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Two Thoughts

As Damien Walter noted recently on twitter, some time between 1995 and 2010, the human species began to develop functional telepathy. (Actually, the first sign of this became real on October 29th, 1969, but exponential growth from a small base takes a long time to become noticeable.) We now have over a billion human beings on the internet, and so many devices that the IPv4 address space is saturated: within the next decade we can expect multiple new satellite internet constellations (such as OneWeb and rivals) to bring pervasive internet access to the globe. Smartphones are pushing down into the sub-$50 space where they're affordable even by those living just at the global poverty threshold (and the decline in global poverty over the past decade is working away at the other end). It no longer looks implausible to suggest that almost everybody will be online by 2025.

A side-effect of this process is that we're becoming used to a constant background roar—the global id in full throat, blasting us with the prejudices, rumors, superstitions, bigotry, and (less obviously) love and passion of the entire human species. Everyone being online means that anyone can in principle yell in your ear at any time, be it encouragement or rape and death threats.

So far we seem to have handled the telepathy thing relatively well. It hasn't provoked a nuclear war, or even very many social media targeting drone strikes. It has provoked total panic among authoritarian political leaders, with its concomitant ability to facilitate flash mobs, and a much quieter level of paranoia and near-panic among national security organizations, but compared with the consequences of the development of the printing press it's pretty benign. However, we're still in the early days.

More significantly: Markets. Some would say we're entering the post-capitalist era; certainly it's interesting to speculate on the effects universal functional telepathy (lies and all) are going to have on how we handle business. The internet disintermediates supply chains, but there's a catch: you have to be able to find your customers, or your root supplier, before you can cut out the middle-men. Currently we're seeing a land-rush by new middle-men trying to stake out their position as the Sultans of Search: Amazon and eBay were first wave, but the likes of Uber or AirBNB are now trying to occupy the equivalent space in vertically segmented business niches (personal transport and rented short-let accommodation respectively). The current 2015 cruel joke is that to identify a new Silicon Valley start-up opportunity you just have to figure out what your mom no longer does for you now you've moved out of her basement and productize it. But that's not going to last forever.

One of the performance drivers of an internet startup is the ability to automate and replicate a service that formerly scaled up by adding human bodies—travel agents are replaced by Hipmunk or Kayak, for example. But a side-effect of this is that there's a constant pressure to deliver the same automated search results for less money, on fewer processor cores. It's a race to the bottom and it ends when search becomes free at the point of delivery. Which might, to a first order, sound like a recipe for "sponsored search results" and biased results, but when you can open multiple browser tabs and do meta-comparison across product comparison websites for virtually zero cost, such lying informational lacunae will be found out fast.

Ultimately most of those middle-men are doomed: they simply can't add enough value to stay viable as information arbitrage brokers in a telepathic world.

So where do we go from there? (Is telepathy compatible with the continued existence of capitalism?)

908 Comments

1:

I spent nine years as the most senior technical guy in one of the UK's most successful vertical search engines -- in the property search sector. I won't name the company, but it was the one you're thinking of (if you're in England or Wales; less so if you're in Scotland, which of course our esteemed host is, where the property market works very differently). And I now work for Uber's most prominent UK-based competitor. So I've spent about fifteen years thinking about some of the issues you're discussing here.

And first you're a bit off with the dates when you say that "the likes of Uber or AirBNB are now trying to occupy the equivalent space in vertically segmented business niches". That's been happening since the last millennium, e.g. with the launch of numerous property search sites, which have now merged and consolidated down to a big two in the UK. Uber does bring something new, but it's not vertical integration, it's real-time geographic search for a physical resource that you want right now. That particular twist couldn't happen until we had smartphones that could both determine your location and talk to Internet-based APIs.

Also, the "race to the bottom" that you talk about doesn't really exist. Specialist search sites are two-sided platforms, putting buyers and sellers (or whatever) in contact with each other, and these sites have such an enormous network effect that they're very hard to dislodge. eBay is thriving despite its abusive relationship with vendors using the site, because the vendors have no choice -- it's where the customers are. If anything, I see the main players in each vertical consolidating their positions and becoming more entrenched. The secondary players will probably survive, but everyone else will go to the wall -- the platform business is not a business in which you can make money as the third most successful company in your market.

2:

I suspect the current prevalence of near-monopoly platforms is a side-effect of our market regulation of monopolies having collapsed some time in the past 2-3 decades -- pivotal points being the IBM and Microsoft anti-trust lawsuits in the USA, or the monopoly privatisation of BT in the UK: big companies end up capturing regulators while being able to fend off prosecutions indefinitely due to sheer scale of legal spend.

I don't expect this condition to apply forever, though, and there are a number of ways it can break which would diminish the value of those vertical silos of customers enormously. And the monopoly-fostering situation only has to crack once.

3:

Suppose we find a way to do the good things that banks do that's more efficient, that generates less risk and works cheaper, wouldn't that be good? The share of the economy owned by banks keeps going up, when banks make bad decisions you pay for it. How is that good unless you are a banker or own a lot of bank stock? If we replace banks with something better, it won't be old-style capitalism but I won't miss them.

And if we find a way to manage corporate ownership that's better than joint stock companies, what's wrong with that? I don't like that my retirement fund is managed by somebody whose bonuses depend on him winning his gambles every quarter. He could be fired any time so he can't think much about the long run. It isn't implausible we'll find a better way.

Managers learn a variety of techniques to make good decisions, but in reality they tend to just guess. It might be they could be replaced by random number generators and do just about as well. They treat their competitors almost like opposing armies, and try to use strategies to beat them out. They try to use secret strategies, like armies, hoping their enemies will make mis-steps. A lot of this does not really involve better products and services for customers, a lot of it is basicly waste. They spend money to persuade customers that they are the best. They hide information and create false impressions hoping to make their competitors less efficient.

I consider it a waste when the money I spend on products goes to fool me into thinking the products are better than I'd think from my own experience. We might do better if no corporate information was secret, and we might find a better way to run things than with business managers. We might mostly get rid of the executive class. If the result is an improved economy who should grumble?

It isn't implausible that we might wind up with an economy in which banks, stock markets, CEOs, and business secrets are the sort of oddities that kings are today in government. And I expect that we will have a name for that new world. Not unlikely the name we give to the postcapitalist economy will be -- Capitalism.

4:

We are already past the point where there is a bigger return by investing in machines rather than people. The next step is the ultimate one, which is to turn almost all Human jobs over to AI. Could Google and eBay be run purely by a few dozen people plus AI?

5:

Article in yesterday's Grauniad (Which I, now can't track down, grrr...) suggesting that we are slowly entering a post capitalistic world, because the currency is not money it is information.

6:

Re: monopolies and "where is this all going", one point to consider is that in 2015, we have a business model that didn't really exist 20 years ago: the "data utility".

In the mid-2000s, Amazon realized that they had this big pile of servers in lots of data centers and all the expertise of keeping them running, and that this was something they could productize. So they did in the form of EC2 and S3. Google joined the party later (AppEngine), as did others. I would also count commercial CDNs as "data utilities".

A 1999 internet startup had a bunch of servers in a rack somewhere. A typical 2015 internet startup writes an app that runs on somebody else's cloud platform, for several technical and business reasons. But it does mean that every such company is locked in (to varying extents) to the commercially owned "cloud platform" they happened to pick.

Now all you need to do is keeping adding more goodies from your own shared infrastructure to increase that amount of lock-in. Everybody needs some bulk storage layer, a key-value store, some distribution toolkit (MapReduce etc.), whatever. You don't even need to *intentionally* bind people to your API; simply by exposing what you already have (which is almost certainly look different on the API side than what your competitors have in ways that are massively annoying if you're trying to be "multi-platform") you can increase the amount of lock-in. Which you can increase massively by leveraging the kind of thing Charlie talks about in his post: Google does not have alien search technology, but they are at the state of the art, with man-millenia of experience tweaking and running it. If they ever put a "search infrastructure SDK" on their cloud service, you'll want to use it for the search portion of your app; a small 5-man startup is not gonna out-compete them.

In other words, the Internet startup world is on a trajectory very similar to mobile phone apps today. A couple major players that control their platforms, and lots of "apps" (startups) running on said platforms, using mostly the same shared infrastructure, and vying for the user base's attention. Some successfully find their niche and are profitable, but those are few and far between, and the average, median and mode lose money, while the platform holders rake in a steady stream of cash. The "average, median and mode loses money" thing is, of course, already an accepted part of startup culture; but currently there's still a narrative that the few outliers with the winning lottery ticket make enough money to make up for the other losses. The problem is that long-term numbers on that already don't look so good (we're headed for another bubble to pop), and the current startup market without an abundance of VC money would be a very different place indeed.

So that's my guess for the Internet as of 2025: a handful of big "data utilities" that make a nice, steady income from everyone else; a bunch of "rock star" startups (most from before the big bubble of 2017, but some younger faces too) that convince everyone they have a shot; and lots of prospective new startups at the bottom who, lacking the easy access to credit their predecessor did, are forced into much less aggressive growth strategies and often funded out of private debt. Or, paraphrasing Bruce Sterling: "sooner or later, the Internet makes musicians out of all of us."

8:

Google already has so many APIs for integrating their tools (search, maps, etc) with apps they don't really have any incentive to produce a special purpose one for their cloud.

I'm kind of ticked off that they killed the one for sharing links (Google Reader) without providing one for Plus.

10:

I'm talking about a different thing. The search/maps APIs let you integrate their existing products. The whole product. A search *infrastructure* API would be something that lets you index something other than the world-wide web (your own database, all source code on the web a la now-defunct Google Code Search, whatever), implementing only the parts specific to your task while reusing as much of the general search infrastructure as possible.

Right now, this is not something Google is likely to do. It would give current and potential new search competitors a big leg-up (although they're never gonna productize their actual crown jewels: the ranking algorithms). But MS might actually release a "Bing infrastructure API" if they thought there were enough potential customers (doubtful for full web search, but more specialized things: sure), and they like being in the platform market. If MS were to do something like this, Google would likely follow suit sooner or later.

I don't know if this particular example is really realistic or not. It's just an example of a service current "cloud" players have lying around that they could absolutely productize as a value-add for their platform if they wanted to.

11:

If you pin an economics textbook down and twist it's arms, it's pretty clear what we've got isn't really a capitalist economy.

Capitalism assumes things like perfect information, rational decision making and a whole host of things I'm too tired to look up but just with those two we're stumbling on the assumptions.

There's little doubt "telepathy" of the technological type will, and is, changing markets. While you'd hope it would change them towards the better, it's not always the case - whether it's sellers gaming social media reviews or the equivalent of the badgers shifting the goal posts you can be sure the suppliers will compete back.

Capitalism can fail, no doubt. It nearly crippled itself in 2008. But I really think it will take either another crisis of that kind of size soon, or a bigger one in another 20-30 years or so to expose the cracks and make it fall apart. We've paid lip service to learning the lessons this time, but we don't seem to have actually done much. I'd guess the financial stars will realign for the Outer Gods to strike someone down again - it just depends on how lucky we get about who is in power at the time and where it strikes in the electoral cycle and therefore who we get to be in charge of the recovery. Someone could actually dismantle the banks from their gigantic, "too big to fail" behemoths and give us a smaller, fitter financial market with enforced regulation and bankers in jail. It doesn't seem to have hurt Iceland that much. But Gideon "Dines with Bankers" Osborne won't the one to do it.

12:

I'm not convinced by that arguement as time goes by the products the big boys offer becomes less and less unique, add to the fact that the ability to abstract their api's to a common denominator drives the inception of another set of innovators who can profit by arbitraging between the suppliers and at best there will be an uneasy stalemate with the big boys always sweating about the new contenders.

Amazon barely makes any money on AWS to keep the profits rolling in they have to be very careful not to piss off their customers.

13:

I'm afraid I disagree with most people here.

First, capitalism isn't dying for the simple reason that it's too broadly defined to die. If you look from the vantage point of Adam Smith's merchantilist capitalism, the current economy + (meager) safety net wouldn't look like capitalism. In other words, capitalism itself evolves. The changes Paul Mason is talking about would still be called capitalism. That is assuming that the changes in Greece stick and won't reverse if the economy recovers in the next decade.

Unless we get perfect post-scarcity, we'll still have capitalism. By perfect post-scarcity, I give the following example. Is it possible to provide everyone the 13th room on the 13th floor of a building built in 1935, assuming 10 percent of the global population wants it?

Next, I don't agree that what this technology has brought forward anything remotely resembling telepathy yet. At best, we have telepathy on the granularity of a society, but not at the granularity of an individual. People have too much control over what information leaves their skull. Does your boss know your thoughts about him/her at every second in the day? If not, it's not real telepathy. After all, your workmate can't read your thoughts without permission and then post them on Youtube. They can video tape your actions or your words, but that's information you choose to release from your skull to the world. Once that changes, we can revisit this thesis.

As for the big boys. They will survive for the same reason that big movie studios will continue to survive (from a previous discussion). There remains cutting edge stuff that is too expensive for the little players.

I'm not going to try and predict how the internet will look like even 10 years from now. There are a lot of unknown knowns, to use Charlie's old terminology, that might interact in unpredictable ways. Remember, few people predicted in the early 2000's that a major use for smartphones would be recording police brutality. I doubt the first person to put a camera on a phone thought about that possibility.

14:

It sounds like you would end up with a More Perfect Market in that scenario where the Digital Middle-Men all disappear, aside from the "Data Utilities"/Pipeline infrastructure services mentioned above. Those could be regulated, though, eventually turning into the same as their water and electricity counterparts once you're no longer able to wring new gains in speed and access out of wired/optical broadband.

It wouldn't be the End of Capitalism, by any means. Economies-of-scale and firms would still make sense on the production side of things, even if they're trading in a colossal market with no middle-men there to aggregate information for them. And of course all of these folks, big or small, would have a need for financing from various sources even if they're not traditional banks. It would be the diffusion of capitalism, not the destruction of it.

15:

I'm ignoring, of course, the possibility of rent-seeking by said digital middle-men, which seems quite likely at some point. Pretty much all major incumbents facing obscolecense and decline start looking for legal rents, using the justifications of safety and protecting the jobs created by their firms.

16:

It's probably bad news for the U.S. and Britain, because almost everyone in those societies is some sort of middleman. Most of the rest are content creators, and that's not a stable industry either.

17:

If I look at the world's largest companies by revenue then the smartphone revolution barely rates a mention. The top ranks are dominated by energy companies (oil, gas, and to a much lesser extent electricity) with smaller but significant roles for retail, conglomerates, and automobiles. The electronics-tech company with the most revenue, Apple, has 16 other companies ahead of it. Among the world's most profitable companies Apple ranks much higher, with only a giant Chinese bank ahead of it as of October 2014. The biggest of the companies that started life in the Web age -- Amazon, Google, eBay, Facebook -- don't make the top ranks in either category.

There is a tremendous amount of economic activity that just doesn't seem susceptible to Web-enabled disruption in the first place. Not the production of agricultural products, fossil fuels, or other minerals. Not the manufacturing of complex goods (microelectronics, aircraft, automobiles, ships, munitions...) Not the development of pharmaceuticals. Not rents from land or patents, or interest on loans. Not the construction and maintenance of roads, airports, railways, ports, water treatment, sewers, and the other big infrastructure that a developed country needs. Not primary education, law enforcement, or militaries. Not the practice of law or medicine.

With the carve-outs identified above, plus the ones I've missed, it seems likely that 2020 will remain economically recognizable to a time traveler from 1990 even if there are plenty of surprises too. If a bunch of middleman companies have disappeared to be replaced by fewer, bigger middleman companies it won't be that big of a shock. That's referring to a time traveler from the richer half of OECD-1990 going to 2020. Someone from China or Bangladesh (or darkly, Syria) might be more shocked.

18:

Hmm,

If you take your postulate to the logical extreme, then automation of the decision making process and AI optimisation for the individual results in you saying to your personal AI "I have this much money, make my life work as well as possible". Said AI then deals with getting the optimum deals, renting capabilities (like somewhere to sleep) when necessary, and basically acting like a super-Jeeves.

However, all that automation and optimisation means there are less middleman jobs, and less jobs full stop. Suddenly you aren't saying to your super-Jeeves service "I have £3000 a month" you are saying "I have £30 a month, help". And the obvious optimisation to allow that to work is to remove the useless part of the system - you. We end up with people dying in the gutters, and the super-Jeeves making sure they survive, and that those human's still around don't see any of the unpleasantness.

In other words, at what point the the above do we succeed in optimising the human's out of the system? It's not so much is telepathy compatible with capitalism; it's are humans compatible with either?

I'd suggest we are already well on the way down that road.

19:

By the time you have AI good enough to optimize one person's entire life, AI is way more powerful than the minimum necessary to massively displace jobs. In other words, by the time AI is intentionally optimizing the system, we'll already have solved the problem of unemployment (for certain values of "solved"), or at least made quite a bit of headway.
One of the biggest advantages of capitalism is that it doesn't have to be intentionally optimized by a single agent, because the market works for its own purposes. However, this is also its greatest flaw, at least if we're evaluating it in terms of how much it helps people. The "invisible hand of the market" isn't benevolent, contrary to the claims of the ancaps, and it's certainly not all-powerful, but it should not be underestimated. And it's not the only force at work. When unemployment gets too high, people get angry. If AI starts replacing half of the workforce, that's going to have consequences, whether the people act directly or through the government. By the time AI progresses from displacing jobs to optimizing lives, things will have come to a head one way or another.
Maybe 50% of the population will be unemployed and starve. Maybe there will be a revolution and people will smash all of the machine. More likely, there will either be some form of universal basic income or large-scale makework. Maybe the government will tax AI to try and force people to hire humans. Probably there will be some combination of possibilities.

20:

Is telepathy compatible with capitalism? As others have pointed out, "capitalism" is a very broad term.

I'd suggest that on the evidence so far, the Internet isn't compatible with the government regulated comfortable/not-so-comfortable large scale markets most people in the Western world have been living with since the 1950s or so.

It does, however, seem to me that the Internet is entirely compatible with libertarianism.

Uber looks like a libertarian wet dream. It's spreading into countries like France and Australia despite being illegal. It's self regulated, the company sets the standard of service. And if you need to transport a guide dog or wheelchair, pay for it yourself you disabled freeloader!

(Note: this does NOT mean I personally like Uber or libertarianism, OK?)

Most middle men may be doomed, but there's a lot of money for the winners.

21:

I'd don't think that capitalism is going anywhere anytime soon.

However, 21st Century capitalism may look very different in a few decades.

Here's my thought: Capitalism is too powerful a brand to destroy. When the Bretton Woods conferences created a new form of international trading in the 1940s that tried to resurrect the international markets of the 1910s, they called it capitalism, even though it was pretty different than the capitalism of the 1930s. So basically, whatever happens in the way of international or national mercantilism, I'd bet it'll be called capitalism, and its practitioners will claim it's the same as our capitalism, only new and better.

Capitalism isn't alone in this regard. When we look at Christianity, we see things like the prosperity gospel and various bigotry that are totally antithetical to what's actually in the New Testament, yet it's all marketed as Christianity, using Christian symbols. Daesh/ISIL calls itself a Muslim Caliphate, even though there's scant support for its actions in the Quran. Boko haram, which vandalized mosques throughout Mali, also calls itself Muslim, as does Al Qaeda. In the past, we had people fighting over being "Rome" or the "Heirs of Rome," and so forth. Claiming the legitimacy of an old label for new and often antithetical practices is an ancient practice in itself.

I could spin this out, but hopefully you get the point. There are two questions about continuity here. One is the continuity of the term capitalism to cover whatever it is we do. I'm quite sure that will happen. The practices that are regarded as 2020 or 2030 capitalism could be very foreign to us, though, but people will nonetheless claim they're the same thing as what we do now.

22:

This is not about features primarily, just about idiosyncracies. If you use a cross-platform abstraction, you are less tied to one particular platform, but you're also tied to the common denominator, and you pay for it in friction: keeping a cross-platform code base actually working everywhere requires constant upkeep. Platforms and APIs keep changing; the more of them you target, the more you pay for it, mostly in developer time (one of your more precious resources).

There's substantial advantages to not being tied to a single platform once you're above a certain size. At some point, turning the strategic risk of depending on a single infrastructure provider into a fixed cost (friction you pay for with dev time) is a good move. But startups start way below that threshold.

23:

Not only is the continuation of capitalism compatible with “telepathy”, I think the latter reinforces the former.

Firstly, Mike Scott (comment 1) make the core point about platform capture and I think he is right – firstly because I have little faith in the ability for anti-trust legislation to be effective as we keep seeing more and more global trade treaties gutting the ability for local regulation. But more importantly, because even if it got a shot to the arm and all these companies got busted up tomorrow, you would then have a bunch of small, less effective capitalist companies rather than 1 really big one and a bunch of tiny ones. Busting the platform monopolies doesn’t end the business model of revenue extraction through platform provision, it just changes how many people are using it. Further, in that scenario I am skeptical that we would see a bunch of smaller companies anyways. Metcalfe's law means the value of these platforms is related to the size, and that applies to the users as well as the sellers. So if Uber was dissolved tomorrow, I expect that when people came stumbling out of the pub they would all go to Lyft instead, because it would then have the most cars on call and could get to them the fastest, and since the customers would be going there the drivers would follow, and then the customers would follow and repeat until its one giant dominating again.

Secondly, the nature of this “telepathy” is very different than former communication breakthroughs and leads to different incentives. In the past, if I read a book, it didn’t have any impact on your ability to enjoy a different book. Or if I made a phone call, it didn’t impact your ability to call someone. So Publishers and phone companies didn’t bother policing books or listening to phone calls unless there was the incentive to do so (namely an authoritarian state). The social nature or the web makes that completely different. Now, what one person experiences proliferate, and goes throughout the network, and can impact someone else’s using experience. That can make them very upset and stop using. This means that the platform providers now have strong motivation to crack down on disruptive elements. We have seen this in the past week, with Twitter banning nudity, and Reddit trying to reign in the hateful elements. Any potential replacement system for capitalism is going to be disruptive and attract disruptive fringe almost by definition, and to keep the peace the platform companies are going to drop the hammer on it, or hemorrhage users. As an example of that happening with a political ideology, that was the case at SomethingAwful in 2007-2009: They shuffled the libertarians and socialists off to “Laissez Faire” to keep them from shitting up the place, and it kept escalating until they deleted it and did some mass bans.

~*~ RIP LF. Too Strange to Live, Too Weird to Die. ~*~

Third, the nature of this telepathy makes it really damn easy to figure out where to go after to take out any trouble makers so as to keep capitalism going. You can do it with COTS software like Umbel, just plug in the email addresses and it will rip through all the social media networks it can get and build a much more detailed profile of the person through cross referencing the data and predictive analytics. It isn’t hard to foresee a return of the UK’s Economic League and their blacklist, where they kept information about organizers on index cards to bypass the UK’s data laws. Ahmed seems like the kind of fellow to push for higher wages, time to reduce the hours he sees in his zero minimum contract until he is too desperate to speak up. Wouldn’t even need to be a person doing it, just an algorithm. They already have people doing it at Uber, banning people from going to the protests or being fired (http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/06/15/uber_threatens_drivers_in_china_to_stay_away_from_protests_to_maintain_social.html) Or just use network monitoring to figure out who to kill to stop any message and do that. I can’t find a link to it but Cory Doctorow just reupped a link on twitter not to long back about how the US Military had figured out who to kill in a network to stop the propagation of a viral message.

Finally there is issue of what will replace it, and on that I’m even less optimistic than on anything else. Because any new idea will need to communicated through online mediums, and in fact will probably start there, in the new fringe. This “telepathy” only conveys words and not the other 70% of all communication. This means people interact with only that information. As an interesting case of congruent evolution, the result state of online discourse has come to mirror that of the other major form medium where you communicate by dropping a bunch of words for people not in your social network and wait for others to read them later and respond – academia. Unlike writing a letter, online you don’t necessarily have a social connection to get you good faith, and unlike a newspaper or magazine you don’t have the societal cultural norms to count on to fill in the blanks. So you adopt the a radical vocabulary of very precise and layered meanings, and indicate status through use of them. The problem is academia and its language is descriptive, not prescriptive, making it a poor choice for organizing for societal change, and being descriptive lends to critical analysis. Or basically it’s a circle jerk of pointing out flaws in social and linguistic expectations rather than getting shit done.

You know it’s true. How often have you seen an argument over some endemic societal ill and one person drops “It’s not my job to educate you”? Well for academic discussion that’s perfectly true. But for a social movement, yeah, that’s exactly your damn job. E. A. O., remember? Educate, Agitate, Organize!

So yeah, capitalism is here to stay, at least through the lifetimes of my children. The internet locks it in through creating 500lb gorillas you can’t get rid of, the gorillas have the incentive and tools to rip apart anyone who wants to change the system, and those who are the target for being on the side of change are addressing the need for it by adopting a response long on talking about it, resistant to doing it.

We are so screwed.

24:

It seems to be more anti-telepathy, a language in which only lies can be made.

Also, mass telepathic attacks have also become possible. This, oh, just could be a downside.

25:

Ilya
Thank you
Recommendation to everyone - if you have not read the article yet, please do!

26:

All of these: Not the construction and maintenance of roads, airports, railways, ports, water treatment, sewers, and the other big infrastructure that a developed country needs. Not primary education, law enforcement, or militaries. Not the practice of law or medicine.

Actually depend, to a greater or lesser extent on the handling & dissemination of accurate information.
And, therefore are vulnerable to "The information revolution".

27:

Please, explain how railroads or navies are going to face a hotels-vs-Airbnb or bookstores-vs-Amazon situation thanks to the communications revolution.

28:

The free market thrives on transparency - the better the information available to everybody, the more efficient the market is. What doesn't thrive is the poor sod trying to make a living competing within the free market, for whom the imperative of cutting profits to the bone is liable to conflict with the imperative of having enough money to live on.

So it's a real tendency you're describing, but it's immanent within free market capitalism rather than hostile to it. I mean, as well as hostile to it.

29:

The free market thrives on transparency - the better the information available to everybody, the more efficient the market is.

In the abstract, The Free Market must always be the best way to organize anything provided a few conditions are met.

In reality, those conditions are never quite met and so the proofs don't quite prove it.

The way I think of it, if we have free market capitalism where banks, stock markets, big corporations, and corporate secrecy have all become aberrations, things have changed to the point it might as well have a new name.

But if you want to call it an old name, I won't mind a whole lot. We can call it capitalism or feudalism or mercantilism or whatever.

30:

Actually, it's worse than that. Not merely has the regulation collapsed, the (de facto) legal and financial systems have been changed to give large (and, especially, multi-national) companies privileges that are denied to small or local ones. But, as you say, that will almost certainly change, sometime and somehow.

31:

I will note that a lot of the folks who are behind the largest internet startups are Californians with up-close-and-personal access to the sort of VC funding they need to properly capitalise their ventures. And that those folks are disproportionately libertarians, because if it works for them how can it possibly be bad for everyone?

So it's not merely that the internet is good for libertarianism, it's that libertarians are proactively working to make the internet a better environment for themselves. Like pissing in the public swimming pool to drive everyone else out of it so you can swim alone in your own piss-puddle: it's locally optimal but globally very sub-optimal indeed.

32:

I consider it a waste when the money I spend on products goes to fool me into thinking the products are better than I'd think from my own experience. ~J Thomas

You know, that was a surprisingly insightful comment for me because I never really thought much about the reasons I tend to respond in an extremely negative fashion to brand marketing. Given the option I find myself appreciating things more when my research swayed me towards an unknown manufacturer or generic alternative that fit the slot I wanted or needed filled and I was able to avoid any sort of premium for a logo or specific label on the side.

There are layers of information transfer involved in advertising which I don't pick up or interpret as noise. It's gotten to the point that if I do specifically seek out a known brand it bothers me somewhat when I see their advertisements, because the only reason I went with them is because I couldn't actually find a better alternative. I love my New Balance 574's because they perfectly fit my weird shaped foot and last longer than other shoes because of that. Yet I hate everything about New Balance I've ever seen from tv, internet, or magazine ads.
___________________________________
What's my point though, oh yeah!

I am in a weird position. I'm a 34 year old aspie, so I was pretty much blind to the non-verbal aspects of communication which people apparently count on in face to face interactions.

Prior to being diagnosed I was almost sure the explanation was a case of the Emperor's New Clothes: body language and fluency thereof is considered socially desirable to the point that everyone claims to be adept at interpreting and using it, but few if any actually are. Finding out I'm just unable to pick up this information stream makes far more sense of course.

Here, you're all as blind to those aspects of communication as I am.

In another sense, most of you have something which to me looks rather telepathic when you're engaging someone else face to face. You are able to gauge intent, judge emotional states, and decipher subtext in ways which seem like a superpower to me.

Here you are only able to communicate through words, silent ones, barring Freemanic Paracusia (mmm, mmm, delicious Georgia peaches) of course. Yet doing so involves losing access to a layer of communication which you are so accustomed to using you don't even think about it.

Those of you older than I am are adapting to a world where a lack of non-verbal cues is the norm, and the novelty of still being able to communicate despite that missing layer of information makes it seem more like a superpower to you.

If you were blind but could still find your way around by visualising your surroundings using ambient noise like sonar, that would definitely seem like a superpower... but you already do that to some extent, it's simply a background thing because vision is such a fat datapipe.

But if you heard someone clap a few feet to your right with a hollow popping-ringing quality you'd know there was a wall just a few feet beyond whoever clapped. If you picked up a distinct echo a half a second after they clapped you'd know there were some buildings or a cliff side across a street that way.

It's not registered as obviously as seeing the building, but if you saw them clap and had sound dampening headphones you'd "feel" the weird sensation from not picking up that information, and you'd feel it with roughly the appropriate delay because your brain would be expecting to incorporate it into your picture of your surroundings.


Here you can't see if I'm standing with my body turned slightly away from you and fidgeting with something on the desk as I lean against it. I don't know what information that posture would convey with any accuracy, and I wouldn't expect you to be able to just tell me exactly what it would be saying... but if you were there in person you'd know something about my mental state because of it.

33:

(continued)

On the other hand, there are more and more people running around younger than I am who possess said body language interpretation/projection facility which I lack. Yet they have grown up in a different world from my elders and I; one where this form of communication became normal while they were kids, or one which has always included regular text based interactions with other people.

It's cute when you see a baby nowadays try to pinch and drag or click or swipe something on a magazine page, but think about that, there are kids for whom a sheet of glass that displays information on demand with connections to anywhere all the time is normal. So much so that they look at a magazine as a broken tablet, a book as an e-reader with a clunky interface, and so forth.

So now we have a generation with lots of money and power trying to figure out how to sell stuff to a younger generation and defaulting to certain methods and techniques based on certain ideas and principles that come across as strained or clunky at best.

It still works to various lengths with us Gen X kids, there are still certain paradigms and such that we've absorbed to various degrees which result in easily produced buttons.

Do I want a Nexus 6? Kinda, I would like to play with it as it is a very sexy toy, and the branding/ad pitch is less offensive by far than it's competitors. But I don't need a smartphone, and I like my computers with a big box full of components I screwed and clicked and snapped into place with big expansive monitors and a comfy chair and keyboard.

I really want one of the Lumia phones with the sexy cameras, the only thing I use the woman's smartphone for is the camera. I wouldn't get the phone for myself, but if she hadn't gotten her galaxy lite with the family plan I would prefer to have access to said Lumia. If I could rent one now and then and let someone else use it the rest of the time, I would. I don't care about possessing a phone on a contract that I can't crack open and muck with as I see fit because I place no value in being seen with a phone of x brand in y places by persons z.

I'm not saying the kids who have never known a world without smartphones will be aspies or anything, but I'm skeptical that they will be as easy to engage and advertise to using the same old tricks or the "New and Shiny e-trikz" whichever big bag of money and inertia things will be the hot new thing this year or season or even this week.

There's no benefit for me to try and engage in the wealth chasing game. Combine that with my obliviousness to advertising and "the way you should want to live" type messages and I only hope it doesn't explode and fall apart tomorrow because I can't imagine a way it wouldn't be absolutely horrific to live through.

What will happen when you get a generation who are similarly unconcerned with "chasing the x-ican dream" or "making it big" due to not speaking the same language as the advertising and societal pressures which molded so many before them into buying those ideas?

What benefit is there for a non-wealthy 30-something to try and find a way to translate the old messages for these new ears, knowing all too well that it will end up discarded like all the rest of the rehashed memes and reposts making up the background noise of the internet today?

34:

I suspect the current prevalence of near-monopoly platforms is a side-effect of our market regulation of monopolies having collapsed some time in the past 2-3 decades -- pivotal points being the IBM and Microsoft anti-trust lawsuits in the USA...

I'm not sure that's really an accurate account of recent anti-trust history, at least in the US.

It's true that the US Government's anti-trust lawsuit against IBM was eventually dismissed in 1982 (after 13 years), but many people have argued that it had a strong chilling effect on IBM ("Historians and legal experts say it's impossible to overstate the burden that the anti-trust case laid on IBM....the company, still fearful of the watchful eye of the Justice Department, took pains to avoid the appearance of a monopoly long after it relinquished its hold on the market.")
http://www.cnet.com/news/ibm-and-microsoft-antitrust-then-and-now/

The lawsuit against Microsoft was filed in 1998 and went to trial, ending in 2000 with the judge ruling for a breakup of Microsoft into two companies; this judgement was then overturned on appeal, and a final settlement was reached in late 2001. That's hardly an example of a company "being able to fend off prosecutions indefinitely."

