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Nanotechnological Battlespace/Part 1

S.NET/Day 2–Minutes ago Jürgen Altmann wrapped up his morning presentation of scenarios of the future of military nanotechnoscience: sobering, to put it mildly. In particular, his discussion of the enhancement of autonomous combat vehicles and micro-robots, brain-computer interface technologies and modified soldier biochemistry; his contention that US spending presently represents 80-90% of world-wide funding of military nanotechnoscience R&D; and his “criteria of preventive arms control” makes, at a minimum, this article a must-read, and his unfortunately exorbitantly expensive monograph worth the cost of entry.

2 comments to Nanotechnological Battlespace/Part 1

  • Michael Burnam-Fink

    As a war nerd, I certainly enjoyed this article. Some comments:

    Altmann brings up various military uses of non-assembler based nanotech. The highest priority for the army should be miniature sensors. Right now IED are the major threat to US forces. Ubiquitous surveillance of roads would effectively counter that threat. Priority number two are better batteries. Batteries place a major burden on supply chains because they come in many varieties (military equipment often uses specialized batteries), need frequent replacement, and are degraded by harsh conditions like those faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nanocomputers would be a good third choice, since nanosystems are more resistant to physical trauma than current semi-conductor based systems. After that you get into far future nanotech, which I’ll save for another time.

    I find his recommendations on arms control policy to be misguided. The arms control regimes most similar to military nanotech, the Chemical and Biological Warfare Conventions, have been consistently violated by nearly every party involved without consequence. Almost every aspect of nanotechnology is dual use, exacerbating the difficulty of monitoring military nanoscience. The fundamentals of military and civilian nanotech are identical, and it would be a small matter to develop the next generation of banned weapons.

    Finally, a nano-arms race may not be a bad thing. Warfare between industrialized nations in the 21st century is hard to imagine. Nation-states are linked into the global economy on an unprecedented scale, such that any war would hurt all the combatants. Warfare is an economically losing proposition, and modern armies have consistently shown the difficulties of occupying hostile territory. As terrible as war is, arms races can have major benefits. We owe much of the modern electronics industry to the Cold War.

    Enjoy the rest of the conference!

  • Mb

    I’ll see if I can get Altmann to respond to your comments, MBF.

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