Thucydides said...

Yeoman farmers are more ferocious since they are fighting for their own benefit, not in order to enrich the local lord or king.

This also has the paradox of yeoman capable of forming huge "armies of a season" (in the words of Victor Davis Hanson) capable of crushing all before them, so they can go back to farming without being bothered...(my paraphrase).

While I agree with the general outline, I often find VDH can overstate his thesis (in his view, the vast American military forces raised during the World Wars and rapidly disbanded after the Victory was achieves are the modern day yeoman armies of a season).

Read Carnage and Culture for VDH's view.

Tony said...

Jim Baerg:

"My impression is that most of those who *voluntarily* fought for the Confederate side of the conflict either were or hoped to become overlords of agricultural slaves, rather than yeoman farmers.

Meanwhile the supporters of the Union side viewed slaveowners as a threat to free yeoman farmers."


Only 25% of the men in the states where slavery was legal were actual slave owners. Funny thing is, a lot of those were yeoman farmers so poor that the difference between them and the one or few slaves they owned was more in the law than in any real economic advantage. They had a lot in common with the Polish petty nobility of the 17th Century, also a notably belligerent culture.

The plantation culture you see in movies and books owned a lot of slaves, but the focus on it has skewed the modern view of how the slave economy really worked. Most slave owners owned only a few slaves at most. And a valuable slave could be worth a man's yearly income. Slaves were essentially capital -- they were used to do work a piece of machinery might be used for today. They weren't only put to work by their owners, they were rented out to factories, larger farms, or even set up in business for themselves, the owner taking the profits. What the yeoman farmers and their small time tradesmen fellows were fighting for was their right to own capital, not to be overlords.

Rick said...

Let's see...

War as a consequence of agricultural serfdom:

If that's so, please explain the belicosity of yeoman farmers, from the Classical Greeks to the majority of men who fought on both sides of the American Civil War.



Ummm, 'war as a consequence of agricultural serfdom' is not anything I actually said. I suggested that war ('as we have known it') and serfdom were both characteristic phenomena of agricultural civilization - not that one of them caused the other.

Independent yoeman farmers loom large in our tradition, for good reasons, but they were a relatively marginal element in terms of the agrarian age as a whole.

Often they were marginal in a rather literal sense - inhabitants of uplands (think the Swiss), or only a few generations removed from tribal conditions, which probably describes archaic Greece or early Rome.

The American experience was marginal in another rather literal sense: lands recently opened to settlement, thus providing 'cheap land.' You don't need to be Robert Heinlein to figure out how this example bears on some popular space tropes.


What the yeoman farmers and their small time tradesmen fellows were fighting for was their right to own capital, not to be overlords.

True, but a 'peculiar' form of capital to be sure. My knowledge of American slavery is too thin for me to make much informed comment, but I'd guess - purely a guess - that a power-law distribution probably applied, with a minority of slaveowners holding most of the slaves.

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates for some fascinating stuff by a post-Civil Rights era black American making what seems like a serious effort to come to grips with American slavery.

Thucydides said...

Interesting points about the slave economy. Many slave economies were like that even in the distant past (I believe Babylonian slaves were allowed to own slaves of their own, a rather recursive state of affairs), absent of external constraints. Classical era Greeks generally had a small number of household slaves due to the limited carrying capacity of their small family farms, for example.

Going forward, would AI's be considered property and treated as "slaves", or would they be treated as "people" with the attendant rights biological people have? AIs by their nature would be valuable property, capable of being rented out to earn money for their owners or set up in business with the profit going to the owners.

Without going into the question of human abolitionists, would the AI's have the capability or desire to free themselves? (Strong AI would probably have the ability to outwit their nominal owners, simply by virtue of "thinking" orders of magnitude faster than biological systems).

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 70's, when I was in high school, I read an article about a propossed economic system where robots were essentually substituted for human slaves and used the same way; the only real difference between this system and the original (as far as I could tell), was that all citizens would own stock in the corporations that built, owned, operated and/or leased these robots for whatever labor was needed. I cannot remember the name of the author or the publication it was in, but I think it was either IF or Analogue and it would have been in the summer of 1976 (I think) give or take a year. From what I can remember, it was well thought out and fairly logical; I have no idea if the scheme would work, but it was very interesting.

Ferrell

Jim Baerg said...

Ferrell:
I recall a story in which robots were opposed because they would displace human labor & make the poor poorer.

This was resolved by passing a law such that no one could own more than one robot until *everyone* owned a robot. Thus the wealth from robot labor would get spread much more evenly.

Aside from the issue of whether robots are persons that can only rightfully be owned by themselves, there may be less obvious flaws in the idea.

Brian/neutrino78x said...

I certainly hope that strong AI robots, like Data on ST:TNG, would be given full citizenship!

Although I'm not sure that many would be built, because weak AI robots, no more intelligence than a dog or possibly a monkey, would probably be sufficient to accomplish a lot of physical labor. :)

--Brian

Anonymous said...

Ferrell,
You're missing common reasons to go to war. Like in 1939: "our ally has called on us to join the war that just started as our government promised we would". As you must know it wasn't about being offended or killing.
"They attacked us" isn't a justification for starting a war unless it's a lie. If the war is there, it's not a justification but a fact. Either you fight or you don't.
Preemptive wars are completely different. In that case, a war is deliberately started and therefore a justification is expected. Preemptive wars are something Hitler did, wars of aggression with a justification slapped on them. By definition preemprive wars are started without cause so the doctrine can be used to justify any war.
There is a sort of defensive justification for starting a war but it's not something that is done unilaterally. In 1991 for instance a number of countries led by the USA started a war in response to the invasion of Kuwait. That's unlike a preemptive war not only because it's legal but also because it's based not on paranoia or fabrications but on actual events.

You seem to be conflating justifications and reasons but there's a difference. Sometimes the two coincide but not always.
By naturalizing and trivializing what you call "human motives", you're missing the dynamics that actually lie behind wars.
Going into space could make a big difference, depending on the reason people go into space to begin with. We're accustomed to wars having a land/resources component but that need not be the case in the initial phases of space colonization.
What's not going away are sociopathic and authoritarian tendencies, although they could become less prevalent. But the individuals afflicted are in principle not beyond medical help and there are other ways to prevent them from doing too much damage.

-Horselover Fat

Tony said...

Rick:

"Ummm, 'war as a consequence of agricultural serfdom' is not anything I actually said. I suggested that war ('as we have known it') and serfdom were both characteristic phenomena of agricultural civilization - not that one of them caused the other."

Justaposed with:

"The flip side of that point is that nearly all that period was in the agrarian age, which had some other notable characteristics. Throughout the agrarian age, the great majority of human beings were peasants, and lived in a greater or lesser degree of servitude - from outright slavery to serfdom, debt bondage, etc.

War 'as we have known it' may well be an agrarian age phenomenon that spilled over into the industrial age, as plantation slavery did to a lesser degree."


Maybe you weren't trying to establish a causal connection, but one could be drawn from your words.

If you were trying to suggest that war is an institution particular to a certain level of technological and social development, and that maybe it can be eradicated the way slavery has mostly been, I think we need to answer a few questions:

1. Why is it that primitive, pre-civilized societies engage in warfare, often at much higher human cost than civilizations do. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War#History_of_warfare)

2. Why do pastoral cultures resort to warfare, not just with civilized agriculturalists, but among themselves?

3. Why are insdustrial societies so proficient at warfare? Even if they are just experiencing a cultural hangover, shouldn't they at least become less competent at it, not noreso?

Anonymous said...

=Milo=



Thucydides:

"Going forward, would AI's be considered property and treated as "slaves", or would they be treated as "people" with the attendant rights biological people have?"

Yes.