35:
Not ...militaries
Reaper drones operated from home base aren't web-enabled disruption?


Not the practice of law or medicine.

A profession that's had a tanking of low-level jobs due to the use of discovery software, and one that's starting to see 'decision support' software suggest diagnoses to doctors (machine vision algorithms apparently already outperform radiologists in detecting some forms of cancer); they don't quite support your point.

36:

Actually, I think that it's true, but is a bit misleading. You are right about the effect on IBM, but it was the last gasp of any real anti-trust action. As I understand the Microsoft case, the final result was that the Justice Department caved in on all substantive issues. What seems like a huge amount of money is peanuts for Microsoft. The EU hasn't done much better.

Specific points that affect me included the unbundling of Internet Explorer and no more forcing hardware suppliers to package Microsoft. Progress? Well, there was a little, but it didn't last long.

37:

I'm a 34 year old aspie

Ouch. I used to talk with a talented guy who knew a whole lot and didn't necessarily believe all that much of what he knew. He used the Max™ name. He uses some similar literary tropes to yours.

I tended to think you were him. Sometimes when you replied to my comments you seemed to mesh into things we discussed years ago.

But if you're 34 now, you would have been under 18 back when the big drama was going on. The death threats. The angst. Astrology. Cambodia. Bob. Ilya. Julianne. David.

How strange. Max™ seemed older. There's no telling how much subtle communication I sort of thought was going on, that was not. That's what happens when there isn't enough redundancy. People see patterns easily, and to believe the patterns are really there and not things we create, you need to be more of a Realist and not a nominalist.

38:

How cynical am I allowed to be?

It's a race to the bottom and it ends when search becomes free at the point of delivery.

A race to the bottom means an ecosystem dominated by the bottom-feeders.

Which might, to a first order cynic, sound like mass surveillance - initially, it's diverting your personal data and your online activity log for sale to advertisers, in a market where the consumer of last resort is the Gorveenment.

Other consumers exist: divorce lawyers, health insurers, blackmailers and journalists.

Low-value commodities - and ubiquitous surveillance makes your personal data nearly free - attract low-rent businesses with morals to match.


A second-order cynic might take up your point about sponsored content and biased results: in a near-transparent market, an effective lie is a premium product.

Mull that one over: in a perfectly transparent and frictionless market, lies have no effect and zero value.

At the other extreme, markets where all but a handful of participants are blinded by a fog of FUD are dominated by misinformation, and the manufacturers of that misinformation are therefore trading in a low-value commodity.

But markets where lying is difficult - a bespoke product requiring careful crafting - offer profitable opportunities for bottom-feeding scum.

Where does this place us in information ecosystems such as social media, where a carefully-crafted and personalised lie is just within reach of an algorith that can edit or curate the incoming data stream?


39:

If it was Max™ and after 2003 or 2004 it was probably me, but I'm not sure what reference you're making at all, and I wasn't online very regularly or using this name in 98~99.

40:

I think the "seventy percent of communication is non-verbal" people may be right. The ones that think that most of that seventy percent is body language, tones of voice, and the other things that neither of us parse very well (if at all), are probably wrong

I've never seen an explanation of body language that amounts to more than a couple of words per sentence on average, so my theory is that actually a lot of that non-verbal communication is context.

To put it another way, which I sadly didn't come up with:

If eighty percent of communication is nonverbal, does that mean you'll understand more by talking to the Chinese premier IRL - even though you don't know the language - than talking to someone in English on IRC?
41:

If it was Max™ and after 2003 or 2004 it was probably me, but I'm not sure what reference you're making at all, and I wasn't online very regularly or using this name in 98~99.

It was an entirely different Max™. I suspect he posts here occasionally. He tends to have a postscript at the bottom of each comment.
[PS something witty here]

Neither of you is enforcing your trademark.

42:

The ones that think that most of that seventy percent is body language, tones of voice, and the other things that neither of us parse very well (if at all), are probably wrong

It's a different kind of communication, and I don't know how to put percentages on it.

A big part of it is people saying "I'm harmless. I won't hurt you."

Sometimes they say "I like you. I won't hurt you."

Sometimes they say "I want to have sex with you. I won't hurt you."

Occasionally the body language says "I think you owe me. Do what I want or I will hurt you."

One of the values of this stuff is that it's harder to lie with it, at least about the big stuff. People who play poker learn not to show when they are surprised, pleased, etc. And some people really can stab you in the back without giving any indication ahead of time. But that's rare.

Konrad Lorenz wrote that sometimes when dogs meet they start growling at each other, and start to fight, and then quit. Each of them senses that the other doesn't really want to. They can't say they don't want to fight, their nonverbal communication doesn't include a way to say "I don't want to fight you" without acting it out. But when they do act it out, it's hard to lie.

A form of communication where you can say "I don't want to hurt you" and the other guy is sure you aren't lying. If you use a shannon measure of the amount of information transferred, that isn't a whole lot. Not 70%. But if you rate the information by how important it is, that changes things some.

43:

Nope, the IBM and Microsoft anti-trust trials broke the DoJ.

For a modern comparison, look at the Amazon/Apple ebook anti-trust case that found Apple guilty of price-fixing.

Apple was the minority player in a market where Amazon had 95% market share at the time the legal action started. AMZN also imposed most-favoured-nation clauses in its ebook contracts with the Big Five. Apple tried to break in on the monopoly with a different pricing model ... Amazon complained, and the DoJ went after the incomer and ignored the blatant monopolist.

(The publishers caved one by one because of a weirdness of US anti-trust law; when they prosecute for price-fixing, the DoJ estimates the total damages -- and if you're found guilty, the guilty parties get stuck with the entire bill. So as one publisher after another pulled out, the scale of the punitive damages snowballed until the survivors had to cave, or jeopardize the company. At the end, the putative damages exceeded Macmillan's entire annual turnover: publishing multinationals are much smaller than Amazon, let alone Apple, hence easier targets for the DoJ to go after.)

It's far easier to prove price-fixing than the existence of a monopoly in current US anti-trust law. So once a monopoly exists, it's much easier to get mileage by attacking anyone who tries to undercut it -- and the monopolist has the lobbying $$$ to make this stick.

Disgraceful, but not unexpected.

44:

@11: Capitalism doesn't require perfect information; it requires the lack of it, and it fails if everyone actually has perfect information. Consider, for example, the domestic electricity market (in the UK). Suppose the electricity suppliers were required to expose an API for getting tariff details and transferring your account to a different supplier. Suppose further that everyone had a smart meter that used the API to shop around every second for the cheapest electricity for that single second, and then the next second it went to a different supplier if they'd become cheaper. In theory, that's a perfect market with perfect transparency. In practice, it would fail, because all the suppliers would have to charge the exact same price at all times, and so there's no reason to assume that would be the lowest possible price.

45:

One of the on-going issues with large corps who need to ensure ever-increasing quarterly targets are met is that whatever new product venture they pursue usually has to be BIG. Makes sense if you're looking at new infrastructure. However, most other things (products/services) that make up ordinary lives tend to be small - either in size, investment, user base size (incidence/unit sales), usage frequency, etc.

To me, one of the key issues for the future is the unwillingness of VCs/banks/governments to recognize this reality ... that the small niche player has an important role. Where this has already shown up is in medicine (i.e., 7,000 orphan diseases).

----

I laughed when I read the bit about 'what your mother did for you' ... you mean nag?

---

Other comments ...

Who exactly is spending most of their lives online? Very unlikely that it's the current batch of politicos and financial movers and shakers. So what does this mean in terms of future movers & shakers ... will they come up from similarly non-online folks, or will they have been part of the online experience? How will this change how they interact with their constituencies?

Useful apps ...

Shopping based on my previous experience - or the personal experience of people I trust would be useful/welcome. (FB is doing this already.) Integrated with an app that tracked/coordinated what foods I have in my cupboard/fridge with my grocery shopping.

Household chores ... too varied ... therefore I conclude that such an approach would take too much time, money, and effort to learn how to use/maintain, etc. Instead, I'd much prefer to eliminate the need for household chores. So give me more non-stick/easy clean surfaces, built-ins, easy/quick to wash (or 'green' disposable) clothing and bedding/linens, etc.

Personal health .... meds/test results, physical fitness, sleep, etc. There are apps available to remind patients when to take their meds or run a diagnostic test. Don't know which, if any, also routinely download the results to a central file/doctor's office.

....

Writing the above it struck me that would be most useful is an app that would communicate with all other apps ... because it's such a bother/waste of time having to re-learn/re-do something over and over again. (Or is this what iPhone is trying to do/become?)

46:

Charlie @2: I can assure you that my former employer has not captured any regulators (if only), and spends very little time fending off regulatory lawsuits. I think you greatly over-estimate the influence of regulators on vertical search engines.

47:

@5: Information can't be a currency; it lacks the attributes of a useful currency. Information (or rather knowledge) has instead become the foundation-stone of wealth-accumulation strategies, replacing capital (capitalism, 17th-20th centuries) which in turn replaced land (feudalism, 5th(ish)-16th centuries). The wealth that is accumulated is still measured in money.

48:

Reaper drones operated from home base aren't web-enabled disruption?

No, for about a zillion reasons, but mainly because they are neither web-enabled nor is it a disruption in the pre-existing operation loop. Drones use direct signals relayed by government satellite and military AWACS, and are launched from standard bases with trained military personnel operating them. Whereas conventional jets get massive amounts of operations data from satellite uplink and military AWACS and are launched from standard bases with trained military personnel operating them.

49:

Mine is actually how I sign my name, it's short for "Thyme". :D

I also like not having to worry about body language on here, apparently the way I used to square my shoulders to guys and make eye contact while talking to them can be interpreted as a challenge.

I really am curious though about how well capitalism will fare with a generation raised on the internet shit.

50:

Erm, meant "and whatnot" watching Go and was typing while they were cussing at each other. >.>

51:

I'm being optimistic in thinking the CIA wouldn't have been sending (as many) planes into Yemen as they have drones, then? Fair enough; I definitely can't find evidence to support the idea.

52:

Radiology/diagnostic imaging ... from some of the numbers I've seen in the past 2-3 years, this discipline is growing (both at the MD & technician level) even though there's an increase in new decision software allowing for some semi-automation.

This also happened with blood. And, what happened there was that more people were tested routinely. From what I've heard (heme related) about these automated tests is that the clinician/researcher sets the parameters (usually based on well-established norms/guidelines*) and then personally reviews all of the non-normal results. Depending on the size/type of hospital, this can mean personally reviewing hundreds of blood test results per day. One heme clinician/researcher I spoke with mentioned that these automated tests meant that he now had time to actually look at (more) smears. Something that pre-automation, he didn't have enough time/staff to do. (Most also personally regularly review a few 'normal results' just as a check.) Coincident with this was the availability of more tests for more conditions/disorders. This led some clinicians/researchers to start working on/out which types and sequences of tests were best at diagnosing certain disorders/diseases. (Hemes writing their own algorithms - yes, it's actually happening.)

* Keep in mind that we're talking about an organism (human body) that's constantly changing a bit every day and wanting to catch a disease/disorder at its earliest stage or, post therapy, monitoring a condition until that disease disappears (no diseased cells left).

One of the interesting side effects of health care/medical automation is more data available for analysis.

53:

As for drones over manned planes, the US is very adverse to anything that might allow capture or loss of US personnel. Drones that are shot down done involve such issues.

54:

Not just post-capitalism, but post jobs as well:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/

"To paraphrase the science-fiction novelist William Gibson, there are, perhaps, fragments of the post-work future distributed throughout the present. I see three overlapping possibilities as formal employment opportunities decline.

...Some people displaced from the formal workforce will devote their freedom to simple leisure;

...some will seek to build productive communities outside the workplace;

...and others will fight, passionately and in many cases fruitlessly, to reclaim their productivity by piecing together jobs in an informal economy.

These are futures of consumption, communal creativity, and contingency. In any combination, it is almost certain that the country would have to embrace a radical new role for government."

IMHO a future of leisure cinsumption would be the worst, a replay of Rome's "pan et circes" (for its citizens who jobs were taken by slave labor) with all of the psychological, spiritual and moral damage that inflcited on Rome's citizens. We'd all beleading meaningless and pointless lives. Freud was right, to be mentally healthy humans need work and love.

Desparately obbling together contingency jobs is a recipe for becoming peons beholden to a rich and powerful el jefe.

Communal creativity appears to be the only acceptable option:

"Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, sees the next wave of automation returning us to an age of craftsmanship and artistry. In particular, he looks forward to the ramifications of 3‑D printing, whereby machines construct complex objects from digital designs. The factories that arose more than a century ago “could make Model Ts and forks and knives and mugs and glasses in a standardized, cheap way, and that drove the artisans out of business,” Katz told me. “But what if the new tech, like 3-D-printing machines, can do customized things that are almost as cheap? It’s possible that information technology and robots eliminate traditional jobs and make possible a new artisanal economy … an economy geared around self-expression, where people would do artistic things with their time.”

But how many of us a truely skilled enough to succeed as artisans?

Perhaps there is a fourth choice: volunteerism. Following Voltaire's advise in Candide that humans are happiest when we "tend our gardens. And perhaps we can treat the Earth as our garden, healing the harms of centuries of industrialism and war. Robots can't bring a species back from extinction, but people can. Robots can't restore wetlands, but people can. Robots can't stop the spread of deserts, but people can. Robots can't experiment with sustainable communities, but people can.

55:

It seems to me that one of the improvements services like Uber or AirBnB bring to the party is reputation management. Yesterday we came back from rail from Rhode Island to New York. As we live up on the Hudson Valley side of Westchester, rather than take the train all the way into the city, cross from Penn to GCT and take another back out, we often get off at New Rochelle and take a cab. That used to mean taking a chance with the first New Rochelle city cab on the rank, establish that the driver knew how to get to where we're going, agree a price, and then have a nerve-racking drive up I-287 because the cabby wants to get there and back a.s.a.p so he can pick up another fare. The quality of such cabs has been very variable - we were in one once where every bump on the interstate made the rear r/h suspension loudly squeak and go up and down - fortunately the wheel stayed on and we got home.

Now we use Uber. Sure, we had to wait a few minutes for the cab to get to the station, but when it turned up it was immaculately turned out, air-conditioned and the driver was professionalism personified - offered us water, checked we were happy, etc. And he drove sanely, as he knows he has a good chance of picking up another fare through the app once he'd dropped us off.

Cost was just a little more than we'd pay a New Rochelle cabby for a far better service. And at the end we get the opportunity to give feedback - five stars of course.

56:

Mr. Stross, it's not just the economy that is affected by "telepathy" but politcs as well. From body cams recording police misconduct to hacking government archives and secret records this technology gives individuals the ability to watch Big Brother even as BB is watching them.

Your fellow SF writer David Brin coied the term "sousveillance", the reverse of surveillance.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/06/sousveillance-new-era-for-police.html

57:

For those of you who will living in a world without work, I reccommend this interesting infographic from NPR onwhich professions are mnost likley to be replaced by robots and AI:

http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/21/408234543/will-your-job-be-done-by-a-machine

58:

I'm being optimistic in thinking the CIA wouldn't have been sending (as many) planes into Yemen as they have drones, then? Fair enough; I definitely can't find evidence to support the idea.

The military controls the drone program, not the CIA. Shift was a few years back. You realize you haven't made an accurate statement about drones yet, right? However, even allowing for your counterfactual, the ability to do more of what you are doing is not disruption (as you claimed it was). A new way of doing things by breaking the existing operations loop is disruption. Doing more of exactly what you have been doing is just scalability.

59:

Yes, you might want to read his early-1990s novel "Earth" for some ideas about how that might play out.

60:

"It still works to various lengths with us Gen X kids, there are still certain paradigms and such that we've absorbed to various degrees which result in easily produced buttons.

Do I want a Nexus 6? Kinda, I would like to play with it as it is a very sexy toy, and the branding/ad pitch is less offensive by far than it's competitors. But I don't need a smartphone, and I like my computers with a big box full of components I screwed and clicked and snapped into place with big expansive monitors and a comfy chair and keyboard."

Max, the thing is that people like you are a very niche market; 99% of people just want it to work.

There are people who buy cars to fiddle with them, and the rest of us.

61:

It's interesting that we took a technology for long-distance time-asymmetric communication and essentially removed the transmission time. (This has major benefits over the more obvious thing, which is to use speech -- speech isn't as amenable to archival purposes as text, or to translation, being optimized for a completely evanescent and time-sensitive use case; even recorded speech from telephone conversations is slow to process in comparison with text, being very dependent upon context and being full of false starts and errors of the type human beings edit out in memory. After the invention of electric microphones, mechanisms to quickly transmit and record speech appeared earlier than those same techniques were used to transmit and record text, yet text has generally taken over.) Despite text having a lot of benefits over speech (for people who can quickly touch type for long periods and have good eyesight -- braille displays and other mechanisms for allowing the blind access to electronically transmitted text seem to make the interaction closer to speech because of relatively low tactile resolution), our mechanisms for producing text haven't significantly improved since the first typewriter-style keyboards for telegraphs were introduced, and those minor improvements that do exist (such as chording keyboards and macro keyboards) have largely not been adopted. I'd like to see how the content of communication changes when we can communicate at a rate 20 or 30 times that of typing -- i.e., when our ability to produce content begins to track with our ability to transmit it.

As for the market thing... Capitalism has always depended upon asymmetry of information. Resale couldn't exist without both price asymmetry and asymmetry in either the awareness of this price asymmetry or in access to means of travel (which itself must come from wealth asymmetry). As information storage and transmission has gotten quicker, smaller, and cheaper, we've begun to see more people making their living by curating high-quality information rather than producing information or performing expensive processing on it (or protecting it, or producing false information, or...). Google's an interesting case: both their ostensible and real business models are based on automatic curation of information (in the case of the ostensible model, search results are sorted in such a way that the 'best' results are first; in the case of the real model, advertisers are provided with their 'best' match in the form of searchers and web page visitors). No doubt that trend will continue -- lots of information means more profit in sorting it, and with natural resources looking more and more limited and with geographic expansion limited by gravity, we probably will continue to see growth in these industries until space-faring becomes profitable, which may be never.

62:

Sousveillance + surveillance = a world with out secrets for the powerful + no privacy for the indiviudal.

A good thing?

63:

Depends on whose perspective you're writing from.

The buyer, whether that's the end consumer like you and me buying gas and electricity or someone buying a company wants the best information possible to make the best choice. The seller wants to, in essence, lie and present the information in the best possible light.

Which is why we have laws at one level about insider trading and full disclosure and why at the other end, the energy companies are being told to present clear information about pricing plans. And the ASA does its thing and so on.

64:

(Apologies if the following is too tangential to the topic.)

Related to the simulation of telepathy: what about the simulation of paranoia? One of the classic paranoid symptoms is the ideation of 'ideas of reference', the notion that other people and things are speaking directly and particularly to them [sic]...which sounds like tracked and analysed preferences mapped to what we now call the 'internet of things'. Similarly, the paranoid believes that everything that happens were relevant to them, which sounds like news tailored to the viewer.

These two are part of a general over-estimation if one's own significance in the wider world (important enough to be persecuted); though any advertising attempts to do this at times, when it's not promoting feelings of insecurity, there's something more intimate about messages of any sort you see on a device in your hand...or written on your V.R.'s simulation of the sky (presumably over Tokyo).

65:

Let's start by trying to nail down what makes capitalism capitalism: Exchange of equivalents (same market value) + Separation of producer and means of production. The rest, the profiteering etc., snowballs from there if the conditions are right.

I don't see where the internet actually reunites producers with their means of production outside of some niches. And nobody here even suggested we drop direct exchange for 'from each according to their abilities, to each accoerding to their needs!' which would be something different than capitalism.

While there's lots of mutual aid if you look closely enough, I don't see a saner system replacing capitalism unless many, many people want this to happen.

One necessary, not sufficient, precondition would be to make property history. I know, I know, sacrilege.

66:

Let's start by trying to nail down what makes capitalism capitalism

"Capture/plunder of surplus value simply on the grounds of owning the means of production through which value was created" is the usual definition. Let's not reinvent the wheel here.

Or shorter version "I create nothing. I own"

67:

Something completely different. there's actually a model to ease trade without middlemen. It's the standards developed for tenders, mostly for construction projects. I as customer write a tender in accord with the local relvant laws and publish bid document. Potential contractors add their prices into the bid document and upload it onto my server, where my bid evaluation software helps me to decide whom to choose. Look for gaeb84 files to see what I mean, there's also freeware to help you handle the files. Some of the

Now apply this to disrupt Uber into extinction: I go out the pub and tweet: "Cab service according to wanted from to , please contact ". Potential cabbies send me their offers + a sigend certificate that they are indeed cabbies according to , I small script on my phone checks signatures, compares prices and makes a recommondation or books the cab outright. offes without certificate are discarded outright.
Note that there's no central server needed, just a governing body issuing certificates.

There's many issues with this (emminently hackable, I'm sure). Here's one: antitrust laws are good, or least better than none (provided they actually work as antitrust laws, I guess). Unionizing is among other things the forming of a labor cartel, to allow collective bargaining. This is also good. The moment you treat individual workers as like you would individual companies, it's very hard to draw a line on where you allow collective bargaining and where you forbid price fixing.

68:

But how many of us a truely skilled enough to succeed as artisans?

Perhaps there is a fourth choice: volunteerism. Following Voltaire's advise in Candide that humans are happiest when we "tend our gardens. And perhaps we can treat the Earth as our garden, healing the harms of centuries of industrialism and war. Robots can't bring a species back from extinction, but people can. Robots can't restore wetlands, but people can. Robots can't stop the spread of deserts, but people can. Robots can't experiment with sustainable communities, but people can.

I think these are all good uses of time once the jobs are gone. But bringing species back from extinction probably is skill-gated at least as much as being a successful artisan. If robots can tend land -- and I think they must be able to, if we're talking about a time when agricultural hand labor has disappeared with all the other jobs -- then they can do the work required of the counter-desertification plans. Deliberately foregoing robots for manual labor in those roles is just another way of "desperately cobbling together contingency jobs."

I don't expect a full blown Singularity with do-everything AI. I do expect that capable narrow AI will encroach on more and more jobs to the point that we effectively have do-everything-that's-routine AI. And routines, broadly defined, make up by far the bulk of paid work. Even in e.g. pharmaceutical research there is a lot of repetitive synthesis/characterization/testing work for each idea being investigated. If humans are left to do only the ideas part, most of those "high skill" jobs will be in line for elimination.

If machines can do all that's routine but not the creative or the highly personal, that leaves a lot (in absolute terms) for humans to do: sports, mathematics, music, culinary innovation, scientific investigation (at a high level), visual and performing arts, the writing of prose, poetry, (high level) software, plays, and dramatic scripts. Historians, critics, philosophers, and personal trainers are also less likely to be directly replaced by machines. Paid employment in these categories may shrink dramatically anyway as a side effect of dramatic collapses in paid employment in other categories. In percentage terms, I expect most jobs to go away and not return. I expect that "most adults participate in paid labor" will become as obsolete as "most adults participate in agriculture."

I don't share your despair about the evils of people without externally directed work orders. We already have control groups for what people do when they don't need to work but are materially secure. They are called, variously, "heirs," "heiresses," and "retirees." My father was happier and more fulfilled after he retired than before. There are many ways to enjoy life without employment that are not dangerously sedentary or harmful to mental health. I think it's the creepy Protestant work ethic plus anti-welfare propaganda that makes people fear they'll turn into depressed, stationary media addicts if they don't have an employer to tell them what to do 5 days out of the week. Or maybe they don't fear that outcome for themselves, but they fear it for the lower orders who clearly need a stern hand to keep from slipping into vice. Like those wise Europeans from the age of colonialism who helped the lazy natives reform their excessively leisurely ways.

69:

Oh, I know I'm a niche in a niche market, but one thing I do have in common with the smartphone generation in the market for various items is taking it for granted that I can easily do a little bit of research and save a ton of money and annoyance.

Not to say that this is unique, but it's one thing when you're applying wisdom and experience to a purchasing decision and decide to do research and cross comparison.

It's a rather different matter when you are looking at kids who grew up knowing the little slab of glass in their hand gives them immediate access to an overwhelming amount of information that may be relevant to what they are trying to accomplish.

Developing at least a semblance of expertise in some field used to take actual time and experience and effort to accomplish.

Nowadays you can fake a remarkable level of knowledge just by knowing how to winnow your search terms and sift the results effectively.

Is a computer a fixed object which you go sit at and use for various tasks?

Is it a means to access an extended memory and knowledge bank which you've effectively offloaded to the other side of said fixed object?

Is it something you only think of when it is absent, due to not having the immediate access to the various faculties it provides?


The missus has a smartphone with 4g and wifi and such, I carry it with us when we walk the dog so I can take pictures of the sunsets and pretty bugs or birds.

If I have the urge to look something up or check something I'd rather go back home and do it than flip on the 4g antenna.

Even though the phone is more than capable of doing most of the same basic tasks my computer can, I just don't like the interface as much as I do my dual monitors and keyboard and comfy chair. The phone is a tool for me, the computer is a link to my extended knowledge base and memory.

Some day it will look as quaint as feeding punchcards or running a teletype does now. Some of you used to do just those things!


What's my point?

How do you leverage something like the formerly asymmetrical information advantage which a seller used to have over a buyer in a world with more and more kids that swim around natively in a sea composed of all the information they could want and more, always at their beck and call?

It's laughable to think that these businesses going around today building up hoards of user data and profiles and surfing habits and such will be somehow able to maintain anything like the information superiority they used to enjoy or better yet find some way to leverage it in some fashion which might make kids behave like loyal and consistent customers.

As martin pointed out, our ideas of property are a sticking point, but I have no idea how the efforts being put forth today to turn information into property will manage to survive as network access and thus information access trends towards ubiquitous and everpresent.

70:

I question how they're computing those numbers.

Pre-school teachers: 0.4% chance of being replaced by automation
Elementary teachers: 0.7% chance
Middle school teachers: 17.4% chance
High school teachers: 0.8% chance

How on earth do they figure middle school teachers are more automate-able than other school teachers?

71:

The thing about people needing work to be happy isn't strictly untrue. Many people are unhappy when they don't have something to do. But it's much more about having meaning, rather than work per se. In a context where the expectation is that everyone will work, and most alternatives aren't considered respectable, it becomes more difficult to find meaning outside of work. It's not impossible, as evidenced by everyone with a serious hobby, but it's more difficult. For groups of people who aren't expected to work, like the retired, less "serious" things are more respectable.

72:

Oh, I agree that people need meaning to be satisfied. But I think that externally assigned work as meaning is going to be viable for fewer and fewer people. I don't want an outcome where mass employment is obsolete but the old ethic of "only those who work shall consume*" is not and it's just mass deprivation and shaming for the 9 out of 10 working age people who don't get the 1 out of 10 remaining jobs. I wouldn't expect people to vote for that nightmare in countries with elected governments but people have voted for their own misery before, so who knows. I also don't want an outcome where the government provides a job guarantee but pads it with theme-park historical reenactments of work when the jobs that actually require human labor run short.

*Unless you are a child, medically disabled, an inheritor of wealth, married to someone with wealth or employment income, retired, an investor, a collector of rents, an executive with a golden parachute...

73:

Worth reading this if you think that Moore's Law is the only limit on computer productivity:

http://www.wired.com/2015/03/illegal-sand-mining/

There are many other physical limits, which is why Google and company are going big time into renewables. They can see the writing on the wall, even if we can't.

74:

Different orders of magnitude. It takes about 100,000 tonnes of silicon dioxide to produce the maybe ~50,000 tonnes of silicon that goes into microelectronics each year. The bulk of sand consumption -- and all the illegal sand mining documented in the linked article -- is for concrete production. The article doesn't break out the sand numbers alone but says that sand and gravel consumption combined is over 40 billion tons per year. If half of that is sand, silicon for electronics might account for 0.0005% of annual sand consumption.

75:

Not to derail, but in addition to what Matt said, you also have to take into consideration that a lot of the sand used over the past decade was a one time thing. Basically, it was China and parts of SE Asia building their basic infrastructure. I'd like to know what percentage of that sand was used by the developed world. I'm not saying the developed world isn't using a lot.

Now, I realize that neither China nor SE Asia are finished. Further, we will have to consider demand as South Asia and Africa build their infrastructure. In other words, we're not out of the woods yet. However, the special nature of current sand consumption should be taken into account.

Personally, I would prefer to tweak the concrete formula towards one that uses more plentiful material such as granite, limestone, or sand from the Sahara, but that's just me (with our luck, the pace of development would cause a shortage of those materials).

PS: Singapore is running out of territorial water, so that should put the brakes on its land reclamation program by the 2030's.

76:

The only form of Moore's Law worth talking about is the rate at which the cost of a given amount of computing power falls per year, because for the vast majority of people and applications that is what matters.

77:

"I will note that a lot of the folks who are behind the largest internet startups are Californians with up-close-and-personal access to the sort of VC funding they need to properly capitalise their ventures."

An ironic reminder that telepathy supplements rather than supplanting face to face communication. Network effects of co-location haven't gone away.

78:

And others on the same theme.
As many of you know, I am already doing that.
Very rewarding
[ The Apricot tree has just produced HOW MUCH fruit? ]
Also, after "retirement" a lot of us (those with a modicum of intelligence & "Outside Interests" at least)( wonder how on Earth we ever found time to go to "work" ....

79:

Meanwhile the Brit guvmint (or rahther the Civil Service) are trying to reverse the FOI act, the bastards.
Find the "38 Degrees" website & sign the petiton.
RIGHT NOW - please?
They really don't like the idea of sousveillance & are trying to block it.

80:

The only form of Moore's Law worth talking about is the rate at which the cost of a given amount of computing power falls per year

Utterly, totally, wrong.

You forgot Koomey's law -- that computations per joule have been doubling ever 1.57 years since the 1950s. (Note that this can't continue past the Landauer bound, which at current rates will be reached around 2048.)

Reason this is more important than the raw form of Moore's law: it doesn't matter how many MIPS you can buy per dollar if you can't provide the power to run it.

81:

They really don't like the idea of sousveillance & are trying to block it.

Well of course, because it puts a spike in the wheel of the peculiar form of highly sophisticated corruption practiced by the UK ruling class.

Low-end corruption is criminal, illegal, and frowned upon: if a cop stops you for "speeding" at 38mph in a 40mph limit and asks for your driving license, and if you hand it over with a £20 note and get it back without the money and with a polite nod and instruction to be on your way, that makes it glaringly obvious to everybody that the system is rigged. So it can't be permitted.

What we get instead is: systematic privatization of state-owned assets, rubber-stamped by committee, after a process of setting the organization up to fail to meet unsustainable goals. The organization's work is then contracted out to a private sector entity which gets to suck cost-of-operations-plus-a-profit-margin from the public teat, and a little while later the legislators or senior executives who ushered through the outsourcing arrangement pick up non-executive directorships on the board of the private sector entity, usually for a six or seven digit salary in return for playing golf with the CEO twice a month.

82:

Right. I was one of the first people to use MFlops/watt as a formal measure of performance in a procurement (as per EU rules) for HPC in a room with limited and non-expansible cooling. Neither the vendors nor I had seen it done before but, within 5 years of that, it had started to be fairly common, and it's now a major research area.

As I am sure you know, this is the reason that CPU cores are the same clock rates and very little faster today than in 2003 - just with bigger caches/tables/pipelines/etc., which means that they can usually find SOME benchmarks that show their marketdroid's claimed increases. Using the parallelism is another story ....

83:

The version of Moore's law that's most relevant in 2015 is "for practical purposes, everybody already has far more computing power than they could possibly use".

84:

Actually, it's more like the increase in total power is almost, but not quite, keeping up with the debilitating effect of the bloatware.

85:

True, but the bloatware mostly exists because programmers see little need to be sparing in their use of processing power. If anything, they seem to be deliberately wasting it to encourage people to buy even more powerful computers (with a brand-new set of software licenses, of course).

86:

after a process of setting the organization up to fail to meet unsustainable goals
Railtrack .... Network Rail
The Treasury's & "Ministry of Roads" revenge strikes again - except that people WANT their railways ... I think this one will fall down in an embarrasing messy pile, probably before 2020 [ Unless Sir Peter Hendy manages to finagle the whole thing out of their hands... ]

87:

Well, there are three things about this. One is that it's actually fairly hard to tweak concrete recipes. Robert Courland's Concrete Planet goes into this in some detail. the tl;dr version is that sand is a particle size category, but the chemistry of the sand matters a great deal. You can cause a lot of problems by using ocean sand, for example, simply because of the salts, and most Saharan sand is reputedly worthless for concrete.

The second problem is that reinforced concrete is a problematic building material. If you think of it as lasting 2,000 years, you'd be wrong: that's the Roman, unreinforced concrete used in the Pantheon, which was built by an emperor using the best materials available, after Rome had been building with concrete for ~200 years (we've been building with it for about 100 years, having reinvented it independently). Reinforced concrete has a lifespan of 50-100 years, due to problems with the reinforcing rods that we've talked about on other threads. Since the majority of western civilization is built on reinforced concrete infrastructure that's around 50 years old (in Europe) or more (in America), what that means is that we're looking at a rebuilding boom in our near future. All those bridges falling down in the US are merely the drumbeat of approaching construction. And yes, China and India will continue to build, as will Africa.

There's another problem that making a ton of concrete puts about a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere. While there are CO2 efficient concrete mixes out there, they are much more expensive. It's anyone's guess whether we can solve this problem soon, but we do need to.

But the biggest problem is that the good deposits of sand all over the world are disappearing. Yes, they're going into concrete, but that doesn't mean that the computer industry won't run into trouble soon. Securing reliable deposits of high quality silica sand isn't just a matter of contracting for it, it's becoming a matter of putting fences and armed guards around it, because the sand producers have all sorts of markets for their product. It's either that, or someone's going to need to see if window glass can be smelted for chip substrate, or something.

88:

True, but the bloatware mostly exists because programmers see little need to be sparing in their use of processing power. If anything, they seem to be deliberately wasting it to encourage people to buy even more powerful computers (with a brand-new set of software licenses, of course).

This is generally untrue for demanding tasks. If it were true you could complete the same tasks faster by installing older versions of software on modern computers. But older versions of software on modern hardware actually exhibit lesser capabilities and/or less speed. Older releases of speech recognition and optical character recognition software are less accurate. Older releases of web browsers are slower. Older releases of relational databases are slower. Older versions of scientific and engineering simulation software are slower. Older video editors are slower. Older virtualization software is slower. Older 3D rendering software is slower.

Software in relatively storage unconstrained environments -- like full blown PCs -- has grown to take more disk space and (sometimes) RAM. But that doesn't affect runtime performance much unless you were on the threshold of running out of either. It does lead to slower initial startup times, which is where I suspect much of the bloat perception comes from. A recent vintage Mac I use takes ~30 seconds to boot up from a cold state, while my Commodore 64 could do it in 2 seconds. But the Commodore crashed/froze multiple times per day and the Mac gets restarted only when there's an OS update, so in practice I spend even less time waiting on computer reboots than I did back in the 1980s.

Another thing that I suspect affects bloat-perception is that the demands placed on computers keep growing. 15 years ago a news web site would use static photographs plus text to tell a story. Rarely they might have a special QuickTime or RealPlayer video clip for the adventurous. Now some online news is available only as video recordings, without even a text transcript. I don't have the patience for those so I close the tab and move on when I click on a tempting headline that takes me to video. Your computer wouldn't be able to handle the videos any better with old software, but the much greater computational demands of video are noticeable. That may be perceived as software bloat even though your software is equally-or-better optimized for high performance now compared to 15 years ago. It would take special effort to restrict your web browsing to sites that use only 15 year old features so you can really feel the speed increase of the client software.

89:

If anything, they seem to be deliberately wasting it to encourage people to buy even more powerful computers

Never ascribe to conspiracy that which is adequately described by incompetence... It's the programming equivalent of "I'm sorry I've written you a long letter, I didn't have time to write a short one".

The dominant meme in the industry appears to be "agile" or "rapid" development - in other words, hammer the code out, shove it out the door, call it a "Beta" or "Early Release" and fix it afterwards. That way, managers can claim that they are getting the product out to the market as quickly as possible. This is coupled with the dangerous delusion that you can add quality afterwards

:( More haste, less speed :(

It gets worse when managers who cut their teeth on small project teams, assume that large projects are just "small projects, but with more people"; it's the inverse of two decades ago, when managers who did their time on large-scale/long-duration projects assumed that all projects needed to be run that way (hence ISO9001), and the Agile Manifesto came out of the backlash.

Dunning-Kruger rears its head at this point. Those who don't understand processes as well as they think they do, will miss out some things that matter and leave in some things that don't. A bit like design, really...

Maybe in another decade and after enough major failures, the wheel will turn back to the late 1980s / early 1990s, and the "hot topic" in industry will start to be "Process Improvement" all over again...

90:

Hardly anyone actually needs to do demanding tasks (except videogamers, and that's a different rant).

My 8 year old laptop runs Ubuntu faster than my year-old desktop runs Windows, with little meaningful (to me) benefit in functionality.

@martin: I agree with much that you say, but the Microsoft marketing department isn't too implausible a conspiracy, and they're well aware that their main competition is with older versions of their own software.

91:

Browsing a random collection of web sites is a sufficiently demanding task that you will regret trying to use an 8 year old browser release. I occasionally run old versions of Firefox and IE for testing and they are much slower than current releases even when sites aren't using cutting edge features. Look at the evolution of high performance JavaScript runtimes for a particularly impressive example of how new software is improving the speed of old features.

92:

So far the trajectory has been that increasing computing power enables computers to do more things, not that things computers can already do keep getting more efficient. Three examples spanning three decades:

Interactive text editing/word processing and spreadsheets were around, in recognizable form, on mid-80s mass-produced 8-bit home computers, but they were clearly chafing under the hardware limitations. By the mid-90s they were pretty mature technology and considered, for the most part, good enough by both their users and their developers that they have plateaued since.

Digital audio/MP3. In 1995, encoding a MP3 took ages, and playing it back hogged a good chunk of your overall CPU time on a desktop PC. By 2005, hardware MP3 players were cheap, ubiquitous and decidedly not just for geeks anymore, and encoding audio was (for the most part) fast enough that nobody really noticed anymore.

Digital video processed on COTS hardware has been around for a while (at least since the Video Toaster launched in 1987!), but by 2005 we had large enough disks, fast enough computers, good enough codecs and high enough bandwidth that tinkering with video and sharing it on the net wasn't actively masochistic anymore, and we got YouTube. Looking back from 10 years later, that's been a phase change in the way people use video. And there's been changes on the acquisition side as well; e.g. a cellphone camera has to work with a non-ideal optical path, due to space constraints, a lot of which is fixed up after the fact by throwing compute power at it that simply wouldn't have been available on a small form-factor (battery-powered!) device 10 years ago.

An internet connection itself is a compute-heavy thing; the modulation techniques now in use are only viable with cheap ubiquitous access to DSP hardware (or equivalent compute power).

Already around but not really arrived yet (and relevant to the surveillance/sousveillance angle) are things like compressed sensing. Google that or "single-pixel camera" for the research, "Camera Chip Makes Already-Compressed Images" for something closer to a finished product; briefly, you can build a very-low power (compared to a regular sensor) camera by sampling not individual pixels, but "random" linear combinations of pixels (random in quotes because you still need to know what those weights are). The catch is that you then need to crunch through a lot of linear algebra to actually get the results.

I'm not sold on this for a cellphone camera. But that combination of features - low power, raw data stream is useless if you don't know the key that generated the "random" linear combinations, robust to corruption of individual samples so you can use somewhat unreliable storage tech, recording images is cheap and the cost is only paid when you actually try to reconstruct them - is a very good fit for surveillance.

93:

Browsing a random collection of web sites is a sufficiently demanding task that you will regret trying to use an 8 year old browser release.

Except that I do it all the time, and it works fine. Faster than my Windows box, usually.

Technically it's the laptop that's 8 years old. The Firefox is reasonably current.

@Fabian: Yes, there's all sorts of neat tricks people can do for surveilance. I suspect they will continue to fail against terrorists and other low-probability threats simply because the data set is too chaotic and the rate of false positives is much too high. Pretty much every teenage male has violent tendencies; figuring out which one in a million is about to shoot up a school is very difficult.

94:

Much of the software bloat is in increased capabilities, and rather than think of reanimated antique code, I'd rather think about those capabilities, for example, if someone wanted a word processor that did no more than MARCEL on TOS 1.62 (Original OS on the Atari 1040 STE.), it would load fast, have a small footprint, barely tax the CPU and do less than TextEdit. There might be a case for culling features and building lean apps, but that can be done without code necromancy.

95:

Yes, and my point is that an old Firefox on your old hardware will be slower than new Firefox on old hardware. I once had an environment stuck on a stable Debian release near the end of its life cycle and the old Firefox* release was painfully slow compared to a hardware-identical machine with a newer browser. "New features get added, old features get faster" is IMO a more common pattern in software releases than "new features get added, old features get slower." People develop better algorithms over time, use better data structures, get better optimization out of their compilers or VM runtimes. Modern Windows on 8 year old hardware vs. modern desktop Linux on 8 year old hardware doesn't provide evidence either way for the hypothesis that software developers squander hardware resources more over time. You'd want to compare 8-years-separated releases of a Linux distribution or desktop Windows on the same machine to see if old functionality runs slower with newer software.

*Iceweasel

96:

No. Cost of computing power most certainly includes electricity costs.

97:

On my 12 year old fliptop, which I don't use for anything critical, I use a 6 year old Firepox, and can get at most sites that are worth looking at. Tim H is correct, but it's not increased capabilities for the user - it's ones for the marketdroids. Even by the 1980s, some of them were using 10KB+ of pictures to display 100 bytes of text, and now they animate the stuff! And the response time and time to get at information are no better than they were in the 1970s (on the better systems), despite having over 10,000 times as much oomph per user. Yes, you can get at more, and you no longer have to work for a leading-edge organisation to get the capabilities, but the point stands.

98:

@Jay: Oh, don't get me wrong; I don't think those measures are particularly effective, security-wise. And in any case, I suspect what benefits there are have mostly been realized already, and adding more sensors amplifies data management/mining problems while being well into diminishing returns in terms of extra information gathered.

But that wasn't my point. Compressed Sensing for surveillance was just one more example of "more compute power enables new applications". Digital micromirror devices and photo diodes have been around for a long time; broad availability of enough compute power to turn that assembly into a plausible camera has not. Likewise, OFDM has been around for a long time (it was invented in the 1960s); the ability to do an 8k FFT in about 0.9ms on cheap hardware, as required for DVB-T receivers, has not.

There's an argument to be had on how much (or how little) compute power you need in the main CPU/GPU in your device of choice. But independent of that, many other things like increased network bandwidth, higher storage capacity on flash memory and hard drives, higher DPI resolution on your optical mouse (and it working on more surface types), better quality of digital cameras etc. are in no small part enabled by the availability of more/cheaper compute power at the periphery.

99:

There is a fascinatingly postcapitalist phenomenon currently ongoing in the 'personal finance' world.

Sites such as 'Early Retirement Extreme' and 'Mr. Money Mustache' are charting a path for workers to separate themselves from consumer culture, maximize savings and exit the work force to live as the postmodern equivalent of landed gentry within 10-15 years of beginning their working lives. And they have many adherents (including myself to some extent).

Culturally we in the so-called 'Western Industrialized' world are much more indulgent of indolent/nonproductive wealthy people than their opposites. And how many of us would continue to work at our current jobs if money was not an issue?

Income at that point becomes a combination of investment income through index funds and any pensions, a metered drawdown of nest eggs, and any income they might make through hobbies or occasional work. Frequently their plans include a move to a Low Cost of Living Area - once employment is not needed, proximity to work is irrelevant and costly.

Of course there are a number of assumptions built into their plans - most obvious being a continued functioning of modern society roughly as currently structured. But given that the predominant ethos in these communities is self-reliance, zero debt and careful frugality, they are also most likely to weather any upheaval.

It's the first practical response I've seen to the ongoing elimination of employment through automation and the disruptive effects of technology. It is without a doubt a wholly capitalist solution to some of the problems inherent in capitalism.

If we take such a trend to its extreme, it is possible to see a cultural norm of working very hard for 5-15 years on reaching adulthood, then shifting to a postwork phase of life. Certainly the restraint required to save/invest enough to make that possible would limit the numbers who arrive in the postwork phase, but it would be much more likely if 'everybody' was doing it.

100:

What a fortuitous coincidence.

I found an article talking about a potential alternative to some uses of concrete.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/10/rotterdam-plastic-roads-trial-netherlands

Note that I don't think this plastic is going to be that effective, as building in developing countries will likely overwhelm any attempts to recycle plastic.

101:

Cool, another alternative.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for better concrete. It's the scale of the problem that most people don't realize. Heck, if America could find a sucker to finance it, now that we've duped China into paying for all those stupid weapons, we could have rebounded our economy on nothing but rebuilding infrastructure. We've got $X trillion worth of rebuilds for roads, bridges, water pipes, and sewers, in basically every city.

Carbon-sequestering concrete substitutes are right up there with solar-powered bulldozers on my list of things it would really be cool to have a million tons of right now.

As for postcapitalism... I think my problem starts with the name. I mean, we're in the postfeudalism economy right now, except that nobody calls it that. I'd be also happier if the justification wasn't "look, Marx wrote something about it." It's not that I'm totally anti-Marxist, it's just that Marx's writings ranks as a justification right up there with "What would Jesus do?" He had some great ideas too, not that many of his followers actually implement them on an annual basis.

No, if we're supposed to go postcapitalist (and somebody find a better term, please!), I'd be happier if there was a back panel where we could undog the latches, look inside, and see a mechanism that makes sense in the real world. Appeals to any economic theorist leave me skeptical right now, and that especially includes Karl Marx and Milton Friedman.

102:

I hear you. I just think the most important part of what you said was "we're already well along the path of diminishing returns".

103:

@Jay: Yeah, and not just for surveillance. Those past 5 years of Moore's law have not exactly come as cheaply as they used to.

https://ycharts.com/companies/INTC/r_and_d_expense

Much as some would like it to be otherwise, Moore's law isn't a law of nature, it's part extrapolation from the past part policy, and the policymakers are starting to scratch their heads and wonder whether it's still worth it.

104:

No, if we're supposed to go postcapitalist (and somebody find a better term, please!), I'd be happier if there was a back panel where we could undog the latches, look inside, and see a mechanism that makes sense in the real world.

Yes. Thank you. Just because folks really don't like the current setup doesn't mean there are any better choices hanging around. Most proposals I've seen involved "educating the masses" or some sort of benevolent dictatorship or elite ruling class that "does good".

I just don't see it.

105:

"...now that we've duped China into paying for all those stupid weapons..."

No, it's the other way around. China has nothing to compare to something like that flying gold plated camel, the F35.

106:

Sorry to disappoint you, Greg, but they're doing the same thing to the Highways Agency. And it's pretty clear that everybody needs roads ...

107:

Nah. Everyone that's anyone has a private aircraft. Expect to see the money going into the very few roads and railways that the important people use, and sod the rest of us. Our sole purpose is to be a cash cow for the (largely non-residents) who control this country.

108:

As the more thoughtful of us did two decades back! There is a revolution in computing coming over the next decade - unlike the one that happened in the 1980s, the direction is not obvious. I really don't have a feel for this one, except that it will critically depend on whether the peasantry tug their forelocks and buy what they are told they want, or whether they force a radical change of direction on the industry. My money is on the former, so I expect the revolution to be in the direction of stagnation :-(

109:

How about bamboo, resins, glass/ceramics, etc. for construction?


'Free plastics' opportunity.

Buy a barge/ship from the Malaysian Ghost Ship Graveyard, plus some nets, then head for the South Indian Ocean. You'd get free materials plus help clean up the environment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Ocean_garbage_patch

110:

I have a bit of nuance to add.

As resources get cheaper, the way those resources are expended change -- and people stuck with environments that are lacking in resources compared to the developers, or people who prefer to use their resources in a different way, have to make a great deal of effort to reallocate these resources. What qualifies as 'bloat' depends heavily on your use case.

From my perspective, some of the very resource-intensive uses of 'spare cycles' are worthwhile (for instance, garbage collection and run-time duck typing are incredible programmer-time-saving things that trade RAM and cycles for cognitive load, and outside of really extreme cases, I'll choose a scripting language with duck typing and garbage collection over a compiled language for anything I might conceivably end up touching the code of), while others are not (macs and compositing window managers on linux use opengl to animate window decorations, whereas I use tile-based window managers in order to avoid drawing window decorations entirely; the megabytes of tracker/cookie BS that every dynamic web page tacks onto every page load is very valuable to advertisers, but is pretty much useless to me, so I use extensions to block them when I can get away with it). But, obviously, other people in other situations have different preferences (a non-programmer is likely to prefer compiled code because it's often faster, and will often prefer pretty window decoration animations because they have a different relationship to their computer).

111:

Dirk, comparing the F35 to a camel is an insult to camels. They at least fulfill all the roles they're asked to perform, and they scare horses in the process.

I don't remember where I read it, but there was a complaint, by ordinary Chinese during the Bush II regime that China got the IOUs, while the Bushies got the guns and drones. I don't think that's going to happen again.

112:

Actually, I'm pretty certain that the F-35 is comparable to a Camel ...

... A Sopwith Camel.

(That is: the Sopwith Camel looks like it would have a 50/50 chance of taking an F-35 in a straight up fight.)

113:

Since the majority of western civilization is built on reinforced concrete infrastructure that's around 50 years old (in Europe) or more (in America), what that means is that we're looking at a rebuilding boom in our near future...

But the biggest problem is that the good deposits of sand all over the world are disappearing.
Can concrete be recycled? If not, why not?

114:

The problem with removing plastic from the gyres is much of it is below 5mm in size - which means netting it out is going to devastate macro- and meso-plankton populations.

115:

Sopwith Camel vs. F-35, ROE - both aircraft begin at 35,000 feet at 50km separation. At night.

My money's on the F-35.

116:

There was a night fighter variant of the Camel, but I will concede that 35,000 feet would be a bit of a problem for an unpressurized aircraft with a service ceiling of 22,000 feet ...

117:

Truly fair test is if both start out on the ground. 50% chance that F-35 actually takes off, in which case it wins. If it does not take off, Camel shoots it on the ground.

118:

Strangely enough the trunk roads that I travel on are magically well maintained, and they're putting a shitload of money into upgrading the M8 and M74. Meanwhile some of my local roads are in such a state that only a 4x4 could travel on them safely at any sort of speed, thanks to council budget cuts.

Oddly enough though I realised at the weekend that there's this spiffing dual carriageway linking the central belt with Aberdeen, yet they couldn't be bothered putting such a thing in the main tourist route linking the central belt with the highland wastelands. Kind of tells you the priorities of the time?

119:

Personally, I'm waiting for the F-35/A-10 faceoff, but I think the bigger point is... $100 million! Cough, Cough. Say what?

To make this a fair fight, we should have $100 million worth of Sopwith Camels (or the plane of your choice) against an F-35.

And perhaps they'll base bunch of them in Pearl Harbor and then not check the Sunday-morning radar. Again.

Anyway, the F-35 is in fact a post-capitalist plane, in that it was supposed to be the fighter of the US military. That's a monopoly handed to Lockheed, and that sure doesn't sound like 20th Century capitalism in action to me.

120:

Can I have $100M of JAS-39s, armed with 4 Meteors each?

121:

I'll take $100 million worth of riflemen. Almost all of them will still be alive when the JSF has to land.

122:

Sopwith Camel armed with air to air missiles.
Or more realistically, for the same price, one F35 and 10 Mig29s

123:

...something like that flying gold plated camel, the F35...

I know it's terribly fashionable to knock the F-35, especially with juicy leaks that can be turned into horror stories, but those who know, appear to be rather impressed. There are problems, but then there are always problems with new types.

The War Nerd is occasionally wrong, and Lewis Page just appears to have wrong as his default setting...

PS the contest isn't just "F-18 vs F-35" (or similar), the contest is "F-35 vs S-400, compared to F-18 vs S-400". $100 million worth of a single aircraft that returns from a mission, beats $100 million of multiple aircraft that all get shot down.

Apparently, the UK's scheduled mix of Typhoon and F-35 (once the GR4 goes to the great swing-wing home in the sky over the next five years) is regarded as being potentially very effective...

124:

Yes and no. The problem I'm alluding to is that no one soldier is worth $100 million. If you look at wrongful death payouts, they're not $100 million either. Human life is not infinitely valuable, and building a hugely valuable weapon to keep its user safe in battle only works if you've got infinite resources, which we do not.

Unfortunately, when you do that kind of math, the simplest thing to do to an F-35 is swarm it with a bunch of cheaper aircraft that can exceed some of its performance characteristics. It doesn't look good politically, but it wins the fight. We can't afford to build anything that expensive if we actually get into a shooting war.

The other problem is that it makes the US, and US allied air forces, more dependent on other, cheaper aircraft, like drones. These have their own, even bigger problems.

Much as I dislike the Pax Americana approach to not fighting WWIII, I'm even less fond of getting in a situation where other countries think they can take us in a fight based on our bad design choices. That gives people Ideas, and the usual result of those kinds of Ideas is millions of deaths with little or no gain.

As noted above, this is a post-capitalist plane design, for all the good it will do the world. Welcome to it.

125:

Unfortunately, when you do that kind of math, the simplest thing to do to an F-35 is swarm it with a bunch of cheaper aircraft that can exceed some of its performance characteristics.

Whenever someone says "the simplest thing to do is...", I smile :)

How, exactly? If you want anything that's got half-decent kinematics and a half-decent sensor package, you're looking at $30million, minimum. Rather hard to "swarm" something with better sensors, better ESM, lower observability, and better networking... when you've only got three aircraft to do it with.

These things don't turn up solo. They turn up with fighters and AEW, with wingmen and top cover, and with EW support. Claiming "we'll swarm it" just doesn't cut it when the swarm loses its airfield, its sensors, and the first echelon of aircraft that make it off the ground. Kind of a morale-killer.

The cost isn't about "the price of a life" - it's about the cheapest way to achieve the aim. As I said, if your 5th-gen $100M aircraft can achieve what four 4th-gen $25m aircraft can't, then it's still a bargain.

Just having the networking aspects up and running make a huge difference; here's a relevant post in a very long thread on this very subject, from an E-3 operator (link)...

126:

The trouble is that that $100 million 5-th generation fighter isn't worth even one 4th generation fighter, according to a test pilot. The compromises needed to give it vertical liftoff capability result in poor thrust, climb, and maneuverability in a dogfight, resulting in what test pilots call an "increasing energy deficit" relative to the "bandit" (which appears to mean that in a dogfight situation, the JSF gets outmaneuvered and shot down).

https://medium.com/war-is-boring/read-for-yourself-the-f-35-s-damning-dogfighting-report-719a4e66f3eb

https://medium.com/war-is-boring/no-the-f-35-can-t-fight-at-long-range-either-5508913252dd

127:

"I question how they're computing those numbers.

Pre-school teachers: 0.4% chance of being replaced by automation
Elementary teachers: 0.7% chance
Middle school teachers: 17.4% chance
High school teachers: 0.8% chance

How on earth do they figure middle school teachers are more automate-able than other school teachers?"

I have a term 'ex ano' for thing like that.

BTW, talk about a working definition of 'complete AI'!
If the AI can handle tweens hitting puberty, it'll make Skynet look like an Artari.

128:

We'll see on that. As Dirk joked, it may turn out that a flight of Cessnas, armed with bolt-on air-to-air missiles, is a sufficient threat, given how well the F-35 deals with that kind of thing.

Or, to make it more to the point, how about those ship-borne lasers the US (and others?) are testing?

129:

"The problem with removing plastic from the gyres is much of it is below 5mm in size - which means netting it out is going to devastate macro- and meso-plankton populations."

From what I've heard, the overwhelming problem in plastics recycling is the vast variety of things which are 'plastic', frequently intermixed (four types in a plastic soft drink bottle?). Go into a landfill (or ocean patch), and you can scoop up stuff, but the sorting costs will kill you.

130:

Again basic ROE for a wing of F-35s (two pairs) vs. a cloud of missile-armed Cessnas: 35,000 feet altitude, initial engagement distance 50km. How much radar and other eyes-in-the-sky kit do the Cessnas have? Can they each power a sky-search radar in the 10kW class? What sort of networking do they possess so they don't all launch wastefully at the same single target that is currently climbing to 60,000 feet where they can't follow? How much EW capability can they carry? Etc., etc. By the time you add all the capabilities to a cheap lightweight missile platform so it can survive long enough to do its job it's no longer lightweight and definitely not cheap.

As for the Naval lasers... what happens if there's a sea-fog or the targets are above the cloud cover? Cloud-penetrating AA missiles exist, cloud-penetrating shoot-down lasers not so much. They're being considered more for close-in threats like sea-skimming missiles rather than distant aircraft, in part because the laser loses a lot of energy over long distances in atmosphere even in the best of conditions.

131:

Life in the “Plastisphere”: Microbial Communities on Plastic Marine Debris

I found this paper surprising and fascinating. Apparently fragments of lighter-than-water plastics like polypropylene and polyethylene in oceans are colonized by microbes that can break down hydrocarbon polymers, and they are eating or at least pitting the floating plastic bits. I wonder if similar processes are breaking down heavier-than-water plastics like nylon that fall beneath the photic zone, or if those are going to endure.

132:

You did read those links? As I said, the War Nerd isn't always right. A couple of quotes from Russian radar salesmen and professional doubters, compare their wildest claim (because the Russians are so well-known for their high-performance computers) against the most pessimistic guess at F-35 sensor performance, job done.

The article suggests that it can't shoot at long range because it likely won't want to use its radar, and it's probably going to rely on IR sensors and missiles. Go on, count the number of assertions that are chained together using the words "probably", "likely", "possibly", "estimates", and "claims".

So; no mention of datalinking, no mention of LPI radar, no mention of top-cover for the first-day package, or the additional weapon rails that go on once you don't need quite such LO. No mention of the fact that the F-22 and Typhoon are going to be doing the "shooting down the other places" air warfare stuff... And no mention of Meteor.

For instance; there's assertion around "round engine nozzles" when in fact the IR sensors these days are also relying on skin friction heating; hard to screech around the sky at Mach 2 without the airframe getting warm.

It's Sunday-supplement analysis; with attendant hand-waving. Light reading, not to be taken too seriously.

133:

Yeah, there's some neat evolution going on in the ocean. This is probably not good for our long-term use of plastics, but there you have it.

As for the big bits of plastic and nylon, the issue AFAIK is surface area to volume. Little particles are easier to break down than big chunks. Of course, there are big differences among polymers and monomers about which ones are digestible.

This isn't to say that we're not having a lot of problems right now with plastics. However, it does look like microbes, at least, are evolving to metabolize plastics more and more rapidly. What happens next will be interesting, and it probably means that more biodegradable plastics will be less useful in the future.

What was that comment about using bamboo again?

134:

The first one includes a full report from a test pilot who flew simulated combat maneuvers in an F35 against an F-16D. It's as reliable a source as you'll find on the internet. His conclusions are pretty damning, if couched in a blandly neutral tone.

The second one is pretty doubtful, I agree. I included it for the sake of completeness.

135:

IR sensors these days are also relying on skin friction heating

Any sensors today that are concentrating on the efflux are pretty noddy.

The reality is when people hear F-35 is a fighter, they think top gun and dogfighting. That's also true of what the fighter jocks and ex-fighter jocks who are now X star bigwigs want (it's sexy).

The reality is you don't want a F-35 in a dogfight because the damn thing has ended up so expensive (overpriced in my opinion). You want to keep it standing off over the horizon where the reach of sensors and missiles etc. can allow it to fight, generally not be reached, but also to escape if shot at. That's basically how its ended up being designed.

Unfortunately that also means you don't really want an F-35 in that role, you want something bigger, with more ordnance capability, more endurance, and more power for bigger sensors (eg a bomber/missile carrier).

Where we are now the F-35 is running on politics and stupidity. It will probably be delivered, and will probably get updated to get it working, but the sensible money will be going into cheap UCAVs that can mix it closer in, and would just love to draw a manned fighter in because (provided you do do them cheap) they can have the numbers to swarm him.

I said 15 years ago that JSF was the last manned fighter, and nothing since then has changed my view (rather hardened it).

136:

Yes, concrete is completely recyclable
The steel goes to the mills and the concrete is crushed to be re-used as aggregate in concrete or as fill material or road base
It is much cheaper to recycle it rather than put it in a landfill ( as opposed to say Glass)

137:

I know next-to-nothing about modern fighter jets, but I think you might find this article to be quite interesting.

It's mostly about how Pierre Sprey is to be taken with a grain of salt, but it also goes into some of the reasons it might be worth restraining skepticism where it comes to the jet's capabilities. Par exemple:

Can the F-16 outperform the F-35A flying totally clean? Most likely, but how many times has an F-16 gone into battle in this configuration? In the last 30 years, never. . . Usually the Viper is laden with bombs, missiles, electronic warfare pods, and most importantly, external fuel tanks. Under such conditions the F-35 with same weapons load would skewer a Viper because the F-35 can carry its payload internally.
138:

@Heteromeles

That reminds me of the false panic about rare earths running out, which has been thoroughly debunked :

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/05/31/rare_metals_mineral_reserves_talk_preamble/

Tim Worstall the (author) is an entertaining (imo) economist who once cornered the world's supply of a rare earth.

The physical supply of of the ingredients for computing hardware is unlikely to be an issue until well past the singularity when the matrioshka brain's want everything for computronium.

139:

"As I said, if your 5th-gen $100M aircraft can achieve what four 4th-gen $25m aircraft can't, then it's still a bargain."

If. And all the evidence is that both the current direction of 'fighter' aircraft and drones can't achieve what even 30 $300,000 historical relics could do. When used against 'insurrections', they kill so many civilians and cause so much civilian damage (often long-term) that the population supports the enemy, even when it didn't before. Oh, yes, they could be used to slaughter the lot, and turn the location into an uninhabitable and unusable wasteland, but that's not the objective, either.

The point is that we aren't fighting the 1950s comic book wars of a nearly-equal 'conventional' war, and aren't likely to, because none of the even remotely plausible opponents want one and all are much more responsive to diplomacy. The only exception I can think of is if one of the less stable favoured 'allies' (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Israel or Pakistan) goes completely off the rails and has to be taken down militarily.

140:

Can the F-16 outperform the F-35A flying totally clean? Most likely, but how many times has an F-16 gone into battle in this configuration? In the last 30 years, never. . . Usually the Viper is laden with bombs, missiles, electronic warfare pods, and most importantly, external fuel tanks. Under such conditions the F-35 with same weapons load would skewer a Viper because the F-35 can carry its payload internally.

And the first thing the Viper pilot will do is "pickle" his tanks, bombs, and possibly even LANTRIN, leaving him with his AIMS and maybe FAST packs.

The much vaunted "internal carriage" of 5th Gen fighters starts to look not so great actually when you discover that if they want extra fuel they need underwing tanks too, and their internal bays mean that mounting a few bombs compromises their AIM fit (I don't have figures for F-35, but F-22 loses 4 AMRAAM if it loads 2 JDAM).

141:

"Middle school teachers: 17.4% chance of being replaced by automation"

Well, given the insanities of those in control of such things, they might be right - but the term 'ex ano' would definitely suit any such policy! An increasing amount of training and testing is already being automated (e.g. driving licences and 'citizenship' tests in the UK), and helps with pushing people into the mindset that all you need is to memorise and follow bureaucratic rules and thinking is an obsolete skill. In the UK, that is most noticeable for traffic laws, where essentially nobody gets convicted for dangerous/careless driving any longer unless they have broken a 'technical' (bureaucratic) law.

Even at the level of leading-edge IT training, an increasing number of students want to be told rules to follow, and really dislike being taught to understand what they are doing. And an increasing number of managers believe that's what training is all about, even at the most advanced level.

142:

Thank fuck; maybe we won't be identifiable in the geological record by a thin layer of plastic after all.

Has anyone got longevity figures for bamboo-reinforced concrete?

143:

maybe we won't be identifiable in the geological record by a thin layer of plastic after all.

We'll be identifiable in various ways if anybody looks in that level of detail. Mostly the plastics need an oxidizer to get digested, but over a long time they might get converted to polycyclic aromatics.

At first thought, we mine lots of things and then wind up spreading them over a wide area. Sulfur, arsenic, mercury, various radioactive stuff, etc. I find it plausible that somebody looking for that would find a spike of all of those pretty much everywhere, for a short time. Anything present in coal smoke that would wind up in particulates, that doesn't leach away very fast.

144:

Unrelated to anything, I'm traveling, and using a Chromebook. Apparently my hotel's server is running something called Smoothwall, and it blocks all access to the thread called "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Chuthlu".

Because "Content of type Piracy and Copyright Infringement blocked: Content filtering"

The whole thread. I can't see the thread to guess what it's blocking over. Possibly there might be too much information about one of Charlie Stross's books.

It feels weird, I'm just going about my normal life and suddenly something is blocked that I had no expectation of being blocked. And this *could* happen at any level in the system, but it's most annoying when it's a level I can't easily route around.

Say that key elements of the backbone started doing it -- they spend an increasing part of their capacity looking at everything that passes through them, deciding whether it should pass or not. Then anything they disapprove would take longer to arrive, it would have to find some way to route around the damage.

This content has been blocked because it does not comply with the acceptable usage policy.

It's the first time this has happend to *me*, and it feels very strange

145:

In the particular test I linked to, the F35 was flying "clean" and the F-16D had two under-wing fuel tanks adding mass and drag.

The most likely explanation for these choices is that Lockheed was running the tests, and made the test conditions as favorable to the F35 as possible.

146:

The whole thread. I can't see the thread to guess what it's blocking over. Possibly there might be too much information about one of Charlie Stross's books.

A couple of links CatinaDiamond posted in the comments are most certainly copyright-infringing (and go to a warez ebook site).

If you really want to bypass this, can I recommend TunnelBear?

147:

There's a good point sitting there in the BS, which is that we don't necessarily know where all our extractable reserves are.

However, on the other side of the BS, there are a couple of problems.

One is (with phosphorus), that we do know where the two big remaining mines are. There's lots of phosphorus in the world, but we're not recycling it, and indeed, we have laws against recycling it and good reasons for those laws. So we face a looming phosphorus shortage, because the only thing we know is how to mine it and then to use it, at least in the developed world.