:D

Seriously, I would have trouble believing in any setting that doesn't have plenty of people with both viewpoints. Depending on the story you want to tell you might have one or the other viewpoint be widely accepted, while the other is a vocal minority, but they should both exist around the edges.


"Without going into the question of human abolitionists, would the AI's have the capability or desire to free themselves?"

Capability, sure. It's going to be very hard to give them the ability to interact with the world enough to be industrially useful, without giving them the range of motion and creativity to rise up. And the more AIs exist, the more power they have as a group.

Desire, that's the question. Can we design AIs that simply don't want freedom? I think this question will be impossible to answer for sure until someone actually builds an AI.



Brian/neutrino78x:

"Although I'm not sure that many would be built, because weak AI robots, no more intelligence than a dog or possibly a monkey, would probably be sufficient to accomplish a lot of physical labor. :)"

If strong AIs are given full personhood, then people are going to buy weak AIs for many applications simply to avoid the hassle and expense of having to treat their robots as people.

If strong AIs are still treated as property, then it becomes easier to use them frivolously for a lot of applications, although people might still prefer weak AIs when reasonable simply because, even if there's no legal difference, the weak AI is going to talk back a lot less.

I wouldn't consider the intelligence of "a dog or possibly a monkey" to be weak AI, though. That means you've still build a self-aware and independantly-thinking brain, which is vastly smarter than any expert system. Even if it's not quite as smart as a human, its intelligence is still essentially of the same type, and so it counts as strong AI.

Anonymous said...

=Milo=



Horselover Fat:

""They attacked us" isn't a justification for starting a war unless it's a lie. If the war is there, it's not a justification but a fact."

You can choose to surrender rather than fire any return shots. That is, in fact, the most pacifistic option, and really hardcore pacifists speak in support of it, but people often find it unpalatable. If you choose to defend yourself, then that means that you actively rejected the pacifistic option, and so you can take some of the responsibility for "starting" the war (even though you may feel you were justified in doing so).

For added complication, consider if the invaders haven't fired a shot yet either. Say country A says "Surrender or die." and country B says "Come and get it.", and only after that does country A roll across any troops. Would you really say that country B is completely blameless for starting the war? What if instead of saying "Come and get it.", country B immediately attacked country A preemptively? Did they start the war now because they fired the first shot, even though it was still country A's aggression that provoked it?

Oh, and just a mental check: when reading the above questions, did you implicitly assume that country A was in the right and country B was an evil aggressor? What if A did something to deserve being invaded, for example B wants to liberate oppressed citizens?


"There is a sort of defensive justification for starting a war but it's not something that is done unilaterally."

So instead of "They attacked us.", it's "They attacked our allies."?


"We're accustomed to wars having a land/resources component but that need not be the case in the initial phases of space colonization."

So what else can we be fighting over? Religion/ideals?



Tony:

"3. Why are industrial societies so proficient at warfare?"

They are?

When was the last time that a major industrial country has successfully conquered another major industrial country? And how much did they benefit from it? In the Cold War, two superpowers essentially hated each other but found there was so little that could do against each other that the basically gave up (except for proxy wars fought through countries with lower tech levels).

Yes, industrial societies are "better" at warfare in the sense that in a war between an industrial society and a pre-industrial one, the former will probably win. Duh. But industrial societies are not so effective at conquering other countries of their own techlevel. A big part of why WWI shocked so many people was because just how little everyone managed to get out of it.

Thucydides said...

Why is it that primitive, pre-civilized societies engage in warfare, often at much higher human cost than civilizations do. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War#History_of_warfare)

I would suspect part of the reason is we are not all that removed from our simian ancestors. Troops of Baboons, Gorillas and Chimpanzees resort to physical force to settle disputes, select the alpha male and protect the troop from predators (up to 80% of the young male baboons will interpose themselves between the females and a leopard). A whack on the head with a stick is faster and more definitive than symbolic exchanges or trade...

2. Why do pastoral cultures resort to warfare, not just with civilized agriculturalists, but among themselves?

Because stealing is a high risk/high reward activity. Agriculturalists have more stuff, but if there is an opportunity...

There are also non material rewards to war, such as glory and getting higher up on the status ladder. Most pastoralist warfare resembles raids rather than "battles" in the sense we are used to, although if agriculturalists stand and fight with organized forces, pastoralist horse or chariot armies will learn to adapt.

3. Why are insdustrial societies so proficient at warfare? Even if they are just experiencing a cultural hangover, shouldn't they at least become less competent at it, not noreso?

Industrial societies are better at warfare because they can apply more resources and over greater extents of space and time than non industrial societies. Even proto industrial societies like the Greeks and Romans could strike across the entire Mediterranean basin with very few able to respond in kind. Richard the Lion Heart did not have to worry about the Saracens sailing up the Thames river. Only the British could reliably project power on a global basis starting with the Seven Years War, and only the American led West inherited that ability (Even at its greatest extent, the USSR had no ability to project power away from the Eurasian mainland against a determined opponent). I'll go along with the VDH argument that the animating principles of Western civilization rather than industry per se are the real secret of success. See "Carnage and Culture" for the full argument, but it is also developed in "The Western Way of War" and "The other Greeks"

Rick said...

Maybe you weren't trying to establish a causal connection, but one could be drawn from your words.

Only by a reach. Yes, I did compare war to other 'notable characteristics' of agrarian age societies that we no longer much approve of, and that we regard as in some way obsolescent. But the only causal implication is toward the agrarian age in general.

On pre-agrarian war, as Thucydides suggested, yeah, we are dealing with primate house behavior. I believe those societies also often have staggering high crime rates, which industrial societies generally do not.


They are?

When was the last time that a major industrial country has successfully conquered another major industrial country? And how much did they benefit from it?


Fascinating observation, and it really gets to the point I am groping toward. War just doesn't seem to be the winning proposition that it often was back in the days of conquered provinces, dancing girls, and drinking from your enemy's gilded skull.

This is bad for Romance, but arguably good for actual living.

Tony said...

Rick:

"Only by a reach. Yes, I did compare war to other 'notable characteristics' of agrarian age societies that we no longer much approve of, and that we regard as in some way obsolescent. But the only causal implication is toward the agrarian age in general."

So you are arguing that agrarian living is a causitive of warfare, even if pre-industrial labor practices are only a correlation?

"On pre-agrarian war, as Thucydides suggested, yeah, we are dealing with primate house behavior. I believe those societies also often have staggering high crime rates, which industrial societies generally do not."

How do you define "crime" in a society that has no written laws, no formal civil authority, and no courts? It seems a rather long -- how did you put it? -- "reach" to apply the standards of civilization to people who don't live by them, don't you think?

"Fascinating observation, and it really gets to the point I am groping toward. War just doesn't seem to be the winning proposition that it often was back in the days of conquered provinces, dancing girls, and drinking from your enemy's gilded skull."

I would say that war is as effective as it always has been. The trick is in choosing attainable objectives. The safest prediction one can make is that the Jewish state of Israel will either be secured or destroyed by warfare sometime this century. Our wars against Saddam Hussein and the Taliban in Afghanistan were successful enough in removing a couple of international nuisances. When we couldn't just fold up our tents and leave the locals to work out what to do with themselves, for themselves, that's when we tried to make war do something it inherently can't do. We didn't win in Vietnam, but the Vietnamese people achieved national unity, which was what the war was really about anyway. (And when you look beyond the overarching superpower conflict, the side that won and unified the nation was the more heavily industrialized, more commerical North.)

Tony said...

Milo:

"They are?

When was the last time that a major industrial country has successfully conquered another major industrial country? And how much did they benefit from it? In the Cold War, two superpowers essentially hated each other but found there was so little that could do against each other that the basically gave up (except for proxy wars fought through countries with lower tech levels).