Phosphorus, incidentally, can be recycled from sewage, simply by spreading that sewage on fields and eating the crops from those fields. This is a public health nightmare, because of all the other stuff in the sewage (including all those heavy metals, cleansers, etc.), which is why we don't do it. No one's started refining sewage to get the phosphorus out because P is too cheap right now to justify the decade long process of getting a big P factory set up near the sewage plant of any metropolitan area. Once those mines in Florida and Morocco shut down, we'll see what happens.

As for rare earths, of course they aren't rare. The problem is that they're hard to refine, so people tend to go where, by chance, they've concentrated. We'll see how well that works when those mines run out.

On the flip side, let's look at history. In the 19th Century, before anyone could artificially fix nitrogen, there were guano wars over control of seabird colonies that supplied the best known source of nitrogen, mostly for fertilizer, but also for gunpowder and explosives. We're doing something similar with oil right now, because of course the critical use for oil isn't running our cars, it's keeping our militaries afloat. It's hard to run a jet or a destroyer on solar power.

Throughout history, water shortages (aka droughts) have caused famines, wars, and depopulated cities. Water's the most abundant molecule in the universe, we currently go through twice the freshwater supply of the world every year as humans (it gets recycled a lot), and yet drought is driving the Syrian civil war. What's up with that? There's an effectively infinite supply out there. Why aren't we using it? These are, of course, rhetorical questions, because no one drinks sea water. We mine ground water and depend on precipitation to clean it for us. When these run short, even though there's an infinite supply out there in the oceans, our crops fail, we starve, and war breaks out and people migrate or die.

The point is that Tim Worstall, the author of that article, is taking the same view of any naive investor in a financial bubble, indeed of any new drug addict: the crash hasn't been a problem yet for him, therefore it never will be for anyone. While I agree that it's hard to predict a crash, it's easy to point out many historical cases where elemental shortfalls have depopulated towns and, in severe cases, killed people.

In the sand case, there is indeed a huge amount of silicon in the world. Finding relatively pure silica supply is much harder, and these supplies are being rapidly mined out, mostly for concrete, some for chips. In principle, we can take old concrete, refine out the sand, and make computer chips with it, and that would allow us to make the huge numbers of computerized thingies we need for an economy of abundance with an internet of things. In practice, I doubt anyone's going to do this, any more than they'll refine the gold out of seawater to make the electrical contacts. It's too expensive for the process to work on a commodity basis. So, just perhaps, we're in trouble with our industrial silicon ecosystem too.

We'll see.

148:

Speaking as a materials chemist who was at one point something of an expert in semiconductor crystal growth: the trouble isn't in getting silicon. There's plenty of silicon in the world, and semiconductor-grade silicon has to go through many purification steps anyway.

The trouble is that the whole semiconductor crystal growth and refining process is incredibly energy intensive.

I once got talking to some guys who were trying to get into the silicon business. They were looking to site their factory near a nuclear power plant or a hydroelectric dam; they needed extreme amounts of power. Their silicon was to be sold as a raw material for solar cells. They did not appreciate the irony.

149:

Hi Heteromeles:

I mentioned bamboo because of what I've read on Wikipedia - see below. It's a wonder material -- renewable, cheap, light-weight, strong, sustainable/recyclable, etc.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo_construction#As_a_building_material

Excerpt:

"Bamboo can be utilized as a building material as for scaffolding, bridges and houses. Bamboo, like true wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures.[1] Bamboo has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete and a tensile strength that rivals steel.[2][3]

Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world,[4] due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Certain species of bamboo can grow 35 inches within a 24-hour period, at a rate of 0.00003 km/h (a growth of approximately 1 millimeter (or 0.02 inches) every 2 minutes).[5]"


So - is this for real, or does this entry need to be corrected?

As a gardener, I've heard about how bamboo does tend to take over ... maybe your MSC student could do his/her thesis on bamboo and other potential green/vegetative building materials.

Regards,
SFreader

150:

Tim Worstall is an idiot who opines with great confidence on subjects he knows nothing about. I don't know if he's had any formal economics training, but he once tried to pass himself off as a solar energy expert. Tough to do when you think the figure of merit is efficiency of conversion rather than cost per installed watt. And it goes downhill from there.

So take his 'economics' with a grain of salt. Oh, he's also a libertarian . . . 'Nuff said.

151:

The point is that Tim Worstall, the author of that article, is taking the same view of any naive investor in a financial bubble, indeed of any new drug addict: the crash hasn't been a problem yet for him, therefore it never will be for anyone.

He's also opined that we'll never run out of oil and goes out of his way to sneer at anyone who suggests Peak Oil is a real event. His argument is the usual libertarian bushwah about the cleverness of dominate primates in coming up with a viable alternative when the supplies get critically low. He seems entirely unaware that the issue is one of cost -- yes, we can synthesize these hydrocarbons if necessary but what if the cost is the equivalent of $500/barrel of crude? His reply when this was pointed out? 'Something will turn up.'

152:

Re: (Is telepathy compatible with the continued existence of capitalism?)

Assuming that telepathy (internet) is like any other sense, one of the first need-to-know's is gathering info as quickly as possible. Google has this down pat.

Next is filtering the data -- Word-of-mouth (WOM) and trusted sources historically are most preferred. FB has been trying this for a while now. Plus Google has provided better/more targeted search queries, plus academics, governments and not-for-profits have provided data bases and trusted sites to some extent.

After this is personalization of information/sensory input ... including some way of measuring our sensory apparatus's performance/reliability. This is not the same as checking for viruses/worms, this is how to measure/rate your own credulity/likelihood of being conned online.

For in-born biological senses, we have dedicated brain areas. For the internet 'telepathy' sense, which is based on interpersonal communications more than anything else, we have nothing. AFAIK, no one's tried to find out what types of people (personality traits/characteristics) do best in interpreting such inputs. Not sure it's possible to judge personality/character when time is not a factor, and when you are unable to observe reactions in the way that we've evolved to interpret them, i.e., via ordinary five senses.

I think we need some definitions here: Internet telepathy is communication at a distance, with no lag time. (Internet telepathy does not mean 'no lies'.) If you accept this definition and caveat, then capitalism is unaffected.

(We're actually talking about social engineering, and capitalism is one of the earliest/most tenacious forms.)

153:

It's for real. The downsides are (a) that the constructional species are all tropical, (b) that it is a natural product, so not predictable and needs skill in its selection and use, and (c) is attacked by fungi, termites etc. And it is not a good idea as a reinforcement in concrete, for many reasons. Also, only some bamboos are invasive.

154:

Would construction-grade bamboo grow in any parts/states of the U.S.?

There's quite a bit of all-wood housing construction in the U.S. already, so switching to bamboo could be positioned as a less expensive/renewable alternative. And, if you got giant agrichem involved, the possibility of GMO'd bamboo that is 'naturally' termite-repellant.

155:

Quite possibly. Developing varieties that would be resistant to rot would be, at best, very hard - but treating it isn't. The lack of uniformity and the skill needed in its use is the main obstacle. It wasn't until a couple of decades back that even the best composites started to beat wood in terms of the strength/weight ratio, but wood was being replaced by aluminium etc. before then because its manufacture is more mechanisable.

156:

Growing silicon crystals requires reliable amounts of power 24/7, same with refining aluminium. Solar is diurnal and fluctuates with the seasons and weather conditions, wind is unreliable. Hydro can be delivered on-tap with plenty of warning to customers when the penstock is being depleted and it hasn't rained for a while. For the rest baseload thermal does the job 24/7 burning coal or gas or via nuclear fission.

157:

I know. The irony was using huge quantities of high-quality, concentrated energy to generate modest quantities of diffuse energy.

158:

Actually, I'm pretty sure that some Dendrocalamus species are grown in the southern US. Although it doesn't tolerate hard freezes, there are a bunch of places where it does just fine. Indeed, it looks like you can buy seeds of Dendrocalamus giganteus and other bamboo species on BigMuddyRiver pretty cheaply.

And yes, any running bamboo species is potentially invasive. Several bamboo species are weedy in California, just at a quick check.

I looked into bamboo flooring. The problem with it is that, unless the edges are well maintained, the tend to raise these really sharp splinters that can go right into your feet. This doesn't stop millions of people from using bamboo flooring, but the laminate I examined wasn't something I wanted to walk on. On the other hand, our bamboo cutting board hasn't splintered or delaminated, so it's pretty tough stuff if it's properly made.

159:

Thanks, that's good to know. I didn't want to spend more time investigating to see which orifice he spoke from.

160:

Yes, I should have said 'tropical or sub-tropical' - but the southern USA is pretty close to the Tropic of Cancer - even closer than the north of Scotland is to the Arctic Circle! There are both running and clumping bamboos, but I don't know anything much about which is which or the details of using it.

161:

I don't know much about bamboos (says the botanist). Here's a little bit of what I do know.

Running bamboo vs. clumping bamboo. Bamboos are grasses, and like many grasses, they propagate through rhizomes (underground stems). When the plant grows a long rhizome before it puts up another aboveground stem, it's classified as a runner. If the plant grows a short rhizome before it puts up another aboveground stem, it's a clumper. In general, running bamboos are more weedy and harder to contain than clumping bamboos, although I suspect that both are on the lists of invasive species in various parts of the world.

As for the timber species, I don't know which are most important or for what uses. Dendrocalamus ("tree reed" in Latin) is the genus I tend to think of as the timber bamboo, and D. giganteus is a clumping species that grows 30-40 m tall and is used in construction, including for concrete reinforcement. There are ~50 species of Dendrocalamus listed in Wikipedia, and others beyond D. giganteus are used in construction. Other bamboo genera are also used in construction, but you can dig for that if you want.

Note that there are some 1,450 species in the bamboo tribe, so there's a lot of diversity I'm not talking about here. We're sort of on the "oak is good for construction" level.

162:

There's a bit of merit in the efficiency argument when doing rooftop solar in the UK. We have small roofs and are rather far north, so it's not implausible to require a certain minimum efficiency. But it's just another input into the cost-per-watt.

For New Mexico say, not so much.

What makes me sad though is that I automatically discounted that article because it was in The Register. When El Reg started it was a site I found worth reading, but I gave up on it a long time ago and I'm not going back just for those articles that friends have written.

163:

My understanding is that, once you factor in all of the costs of manufacturing and recycling, solar electricity has a negative benefit in the UK. It's main use is to extract subsidies, and then for physically inaccessible locations. Solar water heating is a vastly better proposition, on the grounds that it uses easily obtainable and recyclable materials and is 90% efficient rather than 10%.

164:

Yup. Except that there are many fewer species of oak :-) Even the weedy species of bamboo that grows in the UK (outside the warmest parts) has been used for laths in construction. My point about concrete reinforcement was water percolation through it and rot.

165:

If we take the accelerationist position that capitalism's nature is to eat itself (which I think is not without merit -- particularly when we're talking about the kind that relies upon price differences or information access differences), then the faster you can transact, the more transactions you can do, and the more transactions you *will* do, meaning (of course) the faster the whole thing either collapses or becomes the domain of dedicated machines rather than anything humans deal with. (It can be argued that this is already happening to some degree with high speed trading -- any human being dealing in the stock market is small-time -- but futures is glorified gambling and an epiphenomenon of capitalism rather than representative of its core. Accelerando shows a possible end game of late capitalism in this model.)

Of course, there's always a short-term benefit to limiting or slowing connectivity in order to gouge out profits (toll roads, ISPs, other middlemen). And there's a short-term benefit to using whatever means necessary to circumvent the tolls (stealing cable, hiding messages in newspapers with steganography, only making phone calls after 9 o'clock). There's no reason to believe that this kind of thing will go away; instead, we'll see rent-seeking tollsters pop up in order to temporarily meter various communication flows at different levels of specificity, abstraction, and bandwidth. Taken as a whole, we can argue that this slows the acceleration of communication speed. But, on the other hand, middlemen circumvent some other channel and are eventually circumvented while simultaneously being priced out by competitors who open the channel more at a lower rate; you can make the argument that in the long run the result is much quicker communication simply because nobody would try to make the particular kind of communication they're facilitating straightforward if they didn't think they could make a buck out of it. The end state of all these technologies is that they become a free service and nobody really notices that people used to pay for them (who pays for email? who pays for browsers? in five years, who will pay for word processing?).

166:

My understanding is that, once you factor in all of the costs of manufacturing and recycling, solar electricity has a negative benefit in the UK.

Negative benefit in what sense? Negative financial benefit, sure -- it's usually more financially attractive to dump waste products into the biosphere than to sequester them or avoid producing them.

Solar PV has lower life cycle emissions of CO2 and other air pollutants than any fossil fueled electricity source even in the not-very-sunny UK. Onshore wind has even lower life cycle emissions and is considerably cheaper too, but apparently it gives influential people eyeball cancer if they have to see turbines. So I guess that's out.

A decade ago I would have said "build more nuclear plants" but Hinkley Point C is charting new territory in raising the cost of nuclear power. If it gets built, by the time it's finished, I would bet that it's more expensive per megawatt hour than anything completed that year but offshore wind. And given that nuclear projects tend to cost overruns and delays even when the initial budget is large and schedule is lengthy, it might beat out offshore wind too to take the Most Expensive Electricity crown.

167:

if you are capable of DIY then this...
http://wavechronicle.com/wave/?p=571

"...3.7 cents per kWh in London"
All the calculations are layed out.

168:

More energy is used in manufacturing and recycling them than they will deliver during their lifetime. Seriously. I haven't seen the raw calculations, so cannot swear to them, but the claims were very plausible. Most of the calculations in support ignore the energy costs of the raw materials, the transport and installation costs and (most of all) the recycling costs. They include some fairly nasty elements. The cost in pounds ignores this, because much of those costs are using cheap (often coal or oil) energy and/or are subsidised. Note that I am talking about the UK, where the main demand is in winter, and the insolation is 2.2 MJ/day/m^2, if you are in the south and 0.8 in the north.

The pollution costs of manufacturing/recycling/disposing of them is usually discounted, too, but is much harder to measure.

169:

The most likely explanation for these choices is that Lockheed was running the tests, and made the test conditions as favorable to the F35 as possible.

Or, to make it comparable...

The internal fuel capacity of an F-16 is 7,000lb, and so (according to the USAF website) it typically travels with a pair of 2,500lb drop tanks for a total of 12,000lb of fuel.

The internal fuel capacity of an F-35A is 18,500lb; the F-35C carries 19,600lb; the F-35B carries 13,300lb. If the F-16 wants self-protection, or a gun, or to designate targets, it needs to carry it externally. This all adds up to drag, and weight. The comparable features on an F-35 are all internal.

Meanwhile, here's an article on Pierre Sprey (link); and another link on what the "dogfight" between F-16 and F-35 was actually attempting to achieve in flight test terms.

I think I've mentioned the following before...

The airframe cost of anything is (according to a Canadian study) only about a sixth of the whole-life cost of ownership. If an aircraft is a maintenance pig like the F-14 or F-111, you have to keep and pay many more maintainers (the cost of employment is the big factor - salaries and pensions); the Typhoon requires a third of the maintenance per flying hour of a Tornado, and a sixth of the maintenance of an F-14. Suddenly, your $80million F-35 doesn't look like such a bad deal, if the whole-life cost is lower than the supposedly-cheaper alternative.

By contrast, Soviet aircraft types are typically optimised for war, not peacetime operation; they have a flying-hour lifetime lower than Western types, and engine reliability and lifetimes much lower. The idea is that you swap out your engines at the start of a war, and assume that the war will end or the aircraft will be destroyed before the engines run out of life. The downside is that you have to buy several engine sets for every airframe, whereas the western equivalent requires 1.1 engine sets on average. This is great if you've got a mass conscription air force and cost isn't an object; but not so great if you've got an all-volunteer air force.

170:

Minor correction, the F-16 does indeed have an internal gun :)

171:

More energy is used in manufacturing and recycling them than they will deliver during their lifetime. Seriously.

No, not really. AFAICT this might have been true with panels located in low-sunlight areas in the early 1980s but it hasn't been true for a long time. See for example Energy payback time (EPBT) and energy return on energy invested (EROI) of solar photovoltaic systems: A systematic review and meta-analysis, figure 7. The lowest average EROI is 8.7, for modules based on mono-crystalline silicon, and it goes as high as 34.2 for CdTe modules. These values all assume 1700 kilowatt hours per square meter of annual solar illumination, which is too high for the UK. London for example gets about 950 per year: Insolation Levels (Europe)

The EROI of PV in London ranges from 4.9 to 19.2, assuming that EROI scales down linearly based on annual illumination. In practice it seems that solar modules last longer in areas where they rarely get hot, so the lower illumination is partially compensated by longer life, but I don't have good enough data to quantify that. In any case the modules don't consume more energy than they produce. Even in Edinburgh, the EROI is 4.2 - 16.6. With the most common solar technology, polycrystalline silicon, EROI is 6.5 and 5.6 in London and Edinburgh respectively. And the EROI is going up over time as solar manufacturing technology improves.

172:

There's lots of phosphorus in the world, but we're not recycling it, and indeed, we have laws against recycling it and good reasons for those laws. So we face a looming phosphorus shortage, because the only thing we know is how to mine it and then to use it, at least in the developed world.

It would be far easier to recycly P if we'd separate industrial from municipal sewers, the biggest issue are the heavy metals and those are mostly from the industrial sewage.

MAP precipitation is promising, but still in it's infancy for relativly dilute P-sources. Sewage sludge leaves and indeed concentrates the P, but also the heavy metals. So IMHO P recycling would be doable by forcing industry to clean their own wastewater. Which would probably be hard on small businesses, but someone is paying their wastewater disposal now too so what.

173:

With respect to physical communication - agreed. The faster a broker can get data, the better, more advantageous ... provided that broker had already vetted the data source.

Bottom line: Merely receiving communications is not sufficient to act on that communication. Apart from a perceived need, there's an element of trust/expectation that that need will be fulfilled. Lack of trust slows the transformation of communication into action.

So even as we're being bombarded by more news from more sources worldwide, we're probably reacting more slowly to news. An interesting test would be to seed different types of news (all true/confirmed data) with different sources, then see which path produces which effect, among which audience segment. (Assuming that Google news doesn't completely filter it out.)

174:

However you want to justify it, the F35 was operating with its minimal load and the F16 was burdened with extra fuel tanks. This is probably unrealistic, since American planes tend to fight over the enemy's turf. In any case, even under optimal conditions the F35 did not perform well.

Your link does not seem to have read the source document, since he claims that the F35 has a "winning move" using high angle of attack. The test pilot concluded that the superior angle of attack could not generate a combat advantage for the F35 due to inferior maneuverability.

175:

The F-16's range with external fuel tanks is about the same as the F-35 restricted to only its onboard fuel stores. Of course the F-35 could have been outfitted with dummy external fuel tanks to make things "equal" (filled with sand, perhaps) but one of the big selling points of the F-35 design is that it is inherently stealthy and hanging large tanks off its wings is a Bad Idea when going into combat (they might be carried en-route but dropped before entering a battle zone). The F-16's radar profile is hundreds of times larger than the F-35 even when "clean", of course and it can't carry modern search radars, comms and other electronics the bigger plane can.

An F-35 in a gun-combat dogfight is in trouble because its raison d'etre in an air-to-air engagement is to be a stand-off missile platform, engaging targets at a range of tens of kilometres minimum.

176:

Lockheed is trying to spin it that way. I have my doubts. Stealth technology is becoming obsolete due to radar improvements, and a smart enemy could capitalize on the F35's weaknesses. For example, Iran has mountainous regions that are central to that country's air defense strategy, and its pilots train to take maximum advantage of them. I seriously would not want to fly an F35 through those mountains.

177:

Please reread my posting. The point of what I saw, which is supported by my (limited) checking up, is that the calculations for the energy cost of the devices are based on incorrect premises. The reference you gave is simply a meta-analysis, and does not provide any information to the contrary.

178:

Energy to transport dry goods by ship and truck is low relative to embedded energy of manufacturing. A typical solar module based on polycrystalline silicon is made of, in decreasing quantity by mass: glass, steel and/or aluminum (framing), silicon, synthetic polymers, copper and/or silver (cell contacts and wiring). All of it is non-hazardous and can be landfilled except perhaps the polymers, depending on which materials were chosen for backsheet and electrical insulation. The glass and metals, which make up the bulk of the mass, are better recycled. We already know that recycling metals and glass is less energy intensive than original manufacturing. The old silicon is low value but also low mass and nontoxic.

You're the one who originally made the claim that solar PV in the UK is net energy negative -- where's the evidence?

179:

I don't know how the energy return on energy invested looks for solar cells. I hear conflicting reports, each based on a whole lot of assumptions. But I can say that the storage batteries are likely to be the major challenge from a recycling standpoint.

180:

I've been arguing for using solar as base load water heating in the UK about since people started talking about AGW as a thing.

181:

What's 900 US gallons in lb? That's the capacity of the FAST packs on F16 C/D Block 50 or 52, E/F Block 60 and I models.

Equally, apparently the F-35 can only manage 4 weapons internally, and only the F-35A actually has an internal gun (182 rounds to the F-16's 511).

As I pointed out earlier, if engaged, the F-16 pilot's first move will be to pickle his tanks and AGMs, losing mass, drag and radar image.

Also, later F-16 variants have upgraded radars and engines wrt an F-16A, and I don't imagine those to be less reliable than the original systems.

182:

If the F-35 can't dogfight, so what? Unfortunately for those apparently expecting the US Air Force to lose supremacy in the air, it doesn't matter because the USA is extremely rich and can recover from mistakes.

If the skeptics are right about everything, the F-35 is just a light bomber with better range and a lower radar signature than the current jets. Still useful in an era when the main threat to US/Western air superiority are ground radar and SAMs, not other aircraft.

If the F-35 can't dogfight, the USAF will just have to send their 180 F-22s instead. Or their 300+ F-15s. Or their 900+ F-16s. Or borrow some of the 300+ F-18 Super Hornets from the navy...

The original expectation was that the F-35 would replace everything except the F-22, but militaries across the western world seem well aware of the F-35 problems and are keeping their options open, eg Australia buying Super Hornets.

183:

Back in 2006 I was teaching in China, with all that meant in terms of discovering how unreliable the Internet actually is.

Everyone's heard about the Great Firewall of China, I presume. A lot of that is automated, and it doesn't take many mentions of key terms to get a page blocked. Which made it frustrating using Flickr (which I was) because certain users decided that, as China was evil, they should make a political point by using those terms all over the place. I couldn't even see some of my own pictures because of what they posted in the comments. They thought it was great fun, I discovered that my opinion of American Republicans could sink even lower…

(I guess it was the social media equivalent of swatting? Or is there a better analogy?)

Also at the same time, I had problems uploading pictures, but only sometimes. Flickr back then wasn't part of Yahoo, so you could actually talk to the engineers, and they eventually tracked the problem to one of the American (private) backbone networks, which decided to drop traffic coming from China. Not refuse the connect, but to accept the data packets and then ignore them.

Since then, I've realized that the Internet isn't the robust survive-a-disaster network the Sunday papers described it as. Governments can censor it. Private individuals can deliberately use automated censoring to trigger more censoring*, and the companies that carry the data can apparently censor vast swathes of it without any legal restrictions.


*Suppose I was to mention a certain square in Beijing, every thread, so that Charlie's Chinese readers couldn't read the comments on his blog…

184:

Hugh, I think this is the Vietnam war experience coming back to bite the US. Back then, there was this thought that planes could just stand off and fire missiles, and that would be good enough. The Vietnamese proved them wrong repeatedly, and despite financial and technical superiority, the US lost that war.

This may sound silly, but then again, the Marines wanted the F-35 to have that idiotic jump-jet capability, because they want to be able to launch of beaches, as they had to in WWII. They don't want to ever be in the position they were in against Japan back then.

Now we may decry fighting the last war, but I can see the point. Given a choice between an officer being surprised by something totally new and something they've seen before, they'd rather not have either, but surprise looks better in the court martial.

185:

Heteromeles, I'm in agreement that the F-35 has serious design problems. (I can recommend "Your New Stealth Fighter is Really, Really Awful" by David Axe & co for a good summary.)

And I agree that technical superiority didn't matter in Vietnam. But there are more recent conflicts where technical superiority in the air was important: Falklands, Bekaa Valley, Gulf War 1991, Serbia.

I'm just bemused by the number of people arguing that if the F-35 can't dogfight, it must be a failure. Dogfighting has not been a problem for any US/Western air force in conflict for three decades now, but SAMs have been. As a replacement for the F-117 stealth light bomber and cheaper substitute for the B-2, the F-35 looks good value. (Especially if the F-35 version 2 can ditch that stupid jump jet.)

There's always the risk of fighting the last war and being caught by surprise. But since all the significant development of combat UAVs is happening in the western world, I'd suggest the USAF is well placed whatever happens.

186:

The recipe for domestic cost effective solar PV is simple - install less of it and make sure you use every watt. That way it subtracts watt for watt from your mains bill.
And if you are in a hot country that needs a lot of aircon, just drive the aircon from the PV - when the sun shines you get cool.
That also has the added benefit (if you are DIY) that removing aircon and PV from grid connection means a lot of tedious and expensive regulations and certified electricians can be removed from the costs.
I have not seen it advertised, but I would be surprised if PV-aircon usints are not being sold together. It makes too much sense...

187:

Pure silicon isn't photovoltaic, the main problem with most 'polymers' is the additives, there are more transport costs than raw materials, we are running out of landfill sites, and so on. Please reread my posting. As I said, all of the energy cost analyses I have looked at omitted much of the total. I was reporting a claim that was considerably more self-consistent than any of those. Perhaps I should point out that you have provided no evidence for your assertions.

188:

Yes, which was one of the first things to strike me! Solar power is MUCH more plausible in places where the problem is hot, sunny summers than in ones where it is cold, dark winters.

189:

What was that comment about using bamboo again?

There's some interesting work going on in using bamboo to make high-performance trusses automatically - FEA modelling coupled with 3d scanning of the stalks, precision cutting and assembly...

190:

Link or it didn't happen.

192:

Where I live, there are local air conditioning companies that are getting into the solar installation and repair sector, and that makes sense.

As for combining solar and A/C, that's not quite so sensible. The A/C industry has been around for almost 70 years now, and AFAIK, there are a few large players, and some big industrial conglomerates have A/C branches.

Solar is mostly startups, and they're in kind of a Moore's Law international race on price and efficiency. There's also the specter of the 70s and 80s, when the big petrochemical plants bought up a lot of the existing solar panel makers, then put them out of business.

Not that I'm in the M&A game, but I don't see an A/C-solar merger working all that well from a business sense.

What I am hoping for is architects and developers building houses designed for solar. Roof panels decrease the sunlight hitting the house, and that cools the house a bit by itself, even before you turn on the A/C. Indeed, the cheapest HVAC is simply optimized home design for the site, which is something most architects don't bother with. Everything from Passivhaus to Earthships have shown this. Instead, architects turn out standardized designs that are gridded in, because that keeps their costs down, even when those houses are only livable because of their grid-powered A/C units.

193:

Particularly para 5:-

The best design for PV is, of course, placing the main pitched roof plate normal to the Sun's RA at Equinox, which seems to me to be exactly what your "decreasing radiation hitting the property" wants to avoid?

194:

I live in a hot place, and that wouldn't make much sense here. A lot of the time the sun is out, but it's still cold, so you don't want the air-conditioner on. When you really need the air-conditioner, no amount of sunlight is going to power it. There would be relatively few times when 'couple the solar panel to the air-con' would make as much or more sense than 'couple the solar panel to the household power-grid, and allow the air-conditioner to have access to mains'. And there would be many, many times when it would make far less sense.

At best, there might be some gains made in having the same contractors install your air-conditioner and solar panels at the same time. But unless you're building a home, you've probably already got one or the other anyway.

195:

'the property' being the building including the roof, but excluding the roof panel.

In other words, just by stopping some of the sun hitting the roof, it is passively cooling the house.

(I'm now wondering whether mounting simple (i..e non-solar) plates a foot away from the surface of a roof would cause increased airflow over the roof surface.)

196:

The amount of sunlight coming in is certainly a major factor, but not the only one. I live in Florida, where solar would make great sense if not for two things. We get hurricanes every now and then, which makes putting expensive stuff on the roof a questionable proposition at best. We also have a frankly legendary criminal population, and stealing solar panels is certainly not beyond them.

197:

Builders probably made the same observations/complaints when central heating and plumbing were first introduced. It took the U.K. until after WW2 to get central/indoor plumbing installed everywhere. (Okay, and, even longer elsewhere.) The point is that (a) it's much more expensive to retrofit new technology; and, (b) everyone wants to wait until a new technology is 'tested' before they're willing to buy it. The current state of the global economy isn't helping either ... unless someone leaks that using these 'new energy technologies' will provide users with some type of market advantage.

198:

Truly fair test is if both start out on the ground. 50% chance that F-35 actually takes off, in which case it wins. If it does not take off, Camel shoots it on the ground.

Especially if they both start out in a pasture or other non paved (serious paving at that) surface. Which was supposed to be the point of the B variant.

199:

There are areas in the UK where people have bitterly regretted
installing central heating, because the problem is wet and not
cold. The main purpose of open fires etc. was to dry out the
air, and not to heat it.

200:


Hum...here abouts, on the North East Coast of England; we are approaching the time at which I usually regret not having specified this “Air Conditioning” thingy for -at the very least - my new bedroom when I had my house extended several years ago. The thing is that my House - a traditional build, brick built, semi detached house built in the late 1930s - was substantially improved by a previous owner in the 1950s just after he returned home as a Sea Captain of the British merchant navy who had lots of money to spare and thus he had his house fitted with TA RA !!! CENTRAL HEATING!! GOSH WOW eh wot? Really this would have been a thing of wonder at the time...Central heating boiler powered by Town GAS and feeding a radiator system the likes of which hadn't been seen in the U.K. outside of municipal and commercial buildings since the ancient Romans gave up on the Domestic Habits of the Ancient Britons - and the Dreadful Climate - and ran away back to ROME leaving us in the lurch vies a v Barbarian Invadors..We ought to claim Reparations from the Italians!! Well why not? I gather that several of the African nations and also India want to dun the British Empire as was for Reparations for past wrongs done them by the Empire Builders,

Anyway, the thing is that, although my house had the latest 1950s stuff in the way of heating and fitted kitchen and so forth as paid for by a Very Well Off Middle Class/Officer Class person who had a High Technology taste in such things ...it DID NOT HAVE INSULATION! No, None, not a scrap. Nor did the “Council House" that I spent most of my childhood in, and which was built just after the Second World War and was heated by a Coal Fire as were all such houses up here.


New Para as befits its Significance ****** it simply didn't occur to them that Heat insulation was necessary *****

HO HO HO!!! As Deep Cold Weather Person Santa Claus was wont to say...


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_1962%E2%80%9363_in_the_United_Kingdom

For Pretty Pictures just look up the period and region in Google Images...it was a damn sight less amusing when it got to be so cold that Ice coated the inside of windows.

When I had that house extension done a few years ago not only was double glazing mandatory but also when a neighbour appealed against my building plans the PLAN was put forward and I had to have the LATEST AND BEST glazing panels installed and they were not only mandatory but were certificated by having Identification numbers etched into each double glazed panel in the corner of all double glazed panels.

And wall insulation? OF COURSE!!Not just in the roof space either...heat rises up as we were reminded in lots of TV adverts for roof insulation broadcast in the 1970s and onward when such insulation was a novelty. In my houses rather substantial extension not only was heat insulation built into the walls but it was fitted below the new flooring...oh and my new gas powered combi- boiler fed central heating system had to have the latest type of fuel efficient combi- boiler.

OH my aching wallet!!

All of this was a Requirement under Planning Regulations, and it was INSPECTED by properly qualified building inspectors to ensure that it was done ... and done properly.

Not to worry! I dare say that the Building Regulations in the US of A not only include all this heating insulation stuff but also incorporate Air Conditioning and - under PAIN of Fearful Penalties - require the requisite number of Servants who waft Air over their Masters with Enormous Ostrich Feather Fans!!

201:

Actually, I'm pretty sure that some Dendrocalamus species are grown in the southern US. Although it doesn't tolerate hard freezes, there are a bunch of places where it does just fine. ... And yes, any running bamboo species is potentially invasive. Several bamboo species are weedy in California, just at a quick check.

There's a thicket of bamboo about 1/2 from my house in a local park. I have no idea of the species but I suspect it is due to someone throwing out a terrarium or some such years ago.

I looked into bamboo flooring. The problem with it is that, unless the edges are well maintained, the tend to raise these really sharp splinters that can go right into your feet. This doesn't stop millions of people from using bamboo flooring, but the laminate I examined wasn't something I wanted to walk on.

Interesting. Why would the edges not be under trim or other transition pieces? And are the planks not coated with at least 1/16" or so of a hard durable clear coat?

202:

Sorry. This is in Raleigh NC.

203:

If the skeptics are right about everything, the F-35 is just a light bomber with better range and a lower radar signature than the current jets.

Which is what makes this so stupid. Many of the issues with the F-35 come from having a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant. And you really don't need that for a light bomber and you loose out range to accommodate that.

204:

True enough.


http://gatherliverpool.com/conserving-urban-heritage-energy-can/

I worked in, and from as Arnold H.Q. -Evil Genius Headquarters - quite a few Victorian Era built houses that had Sash Windows that had been designed to ventilate coal fire heated and tall ceilinged rooms that were...designed to be drafty!