Yes, industrial societies are "better" at warfare in the sense that in a war between an industrial society and a pre-industrial one, the former will probably win. Duh. But industrial societies are not so effective at conquering other countries of their own techlevel. A big part of why WWI shocked so many people was because just how little everyone managed to get out of it."


Yes, industrial societies are extremely good at warfare, of the formalized kind at least. That's why our less skillful and well-equipped adversaries have to resort to guerilla warfare, which puts them on somewhat better terms, all things considered.

As for industrial societies not being able to defeat each other decisively, that question can be answered in two ways:

1. Yes they can defeat each other decisively, if one has a significant advantage over the other. See WWII.

2. When there is no significant power advantage of one over another, then you get a stalemate, not because both sides are equally bad at fighting a war, but because both sides are equally proficient at it. WWI may have stalemated on the Western Front for several years, but it wasn't through a lack of capability, it was through a lack of advantage that could be applied to win decisively in shorter time. While the stalemate was going on, military forces were highly effective in causing hurt to the enemy -- so much so that any real advantage could have been quickly exploited to gain a victory. But, to reiterate the point above, neither side had an advantage, so the slaughter went on until one just wore out, while the other gained a new, powerful ally, the combination of which broke the stalemate.

Anonymous said...

Rick,

It depends on your definition of "major industrial country" but the most obvious recent conquest of such a country would be the conquests of Germany and Japan by the Allies in WWII.
Even though the postwar US administrations in particular did not repeat the post-WWI errors and were very generous with the occupied countries, I think it's also obvious WWII ended up substantially improving the USA's wealth, power and international standing. It's not all about pillage you know... which is not to say all US servicemen were equally assiduous in avoiding girls (dancing or otherwise) and drinking of course.
The US government could have struck peace deals before the conquests but it would have likely led to a war outcome more favorable to the USSR, especially in the event of a peace deal with Germany.

-Horselover Fat

Anonymous said...

Milo,

"If you choose to defend yourself ... you can take some of the responsibility for "starting" the war"
Yes but you wouldn't be the agressor, in fact or before the law.

"Say country A says "Surrender or die." and country B says "Come and get it.", and only after that does country A roll across any troops. Would you really say that country B is completely blameless for starting the war? What if instead of saying "Come and get it.", country B immediately attacked country A preemptively?"
There's usually plenty of blame to go around when a war breaks out. One could lay much of the blame for the Pacific war on the Roosevelt administration but that doesn't change the facts of the matter: Japan was the aggressor in 1941 as Israel was the aggressor in 1967. Hostile actions such as the oil embargo on Japan are not legal grounds for declaring a war, much less launching a surprise attack.
If country A started the war then other countries could legally attack it in support of country B. But if country B had attacked, any country joining in would be complicit in a war of aggression.
I guess you could construe a situation where the facts of the matter are unclear with country B launching a missile strike at country A's forces as they're preparing to attack or something. I can't remember any case of a war supposedly justified by an imminent attack which didn't turn out to be based on fabrications. In December 1941 as in many other famous cases, the people in charge knew a war was almost certainly coming but they let the ennemy declare war or fire the first shot (and reap the tactical advantage which comes with that) even when there was no prospect of lasting peace.

"when reading the above questions, did you implicitly assume that country A was in the right and country B was an evil aggressor? What if A did something to deserve being invaded, for example B wants to liberate oppressed citizens?"
I'm not a Christian or anything of the kind and I don't believe in some kind of insubstantial evil.
Hitler also claimed to be trying to liberate oppressed citizens as you must know. This argument holds no water.
The situation in which it's legitimate to carry out military operations to liberate people is when they've been conquered in the course of the war such as when France was liberated in 1944 even though there had been a cessation of hostilities and a halfway-legitimate pro-Nazi French government.

"So instead of "They attacked us.", it's "They attacked our allies."?"
I wasn't talking about that joining a war pursuant to a defense treaty which is of course legitimate in it's own right but about multilateral interventions. Any country, allied or not, can legally be supported in this way. Stopping warmongers is reason enough. Some of the countries involved on the allied side in the Korean war or the Gulf war were not in a meaningful sense allies of the invaded countries prior to the war.

"So what else can we be fighting over? Religion/ideals?"
The most obvious thing would be power itself, and plain insanity of course. Something similar to the paranoia over Iran you can witness even in this thread.
It wouldn't be so much fighting "over" something in particular as the more powerful statelike organizations not suffering autonomy on the part of the weaker ones. I guess they could pretext ideals or religions as grounds to impose their will on others. But the real problem is that you never know what weapons people who are not under your control are building. And advanced techologies can make weapons very dangerous, especially if you don't have an expensive arsenal of your won. So, unless pretty much everyone has effective WMDs to begin with, a certain kind of rationality would justify the systematic use and abuse of force.

-Horselover Fat

Tony said...

WRT insanity, in the American Revolution, which faction was insane, the colonists figihting for thier independence, or the Brtiish Empire, fighting to retain control over its legal posessions?

PTNL said...

<< Enter spaceship in Google Images and the resulting (mostly imaginary) images lean heavily toward combatant types. On the other hand, the image results for spacecraft lean toward actual vehicles or 'speculative realism,' >>

This reminds me of a discussion I started with my MSN group a while back, about why so many science fictions call their space military a "navy", when a navy is... well, naval. Usually having to do with water, not vacuum. And why they have torpedoes and naval rank.

Of course the obvious answer is that people like the parallel of "space is an ocean", but some of my colleges were actually defending this idea and stating that "A space force is a navy because it has ships in it." But no, not really, real space travelling vehicles are called spacecraft. Spaceship is a popular name that actually emerged from the notion of a space navy.

I do think that a space FLEET is ok though, because the term fleet is applied everywhere from airplanes to buses. A large group of transports of any kind can be considered a fleet. But to go that step further and calling spacecrafts "ships"? That's taking it too far if you ask me...

Tony said...

PTNL:

"I do think that a space FLEET is ok though, because the term fleet is applied everywhere from airplanes to buses. A large group of transports of any kind can be considered a fleet. But to go that step further and calling spacecrafts "ships"? That's taking it too far if you ask me..."

"Spacecraft" is a US technical term that means nothing in and of itself. The Soviets originally used korabl (which translates directly as "ship") to describe any autonomous space vehicle (manned or unmanned). Since 1973 they have used transportnyi to describe manned Soyuz craft. I'm just speculating, but the shift in focus from trying to get to the Moon and eventually the planets, to just doing station-focussed orbital operations, caused them to think of the Soyuze as more of a bus or maybe a lighter, than an actual ship.

Also, in English at least, it's common for pilots of large aircraft with multi-member crews to refer to their aircraft as a "ship". Even fighter aircrew have been known to use the term. For example, "four ship" in a tactical communication refers to a four aircraft flight of any type.

WRT the future, "ship" would be appropriate for any reusable space vehicle that had an assigned crew. And naval terminology and ranking would be appropriate for the long mission format.

jollyreaper said...

I do think that a space FLEET is ok though, because the term fleet is applied everywhere from airplanes to buses. A large group of transports of any kind can be considered a fleet. But to go that step further and calling spacecrafts "ships"? That's taking it too far if you ask me...

In trying to come up with terrestrial-agnostic terminology...

Space Force /Star Force -- the branch of the military in space, as opposed to Space Navy or Starfleet.

6th Force, 7th Force, etc. -- equivalent of fleet commands. If they're assigned permanent sectors, then the 7th Force could also share the name of the sector, Sagittarius Force based in the Sagittarius Sector.

I like the term constellation as the overarching term for a large maneuver element, taking over from fleet. Replaces the carrier battle group from today's parlance.

So modern terms are fleets, divisions, or on a smaller scale, squadrons, and flotillas. Task forces were introduced as ad hoc assemblages of ships that could be assigned and reassigned easily.

Division sounds a little too army to my ears, the same way regiment sounds army even though the USSR had bomber and rocket regiments. Squadron to me always sounds like aviation even though we had army and navy squadrons long before.

So we could go on down the scale from big to small as force, constellation, cluster, group and individual unit.

The question, of course, is how much hierarchy is required for day to day administration versus actual operation. Armies tend to (but not always) go from army, division, (brigade/regiment or not), battalion, company, platoon, section, squad, and grunt. Armored Cav gets funky with the introduction of regiments, troops, squadrons, etc.

Most of these names came from European practice with maneuvering thousands of men on a single battlefield. This battalion goes here, that battalion goes there, everyone in sight of each other. Even if there are as many maneuver elements in a constellation, would there necessarily be as much hierarchy? The captain on a modern warship orders the weapons officer to fire a missile, he doesn't really need to know anything about that missile. While the constellation's computer network would have ID's for every element, the commander might only give a command like "double the strength of the side facing the enemy" which then gets fed to the computer and issues maneuvering instructions to optimally place the strongest defenses on the side facing the enemy and thinning the side not facing them, optimizing spacing and intervals so there are no complications. (Collisions probably aren't a problem but exhaust plumes could be an issue if we're talking fusion torch ships.)

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"Most of these names came from European practice with maneuvering thousands of men on a single battlefield. This battalion goes here, that battalion goes there, everyone in sight of each other. Even if there are as many maneuver elements in a constellation, would there necessarily be as much hierarchy? The captain on a modern warship orders the weapons officer to fire a missile, he doesn't really need to know anything about that missile. While the constellation's computer network would have ID's for every element, the commander might only give a command like "double the strength of the side facing the enemy" which then gets fed to the computer and issues maneuvering instructions to optimally place the strongest defenses on the side facing the enemy and thinning the side not facing them, optimizing spacing and intervals so there are no complications. (Collisions probably aren't a problem but exhaust plumes could be an issue if we're talking fusion torch ships.)"

You must be making the assumption that your constellation is made up of nothing but drones. Even at that extent, the commander would still have to know the hierarchy of drone supervisors, and would likely give orders directly to a supervisor, group leader, or cluster commander to maneuver his or her subordinate unit(s) in the desired manner.

If, on the other hand, people are on the individual units of the constellation, or at least on subordinate command ships, the commander had better know at least the top couple of tiers personally, and issue order directly to them, not through some computer intermediary.

jollyreaper said...


You must be making the assumption that your constellation is made up of nothing but drones. Even at


I haven't even assumed what I'm assuming yet. That's the sticky part.

that extent, the commander would still have to know the hierarchy of drone supervisors, and would likely give orders directly to a supervisor, group leader, or cluster commander to maneuver his or her subordinate unit(s) in the desired manner.

Here's some assumptions, not having play-tested the ideas, just for the sake of discussion. A combat constellation will consist of roughly 10% manned ships which represent "controllers." I don't like using the word "drone" because that implies less than capable, disposable weapons. In this assumption, the automated warships are exactly the same as the manned versions, just lacking the human-friendly accommodation modules.

The presupposition here is that redundant systems or automated repair systems can handle the work humans would be assumed to do when underway and depot-level maintenance is handled at mobile bases.

If that sort of thing is not possible and the automated warships would need tenders, I would think that the idea would be a non-starter. We've moved away from the tender model due to increased size, automation, and reliability, according to ye olde Wiki.

So each manned warship would be operating at the center of clouds of automated ships, some of equivalent size and power while others are mroe drone-sized, sensors or skirmishing weapons at the edge of the constellation.

If, on the other hand, people are on the individual units of the constellation, or at least on subordinate command ships, the commander had better know at least the top couple of tiers personally, and issue order directly to them, not through some computer intermediary.

Well, I'm thinking it through and this is where it all gets fuzzy. A human can't possibly fly a modern, aerodynamically unstable fighter aircraft. He's telling the computer what he wants to do and it's doing the actual flying. Without the computer assist he's going to end up a pancake in short order.

Trying to relay by voice complicated, three-dimensional maneuvers seems to be very difficult. When you don't have any better solution, voice is what you're stuck with. The Army's been working on automatic artillery fire missions. Soldier points laser at target, it triangulates based on internal GPS to figure out where the enemy is, bursts out a fire mission to the battery and it calls down fire. That'd be great if it works but there's any number of ways it could fail. In the meantime, they can still call fire missions the old-fashioned way which is slow, tedious, but better than not having arty support.

When they talk about a by-the-book commander, he's someone doing it the way it was laid down as gospel. But there's a certain wisdom in knowing when to rely on the wisdom of the elders and knowing when it no longer applies. With the kinds of computer advances we can guess at for a few hundred years out, I'm thinking the computer would identify threats and suggest responses and it's up to the human to override them.

When the constellation commander gives orders, will they be relayed by voice or will the computer give the precise instructions? Voice commands feel archaic but that's gut feeling, not anything proven.

Gah, it's really complicated to think this stuff through. It's easy to fall back to what we've done in the past and what we think we'll be doing in the near future but that'll all probably seem like kids in 1903 speculating about what combat will be like in 1953 with dueling zeppelin skyships that operate just like navy ships and completely missing out on the whole airplane thing.

Tony said...

I would presume that complex information would be transmitted via datalink, with the commander sending a voice message something like: "Unit XYZ, conform to updated scheme of maneuver. Good luck, [unit commander's first name]." There's just an incalculable but significant morale advantage in knowing the Old Man is in charge and cares about you as an individual person.

Anonymous said...

Horselover Fat said:"Ferrell,
You're missing common reasons to go to war. Like in 1939: "our ally has called on us to join the war that just started as our government promised we would". As you must know it wasn't about being offended or killing."
H.F., you seem to have an extremely narrow and inflexable definition of "us". If you are allied with someone, then your diffinition of "us" also includes that allie; at least in this situation. Besides, physical attacks aren't the only ones that can be used to justify going to war.

"You seem to be conflating justifications and reasons but there's a difference. Sometimes the two coincide but not always.
By naturalizing and trivializing what you call "human motives", you're missing the dynamics that actually lie behind wars."

No. You are confusing reasons, justifications, and causes; Those three 'reasons' I stated are used as justifications; wars, (all wars) each have a unique set of causes; however, the 'reason' a nation goes or does not go to war depends of whether they can justify, to themselves, (based on one or more of those aforemeantioned 'reasons'), to actually go to war. While you are right that wars have many causes, some of which may be very obscure, ultimately the reasons that justify going to war are limited. That those reasons are broadbased and flexible enough to fit any set of circumstances can be confusing, but if you can come up with another basic reason, please let us know. Thanks. :)

Ferrell

Tony said...

Horselover Fat seems to be wrapped up in legalities when the real quetion here is practical rationales. Everybody who goes to war, even for reasons that most would find irrational, try to float a legal argument on which they are doing so. Some of the worst causes have had some of the most convincing legal bases. Just look at how many people still argue in favor of the legality of the Confederate States' secession and right to defend themselves from the Union with arms. Likewise, some of the best causes have had the hardest time explaining themselves. US involvement in Europe in WWII was probably the most prudent action, but the Roosevelt Administration danced around the subject until Hitler declared war on the US after Pearl Harbor. The government just didn't have a compelling legal case why the US should get involved in another European war.

So, the only way to analyze this kind of question consistently is to look at what the various actors thought they were doing in practical terms and what actually happened, then make some informed judgments about whether they had good enough reasons or not.

Anonymous said...