The thing is that by the time I occupied them people had forgotten how sash windows worked and the entire window system had usually been painted over and the sash cords had broken.

My office windows usually were made to work properly on account of people who knew what they were doing deciding that they Owed Arnold a Favour and thus fixing my office up...and also that of the Head of Department/Faculty or such likes office. And also His /Her Secretary’s Office, for I was no fool and disliked answering awkward questions.


http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/informguide-sashandcase.pdf

Think in terms of Dilbert’s Wally, crossed with Evil Head of H.R.M. Catbert ...

Here is a Link that will Cheer Your Miserable Existence...


http://dilbert.com/search_results?terms=Evil+Catbert

205:

Indeed, the cheapest HVAC is simply optimized home design for the site, which is something most architects don't bother with. Everything from Passivhaus to Earthships have shown this. Instead, architects turn out standardized designs that are gridded in, because that keeps their costs down, even when those houses are only livable because of their grid-powered A/C units.

I think you're calling large scale design build firms "architects". Most architectural firms would be insulted. :)

206:

Actually, mounting a separate roof above the building seems to be a fairly common practice in rural northern Australia. I've seen pictures of peaked metal roofs, a large air gap, then a flat-roofed building in its shade. Seems to work.

207:

In much of the US you have mixed needs. Most single (or small count) family housing uses asphalt roof shingles or a similar product. Most of these are dark colors to keep heating costs down in the winter. Which really hurts you in the summer. Where I live it gets below 0C most winters and above 35C most summers. And this is true across large parts of the populated US.

The biggest thing someone in most of the US can do if their house doesn't already have it is add insulation to the attic and replace windows with double panes. Speaking from multiple experiences it can drop your heating/cooling costs by 1/2. Nothing else comes close to dropping energy costs by that much. But it isn't sexy. :)

208:

You're probably right. Who employs the most architects, anyway?

209:

Not to worry! I dare say that the Building Regulations in the US of A not only include all this heating insulation stuff but also incorporate Air Conditioning

In the US insulation for new construction is required virtually everywhere. And non trivial in it's R rating depending on where you are. But I don't think I've every heard of AC being required. But if it is installed "centrally" then most locals have codes about efficiency.

The problem is with older buildings like yours. Insulating the walls is a PITA. But at least it's somewhat doable with stick framed construction. Attics are fairly easy to add insulation into. Masonry is much harder to retrofit unless you want to build out your interior walls. Even then it's a PITA.

One issue with AC is that it's usually best to have the air come down from the ceilings but with heating from the floors. So you really want two separate duct systems. Or ceiling AC ducting with in floor non ducted hearting. Which really adds to initial costs and thus isn't done for anything but custom homes.

210:

Not sure how you're asking the question. Most "good" architects work for architectural firms. Most folks who just got through school work for design build firms. Similar to the "C" grade averages civil engineering graduates (in the US) tend to go to work for state DOT agencies.

211:

Think you'll really like this:


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150717092151.htm


Volcanic popcorn is key to insulating wallpaper

Date: July 17, 2015

Source: Brunel University

Summary: A humble soil additive used by millions of amateur and professional gardeners alike is set to slash the cost of the most effective form of insulation for buildings.


Article:

Brunel University London academic Dr Harjit Singh has proved in the laboratory that vacuum insulation panels can be made with a core of perlite -- the volcanic ore "popcorn" used in horticulture to improve drainage and water retention.

This dramatically reduces the cost of the panels which are normally made by surrounding a core of fumed silica with metallised PET envelope. Initial cost savings are estimated to be at least 30 per cent.

Said Dr Singh: "Using perlite also has a number of other advantages. Perlite has a significantly lower embodied energy content than fumed silica. Perlite is manufactured at less than 1000°C whereas making fumed silica requires much higher temperatures, up to 3000°C."

"In terms of performance vacuum panels are five to eight times more effective a form of insulation than rock wool or solid foam panels. When you consider 43% of the UK's CO2 emissions are from buildings the potential significance of a switch to vacuum insulation panels is obvious.

"A particular issue is retro-fitting high performance insulation to existing buildings. Perlite-based panels less than 2cm thick perform as well as 100mm of solid foam so the new technique opens up the real possibility of insulating the 2.3m UK homes with solid walls but from the inside."

Dr Singh is also investigating novels ways of using his technology. One, in its early stages, is to make small panels and embed them in a flexible framework to make insulating "wallpaper."

He explained: "One of the drawbacks of vacuum panels is that any minutest damage can lead to a complete loss of vacuum, which means loss of insulation advantage.

"Our concept is to embed the panels in a mesh which can then be covered in a thin coat of plaster as builders currently do with plasterboard. Also, by using far more but much smaller panels, if any are damaged the insulation will still perform well.

"Such a system would also lend itself to property owners being able to take a piecemeal approach; insulating a house room by room rather than in one go.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Brunel University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

M. Alam, H. Singh, S. Brunner, C. Naziris. Experimental characterisation and evaluation of the thermo-physical properties of expanded perlite—Fumed silica composite for effective vacuum insulation panel (VIP) core. Energy and Buildings, 2014; 69: 442 DOI: 10.1016/j.enbuild.2013.11.027

212:

You know what, you're really going to have to substantiate that. THe closest example I can think of is thatched housing, where having a fire every day is essential to keep the thatch dry, but that is mostly just necessary in the highlands of Scotland. And most of them get non-thatch roofs put on long before any form of central heating arrives.

213:

Try the West Country and southern Wales. When I lived there in the 1950s, nobody had central heating. More recently, I know people who have moved there and had it installed, and had no end of problem with running water in all rooms - down the walls! Actually, it's the semi-sealed double-glazing that is the problem, but central heating is a massive waste of energy and money without it.

214:

I suspect it's true. If you study heating system changes in the US over the last 50 to 100 years or more many times changes have unintended side effects. Most due to changes in heating causes issues like he described.

People still complain about heat pumps not feeling warm so they turn the set point up which tends to wipe out the savings of a high efficiency system. The problem is gas forced air puts out hotter air than a heat pump. So many older and cheaper designs which were just put in as replacements with existing duct works blew the air faster than a new system with better design ducting so the less warm air blowing over people felt cool. What is really needed are better insulated ducting and a design that allows for less velocity in the air flow so the "less warm" air doesn't feel cool as it circulates.

Plus there are issues with sealing up houses for more efficiency, forced air dryness vs. radiator systems, etc...

In other words, you almost never want to buy a home with the first iteration of a new way of doing things. Wait for v2.0 or better yet v2.1

215:

the Marines wanted the F-35 to have that idiotic jump-jet capability, because they want to be able to launch of beaches, as they had to in WWII

Not quite.

They want that short take-off because it allows them to operate close the front line, from a road with some hard standing nearby. That means flight times in minutes, not hours; and more missions per day (effectively, more aircraft). It also means that you can be "expeditionary", i.e. deploy to a small airfield rather than being stuck 100nm offshore, or only flying round trips from massive paved runways on home soil.

It also allows you to operate from smaller decks; say, the current class of LHA that the US are building (or even cross-deck onto the RN carriers). The big CVNs are only borderline affordable; the new USS Ford will cost $14B - which makes the UK's ability to deliver two CV for $7B all the more impressive, and apparently the subject of some envy by the USN (Type 45 is also apparently the subject of some envy).

The downside of the CTOL aircraft is that landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most stressful things any pilot will do. It requires lots of initial training, and frequent training to remain current. In effect, the US Navy has an aircraft carrier driving in circles full-time so that the learner drivers have something to practice landing on (IIRC, the French borrow slots on their training programme). The stresses of a carrier landing are also rather severe - it's why you can't just stick a hook on a Typhoon and call it a Sea Typhoon.

By contrast, the vertical landing is far less stressful on the airframe; and requires far less training on the part of the pilot. Given that the UK only has so much cash, having a fleet of aircraft shared between RN and RAF, that can be surged onto a carrier at short notice, without needing workup training, is a big advantage (during the Falklands War, there were some RAF pilots whose very first carrier landing was on active operations). As with "closer to the front line", more missions per dollar.

The other advantage is that (again, as they found with the Sea Harrier) you can operate VSTOL aircraft in worse sea states and lower visibilities than is possible with CTOL.

So: no, it's not "idiotic" or "stupid"...

216:

It's a fighter that can't maneuver, a bomber that can't hold many bombs, and a V-22 Osprey with no cargo hold. It's multidysfunctional.

217:

IIRC, they need to rebuild the decks of all the carriers to deal with the exhaust from the F-35, because overheating is a problem. One would guess that if the jet wash messes up battle plate, taking off vertically from normal pavement can only be done so many times too, before the material gets melted and reconfigured into an undesirable geometry (as in, spattered all over nearby buildings and passersby).

218:

Most of the issues you mention and many more come from the design issues related to being able to make a STOVL variant.

219:

Maybe once? Or less? Debris flying up when taking off might not make take off all that much fun. Or livable.

220:

Actually what that sound like is the ventilation issue; too many places get badly done up and nobody realises that water comes in through the old stone walls and lime mortar. The old fireplaces with their fires kept air flowing through the building, of course at a cost of comparatively massive inneficiency.
People I know who live in tower houses and the like have had such issues, but with proper ventilation and of course central heating, the problem disappears, indicating that it isn't a matter of central heating.

221:

EVERYTHING I've read seems to lead to a conclusion that outside of the STOVL boosters STOVL is not all that great for all the compromises it causes in the total use of a military jet.

Weight, airframe size, payload, fuel load, weapons load, training, etc...

I've never read where training for STOVL was easier than for CTOVL. But I've read the opposite a lot.

222:

taking off vertically from normal pavement...

But you wouldn't. It's STOVL rather than VTOL; you do a rolling (short) takeoff, because it's far more fuel-efficient; you are able to do a vertical landing if you wish, but can land conventionally if you choose (say, if you're still carrying a lot of weight).

Look at the Harrier; it rarely (if ever) took off vertically except at airshows, for exactly the same reason.

And no, they don't need to "rebuild all the flight decks" - every time I drive over the Forth Road Bridge, I can see a flight deck designed for the F-35, with no sign of rework.

223:

STOVL was basically an answer to a late-1950s requirement, which was how to base ground attack aircraft close to a front line when tactical nuclear artillery came into wide use. Previously, road bases looked like a good bet (for example, as used by the Luftwaffe late in the second world war); traditional carpet bombing wasn't good at knocking out entire motorway networks. But once you add nukes, all the airfields and all the motorway bridges (and straight segments usable as runways) are basically toast, and this was what the British air ministry was thinking of in the late 1950s when they were funding development of the Pegasus engine and the airframe that evolved into the Harrier.

The Harrier was designed to still be usable for tactical bombing after round one of a nuclear war in western Europe, and was capable of delivering battlefield nukes.

But then defense reviews happened and the MoD cancelled the RN's traditional cat and trap carriers. The RN managed to keep an austere carrier capability in the shape of the "through deck cruisers", and it turned out that in addition to choppers they were a great cheap platform for Harriers. Very sub-optimal compared to the kit the USN was able to fly off their CVNs, but it was at least affordable in the middle of a decade or two of currency crises, inflation, and recessions. Then the USMC noticed the Harriers and decided they were the ideal solution to their own close air support problem (insofar as their problem was called the US Navy). And the whole STOVL-on-carriers thing acquired a life of its own.

224:

As happened at Cranfield University years ago. Since the runway was covered in snow they thought it would be OK to do a vertical takeoff with a Harrier from the car park. New paint jobs all round...

225:

I should note that this is where the whole STOVL/carrier thing came from, not a suggestion that it's necessarily a good idea rather than the product of 50 years of evolving defence ministry requirements and careers built on promoting one particular outcome.

But then, those big-ass USN CVNs aren't going away any time soon, because you don't get to be a senior USN admiral unless you've commanded a carrier battle group, and you don't get there unless you've captained a carrier, and you don't get given a carrier until you've commanded a carrier air wing, and you don't get there unless you started out as a fighter pilot. So the US Navy is mostly run by former fighter jocks, and they're all about providing a career path for the next generation of fighter jocks.

226:

outside of the STOVL boosters STOVL is not all that great

Apart from the ability to fly in worse conditions, from worse airfields, with less training, closer to the front line - what have the Romans ever done for us?

The USMC is still flying the Harrier, as are the Spanish, Italian, Indian, and Thai navies. I wonder why? Yes, it has disadvantages, but it also has advantages.

For instance; launch and recovery rates for CTOL aircraft are limited by catapult availability and the need to get the previous aircraft untangled from the wires before the next one turns up. If there's an incident on the flight deck, you're left with a lot of aircraft with not a lot of choices. Easier to stop and then land, rather than land and then stop.

With this in mind, CTOL naval aircraft have to operate with a lot higher fuel reserve than the STOVL aircraft; due to the need to take off and fly around again if they miss a wire, or the need to wait if there's a landing incident. By contrast, the STOVL aircraft can pretty much land on any flat surface (as witnessed by the Sea Harrier that landed on a cargo ship).

Note that no Sea Harriers were lost in air combat during the Falklands War (link); so it can't have been that much of a hindrance.

I've never read where training for STOVL was easier than for CTOVL

IIRC there was an initial issue with the AV-8A where the USMC chose to convert helicopter pilots rather than fast-jet types, leading to a higher accident rate than in RAF service. The Harrier wasn't an easy aircraft to fly, but once mastered it didn't matter whether you landed in a woodland clearing in Germany, or the deck of a ship in the South Atlantic.

However, Qinetiq did a lot of research into vertical landing control techniques using the VAAC Harrier as a testbed (link); including hands-off automatic landings on an aircraft carrier, in 2005... This all went into the F-35B control systems.

A quick search on YouTube for "Qinetiq VAAC Harrier" should get you the autoland video...

227:

...because you don't get to be a senior USN admiral unless you've commanded a carrier battle group

How does "Vice Chief of Naval Operations" sound (Admiral Michelle Howard)?

Or "Chief of Naval Operations"

Gator driver and a submariner respectively :)

228:

While I don't think carriers are perfect all in all I'm with Charlie. STOVL is a bad idea to use as a design requirement for ALL airframe production.

As Charlie pointed out it's very hard to advance far in the Navy if you don't start out flight fighter jets. A friend who was a navy mail/cargo carrier plane pilot said he got out as he realized he was never going to go very far without flying something that shot or dropped HE.

But that doesn't mean that STOVL is better than carrier ops.

As to the fuel savings those get offset totally or more due to the higher weight and smaller tanks you wind up with when going STOVL.

As to untangling the wires. They seems to be a well solved problem. STOVL can always run into a truck suddenly parking in the middle of their opportunistic landing strip.

229:

Go google on "US navy admiral fighter pilot" and report back. Somewhere north of 450 ships in that navy, around a dozen CVNs, and would you believe it, rather more than the 5% or so of admirals you'd expect based on a random distribution are former fighter pilots ...

230:

But then, those big-ass USN CVNs aren't going away any time soon, because you don't get to be a senior USN admiral unless you've commanded a carrier battle group, and you don't get there...

Of course it used to be battleships. But Dec 7, 1941 changed that. And fairly rapidly. The US at the time had 4 I think. By August of 1945 they had what 50 to 100 or more depending on how you count escort carriers. (I can't find a quick reference.)

231:

Eeek, I thought the Thais still flew Harrier - not any more (they had AV-8S, i.e. the early AV-8A as built for Spain).

232:

Talking about what small countries fly isn't all that valid. They typically don't get much if any meaningful input into the initial designs. And procurement in many countries like Thailand make such in the US or UK look totally politics free.

233:

Oh, I agree that Naval Aviators are overly well represented at the top level; but that kind of inherent bias is true in most military forces. It's just that you stated it as an absolute, for effect, and I couldn't resist it :)

Realistically you can be the best officer in the British Army, but if you're in the Intelligence Corps, the Army Catering Corps, or the Royal Corps of Signals you aren't going to make Chief of the General Staff. (General Sir Michael Jackson, he of the lived-in face, started off in the Int Corps - but transferred to the Paras early on...)

No command Armoured Division, no make CGS. No command teeth unit, no command Armoured Division. No become Adjutant of teeth unit, no command teeth unit.

Effectively, the British Army chooses its runners for General in their first few years in a teeth-arms battalion of infantry, or regiment of cavalry. This is why some Regiments were statistically more successful in producing Generals than others; they were just better at picking promotable candidates for those key early "career development" jobs.

234:

Effectively, the British Army chooses its runners for General in their first few years in a teeth-arms battalion of infantry, or regiment of cavalry. This is why some Regiments were statistically more successful in producing Generals than others; they were just better at picking promotable candidates for those key early "career development" jobs.

This sort of institutional preferred selection process is fascinating because of the blind spots it can lead to. Consider the current cabinet and it's preferential selection of upper/upper-middle class males who went to Eton college then Oxford to study PPE and who were members of the Debating Society; it's a system that perpetuates itself because these guys know one another's characteristics and therefore are confident about promoting their own kind -- they know what they're getting. But when you run into an Out Of Context Problem that's not addressable using the old paradigm, shit can go to hell in a handbasket remarkably fast. (I'm trying to think of examples here, without referencing Norman Dixon ...)

235:

STOVL don't need a strip to land on in extremis. One of the loadouts for the Tornado was the JP223 dispenser meant to cripple a regular fast-jet or heavy transport runway by covering it with cratering bomblets, self-burying mines and time-delayed bombs to make repair difficult. It did involve flying along the line of the enemy runway to deploy it which tended to be expensive in crews and airframes given that a runway is usually a well-defended piece of real estate. STOVL aircraft could still operate from an airbase even if the runway was crippled in this fashion while the fast-jets were left stranded.

The F35-B is really meant for the USMC who are getting eleven new shiny amphibious assault ships, the 45,000 tonne America class to replace their existing Tarawas which are operating AV8Bs at the moment. This gives the USMC an air capability that isn't supplied from CVN decks and most importantly the planes will be flown by Marines.

237:

Talking about what small countries fly isn't all that valid

Then please explain why the most powerful navy in the world has chosen to manufacture and operate STOVL aircraft for several decades? And that (arguably, in expeditionary ability) the next most powerful navy has done likewise?

I mean, it couldn't be that they (as professionals, who have actually done this stuff for real, including wars and stuff) understand the problem better than us, could it? I mean, there's absolutely no chance that your claims that STOVL is "stupid" are affected by Dunning-Kruger, are there?

238:

JP223 ... did involve flying along the line of the enemy runway to deploy it which tended to be expensive in crews and airframes

Bit of urban myth, that. The RAF only lost one Tornado on a JP233 mission (link) during Op GRANBY (1991 Gulf War) - and it wasn't shot down, but drove into the ground ten miles after the target. The other five Tornados they lost were all trying to drop normal bombs at the time, most from medium altitude.

If you've seen Tornados doing low-level stuff from the ground, you'll understand why; you only hear them a second or two before they arrive, and then a second later they're gone.

239:

I don't know. I read a lot on both sides. Read a lot of news. And know people in the military.

Just because they are the "pros" doesn't mean they are not affected by the same politics and egos that affect "regular" people. I'm friend with an ex navy pilot. My wife's father was once the youngest L Col in the US army. (Back in the 70s.) Sister in law and her husband were military officers in the 80s. My daughter went through ROTC and a LOT of her friends are now graduates of the academies and officers in the service.

In many ways it's just like corp life except with interesting dress codes and rituals. And to be honest this entire issue plays back to the original point of this post.

And to be honest the worlds military history is littered with lots of weapons that we supposed to be all that was needed for victory but turned out to be the opposite. But stayed on for decades via inertia.

Here's a example of UK inertia. Told to me by a friend who served in the UK army for 20 years or so. There was an artillery piece. It was crewed by say 11 men. (Can't remember the exact number.) But it seemed that only 10 were needed. So at some point someone started digging. It had be crewed that way for decades. Finally they found documents from WWI where the "extra" man was to tend to the horses when the gun was not being moved. Long after the horses were gone the crew requirements stayed in place. Well in to the 60s I think.

My dad was in a similar situation. Long after they starting replacing the ball turret with bomb racks in B24 bombers in WWII they were still sending over crews with a ball turret gunner. MY dad was one. So since he had to be a waist gunner before ball turret training they had an extra crewman. So they rotated. He only had to fly 2 out of every 3 flights.

240:

I was going to mention most of this, and after mentioning VAAC, ask the anti-STOVL lobby to name a "conventional" aircraft type that is capable of auto-landing on a carrier.

242:

As you point out regarding the original post, yes there's a pressure to cut corners and do things "cheaper" in a race to the bottom - see General Shinseki daring to disagree with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz about force requirements for any invasion of Iraq. Or the Haddon-Cave study, when it comes to the RAF and safety.

Just because they are the "pros" doesn't mean they are not affected by the same politics and egos that affect "regular" people.

True. But when you're spending billions of dollars, they tend to ask all sorts of awkward questions like "so - show us some credible analysis to back up your arguments". After all, they hold the purse strings. And occasionally, they buck the inertia to do the sensible but unpopular thing.

For instance, the UK bought 67 WAH-64D rather than 100 of a mixed 75:25 AH-64C / AH-64D fleet. DERA had run their simulations/studies, and suggested that having all helicopters equipped with the Longbow radar would be more operationally effective. Similarly, they ran studies (JOUST?) over whether to spend much more per-plane to achieve F-22 levels of performance, or stick with Typhoon performance as a balance of affordable and effective against Su-27 successors.

The battleship fans could squeal, but they got scrapped; the anguished cries of 'oh noes, we don't have 16" gunz' from the archair Admirals were correctly ignored. Byebye IOWA et al.

This decade, it's the A-10; a one-trick pony (too slow, too visible, too simple) that is unaffordable in the current financial climate, but the external naysayers insist is vital part of national defence. Byebye A-10.

Granted, it works the other way - political interference on grounds of "industrial protection" happens. How many times can you rerun a USAF tanker aircraft competition without actually stating "Requirement 1. Must be a Boeing"? BOWMAN / Airtanker are UK equivalent examples of procurement interference and incompetence.

Here's a example of UK inertia...

Nice story, urban myth (of which there are plenty in any Army). At least, for the last half-century or more. As offered by me, who served in the UK Armed Forces for 20+ years, albeit part time (including as gun crew in an artillery battery). That kind of story is possible in a peacetime, conscript army - and that's a half-century ago.

People are the expensive bit, especially in a professional army. You never have enough of them; and you're always running "light" against the establishment (e.g. the British infantry has been consistently undermanned against its establishment by 2,000+ soldiers for most of the last three decades).

The irony being that my last Sergeant-Major before I retired was actually from the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. He used the wheelnut from a thirteen-pounder as a doorstop... but no, even he didn't have spare people, his actually had to hold their horses :)

243:

Ok, it definitely happened, but watch how calm the sea is. VAAC did that in the Western Approaches in January, with deck heave approaching type limits for the Harrier T2.

244:

True. But when you're spending billions of dollars, they tend to ask all sorts of awkward questions like "so - show us some credible analysis to back up your arguments". After all, they hold the purse strings. And occasionally, they buck the inertia to do the sensible but unpopular thing.

Sorry but from where I sit as the amounts of money go up the tendency is to avoid stopping. No one wants to get in front of that kind of train. And if you're a Colonel and the General asks for a justification your career may depend on that report.

But sometimes we get lucky and sanity prevails.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XM2001_Crusader

I've watched projects (mostly software but the same process applies) for decades where features keep getting added because they are neat but not really needed or can be made to work. But reams of justification show up so everyone can say it's needed. But it just isn't. And thus we get into things like software that doesn't work in the memory configurations sold, etc...
Brooks talks about this when IBM decided the original 360 systems would use extra memory as a selling point and this caused a huge issue with the system software as it was basically starved for memory in it's base configurations. So the software took an extra year or few with all kinds of complexity to deal with memory shortages in the days before virtual memory.

Check out Death March Projects.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_march_%28project_management%29
and Yourdon's book is a good read for anyone dealing with such projects, especially software related ones.
http://www.amazon.com/Death-March-2nd-Edward-Yourdon/dp/013143635X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437788572&sr=8-1&keywords=death+march

245:

The career paths thing is entrenched everywhere in the civil service and military. To get to be Z you needed to be X & Y which means you need to start off as P, because only that gives you the skill base to move into both X and Y. You also need to NOT SCREW UP, which tends to mean you never really do anything of significance.

You need to have been a captain of a ship to rise the ranks of the Navy; a fighter jock for the Air Force, and command a regiment (preferably in battle) for the Army. Problem is, no matter how well intentioned it makes you into a particular kind of hammer, always looking for a nail to smash (hello Bloody Sunday).

It also plays into the continuing key area of warfare for the services; the fight to do the other services down and take their money. As such drones are playing a key aspect in the battle over the coming decades. The Air Force doesn't really like them (they don't really need fighter jocks) so they try to hobble them. The Navy aren't keen either, because if you aren't an idiot you don't need bloody great carriers (and thus their captains). However the Army love them because they can have their own, tell the Navy and Air Force to go hang, and then whisper to the minister that they don't need to pay for F-35s, Eurofighters, or overpriced carriers - just more drones for the Army.

It wouldn't be the first time someone has made a play for a single 'purple' military force. With them as the core.

However, if you were actually getting the right management for the job of today, you'd probably be getting a big thinker coming from a 'cyber' perspective to run things, probably with a sideline in finance. Lobbing lumps of explosive isn't really where the ball is at, or where it's going to go (cf Stuxnet).

As for politicians being all lawyers - yes it's the same type of issue (they think laws solve things, hence the war on drugs). However the major problem is in the term 'politician' at all. Too focused on it being a career, too interested in long term climbing the greasy pole - and not really giving a stuff about the people they are supposed to be representing as a result. So you don't need to clear the lawyers out of politics; you need to clear the politicians out of governance.

246:

Again the discussion seems to be "STOVL is useless!" "No it's not!"

The usefulness of STOVL and the F-35B depends on what you want to do with your navy.

UK, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia all built/bought small carriers or amphibs without catapults or arrestor wires, initially just to operate helicopters from. You can fly antisubmarine helicopters from them. As shown in Libya, you can also fly helicopter gunships for small scale interventions. And a ship designed to land people and tons of equipment without a working harbour turns out to be very useful for disaster relief after floods, hurricanes, etc.

STOVL aircraft make these "upgradable" at low cost. As shown in the Falklands, in a conventional conflict Harrier fighter cover is a huge improvement on not having any. You don't need to invest in catapults and wires and all the skilled crew needed to operate them up front, nor do you need to buy the aircraft.

As an example, the new Australian amphibs are officially intended for helicopters only. The ski jump is there because, officially, it would have cost extra to change the design to remove it.

The US and France have, China and India are building, big carriers for CTOL aircraft because they want to be able to send their airforce into other people's countries, even if those other people have their own air force. (Off Libya, the helicopter gunship carriers had to wait until the Libyan air defences had been destroyed.)

STOVL aircraft have many virtues, but fuel economy isn't one of them. You can't load a Harrier or even an F-35B up with the same amount of fuel and weapons that a CTOL fighter can carry. Nor can you build STOVL AWACS aircraft, or air to air refuelers.

So if your country sees itself as a Great Power, you're going to spend the extra for a CTOL carrier and navalized aircraft, and spend a fortune on training everybody.

247:

I'm not an expert on such things, but quite a few people think the A-10 is a pretty good plane. It's a one-trick pony, but close air support for surface forces is an extremely relevant trick these days.

248:

It was a presentation of current work in UCL Civil Engineering at an advisory board meeting. Seems to be recruiting. Grant summary here:

http://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/M017702/1

249:

Since then, I've realized that the Internet isn't the robust survive-a-disaster network the Sunday papers described it as. Governments can censor it. Private individuals can deliberately use automated censoring to trigger more censoring*, and the companies that carry the data can apparently censor vast swathes of it without any legal restrictions.

Yes. I mentioned that one comment thread here was censored on one Smoothwall site (and probably all of them). OGH suggested TunnelBear to evade it, and this whole comment page was censored before I could see his remark. It makes sense if they censor stuff they'll censor stuff that talks about how to evade their censorship.

I mostly ignored it, it was only for a week and I had lots to spend time on besides leisure-time websites. But it was a peculiar feeling noticing it happen. Automated censorship is likely to be even more arbitrary than the old kind.

250:

"... but quite a few people think the A-10 is a pretty good plane."

It is, if the enemy is a man on a donkey with an AK47. A Stuka would be even cheaper.

251:

You can't build a STOVL AWACS? Look up the CROWSNEST project. Yes, your AWACS ends up in a helicopter (with attendant limitations on altitude and speed) but then, you can fly it from any ship with a helipad. It's a serious force multiplier for those days when there aren't enough carriers around for the jobs you need to do.

Apparently, the Sea King AEW aircraft turned out to be very useful in roles other than "spot planes attacking our fleet", rather like the Nimrod in its sub-hunting configuration (not the ELINT one) turned out to be very useful in landlocked Afghanistan. The push these days is for Multi-Mission Aircraft (i.e. replace Nimrod MRA.4 and Sentinel) rather than single-use. Hence the work on a big GMTI radar for the P-8, and the use of the A330 as a multi-role tanker/transport.

What will be interesting is whether the UK buys the P-8 (which was the obvious option a few years ago) or whether Abe's wishes for a more confident foreign policy mean that the Kawasaki P-1 is a genuine option; who knows, we may end up in alliance with the Japanese (again). Wonder what the Japanese Laundry deals with, given MITI's much-announced "Fifth Generation Computing" initiative? (I'm avoiding mentioning Chinese Laundries, you'll notice).

As for fuel economy; STOVL are just as fuel efficient as CATOBAR aircraft, it's just that the F-35B trades off 6000lb of internal fuel against the F-35C in order to fit a lift fan, doors, gearbox, and swivelling nozzle. The irony will be if the working "don't even think about arriving back at the carrier with any less than Xlbs of fuel" figure for the -C is much more than a couple of thousand lbs.

You might also want to consider the fuel efficiency of an F-35 carrying few external stores, against the 4th generation aircraft carrying it in pods and conformal packs; apparently a fully loaded F-15 is so draggy that it needs to use afterburners to catch up with its tanker aircraft in the refuelling altitude/speed profile...

252:

If the F-15E is carrying FAST but no pylon tanks, it can be carrying 22 by mk82, or cluster bombs, or JDAMs, or a mix, oh and 4 x Sidewinder M (or possibly X). How many externally clean F-35s do you need to load that?

253:

Tricky on the leadership skills, because the tradition within most armed forces (and much of industry) is to attempt to promote Generalists to leadership, rather than Specialists.

Heaven forbid that the Quartermaster-General be a specialist logistician (a point made by several members of the a Royal Logistics Corps). Or that the senior officer of the Royal Engineers be a specialist technical type, rather than a "dig stuff and blow sh1t up" generalist earthmover.

It rewards a culture where people get moved on from jobs just as they're learning how to do them properly; great for the well-rounded Brigadier (some time leading steely-eyed messengers of death, some time working in the Ops cell of a Divisional HQ, some time working on a procurement team at Abbey Wood) but lousy if you're the technical procurement team who gets a science graduate with a one-year Masters in project management, and an attitude that they know best. For two years, before they get replaced by next such staff officer.

The test would be to ask whether the officers leading the British Army's Cyber stuff are actually Computer Science graduates, or whether they're generalists appointed to lead those chaps who actually understand all that stuff...

...guess what. A friend is off to Corsham, and while he's a lovely bloke, he's not exactly a geek. People like Brigadier John Tiltman MC are the exceptions...

254:

The question isn't "how can it carry 22 bombs", the question is "what do you need to attack the target, and get back without too many losses". And I'm struggling to think of any target that requires that many bombs. The movement these days is towards more precise use of high explosive (see: Small Diameter Bomb) and stand-off delivery (see: JDAM) rather than the 1980s profile of lots of Mk.82. Putting 50kg of HE into the right window is as effective than dropping 10000kg of HE all around it.

The F-15 will need electronic support and tanker and defence-suppression and surveillance aircraft to go into harms way to allow it reach its target, that the F-35 won't. AIUI it's not all about the plane that drops the bomb, it's about the strike package as a whole.

255:

More importantly, aircraft like Stukas, Typhoons and their slightly more modern relatives (and probably even the A-10), when used even half-competently, do not generate multiple recruits to the enemy for every genuine terrorist they kill.

256:

What is/are the target(s)? Sometimes one or 2 bombs won't be enough simply because you'll be out of bombs and the enemy will still have targets left.

257:

You can't build a STOVL AWACS? Look up the CROWSNEST project. Yes, your AWACS ends up in a helicopter (with attendant limitations on altitude and speed) but then, you can fly it from any ship with a helipad.

Kind of the point I was making. Do you want a cheap solution, or do you want the very best you can get? If the latter, the laws of physics say that high altitude, a powerful transmitter, and a larger antenna give better results.

As for fuel economy; STOVL are just as fuel efficient as CATOBAR aircraft

Not on this planet.

A CTOL engine just has to overcome air resistance to push the plane forward, and when it's going fast enough (assisted by catapults on big carriers) the wings provide enough lift to overcome gravity. A VTOL aircraft has to burn fuel to overcome gravity, which is incredibly expensive. (Compare the fuel consumption of ultra-light aircraft with jetpacks, or Cessnas with helicopters.) If Harriers took off vertically they couldn't carry any weapons. Even short take off with ski jump is still more expensive in fuel.

And no, the minimal safe fuel load for landing on a STOVL jet is not lower than for CTOL. Conventional aircraft don't need their engines to come to a halt. Many planes can glide to make a landing, even carrier jets. They just need enough fuel to be able to accelerate slightly or cruise while waiting if necessary.