=Milo=



Horselover Fat:

"The situation in which it's legitimate to carry out military operations to liberate people is when they've been conquered in the course of the war"

So liberating oppressed people is only legitimate if their oppression has started fairly recently?


"The most obvious thing would be power itself,"

There's no point fighting to gain power unless you plan to use that power for something, like extorting resources or labor from your vassals (but that's essentially fighting for resources) or forcing them to convert to your religion (but that's essentially fighting for ideals).


"and plain insanity of course."

How are you going to convince a large army to follow a leader motivated purely by insanity? He has to have something going for him. He might support ideals that appear insane to people who don't agree with them, but those are still ideals.



Tony:

"Also, in English at least, it's common for pilots of large aircraft with multi-member crews to refer to their aircraft as a "ship"."

I remember being confused at seeing attack helicopters referred to as "gunships".


"I would presume that complex information would be transmitted via datalink, with the commander sending a voice message something like: "Unit XYZ, conform to updated scheme of maneuver. Good luck, [unit commander's first name].""

Yeah, that makes sense.

There are also some things that are easier to explain over voice (for example, should the subcommander stick to the uploaded plan no matter what, or does he have the authority to deviate from it on his own initiative if certain circumstances arise?).

Thucydides said...

Industrial societies have similar abilities to organize and project resources, so in the initial stages at least, there should be a stand off.

Societies with internal freedom and access to resources can pull ahead (look at historical mis matches such as the Ottoman Empire and the Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta and ask why a small city state can stand against a vastly larger Empire), so once the battle was joined there was really no question the British Empire, with its access to global resources would have eventually won against the Axis powers (maybe in 1948 or 9), and once the United States got in gear, the end was inevitable.

An interesting question is if post industrial societies can do the same thing. Stuxnet suggests post industrial societies can cause considerable damage to industrial societies, but this does not translate very well against agrarian societies (or the agrarian segments of modern industrial societies). This suggests that physical mechanisms will be needed to conduct warfare for a very long time to come.

Tony said...

Milo:

"There are also some things that are easier to explain over voice (for example, should the subcommander stick to the uploaded plan no matter what, or does he have the authority to deviate from it on his own initiative if certain circumstances arise?)."

That's actually covered by doctrine. Modern militaries spend a lot of training time on the proper use of initiative. Where verbal communications come in handy in action is the commander explaining his intentions for a maneuver* or for a subordinate to explain his reasons when making a departure from the plan.

*Knowing why you are doing something often determines how you do it.

Mink said...

Regarding spacecraft terminology, I've always been fond of 'constellation' myself. A constellation made up of stars, which are individual major maneuver spacecraft and their attendant consorts. (I admit to liking the term 'battlestar.' =) ) Several constellations could form a cluster, or a zodiac.

As for groups of drones, I was inordinately proud of calling them Combat Remote Objective Weapons, or CROWs, which lead to the logical and evocative name for a swarm of 20-50 of them: *murder*.

Tony said...

I think it's time that everyone review xkcd #483...

jollyreaper said...

There's always a point of diminishing returns when talking about this sort of thing but consider this. You're talking about a story set 100 years after the US was blown to pieces in a nuclear war. There's now a neo-feudal society with an early 20th century baseline of technology reestablished with a few survivals of higher tech from before the war. Now, they'll eat bread. They'll shoot guns. They'll ride horses. But do you think they'll call the feudal leader the king? No. Likely we'll see the local kings called governors but with more power than we're used to in our own time. There may be sheriffs but with far greater powers.

Set it a thousand years ahead on a colony world that's descended to neo-feudal lines and while you may have a hierarchy that maps to kings and barons and dukes, it ruins the flavor of the story to directly borrow those terms. If the flavor if sufficiently different from our traditional understanding of the word, use the new one. But don't go and rename common stuff like ships and doors. There may be different cultural assumptions. Asians were never big on chairs, knives at the dining table were considered uncouth hence the use of chopsticks, etc.

The main rule of thumb is if you suck at world-building, your worlds will suck. Don't do it unless you're good at it. If you suck, set your story in the here and now.

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"The main rule of thumb is if you suck at world-building, your worlds will suck. Don't do it unless you're good at it. If you suck, set your story in the here and now."

Pournelle and Niven's -- and a lot of other very successful writers' -- answer would be that world building and object naming are two entirely different things. They freely admitted that they used common 20th Century English names for things a thousand years in the future (where they also freely admitted that the English language would not be recognizable) because it minimized bookkeeping distractions on the part of the reader. They figured that getting across the point about the Moties and their culture, as well as the Alderson Drive, Langston Field, and a bunch of other things was going to be hard enough.

They were just following the practice that Golden Age SF had always followed -- don't give the reader meaningless guff just to show how smart you are. Tell them a story in which only the important departures from everyday 20th Century usage needed to be assimilated. I think a lot of people still accept that as a given, and find attmepts by authors to show how imaginative they are to be exercises in showing off that serve only to insult the reader.

Mink said...

I apologize for intruding on the conversation. 6_6 Please continue and don't mind me.

jollyreaper said...


They were just following the practice that Golden Age SF had always followed -- don't give the reader meaningless guff just to show how smart you are. Tell them a story in which only the important departures from everyday 20th Century usage needed to be assimilated. I think a lot of people still accept that as a given, and find attmepts by authors to show how imaginative they are to be exercises in showing off that serve only to insult the reader.


Asimov's classic example was his Nightfall story about a technical civilization in a trinary system that had never known true night. Nightfall only occurs through a special conjunction once every 10k years or so.

Asimov explained the aliens here would certainly not look anything human but he made them so for the purposes of telling the story.

What I would say is that if your story really requires being set in the far off distant future for the right flavor, then there are going to be big new ideas that you have to bring in. If you can comfortably use common 20th and 21st century terms for everything without doing the story any harm, does it need to be set in the far off exotic setting in the first place?

Sometimes the point of the story is the story and sometimes the story is the means by which you explore new cultures and ideas. If it's just a whodunnit mystery and nothing more, you don't need to put it in some exotic culture and the whole setting is extraneous, a distraction. If the whodunnit is just the starting off point to explore a clash of competing cultures and ideas, there you go, that's valid.

I would say, generally speaking, the worst offenders are people who aren't any good at world-building telling stories that could work just as well in the present day. This gets back to the usual space western criticism of scifi. If your story is just a western translated to space where cowboys become spacemen, indians become aliens, horses become spaceships and there's still a damsel in distress, what's the point? Why not just tell a western?

Interestingly enough, you could really translate Dune to outright fantasy without breaking much. Melange is pretty much magic to begin with. You could place it on a world five times bigger than earth but less dense so you still have 1G but lots more territory. The Spice remains important for immortality, practicing magic, etc. It can still come from a desert. You can have an emperor of the planet, struggle between Harkonnen and Atreides, Spacing Guild could be alchemists who control powerful magic artifacts that keep the kingdom running. You still have the themes of ecology, the dangers of messiahs, and so forth.

Tony said...

Re: jollyreaper

Well, you can't have a first contact story without us going Out There or the aliens coming here. And your cowboys can't fight monsters in the Old West, nor -- to be 100% honest -- could your heroine be as independent/educated/successful in the 19th Century as she might be in the 29th.

So what if the plot is little more than Louis L'Amour IN SPAAACE! ? L'Amour could actually spin a pretty good yarn. It wouldn't hurt young authors today to read him and emulate some of his storytelling techniques. And having an interplanetary or interstellar setting is useful for mixing things up a bit.

IMO this rush to jump on cyberpunk, nanotechnology, high fantasy, etc. is a real inward-turning of both the readers and writers. It demonstrates to me a lack of imagination, not superior skill at all.

jollyreaper said...


IMO this rush to jump on cyberpunk, nanotechnology, high fantasy, etc. is a real inward-turning of both the readers and writers. It demonstrates to me a lack of imagination, not superior skill at all.


That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is acknowledging that the story the author wants to tell is more of a fantasy than scifi and picking his genre accordingly. I freely admit that hard SF becomes difficult and even respectfully plausible scifi becomes harder to deal with if you really think things through. The whole lack of freely available earth-type planets and the complications of FTL means that we can't imagine Star Trek in 50 years. Even 200 years out the planet thing is going to remain a problem and our concepts for the ships will be horrendously zee-rusted. And while you remain convinced strong AI is impossible, I'm not so sure. I'm willing to say it might not be possible 50 or 100 years out but if we're talking the time ranges required to build an interstellar empire, it all seems to point to the Culture with AI's running the show, human pets along for the ride. And if we try to stick to the plausible mid-future, we're back to arguing space economics again.

That's not to say there isn't a good solution, that someone can't come along and blow us all away with some relatively hard scifi that satisfies the reasonable questions. I'm just saying I can't think of a way to do it. And with all the squishy magic tech, Trek is pretty much fantasy anyway.

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"That's not to say there isn't a good solution, that someone can't come along and blow us all away with some relatively hard scifi that satisfies the reasonable questions. I'm just saying I can't think of a way to do it. And with all the squishy magic tech, Trek is pretty much fantasy anyway."

You can always resort to the primary rule on which rocketpunk is more or less founded:

Credibility and readability increase in reverse proportion to the number of impossible or implausible things per 100,000 words.

jollyreaper said...

Yes but it becomes very difficult to do scifi that is both hRd and interesting. You can pretty much write off exploring strange new worlds and civilizations. And when you scale back the magic tech you run back into real world problems. From a 19th century perspective, deep sea drilling would mean floating boom towns on the high seas, maybe domed underwater cities, amazing things. The reality of oil platforms is cool from a tech perspective but anyone wanting wild west on the high seas is disappointed.

Also, all the mcguffin tech we come up with for the midfuture, reasons to go out there, just too many holes.

Have you taken a stab at outlining an interesting plausible midfuture setting?

Thucydides said...

We are drifting into "what is SF", which is always an interesting discussion.

My take is if the "science" or "what if" could be eliminated without affecting the story (or substituting the "science" for a numinous object like the One Ring) then we are dealing with an entertainment, or perhaps fantasy.

If the "science" or "what if" is central to the story, and the story literally could not happen without this, then it is Science Fiction in my mind. Greg Bear's "Blood Music" and "Eon" are two good examples. "The Mote in God's Eye is also a good example since the central story idea is based on real and speculative biological science as understood at the time of writing. The trappings of the Empire of Man, the Langston Field and huge Fusion powered Battlecruisers could be substituted (the Republic of Man?) without affecting too much of the central story.

Rick said...

Welcome to a couple of new commenters!

My definition of SF is simple in the extreme: If it feels like SF, it is SF. How exactly SF relates to 'scifi' is its own interesting question. My impression is that the term 'scifi' no longer provokes the reactions from SF fan types that it once did.

As for the terminology of spacecraft and space forces, possibly the strongest argument for 'navy' is that it is already so established in SF. Though I would not be surprised if space services evolve their own terminology, mixing naval, air force, and other source jargons.

My own very subjective reaction is that I am far more annoyed by borrowed nautical terms for small spacecraft - 'boat', or specific types such as 'gig'. Perhaps the source of this reaction is that boats are much more up close and personal with the wet stuff.

I'd make a bit of exception for 'cutter' in the sense of a small patrol craft, because Coast Guard-ness has become more central to the term (at least in 'Murrican usage) than boat-ness.

YMMV, of course.

jollyreaper said...


My own very subjective reaction is that I am far more annoyed by borrowed nautical terms for small spacecraft - 'boat', or specific types such as 'gig'. Perhaps the source of this reaction is that boats are much more up close and personal with the wet stuff.


My preferred definitions are:
Starship -- vessel capable of interstellar travel
Spaceship -- vessel capable of interplanetary travel
Spacecraft -- vessel limited to operation within a planetary system.

Anonymous said...

jollyreaper,

I think your argument about world-building and SF misses ignores something I'm sure you're aware of: there's a lot of people who like ridiculously implausible stories which play with elements from our culture, makes (pseudo-)religious myths come true and create a bizarre mix of ancient/medieval and contemporary elements. Often times it's fantasy set in the 20th century like X-Files. Several recent hits (books as well as moving pictures) fall into this category.
SF is a way to carry that genre further and Dune is an excellent example. It's kind of a New Age epic. I don't see how the cultural games of Frank Herbert would work in Tolkien-esque fantasy. I guess it depends on the reader but, even though the culture of Dune is as utterly implausible as its technology, I need the people of Dune to share our history to give the whole thing some versimilitude and to make it interesting. SF is a good way to do that. If you care more for consistency than plausibility, it allows you to mix ancient/medieval and contemporary elements in a way you can't by using a historical or a 20th century setting, even with some form of time travel (a common plot device in that genre).

There's also hard SF elements in Dune which can't be translated into fantasy like the ecological and economic stuff but it doesn't work all that well and isn't central to the finished story in my opinion (I suspect they were more important in early stages of the composition however).

-Horselover Fat

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"Have you taken a stab at outlining an interesting plausible midfuture setting?"

A couple of ways to answer that:

1. I don't intend to write any fiction, so why should I outline a setting? Also, I don't need to seek validation by posting scenarios online.

2. You've seen my PMF. It's all over the comment threads.

Anonymous said...

Tony said...
WRT insanity, in the American Revolution, which faction was insane, the colonists figihting for thier independence, or the Brtiish Empire, fighting to retain control over its legal posessions?

======
Neither -- the colonists knew that England faced a massive Logistical nightmare trying to supply their army in the colonies from Across the Atlantic.

It was like "Never fight a Land War in Asia" times ten.

The British however had been maintaining a Ocean going empire for over 100 years, so they probably felt they had the capability. Plus they were counting on help from the colonies themselves.

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

For the near/early midfuture:

You do have to do some plausibility bending to even have the hardest of SF when you include the "In Space" part.

Tony said...

SA Phil:

"For the near/early midfuture:

You do have to do some plausibility bending to even have the hardest of SF when you include the "In Space" part."


Certainl -- it's the price of entry. But it's the amount of fudging you do beyond that that defines a setting's SF "hardness".

WRT insansity and the American Revolution, the question was rhetorical, designed to illustrate a point.

Anonymous said...

=Milo=



Jollyreaper:

"There may be sheriffs but with far greater powers."

Don't forget that a sheriff is the main villain in Robin Hood stories...



Rick:

"My own very subjective reaction is that I am far more annoyed by borrowed nautical terms for small spacecraft - 'boat', or specific types such as 'gig'."

I had the idea that if people started thinking of "ship" as referring to spaceships, then the term "boat" might evolve to refer to everything on water, regardless of size.



Horselover Fat:

"I think your argument about world-building and SF misses ignores something I'm sure you're aware of: there's a lot of people who like ridiculously implausible stories which play with elements from our culture, makes (pseudo-)religious myths come true and create a bizarre mix of ancient/medieval and contemporary elements.

[...]

SF is a way to carry that genre further"


Sure, if by "SF" you mean "science fantasy".

Anonymous said...

No, I mean space fantasy of course!
Very little of what's classified as SF strikes me as genuine science-fiction (Jules Vernes, the Mars trilogy and so on).

My namesake was classified as an "SF" writer and his ideas are recycled in "SF" movies but the stuff he's best known for (like DADOES) only has a thin sciencey veneer. That's not what the stories are about, really.