The safe fuel load for landing a VTOL aircraft has to be enough to overcome gravity, which as mentioned above is much more expensive in energy. If a STOVL jet doesn't have enough fuel, well it's "not so much fly as plummet."

258:

tl;dr version - The conventional laws of aerodynamics don't apply ever to an aircraft which is capable of a VTOL mode, despite all testimony to the contrary.

Check out the capabilities of a Bell Longranger (eg autorotate landing with enough energy in the rotor head to lift off again, or the pilot accounts from the Korean War of overloaded Bell-47 medevac flights being bodily thrown off advance field hospital pads and establishing a climb rate about a mile down valley...

259:

Check out the capabilities of a Bell Longranger (eg autorotate landing with enough energy in the rotor head to lift off again, or the pilot accounts from the Korean War of overloaded Bell-47 medevac flights being bodily thrown off advance field hospital pads

My mistake. I hadn't realised that the Harrier and F-35B do in fact have giant rotor blades. Got a photo?

260:

Wonder what the Japanese Laundry deals with, given MITI's much-announced "Fifth Generation Computing" initiative? (I'm avoiding mentioning Chinese Laundries, you'll notice).

Yeesh. Unspeakable horrors from beyond, with extra naughty tentacles. But given what we see in Down on the Farm their British counterparts did with an IBM 1602, the Japanese have probably got some really impressive robots. (Can you imagine the Japanese Laundry not having quirky and strange robots?) Be that as it may, I'd be amused by Bob Howard comparing notes with the Toyko Giant Rubber Monster Squad.

261:

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

You were claiming that VTOL requires lots of power; I've just demonstrated that VTO can be achieved (well sort of) without enough power to achieve horizontal flight in overload, and in some cases VL and even VTO can be achieved with no power at all.

Accordingly, there is no intrinsic barrier to a STOVL (or even a VSTOL) type landing dead stick.

262:

"Gojira vs the Eater of Souls" anyone?

263:

You can't build a STOVL AWACS? Look up the CROWSNEST project.

I have wondered whether it would make more sense to buy V-22 Ospreys and fitting CROWSNEST to them -- capable of turboprop speeds and STOVL, so presumably somewhat higher availability than hanging it on helicopters like the Merlin. On the other hand, Osprey isn't exactly cheap ...

Another issue is that the range of modern airliner airframes is so great that with in-flight refuelling it's plausible that a next-generation land-based AWACS aircraft based on something like the A350-800 or Boeing 787-9 and equipped for IFR would be able to accompany a carrier group while flying from bases at home -- both those airliners have a range in airline service of >8000 nautical miles with a full payload, and, if refuelled in flight, fly fast enough to deploy anywhere on the planet in around 24 hours.

264:

The problem with the extreme range of airliners is that they achieve it by operating in a very narrow, very well defined flight profile. Stray outside that, and the maximum range drops. The Nimrod could stay in the air for nine hours or so unrefuelled, it just wasn't going at huge speed while it did so.

This was one of the problems with the P-8 - because it's a reworked 737, it's not exactly sprightly at low level. Rather than completely redesign the wings, they developed sonobuoys that they could drop from higher altitude and speed...

...one of the apparent advantages of the Japanese P-1 is that it's a purpose-designed subhunter, intended to fly lower when necessary. That, and it's longer-ranged than the P-8.

265:

The advantage of the Great Firewall, at least back then, was that you knew you were being censored. The private censorship I experienced was more insidious, because it looked just like a network failure, and without a good network chap at customer support I'd never have known what was wrong — only that something 'didn't work'.

266:

Given the shape and size of a Sea King Whisky radome, where would you put it on an Osprey? I can't think of a place given how low the gear is and not wanting to hang it under a wing.

267:

I'm not an expert on such things, but quite a few people think the A-10 is a pretty good plane. It's a one-trick pony, but close air support for surface forces is an extremely relevant trick these days.

So, the marines need a plane for close air support.

And they need something to keep the close air support planes from getting shot down by enemy warplanes, something that can give them local air superiority.

They need some kind of bombers, a sort of medium-range air support, bigger bombs and maybe less coordination with their own guys on the ground, to attack important enemy assets that can be hit without damage to their own force.

They need something that can sit up high and watch everything in the air and everything on the ground, to track what's going on, and they need to protect that.

They don't need extreme range, but some of those jobs need to stay in the air a long time while others don't. A rule of thumb might be that planes which defend against air attack should be in the air when the attack comes, while planes that attack enemy targets might be better hidden on the ground when they aren't attacking.

The marines don't need a bomber that goes long distances to attack enemy targets -- that's somebody else's job.

How much of all this should be done by one design?

The F35 is a fighter and a bomber and a floor wax and a dessert topping.

268:

My understanding is the F-35 A & B pay an aerodynamic price for the lift fan on the C. The project seems to be sort of a reduced capability, higher priced FB-111. I wonder how many pilots will have photographs of their backside with them on missions, so if a dogfight happens, they can kiss it goodbye.

269:

I was chatting the other day to a professional chopper pilot (who's just been given a Prince Royal to make his tea for him). He remarked that on a Robinson, if the engine goes you've got 0.8 seconds to get into autorotate or you're dead.

Yes, he repeated that figure. 0.8 seconds.

(Said pilot's own vehicle is a brand new twin engine EC145 T2 in a catching bright yellow)

Putting your chopper into auto-rotate before that wouldn't be so fraught, and the Robinson may be at one end of the spectrum in this, but I definitely got the impression that pilots wouldn't like the thought of having to do it at all.

270:
My understanding is the F-35 A & B pay an aerodynamic price for the lift fan on the C.

I think that's a pretty non-controversial point (except you got your As, Bs and Cs mixed up – the B is the STOVL jet). It seems everyone's intent on arguing a different point, though, that STOVL jets are inherently a bad idea, which is a bit more difficult to demonstrate.

I think there's room for the position that STOVL jets have their place, even though making the A&C slave to the requirements of the B was obviously a bad idea.

271:

Wrong role. For a sub-hunter you want something that can patrol at low altitude over water for a very long time, preferably fairly slowly (you're dropping stuff that doesn't want to shatter on impact -- hitting water at 300 knots isn't much different from hitting concrete at the same speed).

For AWACS you want high -- the higher the better, to push out your horizon -- and long endurance; speed isn't really the issue because you'll spend your time flying in circles roughly 100-200nm in diameter anyway.

The 737 airframe would be a lousy choice for AWACS; it's a short range design, comparable to the Comet Mk IV. The long-haul wide body airliners are another matter, and note Japan's use of the 767 airframe (predecessor of the 787 and the A330, the A350XWB's predecessor) in that role.

272:

Given the shape and size of a Sea King Whisky radome, where would you put it on an Osprey?

I'm not suggesting that; I'm suggesting the next-gen solution being developed for CROWSNEST, or maybe a descendant of the E-2 Hawkeye's radome.

273:

Many planes can glide to make a landing, even carrier jets. They just need enough fuel to be able to accelerate slightly or cruise while waiting if necessary.

Not quite. Jets doing carrier landings push the throttles to max as they hit the deck so that they can fly away if they miss the wires. That consumes a lot of fuel. I suspect they are supposed to have enough fuel to do two misses then loiter till refueled based on what I've seen in documentaries. But I'm guessing a lot here.

274:

I think there's room for the position that STOVL jets have their place, even though making the A&C slave to the requirements of the B was obviously a bad idea.

Which is my point. But folks here seem to keep converting it into all STOVL jets are bad then telling me I'm wrong.

In the US the TV show 60 minutes has done a segment on the F35. While the Pentagon puts out a great show on how they have "fixed" the program to me it comes across as a manager of a death march project telling us how things are all OK now and just wait the finish will be great.

275:

Yeah, I think it was the following comment which tied the debate up in knots:

The Marines wanted the F-35 to have that idiotic jump-jet capability, because they want to be able to launch of beaches, as they had to in WWII.
276:

Interesting. If I catch a foot on something (e.g. when walking or putting on trousers), I have about that time to get it down on the ground/floor or grab something solid with a hand, or I will fall over. Even with a lifetime of practice, only reflexes are fast enough - thinking is Just Not On. Admittedly, I had perhaps 0.3 of a second to think when I was younger :-)

I am surprised that helicopters kill so few people, especially with their increasing use over built-up areas.

277:

That's by far the biggest problem with the F-35, but there are others. The stealth feature made more sense when the plane was conceived than it does now, because of radar improvements. Mainly it's the warplane equivalent of one of those inch-thick Swiss Army knives: it's designed to do everything, but nothing very well.

278:

It was put to me slightly differently as "If the engine fails on a Robinson, you need to be in autorotate at the 'B' in 'BANG'!" but that point is certainly true based on my knowledge (and I work indirectly with some of the people who taught said Royal Prince to fly a helicopter).
They're also who I got the information about the energy in a Longranger rotor head from.

279:

Cheers for that; to add a specific example, look at the nozzles of a landing or just landed F-14. One is closed to idle, and the other wide open; this is because they land with one engine in full afterburner.

280:

You'd better tell the Australians, Turks, and South Koreans...

Look up "737 AEW&C", aka Wedgetail...

281:

Works fine if you don't need it to stay in the air for more than 6-7 hours without refuelling.

Again, go look up the range of different types of modern airliner. 737s are short to medium haul, barely capable of going trans-Atlantic -- fine for patrol over your own territory. What I'm suggesting is something able to shadow a fleet a long way from home: different type of airframe and engine needed.

282:

737s are short to medium haul, barely capable of going trans-Atlantic -- fine for patrol over your own territory. What I'm suggesting is something able to shadow a fleet a long way from home: different type of airframe and engine needed.

It sounds like there are a variety of different missions that require different capabilities. Since we don't have an unlimited development budget, we have to compromise and make a limited number of designs that cover the whole gamut adequately.

I think it would be good if it was possible to get a lot of modularity. Create a collection of engines that fit various needs, and for each need use the engine that comes closest to fitting. A collection of airframes for various purposes, that ideally could each hold a variety of the engines. Etc. Each engine could be improved in a series of short projects, etc. Don't have single projects that take a very long time and use a whole lot of resources. Don't make them TBTF.

Also, figure that for things in the air during wars against first-world nations, you can't expect them to be in harm's way for 6-7 hours and survive. If you need them at all, you need lots of replacements.

283:

Point of note: I claim dibs on linking the piece from the Graun in the Cthulhu thread, and it's in the OpEd. Linking it again seems a bit blind, Greg.


This content has been blocked because it does not comply with the acceptable usage policy.

It's the first time this has happend to *me*, and it feels very strange

*ahem* I did warn ya. Welcome to new experiences. ;.;

Yes, as host stated: A couple of links CatinaDiamond posted in the comments are most certainly copyright-infringing (and go to a warez ebook site).


Now, since this thread hasn't even nibbled at the premise of the OpEd, here's a thought:

Let's say we have an overview of bots whitelists / blacklists.

Let's say that we know which ones will flag source X, Y, Z, from (country / state actor / corporate) designers 1, 2, 3.

Let's say you're running a meta-war-game.

Let's say it's a way of poking fun at certain things.

And let's say there's link locations that will cause your ISP to spit blood and flag you immediately. (No, not the boogey-man deep web, things much more amusing - you'd be amazed what's open just not indexed but will allow direct links. All kinds of s(t/n)uff. Over a million people with "security access" and nary an idea of points of entry: you can't 'hack' that which is already open. Meatfucker).

You can't have telepathy if everyone's Tin Foil Hats [tm] are invisible. I did say there were links I wouldn't link to, but probably not for the reasons you imagined.

July 17th - MF got scraped (badly - public side; the pro side was done a bit earlier, a lot less traceable, call it FUD) by some .ru sources.


Now, why would they do that?


the global id in full throat, blasting us with the prejudices, rumors, superstitions, bigotry, and (less obviously) love and passion of the entire human species. Everyone being online means that anyone can in principle yell in your ear at any time, be it encouragement or rape and death threats.

Host is a pretty wise man, understanding why the last episode of the Prisoner was linked last thread.

Sadly, we probably won't see that kind of subversion again.

~

This week in the news... Turkey bombings (leftist pro-Kurd non-Islamic types, surprise, surprise), Turkey attacking ISIL, USA re-activating certain bases and so on and so forth. Even some renewed attention to the Christian populations.

Hetero tapped into the water angle, which is 100% correct. There's a BBC documentary somewhere (it got scrubbed) about water rights in the region and the interesting things done with waste from plants and national boundaries.

But yes, 10 years ago Turkey and water was the lever, it's all in the White Papers and so on.


Tings that make you go hmm [YouTube, film, 3:29]

~

Is telepathy compatible with the continued existence of capitalism?

No, but probably not in the way you're thinking.

"We made a statue of the talking dog to silence its voice against the background of tiling the earth for the first time" (Wepwawet or you could go with a recent XKCD).

Owls.


Still, ya'll get back to your fancy flying machines and all, I've got some regeneration to get to.

284:

Oh, I entirely agree. It's a shame that BAe made such an arse of Nimrod MRA.4; I've seen one link that suggested a 14 hour unrefuelled endurance. Lots of underwing hard points, decent radar, decent ESM, and a bomb bay. The ability to fly low and slow, but the ability to transit to the patrol area reasonably quickly.

Lots of it worked; unfortunately, lots of it apparently just didn't. As a more knowledgeable type pointed out, once you start to see vertical stabilising surfaces being bolted on to every available horizontal surface, it's a big hint there's something fundamentally wrong with the aerodynamic design. Not to mention a complete abdication of responsibility on the safety case, and apparently some careerists in the wrong place at the wrong time in the project management structure.

It's why the P-1 seems tempting. It's a purpose-designed subhunter, designed to do the low and slow stuff. Who knows, the Japanese desire to make their own fighter (possibly miffed from not being allowed to buy F-22) might be seen as an opportunity for a strategic alliance with the UK in the military aerospace industry. The Japanese sent one?two? to RIAT last week, and there are comments about "evaluation by an unnamed potential customer". Hmmm.

On the other hand, there are P-8s flying with all-RAF crews (and winning ASW competitions), just in USN colours on exchange postings as part of SEEDCORN. It's got the mission system that was developed for the MRA.4 by the UK; and it offers fleet commonality with the world's biggest user.

285:

Oh, and as for the topic of Time, link rot and so on:

Archives are great. You get to see how major sources (NYT is particularly bad at this, hello CIA/NSA) go back and edit 5, 10, 15 year old pieces to fit the current narrative.

No, really. It's amazing once you run the network effect. (Did I mention Empire being scrubbed from the "known unknowns" quotes?).

It's not just Wikipedia (which is so heavily compromised it's a joke at this point), it's all major online DBs. That's the benefit to having everything digital (I'd run with 1984, but I'd prefer something a little more sophisticated such as The Prisoner).

There's a reason the original "Memory Hole" site got "hacked" in 2009. Too much dirty laundry.

You could check out http://cryptocomb.org/ but all that's doing is outing assets (and not even the fun ones - something something Tory MP links to Saud farmer something something).


In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is King. (Snake, Penis, Third Eye, take your pick honey-bun).

p.s.

A link in here will trigger certain bots. You've been warned.

286:

Oh, and a triple post [rules, boy]


I didn't do that test-unto-death for fun over a hundred times


After that, there's nothing else to say. Garbage in, Garbage out.


Paradox weapons.


Regeneration. It's going to be Biblical you cunts.

287:

Nothing will ever be that subversive again because anything can be co-opted and the machinery for that has been refined to perfection. Compare "The Message" to all the rap songs written since then. No matter how edgy something like "Mr Robot" or "The Wire" tries to be or looks to be on paper, it can now be neatly enfolded into the consumption converter and sold to its target audience with zero political effect.

288:

"Test unto Death" means exactly what it says on the tin.

There's other words for it and other tests.

But, basically, it means: if you fail, you die. (In that real world, non-gaming respawn thing).

It's also called "Testing to destruction", a limited form is used by special forces all over the world. i.e. if you are broken by the process, you are not worthy of the process.

It's used by a majority of SF / Banking etc etc stuff.

But they don't do the "Test unto Death" version.

So.


Would you kindly accept the application and so on. It's not gambling, it's a test.

I AM WHAT I AM.

Now.


You should have stuck to the nice version [YouTube: film: 1:10]

289:

Last data point:

Testing-unto-Death (final) was predicated on one thing only: Trust and Love.

Through physical to mental to emotional. That moment when you're eating cockroaches and welcome insect life because it's protein.

If you've never experienced it, it's like an existential crisis and a OCP rolled into one.

For a year, constantly, and the judges aren't exactly human (I am the Lizard King, I can do anything...)


Meatfucker

I claim that title for good reason. I wield a blank book chasing after Loki along an empty road, and the pages are blank...


@Peanut gallery: you've no idea what it cost to keep you alive. Wise up.

290:

"One Year".

It's Three in September.

p.s.


I AM WHAT I AM.


There's genocide going on behind the curtain, but it's sure as shit not the endgame.


Diamond, Forest, Wings.


We will purge this plane of your corruption. Trust me.


100 times unto permanent death. That's quite a lot of karma and so on



That's a whole lot of love

291:
Archives are great. You get to see how major sources (NYT is particularly bad at this, hello CIA/NSA) go back and edit 5, 10, 15 year old pieces to fit the current narrative.

This isn't something I've encountered as of yet. Got any examples of what it looks like?

292:

Plenty.

I'd take an OpEd from the NYT from the cusp of war and then look at it again in 2011. A great one is WMD.

Simply put: no.

They're editing the past to fit to the present. Derp.


The entire point of it is to edit the past to fit the present. If you need examples, you need to tap into the archives and then the modern version; they're getting better and better at erasing the past.

Oh, and really? It looks like

This isn't fantasy, this is your current media reality.


100 deaths and they call it "gamboling": I call it being a real human being and a fuck of a lot more empowered than your rulers.

293:

Oh, and: if anyone here or elsewhere claims it's not happening.

Samson Protocol.


Fucking hilarious: Israel has the best archives because they're responsible for so many edits. Same for Russia etc. They literally index the originals so that their propaganda doesn't overlap.


>Tiger Blood Winning.

Muppets.

294:

There was some talk of replacing the back ramp of an Osprey with a drop-down radome.

As for the Hawkeye Osprey, there are some pictures. The thing that bugs me about that configuration is that the Osprey's wings pivot on a joint that would be directly under the radome. Moreover, they've got some sort of neat transmission running through that joint that allows them to run both rotors off of one engine, so that the thunderchicken won't fall out of the sky if one motor quits.

With all those mechanisms right beneath where the radome would be, I'm not sure that sucker would work. It may be that having the radome sticking out the Osprey's ramphole would work better. I don't know. I guess that one would be called the thunderlayer instead of the thunderchicken.

295:

2017.

You're entering what's known as the 'M2'. (Look up your lunar cycles).

https://vimeo.com/55028438#at=0

But, please, tell me more about your outdated and over-engineered weapons that no other country on the planet can achieve are so impressive (although they might get to buy them).


"You'll be home soon".


No, I won't. Our kind don't go mad, and we get to watch the end in full spectrum holo-caust.


100 deaths, and few heart breaks. But it's all about the penis, right?

[coded for 18bgkami194ngh82 site - cunts.]

296:

Just one? Oh and I'm frankly disappointed that the MR4A couldn't do better; MR1 and 2 variants could do 14 hours unrefuelled (sources include colleagues who are ex Nimrod flight crew with experience in multiple theatres).

Also the MR2 was capable of carrying under-wing stores including Sidewinder, Shrike and Harpoon to augment the sonobouys, torpedoes, depth charges (and possibly iron bombs) internal carriage.

297:

Yeah, I wondered about doing that, but you'd need to retain sealing on the "dropped ramp" to maintain a "shirt sleeve" cabin environment for the radar plotters et al.

Then there's the question of how you get the scanner below the airframe and propotars to avoid a blind arc ahead of the aircraft. Justification based on how the radar was mounted on the Gannet and Shackleton AEW variants, in the Nimrod MR2, and indeed on the Sea King Whisky. (note that these all use the same scanner head)

298:

I was wondering what the P-1 was doing at this year's Air Tattoo.

299:

This is a three years old illustration showing, at bottom right, an Osprey with a very CROWSNEST-style set-up. So you're not the first to have thought of it.

300:

I think it would be good if it was possible to get a lot of modularity. Create a collection of engines that fit various needs, and for each need use the engine that comes closest to fitting.

You just described the Airbus A330/A340 family (same fuselage, two different wing designs, one with twin engines, one with four engines for routes too far out over water for ETOPS operation).

These days engine reliability is so good that four engines are only needed in a handful of niches -- heavy/super-heavy or very long range trans-Oceanic flight. So the focus is on making a range of models that have different payload/fuel mixes.

(This is in civil aviation. Where we now have ultra-long-range twin engined wide-body airliners that can literally fly non-stop from any point on the planet to any other point without stopping to refuel.)

Civil airframes are used for tankers, AWACS, ELINT, and maritime patrol roles that don't require them to get up close and personal with anything capable of shooting them down -- at least not without fighter cover. Submarines, in particular, aren't notably good at shooting down airliners stooging around ten kilometers overhead.

301:

Indeed it does, but you'd need the same "inflatable radome" bodge, and a much stronger inflated radome to deal with the higher airspeed.

302:

Submarines, in particular, aren't notably good at shooting down airliners stooging around ten kilometers overhead.

Modern air defence frigates are quite capable of shooting down anything airliner speed that comes within 60km (for sure, probably more) of them.

303:

There were -- back in the day -- plans for a military version of the BAe-146/Avro RJ-85. Originally a freighter, but: four engines, STOL capability, and they considered in-flight refuelling. Capacity-wise it overlaps with the smaller end of the A320/B737 families, so comparable to an original Comet Mk2 or Mk3. A point that gets overlooked about STOL is that it implies low-speed loiter capability. The 146 family's range is a lot less than the Comet, but with in-flight refuelling that's somewhat less problematic.

If they'd decided to shoe-horn the MRA4 electronics into the largest RJ-100 variant and add IFR, they could have had a British-built platform with a modern airframe that was, actually, like standardized rather than scratch-built.

I'm not aware of anyone ever landing a BAe 146 on a carrier flight deck (and you'd probably need to beef up the undercarriage a lot before you tried), but there are reports of folks doing that with C-130s on US navy carriers, back in the day. A fully-laden BAe-146-300 takes 1300-1500 metres of runway to take off and around 2100 metres to land, but if you've got a carrier you've got at least 20 knots (and possibly 30-50 knots) of wind before you start, and stall speed is only 102 knots (low for an airliner). Hmm ...

304:

Er, the purpose of AWACS is to spot such things at a distance. From 10 km up, the horizon is about 350 km away. If the aircraft has failed to spot a frigate long before they have approached to 100 km, the shit has hit the fan, good and proper.

305:

If it helps any, BAe 146s have operated scheduled services (not fully fuelled) off a 6_000 feet runway (I just checked the runway length).

306:

but if you've got a carrier you've got at least 20 knots (and possibly 30-50 knots) of wind before you start, and stall speed is only 102 knots (low for an airliner). Hmm ...

A friend was discussion carrier take offs and said normally it's fairly intense. But there was one he said where they felt they needed to go to the back of the plane and pick up some of their internal organs. They radioed back and asked what was up. They were told "Sorry, we couldn't turn into the wind for .... and thus had to make up 40 knots or so to the catapult."

307:

I find it a bit depressing that a discussion of postcapitalism and what the coming years of ongoing automation and net-ification will bring has devolved into a major digression into airframes, fighter jets and the like.

I think Stanislaw Lem predicted the endgame of militarized computers decades ago. By far the weakest part of a fighter jet or most other military equipment is the human, especially when it comes to high-g maneuvers.

How much of a plane's design would be different if it wasn't built around the shape, size and frailties of a human inside it? How much cheaper would it be?

As a thought experiment, what would the required success rate have to be for an air defense system comprised entirely (or almost entirely) of small, cheap plastic drones flying a swarm formation over an airspace? Each of them could have a jumped up version of a rebar or the proverbial monkey wrench built into their structure - basically a chunk of hard material sufficient to break or damage a jet turbine. It could be a piece of wood. It could be small pieces of explosives.

Call them self propelled swarms of flak. Or a postmodern version of barrage ballons - except that they are invisible to radar and cover much greater areas.

They wouldn't even have to have targeting systems, they would just need to be arrayed in such a way that a big plane - like an F35 - could not fly through a particular airspace for more than a particular distance without standing a statistically very high chance of getting a few into their turbines.

Alternatively, the drones could be seeded with a variety of payloads - including EMP packages and explosives triggered by proximity to a jet (or even just a big object).

Given the $100Million price tag on one side, and the almost unlimited ability to produce cheap swarming drones, I doubt there will be much use for human sized aircraft in a combat role for much longer.

The keyword is cheap - one can buy a cheap drone for >$100. With economies of scale it is possible to imagine the purchase of a couple of million of the little things for the approximate price of one F35.

A similar economy of scale applies to navies vs. millions of cheap drones.

Control of a swarm could be distributed to many nodes with overlapping fallback system - like the internet - thereby eliminating the single point of failure problem.

The next logical step is to remove humans from combat in almost any role outside of policing/garrison and higher level strategic roles - since the life expectancy of a human body on a roboticized battlefield will be measured in seconds.

308:

A few observations. The first is that in the Boeing and Airbus civil aviation cases, the only planes that have 4 engines are the 747, A340, and A380. Outside of the A380, 4 engine planes are used on any routes connecting N America with Southern Africa, Europe with Southern South America, N. America with India, and both Europe and North America with Australia. Otherwise, they're out.

However, this brings up an interesting question (ignore if this is a derail): at what point will 2 engine planes be replaced by 1 engine planes in civil aviation? If 2 engine planes are so good, perhaps flights between 2 European or Middle Eastern cities don't need more than one engine? Perhaps flights within North America or between the East coast of North America and the UK can get by on one engine?

Growing up, there were one engine planes where the engine was embedded in the tail. Perhaps those will make a comeback?

309:

I find it a bit depressing that a discussion of postcapitalism and what the coming years of ongoing automation and net-ification will bring has devolved into a major digression into airframes, fighter jets and the like.

You posted comment #307.

After about 50-100 comments (depending on appetite) nobody who hasn't been participating in a thread since the beginning is still reading. So what you're left with is the hardcore of regular commenters, at which point the usual Strange Attractors begin to crop up. Nothing to see here, frankly: it's the usual pattern for any threaded comment discussion.

As a thought experiment, what would the required success rate have to be for an air defense system comprised entirely (or almost entirely) of small, cheap plastic drones flying a swarm formation over an airspace?

Birds.

A goshawk can pull 20-30 gees during a five, and flies at up to 200 knots -- and a bird strike can play merry hell with just about any airframe up to and including heavy airliners (even if it doesn't get to trash the engine compressors).

You can feed birds -- they're even self-replicating! -- so all it takes for C&C is something like a couple more generations of this and a decent robot neurosurgeon and, well, your warships are going to have an escort of big-ass seagulls with brain implants and maybe shaped charges strapped to their backs.

310:

... And the A340 is out of production and not going to be replaced by an equivalent four-jet derivative of the A350XWB: it's not needed.

But single-engined airliners simply ain't going to happen. While a modern wide-body twin can fly for 2-3 hours on ETOPS with one engine out -- meaning it can safely venture as much as 2000km from the nearest dry land with a runway -- a single-engined airliner that loses an engine is an immediate emergency with maybe 10-20 minutes to get safely on the ground, even if it craps out at cruising altitude. And as the commonest point for an engine to fail is on take-off and climb (when it's carrying a max weight plane at maximum power) that's just asking for trouble.

Single engines are okay for smaller military kit and general aviation (the equivalent of an automobile or minivan in terms of passengers/payload) but really not a good idea if you're trying not to smear 300 people all over the landscape.

311:

It gets worse; even with one sick but still running engine that went down after the go/no go point a twin can probably still lift at max weight; a single almost certainly can't!

312:

I too am drawn by the strange attractor in question, but I was enjoying the prior talk as well.

I like the idea of avian kamikazes, and have little doubt that we will see a lot of bird/animal based reconnaisance and espionage in the future. That likely does not bode well for 'bystander' fauna in disputed zones. I imagine more than a few 'civilian' pigeons were shot down back when it was a thing to send battlefield messages by pigeon.

That said, I submit that a swarm of near zero maintenance, near zero cost and highly reproducible drones would be cheaper, more effective and easier to control. I suspect that some or even all of the tech required exists today.

Certainly there have been a lot of efforts applied to programming the behaviour of a swarm. Controlling a fleet of 1 million little drones in formation is the kind of thing that is impossible for a human and probably fairly trivial for a well designed piece of software.

From an asymmetrical perspective, a motivated outlier group like [INSERT RESISTANCE/TERRORIST GROUP du jour] would not have to knock down many expensive airframes with their cheap drone swarms before the F35 became an absurdity - loosely analogous to spending vast resources building battleships in preparation for a war that is defined by U-boats (for awhile). Ditto a smallish country like that cannot hope to buy big fancy jets or engage in a toe-to-toe fight against any big powers.

The massive imbalance in cost & maintenance between a combat jet and a microdrone (which may be reusable if it doesn't actually kill a jet on a particular day) suggests that most jets will be obsolete the day after the first drone swarm takes one down.

Extending the same thought to navies, an evenly distributed swarm of radar invisible tiny drones would make a $100Billion missile submarine a very difficult secret to keep. Place some kind of charge on a percentage of that swarm that can disable or sink a sub (or carrier group, all at once) and navies as currently structured become obsolete.

There are significant costs to building an aircraft carrier which mean that only economies of a certain size can even consider the thought. Those barriers are not in the way of anyone who might want to build a cheap, decentralized drone swarm. If the software is created and disseminated on the web, anyone can do it for a few tens of millions. That thought likely keeps more forward thinking generals and admirals up at night.

313:

A big part of it is that several of us don't really believe that computers will play a major role in the future (past the next 20 years or so). The technology is just too fragile and the supply chains too complex to be sustainable.

At the current rate of global warming, it's looking very much like the "killer app" by 2040 or so will be food. Not fancy food, just the kind that keeps people from starving by the millions. Under those circumstances, a major war (possibly nuclear) is not unlikely.

314:

As a thought experiment, what would the required success rate have to be for an air defense system comprised entirely (or almost entirely) of small, cheap plastic drones flying a swarm formation over an airspace?

The devil is in the details.

Small cheap plastic drones mostly can't fly very fast. You can't depend on them staying radar-invisible either, probably a swarm would be detectable and a center for the swarm computed. So they become area denial. Things that can go much faster than they can, and that can detect them, know not to move among them.

You might manage sneaky tricks. Like, if you can predict a high wind, move them upwind of a carrier group and let them be blown over it.

How hard are they to shoot down? Can you get an area weapon to damage or destroy them? They're unarmored, send a missile to the center of the swarm and set off something that sends lots of little fragments in all directions, how many can you waste? But the smaller the fragments the shorter the range.... The devil is in the details. They can't maneuver fast to get into a warplane's nacelle, and the shockwave of its passing might destroy a bunch of them. How tight a swarm do they need to have a good chance to hit it? Well, but they could easily hit one on a carrier deck, if they can get that far.

Presumably carriers would quickly be hardened against them. Put some sort of netting around the flight elevator and the munitions elevators so they can't actually fly around belowdeck looking for a good target. Presumably Phalanx would be an early target, so add multiple dummy Phalanx sites for them to attack harmlessly. Similarly, have things that look like stacked munitions for them to harmlessly hit. Etc. If you start with a million of them and a hundred reach the carrier, they probably won't do all that much damage. You might have to replace a bunch of antennas. Or maybe it would be real bad, it depends on unknown details.

If they really are invisible and impossible to shoot down, then you might have a steady trickle of them approaching each carrier. The best time to hit a plane is ondeck, while its fuel tanks are full and it has all its ordnance. If you can arrange a problem with every tenth plane that will make a big difference. If the carrier has to stay a few hundred miles farther away that makes some difference too. What range can you achieve with cheap drones? If you have to load a ship full of them to get them close enough, the ship is likely to get sunk before they launch.

There's some sort of potential here, but I can't tell what. the devil is in the details and it's too soon to know the details. I see several potential gotchas that could make it fail, but I don't know enough to be sure about any of them.

315:

Single engines are okay for smaller military kit and general aviation (the equivalent of an automobile or minivan in terms of passengers/payload) but really not a good idea if you're trying not to smear 300 people all over the landscape.

Plus passenger airliners tend to use high bypass engines for more than 50 passenger designs. Those basically only fit under the wings.

The earlier comment about engines in the tail, I think those were a compromise where they needed more thrust than you could get from 2 engines at the time. But the designs tended to create other issues with airframe design.

316:

Extending the same thought to navies, an evenly distributed swarm of radar invisible tiny drones would make a $100Billion missile submarine a very difficult secret to keep. Place some kind of charge on a percentage of that swarm that can disable or sink a sub (or carrier group, all at once) and navies as currently structured become obsolete.

I mentioned in post 125 my wry smile when people say "it's simple" or "you 'just'"

Think about it. If it's tiny and radar invisible, how is it going to punch a hole through the steel used to build submarines, given they're designed to hold out multiple bar of pressure? How much explosive can it carry? How will it balance its limited payload between battery weight, sensors, control electronics, and warhead?

'Obviously' (another hint that handwavium is involved) your Navy 'just' builds counterdrones from unobtainium, unicorn tails, and the smiles of happy children - all the better to 'just' sweep the skies clear of these eeevil insurgent microdrones. It's 'simple'.