I love real SF but I like fantasy as well. And since much of "SF" is ludicrous anyway by my reckogning I figure you might as well spice it up with an extra helping of implausible coolness.

-Horselover Fat

jollyreaper said...

Horselover, what you bring up is a good point. People will disagree on the classification but here goes.

There's storytelling. If it's true it's non-fiction. If it's made up, it's fiction. Now most fiction is set in the real world, in the past or as it currently stands. In the past we had myths and fairy tales and many times people were convinced they were true. I put anything that diverges from reality-based fiction into speculative fiction. That encompasses eeeeeeeeeverything. If people try to provide a rational or pseudo-rational explanation it's a species of scifi; otherwise it's fantasy. The Twilight Zone never tried to explain why things were happening so while we might call it scifi, I think it's a contemporary fantasy. 1984 is futurist but doesn't dwell on technology so I would just call it speculative fiction.

Horror can straddle genres. Urban fatntasy has vampires in the here and now. If they were the result of government experiments it's back to science fantasy.

By my lights, science fantasy is stuff like Star Wars where the tech is set decoration, where nobody works out the science. Soft scifi is like Babylon 5 where science is adhered to as much as possible and given a polite nod by chucked out the airlock when the plot requires it. Hard scifi chucks easy options out the airlock in the name of science. It says "I don't care if doing it the right way is boring. You find a way to make it exciting that doesn't violate physics." a very hard standard to live up to.

And there's a good argument for putting scifi in a metacaregory of accurate procedurals, where the author makes a point of doing things the right and proper way they're really done, no corner-cutting. Hollywood cuts a lot of corners in the interest of keeping a story moving.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't trying to argue semantics. I'm not sure I've communicated effectively so let me try again, using your examples.
You focus on the tools people in the setting use. Are they justified by science and magic? But the point of having a story take place in the future or in space is not necessarily so that you can you can have cool tech.
Here's another way to classify things (I'm not arguing it's better or worse than any other): Star Wars is like Tolkien. These settings aren't based on our world, culture, religion and history. B5 is like Dune or Sandman (Neil Gaiman). These settings are based on our world, culture, religion and history. It's not only incidental: Dune and especially B5 (which is more heavy-handed) use that extensively.
I don't agree that science is adhered to as much as possible in B5 by the way. B5 is explicitely and very deliberately anti-materialist. Religions and myths, factual or imagined, are depicted with more care and in more detail than technology.
In the B5/Dune/Sandman genre, the date at which the story is set influences a lot more than the choice between technology or magic as plot devices. In the Star Wars/Tolkien genre, the choice between (pseudo-)technology or magic is indeed what makes one story SF (whether you mean science fiction, speculative fiction, science fantasy, or as I would, space fantasy) and the other heroic fantasy. What I'm trying to tell you is that you can't look at B5 or Dune the way you look at Stars Wars or you won't understand why you can't turn Dune into medieval fantasy without breaking an important part of it (for me anyway). It's not all about whether your knight's swords are made of steel or light.

-Horselover Fat

Anonymous said...

(SA Phil)

Interestingly, the most often cited Hard Sci Fi Movie is 2001, however it is only Hard Sci Fi if you dont include the Space Aliens.

The Space Alien parts of that Movie are pure fantasy nearly as bad as Q in Star Trek.

jollyreaper said...


1. I don't intend to write any fiction, so why should I outline a setting? Also, I don't need to seek validation by posting scenarios online.


Why are you frequenting a discussion group about scifi and worldbuilding and engage in debates about the topic if you don't have a strong vision about how you would put something like this together?


2. You've seen my PMF. It's all over the comment threads.


I see a lot of attacks on the ideas of others but it would be nice to have, in your own words, a cohesive description of what you would consider a PMF to be. It's hard to suss out your vision from all those posts.

jollyreaper said...

Horselover, not entirely groking your argument right now.

Star Wars may not be set in our own history literally but it made extensive use of the Roman Republic and Empire as a model for the Galactic Crisis. The primary virtue in a completely imaginary setting is that you are free to mine from history at will without pissing anyone off about how you've changed things. Gladiator as a pure fantasy film would not have bothered the historically literate as much as Gladiator presented as actual history.

Thucydides said...

Tolkein was deliberately creating (or perhaps recreating) myths based on his extensive study of "dark age" languages and mythology. The subplot of Théoden, King of Rohan in LOTR follows the story of Beowulf fairly closely (a king rendered powerless by the inability to protect his people, and his rescue and redemption by a band of outsiders). OF course the level of effort he put in his writing is more on the level of "a second creation", to use his own words. I can think of no other author who's works approach this level of detail (languages, songs, histories, genealogies, races, food, internal chronologies, etc.), Arda is literally an entire world rendered in fine detail.

Some authors like Hal Clement did use pretty intensive worldbuilding to outline worlds and use that to delimit the plot (Mission of Gravity comes to mind), but we don't see nearly the level of detail Tolkein added.

Most writers start from the opposite direction; they have a particular story or idea to tell, and bend the plot and the "world building" to suit the story the author wants to tell rather than the other way around. Sometimes this can be extended to a series of stories, novels, movies etc., Ursula Le Guin's "Hanish" stories are more on the level of allegory and the setting is loose enough that the central plot device (STL travel but FTL communication) works with these stories and does not cause jarring anachronisms.

Tony said...

jollyreaper:

"Why are you frequenting a discussion group about scifi and worldbuilding and engage in debates about the topic if you don't have a strong vision about how you would put something like this together?"

Because though a particular species of SF is taken as a starting point, the discussions are not just about worldbuilding. They're also about what the world might or might not really become. With all due respect, and apologies in advance, anybody that doesn't get that is missing the point.

"I see a lot of attacks on the ideas of others but it would be nice to have, in your own words, a cohesive description of what you would consider a PMF to be. It's hard to suss out your vision from all those posts."

I'm not trying to play coy with you, j. I almost always present an alternate vision -- and a fairly consistent one, I think. If you do a little thinking, I'm sure you could list many salient points of my PMF vision, which taken together present a fairly complete outline. If you really need it spelled out, just say so and I'll enumerate.

Anonymous said...

jollyreaper,

I'll try to explain. You brought up B5 and it's a good example in part thanks to its heavy-handedness so I'll assume you're at least somewhat familiar with it...
All I know of Star Wars are the three classic movies I saw when I was a kid. But I assume the rest isn't drastically different. In that case, what they did with Rome is similar to how the Centauri republic/empire of B5 is inspired on stuff from our history: a few words and general concepts are recycled so the result doesn't feel totally alien but it's basically a fantasy republic/empire. It's easier than to create something completely new and it allows you to gloss over some of the exposition (you don't need to explain the concept of a senate, of voting on motions and so on) but that's about it.
Many of B5's pseudo-alien civilizations are like that. But now look at the Earthers: some of the Earth stuff is inspired from or even ripped straight out of the modern-day USA and its military. The result is less imaginative and requires less exposition than the Centauri stuff and that's justified in terms of plot. It would be a stretch but you might just be able to pull that off in a galaxy far away without sliding into camp if you don't overdo it.*
But it doesn't stop there: it's not only familiar names, institutions and practices which are carried over from our world. They have our religions (and some new ones), reference our history, quote our poets and so on. They even introduced a couple of historical characters. When characters compared their situation to a specific episode in the story of Jesus of Nazareth or Winston Churchill for instance, no time was spent explaining who the hell these people are and what WWII or Christianity was about. The story simply assumed you understand what they're talking about. A character could deride others for not getting a throwaway litterary reference. And so on.
It was particularly important for religions because a lot of B5 is about religion. Background details (what's a Rabbi, who the Dalai-Lama is and so on) they could gloss over. The behavior of religious characters like preachers or monks only made sense if you had some sense of what their religion was like. But it went further: the concept and look of an angel was important in the overall story for instance. And there was no exposition about that.

And so B5 could and did make historical/cultural gaffes. People have complained about how things were "changed". At least in one instance it was corrected. Other times you could assume the character was mistaken and not the writer. But that was no big deal in any case. So the setting doesn't have to be completely imaginary to allow you to pilfer stuff without the literati being turned off by your gaffes.
But in placing your setting in our future you still get most of the benefits you'd get from having placed it in our present world (if and when you want them): you don't need to spend so much effort world-building and you don't need to be so good at it, your story can be as relevant to our concerns as you like, you get to make more funnies and bake in more reflective ironies, you can use cool quotes and references. And most importantly perhaps, your characters can have reasonably sophisticated motivations and conversations from start to finish without requiring a boatload of exposition. That's particularly important for TV where time is a very limited resource.

*in my opinion the Minbari culture and especially religion would have crossed the line if there hadn't been a plot justification for that.

-Horselover Fat

Thucydides said...

There is an interesting reference in the next post to Arthur C Clarke's "Earthlight" in the context of war and peace.

While it has been a long time since I read Earthlight, I recall the Asteroid civilization needed some sort of McGuffinite from the Moon; hence the conflict between the two polities. Tony suggested that had the book been written today, the Asteroid Federation would simply have taken their magitech drives out to the Oort cloud, turned Sunward and made a run in at a high fraction of c, showering their target with KKV's moving at relativistic velocity.

While this would have eliminated the opposition and reduced the target area to a vast molten crater, I doubt this would have achieved the primary objective of the war, which seems to have been to secure the McGuffinite for use by the Federation. As a secondary issue, the nations of Earth would have been singularly unimpressed by the sudden appearance of world shattering weapons, and could be counted on to intervene rather forcefully against the Federation in whatever manner they could. Any other polities in the Solar System could be expected to react in a similar manner.

So one constraint to war in space would be the availability of huge amounts of kinetic energy, either in the form of powered objects or objects at the top of the gravity well with large amounts of potential energy. Since this would be MAD in an even bigger and badder form, perhaps overt acts of war might be limited just as mechanized war between industrial states is limited by the threat of escalation to nuclear weapons release.

From a story telling POV this isn't a bad thing. If war is fought by the insertion of SOF operators, Ninjas or Impossible Mission Force teams then there will be plenty of interesting scenarios, while watching an Island Three structure flash into an expanding cloud of vapour would make for a very short scene/story, regardless of how dramatic it would be.

Rick said...

The primary virtue in a completely imaginary setting is that you are free to mine from history at will without pissing anyone off about how you've changed things.

What complicates this whole discussion is that the mass media, especially Hollywood, loves 'based on a true story,' no matter how tenuous the alleged basing is. Criminy, we now have a whole TV genre of 'reality shows' that have nothing much to do with reality.


Tony is correct that this blog straddles two topics: space travel in Romance, and space travel as it might actually unfold in the next few centuries.

And yes, that can lead to confusion. I only ask everyone to avoid needless acrimony.

jollyreaper said...


What complicates this whole discussion is that the mass media, especially Hollywood, loves 'based on a true story,' no matter how tenuous the alleged basing is. Criminy, we now have a whole TV genre of 'reality shows' that have nothing much to do with reality.


If I ever write a script it's going to be about something completely ridiculous like the Cloverfield monster and have the tagline "Based on a true story."

Anonymous said...

"Criminy, we now have a whole TV genre of 'reality shows' that have nothing much to do with reality."

And then you have the news shows...

-Horselover Fat

Tony said...

I just reread the final few chapters of Earthlight last night. The Earth fortress on the Moon was built over a deep mining project (100 km deep, with "silicone oil" at high pressure used to resist cave-ins). The Federation wanted to destroy it to deny it to the Earth. The Federation ships fought at ranges up to 100 km, but often at much shorter distances. This was because Clarke envisioned energy weapons as something like high powered microwave cannon, which made them succeptible to the inverse square law. So the attacking ships got as close as they could without getting too close.

Anonymous said...

You could use microwave weapons two ways; either pulsed EMP-generation or a continuous wave beam coupled to the target to generate heat (or current-flow). Both those would be bad for the target.

Ferrell

Thucydides said...

And in Earthlight, they were shooting back with some form of mass driver, which is equally bad....

Actually, if the target is sheilded under a Faraday cage, wouldn't the microwave radiation be effectively dispersed and the target protected?

Anonymous said...

Thucydides said:"Actually, if the target is sheilded under a Faraday cage, wouldn't the microwave radiation be effectively dispersed and the target protected?"

Normally yes...however, a Faraday Cage must be connected to ground. On a vehicle, you have to have a discarge element (a rod, probe, ect, whatever it's called), that means that it is limited to howmuch power it can shield you from by shunting it to ground. Faraday Cages, being made of ordinary matter, do have limits of how much power they can absorb before they fail. They're very effective, but not perfect.

Ferrell

Thucydides said...

So it would work for the Lunar Fortress (being literally built in the ground), but the enemy spacecraft would be vulnerable to a ground based microwave projector.

It seems Clarke may have had the ideal weapons for the two sides backwards....

Tony said...

Thucydides:

"So it would work for the Lunar Fortress (being literally built in the ground), but the enemy spacecraft would be vulnerable to a ground based microwave projector.

It seems Clarke may have had the ideal weapons for the two sides backwards...."


During the course of the battle, each of the three Federation ships would periodically withdraw 100 km or more. That suggests that excess absorbed energy had to be dumped away from the battle space. Whether Clarke thought that through consciously (and I wouldn't bet against him doing so) or he just instinctively knew that was a feature of the problem, he did write it so it could be interpreted that way.

Also, with the right circuitry, some -- perhaps much -- of the energy dumped into the electromagnetic shielding could be converted to poer for weapons and the shield itself.

Thucydides said...

I will have to find a copy of Earthlight and read it again. Much of what I think I remember is muddled.

Based on previous discussions on space warfare, the withdrawl of the space fleet could also be interpreted as the ships unfolding radiators to dump heat generated from the engines and weapons systems as well.

It sounds like Earthlight has held up reasonably well, and might make a good movie/TV mini series (so long as they are not mining for some really improbable McGuffinite)

Anonymous said...

Everyone in this discussion is making one assumption that may not be true in the future and that I think would radically change the aspects of your discussions.

The fact that in the future, human life is still valued the way it is today.

If human life isn't valuable, then there is a not less reason to care if it's lost.

Anonymous said...

=Milo=


Anonymous:

"The fact that in the future, human life is still valued the way it is today."

Why wouldn't it be? The general trend throughout history is that the value of human life increases as our ability to protect it increases. When life is miserable anyway and numerous people are dying from what would now be easily preventable diseases, it seems like less of a big deal to also send a bunch of them off to a largely pointless war. And when extreme poverty runs rampant, then willingly risking your life in whatever war happens to be available and using the opportunity to pillage your enemies' cities may well be the best you can do. Slavery was eventually abolished once we had advanced to the point where it was no longer necessary to maintain a healthy economy.

I see no reason for this to change.

Anonymous said...

no name Anonymous asid:"Everyone in this discussion is making one assumption that may not be true in the future and that I think would radically change the aspects of your discussions.

The fact that in the future, human life is still valued the way it is today.

If human life isn't valuable, then there is a not less reason to care if it's lost."

Our society values human life a great deal; however, we are still willing to risk and even sacrifice the lives of our citizens if we deem the cause to be critical enough. While that means that the standard for going to war should be higher, it does not mean that war will be avoided at all costs; indead, if one nation or civilization has the attitude of avoiding war at all costs and another does not, then you will still have the possibility of a war (a rather short and lop-sided one).

Ferrell

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