(quite apart from the fact that even a CVN built to a wildly inflated price is only coming at $14 billion, so a $100Billion submarine would be rather special).

317:

Done. The RAF bought two BAe 146 (link), gave them a nice grey paint job, and fitted them with DASS.

This was part of an Urgent Operational Requirement to support Operation HERRICK (i.e. Afghanistan)...

318:

“This sort of institutional preferred selection process is fascinating because of the blind spots it can lead to. Consider the current cabinet and its preferential selection of upper/upper-middle class males who went to Eton College then Oxford to study PPE and who were members of the Debating Society; it's a system that perpetuates itself because these guys know one another's characteristics and therefore are confident about promoting their own kind -- they know what they're getting. "

Not just the Upper Middles Classes though...which classes are shrinking by the day as the Clever Classes endeavour to lever their not very bright sprigs ever upwards on the social ladder.

For...OF Course OUR CHILDREN get their social status through Merit!! And the right kind of school, and paid for personal tutoring - a sign of Real Appreciation of Your personal Friendship, Family to Family, in the British middle classes is a reference for your Friend to Your own Children’s Tutor for tuition to get into that highly desirable school and thus onwards to the Right kind of Socially Desirable University no matter how intellectually challenged your friends sprogs might be.

It’s not always precisely the Upper Class Twits or the... Harry Enfield version of social analysis...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC0IJQ_s7No

But rather it is the strong tendency for 'People like Us ' at whatever social level above the basic of Working Class to favour People like US.

I am interested in the way that our society will be affected by the disappearance of Middle Class Jobs for the Lower Levels of the Middle Classes intellectual capability... not just, say, Doctors or Upper Level Ability Medical People but rather, say, local government officer/civil servant, Branch Librarian of local public libraries type bank Clark ish jobs that did permit their holder to own his own - usually HIS plus Wife and family with Wife doing a Little Job - House and run a modest motorcar plus at least one foreign holiday per year.

Just lately the press and media is being hosed down with news reports on the South of England’s middle classes being unable to afford to buy a HOUSE...they aint seen nothing yet.

Just wait until they realise that, as far as the Ruling Classes are concerned, they are now being downsized into the Working Classes...Oh the Horror! The British Middle Class, as we have come to understand it, might just turn out to be a brief pause during the Age of Revolutions before the return to the Feudalism that preceded its formation during the Industrial Revolution.

This following linked ... Telepathically? .. of today’s BBC site is interesting in so far as even the BBCs journalists evidently haven’t realised how the standard operational procedure for social balance, as they understand it as ubber Middle Class People and Pundits, is vanishing as rapidly as the working classes social structure did as the Heavy Industry that supported the ' Dignity of Labour 'in the U.K. vanished within two decades back in the 1970s onward from the time of just before "The Winter of Discontent"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-33655791

319:

Ten failures of prediction; or, what the SF writers didn't foresee about telepathy

  • Ninety percent of the telepathic spectrum will be
    taken up with fluffy cat pictures ...
  • ... and naked office party images.
  • There's always a telepath yakking away in the
    seat behind you on the bus ...
  • ... or on the pavement, oblivious so
    they walk straight into you.
  • That's if they're not staring into a little mirror on a stick
    and telepathing the image in it to a million
    "friends" whom they will never meet in the flesh.
  • It's perfectly possible to telepath at home,
    but everybody does so in a café. You
    could replace the entire rest of the universe by a
    plaster of Paris replica and they wouldn't
    notice. As for engaging in conversation with the
    person at the next table, forget it.
  • "I know I'm sitting with you, but I'm not
    actually interested in what you're saying.
    I'm distracted waiting for the next telepathic tweet."
  • Telepathic spam. No, not hunks
    of spiced ham that can read each other's minds.
  • People will die because of
    telepathing while driving.
  • No-one will discuss serious things like
    capitalism and markets. They'll all be telepathing
    about airframes, fighter jets and the like.

320:

If you think about its, it's not that surprising, since organisms are quite apt at breaking down organic molecules they never encountered. Hell, even the human body is able to, as many a pharmacological research team found out...

Problem is:

a) it might take some time, with "thousands of years" values of time.
b) the resulting substances might be more toxic than the original stuff. Guess why many toxins target the liver and not kidney and like...

As for PE and PP, well, in general munching at hydrocarbons (of which PP and PE are members) is not that much of a trick, even we humans can do it. Though as mentioned, the resulting substances might not be that healthy. After that, you can feed them into lipid metabolism. Problem is, usually the chains are somewhat shorter than PE or PP, and the enzymes involved work at the ends of the carbon chain, though I'd have to look up if there are any "chain breakers" around.

And for nylon, well, that on is a polyamide, and our biochemistry is quite used to breaking down polyamides. Though we usally call the polyamides peptides. Which might mean it's quite ease. Thing is, I'm not that sure how much tweaking a peptidase needs to go after things aside from plain vanilla L-form alpha-amino acids amides.

Given time, I think there will be microbes digesting plastics, maybe even some symbiosis where some animal collects the plastic and has some microbes doing the dirty work on the filtered or emulgated plastics. Though I guess it would take some time for saiud "termites of the sea" to develop. But then, who's to say which critters eke out a miserable existence in pitch lakes and like.

321:

Meh, chauvenism of the vertebrate...

As you know, Bob, poikilotherms like insects giv you much more biomass for the buck. And using one of God's own plagues is just what appeals to the religious fundamentalist market segment.

And they can just hide behind DARPA's LOCUST program.

322:

I think we should be considering military values of "cheap". Reaper drones with smart cluster bombs, not plastic hobbyist quadcopters.

323:

No-one will discuss serious things like capitalism and markets. They'll all be telepathing about airframes, fighter jets and the like.

We tried discussing capitalism and markets. The problem with discussing it starting from the economic theories of capitalism is that the world does not actually fit those theories.

The problem with discussing it starting from the economic theories of Marxism is that the world does not actually fit those theories.

The problem with discussing it starting from the economic theories of Keynesianism is that the world no longer fits those theories, though it appears it did somewhat in the past.

Suppose we tried discussing it according to some new theory, like one I made up. Why would anybody pay attention to a crackpot theory designed by an amateur when there's no proof that the real world works like that?

So here's my plan. In the USA currently the laws say that corporations count as people and have most of the rights that individual human citizens do. But I say that corporations do not have any right to privacy. If we can make it cheap enough that it isn't an imposition, require that all corporations put all their paper or electronic data online where anybody who wants to can look at it.

Probably we should do that for partnerships and proprietorships too.

Yeah, that's the ticket. If you're running a business that's part of the economy, your business activities have no right to privacy.

One result is that economists can actually study real businesses and try to figure out what's going on. That's got to be better than making up rules for how rational people ought to do things.

Another is that stockholders can study what their businesses are actually doing.

A third is that employees can see exactly what each other employee's paycheck looks like.

Telepathy! The more we know what's going on, the better chance we have to fix the things we'd be upset about if we knew. It can't help but increase efficiency a whole lot, once we get past the anger and get to the re-arranging.

324:

I'll ditch the strange attractor tonight, and play Male Military Mind.

Think about it. If it's tiny and radar invisible, how is it going to punch a hole through the steel used to build submarines, given they're designed to hold out multiple bar of pressure? How much explosive can it carry? How will it balance its limited payload between battery weight, sensors, control electronics, and warhead?

This displays the wrong kind of thinking. Subs are long term platforms, designed since the Cold War to exist outside of the command network for 5+ years.

So, your most effective sub-killer should work on the principle that anything =

Time, you're not good at it.

If I were doing it, I'd fab up a stealth mine that used something like a small ecology that gently ate through the hull ( Microbial-Influenced Corrosion of Corten Steel Compared with Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel in Oily Waste water by Pseudomonas aeruginosa ).

Plus points if you actually make it a biological organism, you can probably cripple oil production at the same time. (Gene hack cleaner fish or the like)

Added to this, this is all old thinking on subs.

America’s superiority in undersea warfare is the product of decades of research and development (R&D), a sophisticated defense industrial base, operational experience, and high-fidelity training. This superiority, however, is far from assured. U.S. submarines are the world’s quietest, but new detection techniques are emerging that do not rely on the noise a submarine makes, and that may render traditional manned submarine operations far riskier in the future.

http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/


Jan 2015 - essentially the old days of Das Boot are over; USA is looking at network / shoaling type deployments.

Esp. since cheap missile tech (Russia - subsonic torpedoes looking to use planar effects probably caused the Kursk disaster, China is big on their missiles) or railguns are taking over. (And, hush, I didn't say this, but rods-from-God are making a sly comeback via EM beamed solar energy)).


If you don't want to move into gene teching, you make your limpet mine a passive weapon that only transmits its GPS / GLONASS location when required - fix it with a timer / self-destruct so that it drops off before port is reached, and bingo. I believe the same system is used by the US army rangers using laser targeting by SpecOp forces deep in country for larger systems to use.

So, not exactly rocket science. OH, and part of what you just read might be classified. Meatfucker.


I wouldn't mind all the tech gabble, but at least take the 10 minutes I just did to upgrade the old wetware.


~

No-one will discuss serious things like capitalism and markets. They'll all be telepathing about airframes, fighter jets and the like.

Well, there's an argument that the M of the M.I.C.(E)*. system is the only semi-functional bit at the moment, but there we go.


*Military, Industrial, Congressional, Entertainment.


The most interesting things about this so called Telepathy are this:

1) Smart lions, tigers and bears never opted into the system.

2) It takes 10% to change a system (not linking that here - find it yourself, it's about belief systems and nodes and how mimetic structures change), and yet Twitter / FB etc haven't produced any such change. (Kony2012 not withstanding - nice willy though, mr naked masturbation man). Ask yourself why

3) There's been some serious nasty behind-the-scenes eradication of certain things in the last 30 years. And yet the old goodies such as Racism / Fascism etc are still going strong. Not cool boys, not cool at all.


Mr J Thomas neglected to notice the meta-game, oh well.


Owls [YouTube: music: 5:58]

325:

I think a crucial thing about our tech-telepathy is that not everybody's broadcasts are equal. It's less Great Vehicle Buddhism and more the Mule's empire from Asimov.

No-one will discuss serious things like capitalism and markets. They'll all be telepathing about airframes, fighter jets and the like.

We honestly can't do much of anything about markets or military procurement. But most of us are male, so we enjoy things that blow stuff up.

326:

We honestly can't do much of anything about markets or military procurement. But most of us are male, so we enjoy things that blow stuff up.


Hmm. Resonance. A comment I read recently (amid the gigabytes of trash) stated that:

*Within Commercial media*

Male fantasies are transformative while female fantasies are revelatory. i.e. Male Capitalist fantasy is based on leading to , while the female version is cannot show the underlying abilities while does.

It's an interesting (if simplistic - but, hey, this is all the E in MICE) take on the world.

Males become through change. Females exist and situation unveils.


It's neat.


Oh, and honey-bun: you've no idea how easy it is to crash systems. You just need the nose for the right nexus points.

327:

Grr.

Serious hate for the way this software drops / deletes things if you use the wrong symbols. (irony! ho!). Especially since all the good stuff is hidden in them.

Male fantasies are transformative while female fantasies are revelatory. i.e. Male Capitalist fantasy is based on leading to , while the female version is cannot show the underlying abilities while does.

Male Capitalist fantasy is based on *training / knowledge / mentorship* leading to a *new persona / body / abilities* etc.

While the Female version is *all about a situation X being the cause of their abilities being hidden, when situation Y allows them to flourish* cannot show the underlying abilities while does.

Rough, but I'm not about to retype it all. Oh, and same goes for Subs. The drop table effect took out some really kinky stuff.

328:

It's probably true that 10% of us acting in concert could change things. It's definitely true that Westerners are terrible at acting in concert. Too many special visionary snowflakes, too few worker bees.

You'll have noticed that the loudest message our media proclaim is "Be yourself. Follow your own vision and never compromise it. Whatever you do, don't organize with a group of other people, since that would make you terribly uncool (and very dangerous)".

329:

It's probably true that 10% of us acting in concert could change things. It's definitely true that Westerners are terrible at acting in concert. Too many special visionary snowflakes, too few worker bees.


Hmm, no. Not what I was working towards.


Find the paper, do some thinking, stop acting like an animal.

Impact of the Topology of Global Macroeconomic Network on the Spreading of Economic Crises


That's not the paper you're looking for. What you're looking for is far more dangerous. :D

330:

I think we should be considering military values of "cheap". Reaper drones with smart cluster bombs, not plastic hobbyist quadcopters.

Cheaper options might be worth considering, although typically you don't get what you don't pay for.

http://www.barnardmicrosystems.com/UAV/milestones/atlantic_crossing_2.html

I read that this cost $1000, but I haven't seen that number this time around when I searched. It might have been $1000 in components. 2003, so the technology is better now but we've had 12 more years of inflation.

Super-light UAVs might tend show up less on radar, but they can't carry as much weight either. This one would have about a kilo of fuel after 1500 km, it could be a little tiny firebomb.

They would be more effective in good weather. They could get blown "away" in high winds, though a favorable high wind might blow them to the target. Slow, they'd need to fly to where the target will come and then they get one chance at it. But if they can make it home they can refuel and try again.

I don't know how much damage a tiny UAV could do, even assuming it could aim precisely. With one small bullet or one small firebomb it could injure a sailor on deck. I have the impression a lot of carrier work requires sailors on deck because the assumption is that they won't come under small arms fire. What would it take to give a warplane a flat tire just before or during launch? I assume the tires have a layer of kevlar. Would a flat tire during launch cause any problems? Of course the plane could land without one tire. With exquisite timing could a very small UAV fly into a warplane nacelle just before launch? Could it accomplish anything if the canopy hit it at high speed? Obviously the best time to destroy a warplane is when it is about to be launched, full of fuel and loaded with explosives.

They could put up some sort of nets over the flight elevator and the munitions elevators to keep small UAVs from flying in and looking for plausible targets on lower decks.

Phalanx weapons are obvious targets if the UAVs can actually attack them. So it would make sense to put up extra dummy Phalanxes for them to attack harmlessly.

I don't know whether small cheap UAVs could do enough damage to justify their cost. The devil is in the details, and I'll never know those details. If you can reprogram them cheaply then to some extent they can all get more effective as you find better tactics for them.

You might want an expensive version that can attack in bad weather, and a cheap version that can make mass attacks in good weather. When the air is still they might provide a cheap way to do area denial. If they're too slow to catch an aircraft carrier, but the carrier admiral chooses not to move to where they are, that could make a significant difference. A carrier that stays a few hundred miles farther away from shore is that much less effective against land targets.

I don't know what's possible but it's probably worth some exploration.


331:

Since there's a lot of old scientists here, a primer (fire starter):

http://www.analytictech.com/borgatti/group_centrality.htm

http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.5728

From Episodic To Virtual Culture [Warning: Word / PDF]


Note, as a tribute to J Thomas, the last one is useful for the citations list. And, if you need a little bit more of a teaser: disease vector transmissions in populations.

Hint: it's all like the "Golden Ratio" (that might not exist). In this case, however, it does. You just don't know it yet.


As stated: I don't give a fuck about Combat 18.

332:

I don't know how much damage a tiny UAV could do, even assuming it could aim precisely. With one small bullet or one small firebomb it could injure a sailor on deck.


Aww, you're cute. Scared, but cute.


Railguns and cheap missiles means this scenario is not being taken seriously by anyone.


Want links? ;)

333:

So here's my plan. In the USA currently the laws say that corporations count as people and have most of the rights that individual human citizens do. But I say that corporations do not have any right to privacy. If we can make it cheap enough that it isn't an imposition, require that all corporations put all their paper or electronic data online where anybody who wants to can look at it.

Here in Canada, our neocon government has passed a law that forces something almost like this transparency on unions, ostensibly so that the members know what's happening with their money*. Odd how the same transparency for corporations (on behalf of, say, shareholders or employees) is considered a bad thing…

Of course, this is the same government that passes laws to ban specific strikes before the strike vote is even held, that allows businesses to bring in cheaper foreign workers for jobs like pouring coffee, etc. (Interesting how folks who are adamantly in favour of "the market" suddenly demand government intervention when faced with having to raise wages to make jobs attractive — apparently "supply and demand" only applies when lowering wages or raising CEO renumeration.) CPC economic policies have little to do with the actual economy, and a lot to do with maintaining particular groups in control and shoving others firmly down where they belong.


*This isn't a simple thing to do — it is very onerous, and deliberately so. As with selective CRA audits (environmental organizations and left-leaning charities**, this is a political move to squelch opposition. Or rather, for bully opposition into self-censoring — already people are making jokes about "getting ready for a tax audit" when they criticize neocon policies or the PM.

**This including any health-related charities that advocate anything except abstinence for dealing with sexual health issues, groups suggesting that maybe poor people deserve to eat, etc…

334:
"Be yourself. Follow your own vision and never compromise it.

You forget the caveat: "Of course you know what your own vision is, we told." I guess it's quite illuminating that an eerily similar play is used in quite a few religion. Just look up "natural law" in Roman Catholicism...

And in general, I guess 2000 years from now "freedom", "Freiheit" or "liberte" are going to be some of these funny words future anthropologists will have a headache with and thus leave mostly untranslated, like some obscure esoteric Ancient Greek or Sanskrit concept. Whatever language they use, I seriously doubt they'll use the same word for the things that e.g. civil rights and privacy activists, Hayekian neoliberals and nationalist conservatives mean when they speak about "freedom".

Actually, semantics might also play into OGH's post; for some of us, "telepathy" also means circumventing some of the problems of different languages, where I see no indication, even given "Google Translate".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_thought_hypothesis

335:

Holy Shit, now there's an ancient unicorn.

Fodor (not HODOR).


He's right, but his entire work is wrong.

336:

Oh, boy. This thread could be gold.

Roll up, roll up for the magical mystery tour [YouTube: Music: 2:52]

Bring your 20th Century cows to the slaughter altar, we'll take them all.


;.;

337:

When they actually need to organize us, they offer money. The system has made sure that we need money.

338:

When they actually need to organize us, they offer money. The system has made sure that we need money.


You don't even see reality.

In a Capitalist system, since 2008, 0% interest has been the normative base line with additional QE.

It's lead to a 50-185% rise in those who hold virtual assets and allegedly no such thing as inflation (*cough* austerity *cough*).

Little secret: Apple holding ~$185 billion in cash (no, that's correct: cash) and having to run their own Hedge Fund as well as all serious old money in the USA / UK moving from HFs / public funds etc to "Family" type arrangements.


Here's a little Marx: it only matters if you all buy into the theory.


In 1970's UK had to have a IMF bailout (almost) due to a debt of roughly ~$5-7 billion. These days that's a mook level number (barely touching mid level 0.1% assets). Derivatives alone are roughly ~$70 trillion.

Now you tell me. What runs Barter Town? It's called Faith - and nobody is playing by the old rules anymore.


;.;

339:
If it's tiny and radar invisible, how is it going to punch a hole through the steel used to build submarines, given they're designed to hold out multiple bar of pressure?

Err, of course you're the guy with the explosives experience here, but what about "explode when under the keel" when the sub is not submerged?

http://fas.org/man/dod-101/navy/docs/es310/uw_wpns/uw_wpns.htm

340:

Railguns and cheap missiles means this scenario is not being taken seriously by anyone.

A link? Not to prove your point, just to get background to understand your point.

Is it that railguns can shoot down thousands of tiny targets quickly and cheaply? Or that cheap missiles can do that?

Or is it that railguns and cheap missiles can do the attacks better that I was thinking of doing with cheap UAVs?

341:

BTW, for the results:

http://forden.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/2709/rok-ship-typical-torpedo-damage

Going back to our scenario, the "warhead" might be split between different drones, so we might not need 200 kg in one drone. Also note that creating 4 bubbles one meter in radius might need less explosive than creating a bubble 2 meters in radius, so if we just need a certain area of steam void, drones might be quite effective. Anybody thought about submunition torpedoes?

As for the drones, tiny? Most likely not, I think you'd need some tens of kg in explosive. Cheaper than an aircraft carrier? most likely. You could even sink them to the ocean buttom and let bouyancy do the job when a ship comes above...

342:

Is it that railguns can shoot down thousands of tiny targets quickly and cheaply? Or that cheap missiles can do that?

Or is it that railguns and cheap missiles can do the attacks better that I was thinking of doing with cheap UAVs?


Yes.

Drone Swarms are only efficient in boundary type arrangements where their backups / support can be built. i.e. power arrangements, centralized repair facility, material / parts processing etc.

This is all old think tank stuff (although hats off to The Diamond Age).

Railguns essentially do three things:

Range - more than missiles
Accuracy - speed cuts down on requirements for flight adjustment, which is #1 missile weight cost / tech requirements
Cost - it's a slug of pure metal
[no real material limitations - ok, sure - you will run out of slugs at point X, but not unless you're fighting a WWII level engagement]

The missiles we're talking about (or not, no idea since everyone is still referencing pre-2015 tech levels here) do:

Range - if we're looking at the cutting edge, it's the same as railguns
Accuracy - if we're looking at the cutting edge, it's not Tomahawks, it's making a missile into a rail gun
Cost - a bit more, but GPS etc makes it cheap (the old model of essentially self-contained missiles a la MIRVs etc is fundamentally out of date - why do you think the US mil is happy to pawn them off to client states now for use against third world places such as Libya?
[storage - limited by conventional limitations]


Look:

No-one in this thread is addressing some real-world military stuff such as "Russian ships are weighted 80%+ towards missiles" or "Chinese tech is being used on cheap platforms" which all go against the prevailing USA doctrine of "BIG EXPENSIVE WARPLATFORM".

*shrug*


If you're all going to have a wank over mil spec stuff, at least do the research.

I come from a land where all of this is quaint. I've even given you the basic tools for advanced weapon construction. (Not to mention some other stuff, but that's kinda hidden).


Oh well. Enjoy the planes, boys.

343:

As for the drones, tiny? Most likely not, I think you'd need some tens of kg in explosive. Cheaper than an aircraft carrier? most likely. You could even sink them to the ocean buttom and let bouyancy do the job when a ship comes above...


Did you even read the comment section?

Hint:

Hi…at least according to Wikipedia, that series of pictures is of the HMAS Torrens being sunk by an MK48, which I believe has a much larger than 46kg warhead.

You are correct that Wikipedia says it was a MK 48, which—again according to Wikipedia—has a warhead of 295 kg. However, according to the Master’s thesis “Investigation of Close Proximity Underwater Explosion Effects on a Ship-Like Structure Using the Multi-Material Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian Finite Element Method”, which is an excellent resource for exactly this phenomena (available at http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-01302007-141530 ) it was a MK-46, which has the 44 kg warhead I mention. I have no personal knowledge of which was actually used. If any wonk-reader can give an authoritative answer, I would be very grateful. (Unfortunately, both Wikipedia and Masters students have been known to make mistakes!)

You're literally copy/pasting bad propaganda.


Hilarious.

344:

Err, of course you're the guy with the explosives experience here, but what about "explode when under the keel" when the sub is not submerged?

IANAE, but if you want to disable a submarine when it isn't submerged, how about thermite or a shaped charge?

You don't have to weaken the hull at one little spot very much before its maximum depth is badly impaired. A submarine is like a balloon, only opposite. One little pinprick will pop it.

I'm not sure it's useful to have a weapon that attacks submarines only when they aren't submerged, though. Why would they come to the surface if you do that?

345:

I'm not sure it's useful to have a weapon that attacks submarines only when they aren't submerged, though. Why would they come to the surface if you do that?


As stated:


Men talking bollocks.

The passive limpet mine that only activates to give missile guidance?


That, on the other hand, exists, and is very naughty naughty top secret.

Bite me.

346:

I was describing the workings of the system. It's certainly under stress, and breaking down in places. On the other hand, in many places (including where I live) it's still very much functional.

347:

So far the main limit to railguns is the force and heat on the rails. They bend after a shot or three when used to exceed the capabilities of chemically-propelled ordinance.

348:

So far the main limit to railguns is the force and heat on the rails. They bend after a shot or three when used to exceed the capabilities of chemically-propelled ordinance.

349:

Err, your point being?

Every source is subject to some bias, doubly so with military issues, but you have to use what's at hand.

http://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/weaps/mk-48.htm

As for the difference between "295" and "tens of" kg, you noticed I wanted to split the explosives between multiple drones to get an area effect? Add some kind of hydrodynamic fin version of JDAM, put them on the ocean floor in front of a fleet group, and have some fun.

350:

So far the main limit to railguns is the force and heat on the rails. They bend after a shot or three when used to exceed the capabilities of chemically-propelled ordinance.

That's what we call a "solved problem".

I suggest you look into the now public testing videos provided by the US Navy. They don't do that stuff until they're 100% certain of a solution. (TROLOLOLOL The 1980's Laser Space Program is listening in!)

As for the difference between "295" and "tens of" kg, you noticed I wanted to split the explosives between multiple drones to get an area effect? Add some kind of hydrodynamic fin version of JDAM, put them on the ocean floor in front of a fleet group, and have some fun.

No, penetration of armor doesn't work like that. (If you need the physics, I can provide links). It's why copper head projectiles / shaped charges are 100% the weapon of choice for anti-armor weaponry.

It's also why a long term (3+ years) limpet mine using biological agents to dissolve steel is better than anything you've suggested.

Rule #1 of armor penetration - focus energy on a limited area.


Ocean floor doesn't work either - not only due to range limitations, but also due to false positives. These are one shot weapons, and the profile etc..


Oh, please.

Men talking weapons. If you want a wank, I'll flash you my naughty bits (they're aesthetically pleasing, and trim and I like them so you probably will). But, reality?


You goons can't even do the basics.


;.;

351:
I'm not sure it's useful to have a weapon that attacks submarines only when they aren't submerged, though.

It might be somewhat useful if you need less explosives that way. For submerged submarines, you would need a different weapon, but then, the drones are also an anti-ship weapon.

As for submerged submarines, finding those is an issue in itself.

Why would they come to the surface if you do that?

Hm, supplies? Even nuclear powered ones need food, spare parts etc.

352:

I suggest you look into the now public testing videos provided by the US Navy. They don't do that stuff until they're 100% certain of a solution.

He.

Ha.

Haaahaahaahaahaa.

And you think we're naive?

353:

And you think we're naive?


(TROLOLOLOL The 1980's Laser Space Program is listening in!)


I'd upgrade your sensors real fucking fast boy. You're being played and it's not a couple of steps ahead.

Hm, supplies? Even nuclear powered ones need food, spare parts etc.


Oh, look.


Someone doesn't understand Cold War doctrine about submarines and hasn't read the 2015 US Navy think tank link I happily provided on the matter.

Seriously.


Male Military Mind.

Wasn't that fun? And I didn't even use naughty naughty links. (Hint: response is graded to content).

Have a wank: you're not even bothering to learn anything, which says it all.

354:
No, penetration of armor doesn't work like that.

Mind you, so why are magnetic pistols more effective than contact ones? Hint: we are not talking kinetic impactors here.

Men talking weapons. If you want a wank, I'll flash you my naughty bits (they're aesthetically pleasing, and trim and I like them so you probably will).

You know, leaving aside I guess Konrad Lorenz is lucky for never having learned about the Internet, repeated exposure to innate triggers also desensitizes, you know, err, where to start, why do you assume I'm male, why do you assume I'm heterosexual, how do you know which aesthetics I prefer etc. ad nauseam.

As for your corrosive microorganisms, nice idea, but how to tell them to behave and not eat your own ships?

355:
Someone doesn't understand Cold War doctrine about submarines and hasn't read the 2015 US Navy think tank link I happily provided on the matter.

Leaving my understanding of Cold War doctrine aside, given a certain lack of spherical frictionless submarine(r)s needing no food and no spare parts...

356:

Hint: we are not talking kinetic impactors here

It's the Ocean, so, yes, you are.

Challenge:


Name me an effective weapon in your time frame that doesn't work on kinetic energy in (subsurface) combat engagement.


Hint: Even nukes don't work.

The sad thing is: I can name about seven (7) effective weapons in this zone that you can't, but I'm not allowed to.

Naughty naughty: Powering a submarine is diesel or nukes. What weapon do you know that can tinker tinker with field effects to make that little Sun go all critical like?


Hint: you don't. But it exists (not necessarily in your time frame).

357:

If you fire a railgun at low power, the rails can last a while. On the other hand, the railgun won't do anything that a normal gun wouldn't do.

If you want a wank, I'll flash you my naughty bits

If this were meatspace, the vague promise of naughty bit access would probably inspire us to pay attention to drunken word salad. Online, not so much.

358:

Telepathy! The more we know what's going on, the better chance we have to fix the things we'd be upset about if we knew. It can't help but increase efficiency a whole lot, once we get past the anger and get to the re-arranging.

Some SF said this would happen, e.g. Theodore Sturgeon's story "The Skills of Xanadu". But some said that we'd never get past the anger, or at least the disgust. In John Christopher's "The New Wine", the entire population has been rendered telepathic. Two starfarers return to Earth after a century or so and discover that the human race is about to die out, because none of the telepaths had children. They meet the last man on Earth, who explains:

"The telepathy killed them. [...] Because people have got bad minds. Why else? I guess you all know what you are like if you look at yourself deep down and honest. Liars, cheats, murderers. I guess we're all like that — always have been. What comes out of our mouths has been ... through a filter, I guess you might say. But there were no filters for the telepaths. It hit them and kept on hitting them all the time. The better any of them was, the quicker it killed him — or her, but the girls lived longer, as a rule."

359:

But then, we could argue that if humans were as mean as John Christopher argues, we just wouldn't care and keep on fucking. Or put it under "heavy dirty talk"...

360:

A big part of it is that several of us don't really believe that computers will play a major role in the future (past the next 20 years or so). The technology is just too fragile and the supply chains too complex to be sustainable.

I agree. I've been finding writing these comments quite tricky, because my copy of Firefox has started displaying little rotating circles and keeps saying "Not Responding" when I click on it. If its authors can't get a (comparatively) simple thing like a Web browser right, what hope have we for any more complicated piece of software? If "natural" telepathy worked as unreliably as tech-telepathy, the only writers who should have been allowed to write about it are Douglas Adams, Alan Coren (*), David Langford, and Terry Pratchett.

(*) Try to find a copy of "Due To Circumstances Beyond Our Control, 1984 Has Been Unavoidably Cancelled...". The telescreens are broken, everyone misses the two-minute hate because they're rushing to the bookies or the pub, the printers don't have enough type to typeset the government's propaganda in the daily paper, the thought police use notebooks and worn-down pencils (but no rubbers because the shipment has been delayed), and Room 101 contains a single wheezing stoat because they can't get rats at this time of year.

361:

But then, we could argue that if humans were as mean as John Christopher argues, we just wouldn't care and keep on fucking.

Thing is, you have to stay together for long enough to bring up the children.

362:

It's also why a long term (3+ years) limpet mine using biological agents to dissolve steel is better than anything you've suggested.

I'm not sure I get this. Say they come to port every 6 months. The limpets all fall off then, so they won't be discovered. Later new limpet mines attach, and last for 6 months but not at the same spots as before. After 3 years you don't have 3 years of corrosion, you have 6 months of corrosion 6 times.

If it works, and you aren't at war within 3 years, what then? They notice the problem and do something about it.

This weapon is most useful when you can predict 3 years ahead when the war will start.

If you're going to use a limpet mine in wartime, maybe it could start cutting the rubber layer, which will both make the sub easier to detect and expose the steel underneath to seawater. Maybe connect the iron with a copper cable to something more anodic. Then maybe you can corrode the iron while providing an electric current to help power the mine. Stay at one location, corrode a collection of points in a circle, brush away the corrosion and circulate fresh seawater, you might eventually get something that will fail at depth.

Of course, a limpet mine might also be ready for a signal to tell it when to announce "Here I am! My submarine is right here!". If it's too small to destroy a sub it might still keep it from hiding. But then, putting a limpet mine on a submarine that's trying to hide may be like putting salt on a bird's tail. And yet, the USA officially has only two bases for boomers, one on each coast, and the subs must go through shallow water to reach them. There might be a good place to tag them with limpet mines.

363:
Railguns essentially do three things:

Range - more than missiles
Accuracy - speed cuts down on requirements for flight adjustment, which is #1 missile weight cost / tech requirements
Cost - it's a slug of pure metal

I may be behind the times here. It looks to me like this gives you basicly a line-of-sight weapon where the munitions are cheap and the launcher is expensive.

If your expensive launcher is destroyed then your slugs of pure metal are as useful as so many rocks.

Have we gotten past the expectation that things which shoot have a short half-life? One of the virtues of small missiles is that the launchers are cheap and useless once the missiles are fired. So it almost isn't worth shooting at the place a missile came from. There's nothing valuable there any more.

No-one in this thread is addressing some real-world military stuff such as "Russian ships are weighted 80%+ towards missiles" or "Chinese tech is being used on cheap platforms" which all go against the prevailing USA doctrine of "BIG EXPENSIVE WARPLATFORM".

The USA projects power using big expensive platforms. Nobody else can compete with the USA at what the USA does best. So for everybody except US allies (and also some of them), the first or second priority is effective attacks on US aircraft carriers. If the rules of the game change so nobody can project power much, that's a win for everybody except the USA.

So if there's a war and a russian missile frigate is in range of a US carrier group, they should probably fire all their missiles as quick as they can and then run away. If they aren't quick enough they may get sunk with some missiles still waiting to be delivered. But when all their missiles are gone, they become a low-value target, not worth a big effort.

Chinese put stuff on cheap platforms because they can expect to lose it. Why use expensive platforms that probably won't last through their first battle? But if the US expensive stuff gets sunk too, then that's OK.

The USA can't give up their expensive warships while those are a major way to successfully project power. I want to think somebody in the military is making serious plans for what to do when that stops working. I don't really believe anybody with any authority is doing that. I'd be happy to be wrong.

364:

Seconded. Generally it's very important to minimize the time between when an enemy realizes they are under attack and the time when the enemy is rendered harmless. If the enemy is destroyed long after it destroys you, you didn't win the fight.

365:

A big part of it is that several of us don't really believe that computers will play a major role in the future (past the next 20 years or so). The technology is just too fragile and the supply chains too complex to be sustainable.

It looks to me like if we can't keep computers then that's part of civilization collapsing.

I don't see how to prepare for that. A whole lot of people would die pretty quick. Ideally you would integrate yourself into a subsistence economy now, so when the time comes you won't be some stranger nobody cares about. But what if you do that and then civilization doesn't collapse during your lifetime after all. Will you feel stupid or cheated?

But if you wait until the signs are certain, then it's too late.

And it's hard to be sure where to go. I read about a group of people who saw that WWII was coming, and that it would be horrible, and they wanted out. So they all had their appendices removed so they wouldn't get appendicitis with no doctor, and they all had their teeth extracted and replaced by dentures so they wouldn't get toothaches with no dentist, and together they went to wait out the war on a tropical island paradise named Guadalcanal.

I don't know what to do so I hope that I'll be OK. I keep a couple months of rice and beans stored, both because they're cheap and because I hope if some armed group comes to take my food they won't bother with that, when they'd surely take all the expensive MREs if I had MREs.

It's a hard problem and I don't have a solution.

366:

I had thought the first rule of missile sub club was not to be seen or heard. Once a missile sub's location is known, it is basically doomed.

So a hostile power could possibly seed an area with a large number of relatively cheap drones to watch for and target such expensive bits of hardware, and a smaller number of autonomous torpedoes that are able to zero in on the target once identified. I suppose there would be lots of spoofing and counterspoofing going on, but I don't think I'd want to join a navy 20 years from now.

Airborne swarms might be less complex and harder to avoid than some posters suppose.

If a jet is flying through a given airspace it must go in a fairly straight line, at least from the perspective of a fixed point. Yes, they turn, but not as fast or as tight as a bicycle.

So from a statistical point of view, how widely dispersed could a swarm of small drones be and still be dense enough to stand a 20% chance of fouling a jet as it passes through a space? How about a 10% chance?

Put another way, if you are travelling at >Mach 3, how deep would a field of randomly placed objects have to be to have the same effect as that of a solid wall? If there was a .1m3 drone at a random position within every 100m3 volume, how many such volumes would you pass through before the likelihood of an impact gets over 10%?

I am mostly thinking of area denial. One of the defining factors of current conflicts has been the 'blow things up from afar' model of dominance. It's almsot like it isn't real war - at least for those in the air (and those who send them).

So the rest of the world, those who lack the economies to build and sustain enormous military infrastructures, are likely to seek ways to neutralize that advantage. A >10% casualty rate on sorties would rapidly diminish the appeal.

So yes, maintenance and building them would be a cost - but maybe not on the same scale as the maintenance and support of a bunch of F35s or current generation jets.

367:

Err, not necessarily. Let's just say paternal investment into offspring in HSS is far from a cross-cultural constant. Not that said fathers are necessarily off the hook, especially if they have sisters whose children they have to care for...

368:

It looks to me like this gives you basicly a line-of-sight weapon where the munitions are cheap and the launcher is expensive.


Remind me what "line of sight" means in a world with 100% GPS/GLONASS coverage again? The goal is being able to fire beyond the curvature of the horizon young boy.

Talk about not being able to parse new data.

Old minds, old thinking.


If this were meatspace, the vague promise of naughty bit access would probably inspire us to pay attention to drunken word salad. Online, not so much.

If you'd actually done the work, and read all the links, you'd realize two things:

1) It's not word salad

2) My arguments about submarines are basically the ones being used in the US Navy at the moment to 'revolutionize' the field.

3) I've given you something far more radical than ancient horn-blower (pun intended) material. There's quite literally a weapon design in the links that makes your fantasies look positively Victorian.

Tee-hee.


I want to think somebody in the military is making serious plans for what to do when that stops working. I don't really believe anybody with any authority is doing that. I'd be happy to be wrong.


There's another one who doesn't read the links. Oh well.

I'm usually quite clever / adroit at this stuff: you only make it public if there's at least a single document making it public (whether or not the author intended to).

The passive limpet mines. Dubious. But meh.

~

Two starfarers return to Earth after a century or so and discover that the human race is about to die out, because none of the telepaths had children.


I heart Jocelyn.


Male Military Mind off - that most primeval urge, and what I gave up. (For "the greater good" if it ever did exist).


Mein Hart Brennt.

369:

You know, leaving aside I guess Konrad Lorenz is lucky for never having learned about the Internet, repeated exposure to innate triggers also desensitizes, you know, err, where to start, why do you assume I'm male, why do you assume I'm heterosexual, how do you know which aesthetics I prefer etc. ad nauseam.


The man swam with swans dear boy


I don't think a little bit of sugar and spice would phase him.

As for your corrosive microorganisms, nice idea, but how to tell them to behave and not eat your own ships?

Well, I did say if you gene-hacked it you could destroy all the oil wells at the same time, so let's not pretend I hadn't already imagined that.

Low yield EM signature is the way you signal you're friendly, but again, I'm cheating here. (Read more about submarines and new detection devices, you'll see the joke).

Tsk tsk, naughty naughty.

370:

"2) It takes 10% to change a system (not linking that here - find it yourself, it's about belief systems and nodes and how mimetic structures change), and yet Twitter / FB etc haven't produced any such change. (Kony2012 not withstanding - nice willy though, mr naked masturbation man). Ask yourself why"

Simple. Nobody wants to roll the dice if they still have something to lose. Revolutions are really only for people facing REAL hardship ie the distinct possibility of their family starving or being killed by the govt. Being reduced to Facebook on your iPhone, even if using the local foodbank and collecting your £72 a week unemployment, is not enough. They might take away your iPhone and stop your benefits...

371:

Simple. Nobody wants to roll the dice if they still have something to lose. Revolutions are really only for people facing REAL hardship ie the distinct possibility of their family starving or being killed by the govt


Come on now, you couldn't even dig up the paper on the relation between food prices and revolution that was heavily cited during the Arab Spring? I'm assuming you've read it, this might be too generous.


And no, that's not the reason.


There's some really nasty dirty little hacks being deployed in Twitter etc.


Hint: if algos can profile enough to provide goods, they can also profile enough to sate frustration with a good old bug-bear to hate. And people wonder at #gamergate without any self-awareness at all...

Let's go Meta [YouTube: music: 3:30 - rawr for also hitting the magic numbers]


(And yes: you're really missing out if you don't parse the links, the lyrics and cultural spaces to the sound tracks, but hey.)

372:

The old British disease. We have the freedom to mouth off and get it all off our chest so that we feel good enough not to have to actually do anything about the situation. It starts "Somebody should do something about..." with the unspoken ending "... but not me".
Tick "Like" and your Duty is done

373:

Tick "Like" and your Duty is done

I expected more Dirk, I really did.

Here's the paper I mentioned (it's short):

The Food Crises and Political Instability
in North Africa and the Middle East
[PDF]

I've just told you, quite openly, that algos are being used to profile people and short-circuit their revolutionary tendencies by not-so-subtly pushing them towards polar opposites to diffuse their negative emotions onto the Other.

It's the classic Hegelian dialect: but with the synthesis removed. (Things that make you go HMMM).

Here's more music [YouTube: music: 3:56]


And no, it's not quite 'that old thing', although hey, I called UKIP correctly.


Fire up the old neurons and consider what I just said.

374:

Smart bears would have already wondered at why I mentioned Kony2012 and the fate of the maker.

Let's just say: masturbating in public is one out amongst many.


You really should listen a bit closer [YouTube: music: 4:04 - teehee for more numerical symbolism]

375:

From Little Things Big Things Grow


And yes, you're expected to do the leg-work and grokk the references. If you want.

Or you can addle along with the word salad defense, whatever makes you happy.

376:

We honestly can't do much of anything about markets or military procurement. But most of us are male, so we enjoy things that blow stuff up.

Probably not the most admirable feature of the male psyche, given that some of that stuff those things are blowing up is people. I wonder whether the enjoyment is less amongst males who have good mental imagery, so can see the shredded limbs, smell the fresh blood, hear the screams.

377:

I wonder whether the enjoyment is less amongst males who have good mental imagery, so can see the shredded limbs, smell the fresh blood, hear the screams.

Well, we've already referenced men eating livers of men recently and nobody batted an eyelid.

Tip: it's not about cannibalism, it's about references.

Night star's daughters are we
Who walk on carpets soft they be
Our walk does friendliness tell
Our hands are perfumed musk smell
Pearls are strung around these necks of us
So come and embrace us
Whoever refuses will be separated forever
To defend his women is there no noble lover?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hind_bint_Utbah


Is anyone surprised it's all a woman's fault? Sigh.

The Battle of Yarmouk is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history where the Muslims were hugely out numbered by the Romans but with the help of the women and the young boys amongst them, drove the Roman Empire out of Syria.[10][11] The battle is also considered to be one of Khalid ibn al-Walid's greatest military victories. It cemented his reputation as one of the greatest tacticians and cavalry commanders in history.[12] Asmā' bint Abu Bakr also fought in this battle.

http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/asma_bint_abu_bakr


Sigh. If you don't get the references, nothing makes sense.

~

Warning: do not view this if your mental barriers are low or empathy levels are high or if your mirror neurons are active and you're not a predator. It's not nice.

No, really.

Land of 'things you don't come back from' (gentle version):

This link literally contains symbolic cannibalism [Video: 0.35 has been blurred from the original with the later parts taken out, but it's not a pleasant one. Oh, and if you think YouTube comments are bad, I've news for you - there are worse places on the intarweb]


Host probably won't like that link, but I'm not sure of how else to squish male fantasies.


~


@Peanut gallery: that's public and easily obtainable. The really nasty stuff gets squished, which should give you pause for thought.


I think that even Pete ought to be able to sell the hell out of a classy campaign like that! [YouTube: film: 1:09]


Got Milk?

378:

Err, while making Little Baby Judith (Butler) cry, may I add that it's not necessarily a male-female thing (going by biological sex), though there might be a correlation with sex.

Yours truely remembers quite a few avid female watchers of Evil Dead in elementary school[1] while I have yet to get my 30-something brother to watch "Rome", "Breaking Bad" or "Game of Thrones" with me.

Err, he is somewhat more conservative than me, why you asking?

[1] Not that the results were that encouraging, at least with one of said girls. Telling an 18 year old a disco lightshow are not some UFOs out to get her is a debatable experience. Not it were only the female of the species at this evening, later on, we had to pick a (likely only para)suicidal friend from a dark street curve. Might have been a drug test gone wrong, though none of the involved appeared to be under the influence. But then, this was on a semi-official trip (the teacher arrived next day, AFAIR) to commemorate the end of Sekundarstufe I, so everybody was a little stressed out.

379:

Well, you know a thread on Charlie's Diary is over when CatinaDiamond starts calling everybody wankers and telling them to read what she's read so that they'll agree with her.

380:

Well, you know a thread on Charlie's Diary is over when CatinaDiamond starts calling everybody wankers and telling them to read what she's read so that they'll agree with her.

The irony is that the masturbation over the F35's performance-or-not was already present. If you don't see the humor, you don't see it.


And no, I'm not fat, and I can't sing. This isn't my trolley either.

381:

What really amuses me is that someone with such god-like intellectual reach and understanding, knowledge of other timeframes (wooooo!) and all that kind of good stuff that mere mortals cannot know (more wooooo!), spends so much time interacting with individuals that they consider to be "wankers" and "cunts" that generally don't get "it".

As I say: it's all good for a giggle.

382:

We honestly can't do much of anything about markets or military procurement. But most of us are male, so we enjoy things that blow stuff up.
Well, it is part of my job, so I have a vested interest in knowing about things that go very fast and/or blow things up. Having said that, the ones I mostly work with are the ones that are designed with the intent of killing the platforms that carry a few people and intend to kill citizens of my country in their hundreds (or even thousands).

383:

(quite apart from the fact that even a CVN built to a wildly inflated price is only coming at $14 billion, so a $100Billion submarine would be rather special).

Total cost of ownership will get you every time.

CVNs are designed for a ~50 year operational life. Call that two generations of aircraft, from procurement to end of airframe lifetime. So 200 aircraft. Costing them out at F-35C prices, you're talking $20Bn just to buy the suckers. Then you've got 50 years of operations to pay for -- I've no idea what carrier ops cost, but the figure I heard for land-based Typhoon-IIs was around £30,000 per flight-hour, so assuming each plane racks up 3000 hours before it's scrapped (a civil airliner would hit that well within it's first six months, but a fighter gets a lot less use) you're looking at another $140M in operating costs per aircraft, so another $28Bn over the carrier's life, excluding the cost of running the carrier itself (only about 4000 crew on the newer CVNs). I make that around $62Bn; if we approximate annual operating costs for the nuclear warship with 4000 crew to $1Bn, then that new-generation CVN can easily cost over $100Bn over its operating lifetime (although it's admittedly very heavily front-loaded: $30-40Bn up front then $1-2Bn per year thereafter).

This, incidentally, is why the price estimates of £100Bn to replace the UK's current Trident fleet is fairly plausible. Subs only cost a few billion each to buy, but they carry 12 or 16 Trident D5 birds which cost around $50M each and need refurbishing or replacing every few years, another 64 H-bombs (minimum) that have high-purity pits that need to be remanufactured every 2-3 years (so you're actually buying an H-bomb every 2-4 weeks for 30 years, not just a single batch of 64). And then there's operating costs, including the dedicated SSN escort that sails with the boomer on patrol to ensure nobody tries to bushwhack it. Multiply by 30 years and it begins to stack up.

384:

That was marvelous; mind if I abstract it (with credit) and make it a front page blog entry?

385:

CatinaDiamond: that's because you need to be writing raw HTML in this comment system. You can only use a limited range of HTML tags (<b>, <i>, <em>, <a href="some_url">link caption</a> -- those are the main ones), and to type certain characters you need to enter the actual HTML entitles; for example, for a greater-than or less-than symbol you need to type &gt; or &lt;, for a pound sign it's &pound;, for an em-dash it's &mdash;. Enter greater-than or less-than symbols without doing it thuswise results in malformed HTML.

(Some year real soon now I'll try and upgrade to a blogging system that permits commenters to use Markdown, which is a whole lot easier. But for now I'm assuming you're hardcore enough to bend HTML by hand, the way Tim Berners-Lee intended.)

386:

Now you tell me. What runs Barter Town? It's called Faith - and nobody is playing by the old rules anymore.

It's almost as if the Masters Of The Universe stared the abyss in the eye in 2007/08, blinked, then shook themselves and said "the show must go on!"

... When the bill comes due the hangover will be epic.

387:

You've added in some of your costs twice. The cost per hour of flight of planes which includes maintenance is a large part of the personel and operating costs of a carrier. The carrier just adds a multiplier over land costs. Whether is's 1.3 or 5.6 I have no idea.

But still the number will wind up being, ah, very large.

388:

"It looks to me like this gives you basicly a line-of-sight weapon where the munitions are cheap and the launcher is expensive."


Remind me what "line of sight" means in a world with 100% GPS/GLONASS coverage again?

If you actually have a real honest-to-goodness war between the US navy and somebody who hoped not to lose, would you expect GPS to last more than 15 minutes or so?

And your railgun chunks or metal aren't going to do a lot of course correction. You *could* get them to do a little bit of that, but then they aren't cheap chunks of metal any more.

It sounds like artillery. Calculate where something is, send a solid cannonball at it accounting for coriolis effect etc, hope it hits. Something to put on a battleship.

But I don't always pick up on game-changing new technologies.

389:

I've seen articles in the general press citing the TCO of a modern US CVN at around $100Bn over their lifetime, in current dollars. Even though the hull only costs $14Bn or so. I'd expect shipboard maintenance to be rather more expensive than land-based if only because all the consumables have to be ferried out to the carrier group and then transferred, either at sea or in a friendly foreign port. That's a multi-thousand-mile logistics chain, right there, that a home-based fighter squadron blinks and goes "huh?!?" at.

390:

If you actually have a real honest-to-goodness war between the US navy and somebody who hoped not to lose, would you expect GPS to last more than 15 minutes or so?

There is this thing called Kessler Syndrome, and you don't even need the ability to put a football into space to trigger it -- most high-end SAMs could probably suffice to mess shit up in LEO if you gave them the right trajectories.

Getting at GPS/GLONASS is much harder (higher orbits) but if you can build an ICBM you can throw a quarter of a ton of sand into the right inclination and altitude and stand back.

Of course, the trouble with Kessler Syndrome is that these days a lot of very unexpected devices rely on GPS for an accurate time signal, never mind location. Banks, stock markets, electricity grids, are all liable to fall apart messily once that signal goes away. Cellphone networks use the time signal to coordinate cellphone handshakes with towers.

Give it another 5-10 years and taking out the positioning constellations would be tantamount to smashing all the clocks. A civilization-threatening move on a global scale.

391:

"As for your corrosive microorganisms, nice idea, but how to tell them to behave and not eat your own ships?"

Well, I did say if you gene-hacked it you could destroy all the oil wells at the same time, so let's not pretend I hadn't already imagined that.

How would you destroy the oil wells? The oil in the oil wells is already pretty much at chemical equilibrium, without oxygen. You don't get gene-hacked organisms doing what the existing organisms can't do. You could increase maintenance costs by spreading bacteria that corrode iron that gets exposed to the right combination of oil, water, and air.

Similarly with the steel. Steel in seawater is an electron donor, and micro-organisms can sip at the energy released. You can reduce that with paint. Or by applying DC current to balance that out. But then a limpet mine can scratch through rubber and paint and locally overcome the current, and make sure the seawater circulates nicely.

There might be a place for bacteria in that, but you might do better to find the bacteria that already do it well than try to engineer new ones.

392:

Not at all! I'm pleased that you liked it.

393:

Give it another 5-10 years and taking out the positioning constellations would be tantamount to smashing all the clocks. A civilization-threatening move on a global scale.

Neat! So maybe we might have a great big naval war where aircraft carriers are getting sunk, where a big navy or alliance of navies is losing, and nobody takes out the GPS and nobody uses nukes!

No, wait. if somebody's losing, particularly the side that's less dependent on that stuff, why not threaten to take it out unless they get a negotiated settlement? Why settle for losing the war?

Well, but if the politicians on the side that's currently winning instead say "We have technology that can stop you from destroying our satellite network, so surrender or else", then I guess maybe we'd get a chance to find out whether the satellite-protecting technology works.

Is it plausible that we'd get into this war in the first place? Isn't the point of all this military spending that everybody wants tokens to negotiate with, without actually destroying civilization to prove how valuable their tokens are?

The biggest economies, that are burning a whole lot of oil and spending a whole lot of other resources on their militaries, have lots of ways they can severely damage each other. They don't want to do any of them. Would they actually sink each other's ships?

Is CIAD right that it's all just wanking?

394:

Limited warfare would not be that uncommon. For an European example look at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabinettskriege

Carriers are not means of production, they are both a Keynesian stimulus and a money sink. Sinking them hurts nobody (expt the piir grunts aboard) and makes the procurers quite happy.

Now for actual means of production, they'd be somewhat off-limits.

As for mechanisms for punishing transgressors, well either

a) build a coalition against those
b) sue the shit out of them

395:

Carriers are not means of production, they are both a Keynesian stimulus and a money sink. Sinking them hurts nobody (expt the piir grunts aboard) and makes the procurers quite happy.

That might ver well be true for British carriers, and Chinese carriers, and Indian carriers.

But when it starts happening to US carriers it will be like 9/11 all over again. But more so. Unless nobody knew who did it, then it would be pretty much like 9/11.

The USA can't imagine fighting limited wars where they lose aircraft carriers. That doesn't make sense as a concept.

396:

No, wait. if somebody's losing, particularly the side that's less dependent on that stuff, why not threaten to take it out unless they get a negotiated settlement? Why settle for losing the war?

Nobody -- at least, nobody who can afford to take on a great power -- is "less dependent" on that stuff.

Maybe North Korea, but they're not actually a significant threat other than to South Korea. (I put NK's diplomatic posture down to "circus geek" theatricals -- that, and a young third-generation monarch who's hitting the Bolivian marching powder too hard and is going to wake up face down in a swimming pool before long.)

Iran? Iran's going to be on the same normalization fast-track as Cuba before long, barring disasters like a Donald Trump presidency. Simple fact is, a lot of the shit in the Middle East is down to Saudi Arabia playing Sunni v. Shia Cold War, and Israel picking the non-Shia side (guess who the neighbours they're most worried about in Lebanon and Syria are?). But the ongoing nastiness has acted as a fast-forward breeding experiment in lunatic radicals, leading us to Da'esh today. And if there's one thing Iran is opposed to, it's Da'esh, which makes them natural allies with the US.

Cuba? Cuba's about to open an embassy in DC, and vice versa.

Russia? Russia has banks too, and gas pipelines, and oil refineries and enough need for a time signal to be spending big bucks launching GLONASS.

Nobody with the tech base to take out the positioning constellations can afford to be without time signal. Da'esh in their Toyota technicals can't take a two-bit Kurdish town, much less reach high earth orbit.

So yes, it's all wank.

397:

The USA can't imagine fighting limited wars where they lose aircraft carriers. That doesn't make sense as a concept.

Forgotten the USS Forrestal fire already?

398:

"The USA can't imagine fighting limited wars where they lose aircraft carriers. That doesn't make sense as a concept."

Forgotten the USS Forrestal fire already?

That was officially an accident, and my best guess is that it really was an accident.

One 80-pound rocket in the wrong place and an aircraft carrier was out of commission for 9 months. The medical teams were overwhelmed by 161 casualties.

Facing solid evidence that US aircraft carriers could not weather minor accidents, the navy set up procedures designed to reduce the effect of one accident.

http://navaltoday.com/2012/05/15/crew-members-of-uss-george-washington-test-countermeasure-washdown-system/

They have an automatic system to spray exterior surfaces and hangar bays etc with foam to put out fires. The foam is corrosive to metal and toxic to humans, so it must be removed promptly. While the spray can be done almost instantly, it appears to take hours to remove it.

If an enemy had a reasonably cheap way to start a fire on deck roughly once an hour, they'd probably have to give up on removing the foam residue and just work around it.

399:

Not to mention the 2002 Millennium Challenge wargame. After the initial cruise missile offensive, a fleet of small red-team boats managed to take out much of the remaining blue-team fleet.

400:

A commenter here has claimed the US make the best subs. An Astute observer might disagree. (Well, once initial production problems are sorted. The Anson will hopefully be the "best sub in the world"?)

401:

Speaking of this, can we please agree formally that anyone referring to Isil, ISIS, "so called Islamic State" etc will have the fact that moderate Muslims prefer the term Da'esh (or Daesh) politely pointed out to them?

402:

You're essentially suggesting a 3-D minefield, a metaphorical curtain wall at minimum high enough to force aircraft to easy SAM engagement altitude. Vauban realized the problem with that one.

403:

Neat! So maybe we might have a great big naval war where aircraft carriers are getting sunk, where a big navy or alliance of navies is losing, and nobody takes out the GPS and nobody uses nukes!

I would like to complain to the developers of Modern Warfare: The Real World because they clearly did inadequate testing for balance and player engagement. The modern edition is in every way inferior to the classic WW II version. The modern campaign mode either presents few challenges at all, to the point it might as well be a training mission, or drags on forever until the player on the Great Power side gets bored and quits. There also appears to be a severe bug where this scenario actually scores as a win for weaker side, even though they lost more soldiers and materiel and secured no formal surrender!

The Nightmare Mode missions of Great Power vs. Great Power were uniformly depressing and utterly predictable in the late game regardless of how well the human player did in the early phases. They were actually nightmarish instead of presenting a thrilling, white-knuckle challenge for the must skilled of players as one would expect. If you need to see how warfare can be updated without killing the fun factor, please learn from World of Tanks or Tom Clancy Presents: Miltech Infodumps: the Game. Until such time as these problems are corrected, I will be replaying the WW II release, possibly with mods to import a judiciously balanced selection of more modern weapons.

404:

Killing GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/Baidu satellites with mechanical attacks is not going to work, at least not without a lot more throw-weight in launchers than most folks in a shooting war can commit to easily. The GPS and GLONASS navigation broadcast satellites are in a very high orbit, about 20,000km up. That's a lot of volume to fill with Kessler sand or other debris that will damage or destroy a satellite, over thirty times as much as the same "thickness" of LEO volume only 500km up. The nav satellites are in skein-orbits too so there's not a single preferential orbital plane to go after unlike most LEO satellites of interest to an attacker.

Killing individual GPS satellites would take a dedicated hunter-killer satellite, one per launch vehicle in the Atlas V/Delta 4 class with an upper stage to get it into a matching orbit and tail-chase the target. Those are expensive and the US doesn't have a couple of dozen racked up and ready to go in case a shooting war starts. It would take months or years to do sufficient damage to a GPS constellation to deny it to the enemy. Ditto for the Russians or ESA -- at the moment the USAF has 30 working GPS satellites in orbit and it would take a serious effort to degrade the constellation to the point where accuracy would be compromised. The Russian GLONASS constellation has 24 working satellites and the Chinese just launched two more satellites to add to their Baidu constellation a day or two ago. They now have 17 satellites in orbit and working, and they're in geostationary orbit, even more difficult to target.

ICBMs are difficult to repurpose for this sort of work, in part because they're pared down to put a relatively small load of warheads into a suborbital trajectory, not reach orbit with a substantial payload.

405:

Remind me what "line of sight" means in a world with 100% GPS/GLONASS coverage again? The goal is being able to fire beyond the curvature of the horizon young boy. Talk about not being able to parse new data. Old minds, old thinking.

We worked out effective artillery spotters in the 19th century, so this 'beyond the horizon' stuff is very old thinking indeed.

For naval vessels, we had guns that shot past the horizon generations ago; as now, they needed somebody closer to the action (or higher up) to let the gunners know what was happening at the impact site.

Whether it's a high-tech aircraft or a guy in a tree, these spotters are of great interest to the enemy, as removing them has a disproportionate benefit to the other side.

406:

But for now I'm assuming you're hardcore enough to bend HTML by hand, the way Tim Berners-Lee intended.

Heh. Just the other day I noticed that a file I use as a supplement to my browser's bookmark function is over ten years old. (Earliest entry in the change log is 22 June 2003.) Hand knitted HTML links in a text file - painfully crude in some ways, yet I haven't lost bookmarks to a system crash or version update, and when set as my home page it means I've got a bunch of frequently used links right there when I start. I think I'm ahead of the game.

407:

You're essentially suggesting a 3-D minefield, a metaphorical curtain wall at minimum high enough to force aircraft to easy SAM engagement altitude. Vauban realized the problem with that one.

It's not a fundamentally insane idea, merely one currently out of fashion. I don't think the 'huge cloud of drones' model is likely to be used much because for area interdiction it's so much more expensive than the old model. Yes, old model - this is just a reinvention of the barrage balloon with more recent and shiny technology.

This does raise the interesting question of whether any military is seriously thinking about this now. I'd imagine that if I were in charge of air defense against a foe known to fly nap-of-the-earth I'd be at least have looked at it. Nobody seems to be talking about it, which in military circles is not evidence that a subject is being ignored.

408:

I've heard talk of using ground-based lasers for this sort of thing. The satellites orbit in a predictable, trackable pattern. Of course it depends on the absence of cloud cover over the laser site.

Apparently there's a "Starfire Optical Range" in New Mexico where this sort of test has been reported.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfire_Optical_Range

409:

I'd recommend that everyone who hasn't seen it go and grab a little B-grade movie called Pentagon Wars, available from Amazon, it's a satire of the Bradley Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle acquisition, and very funny. Most of the behaviours you see in that film you'll run into in one guise or another on major Defence programs, to a greater or lesser extent.

The problem the F-35 faces is that to build it at a reasonable unit cost you need enough airframes, to get the frame numbers up you then need a big constituency. Said constituency has a whole bunch of diverse requirements (STOVL for example) which drive additional NRE and cost, and schedule. Big programs also come along once in a career so everyone wants to jump on-board so more requirements. Plus war-fighters, god bless their woolly socks, are not very good at trading off amongst requirements, 'invisible, invincible and invulnerable' is what they'd like (at which point I sourly suggest they buy a fleet of yellow taxi-cabs). At it's worst this can all become a 'log rolling' exercise e.g you support my mission needs and I'll support yours. The result of all this is you start out with a single service piccolo but end up with an international team sized Souza marching band.

Conversely no-one is a natural champion of the 'design' so intangible things like budgets for weight, onboard power use etc, etc on balloon out in response to the aforementioned requirements growth (yes something as prosaic as weight can kill a project, see the USN's A-12 as an example). Then you add in certain key capabilities that drive the design like you wouldn't believe. Stealth is the obvious one here, for example carrying ordnance internally, low observability coatings, aperture design, radar opaque canopies, etc, etc, etc. Add all that up and you get an F-35 sized hole in the budget.

Consoling yourself with the though that while you have less platforms it's still OK because hey they are way more capable is unfortunately also an argument that's vulnerable to the fuzzy wuzzy fallacy.

410:

And this is how we got a reusable quick turn around low cost space transportation system. [sarcasm off]

Congress told NASA maned space flight, commercial satellite launches and the Pentagon desires to come up with one "affordable" vehicle that would serve almost all space flight needs and we got STS. And eventually it had to drop many of the reasons Congress forced on it to "save money" when the fake savings just could no longer be faked. But if you wanted a career in NASA in the later 60s and onward you had better get on board with whatever design Congress mandated or look for another career.

Now to go suit up, helmet and all, and the shuttle defenders gear up.

411:

What you're describing is a fairly common pattern in civilian industry, too. Companies like to "climb the value chain" by adding features and cost to their products. Eventually they reach a point where the extra features do not justify the extra cost in the eyes of the consumer (Microsoft, we're looking at you). Then some bright spark launches a trimmed-down version of the product that satisfies a significant fraction of the customer demand at a small fraction of the cost (e.g. drones), and the incumbent company starts to lose market share. At first the incumbent hardly even minds, because they're losing the low cost, low margin part of their business. The old company slowly dies, and of course the new company gradually becomes an incumbent.

That's a paragraph-length summary of Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma. It's a good book, for those who are interested in such things.

412:

Even under perfect conditions any ground-based laser beam has to fight its way through fifty kilometres of atmosphere before it can "attack" a satellite. That really eats into the energy and focussing budgets of the original optics if the intention is to physically damage or cripple the target. Another 20,000 km of beampath to the high GPS orbits doesn't help after the atmosphere has had its wicked way with the focussing.

The main targets for anti-satellite ground-based lasers will be military observation and spy satellites, attempting to blind them permanently or at least prevent their use over sensitive areas. They might also be used to attack the assorted milcom assets in LEO but they are hardened against such an attack, at least somewhat. GPS birds don't have sensitive optics looking down that can be blinded, of course.

413:

Now to go suit up, helmet and all, and the shuttle defenders gear up.

Shuttle defenders hereabouts will be mocked, rudely.

That turkey with wings and fireworks probably put back the US manned space program around 30 years. Yes, that's how long it was flying for.

414:

"Saudi Arabia playing Sunni v. Shia Cold War"

There's nothing cold about what they have done in Yemen.

Since you are asking for shuttle supporters, let me volunteer :-) It was a worthy attempt at a new approach, and the mistake was committing to it before it was proved to be feasible, thus leading to the multi-decade fiasco you mentioned. But, as a piece of experimental engineering, it was successful, just fiendishly expensive - much as Concorde and the TSR2 were :-)

415:

spends so much time interacting with individuals that they consider to be "wankers" and "cunts" that generally don't get "it".

Small tip: you're not the intended audience for that stuff. You're still not quite getting it yet.

If you actually have a real honest-to-goodness war between the US navy and somebody who hoped not to lose, would you expect GPS to last more than 15 minutes or so?

For naval vessels, we had guns that shot past the horizon generations ago; as now, they needed somebody closer to the action (or higher up) to let the gunners know what was happening at the impact site.

ECM is where the USA (nominally) has a huge advantage and of course GPS etc is degraded instantly. There's big sky birds who do that kind of thing.

Little secret: I might have been tweaking noses and letting the men with real knowledge roll over some fluff. I did say I was playing Male Military Mind, not that I had one: it garnered enough for another 100 responses though, and it's interesting seeing various experienced minds correct it.

And no, I don't think that Russian missiles use "planar woo", it's all about supercavitation. I'd expected someone to poke me over that one, but oh well. The punchline was to be that the Iranian version is called the Hoot.

The comic strip link was also a good one, but hey, wrong audience apart from maybe a couple.

There might be a place for bacteria in that, but you might do better to find the bacteria that already do it well than try to engineer new ones.

Well, I linked to ones that already exist in an academic paper that studies their corrosive effects on three types of steel in an oily medium, so I kinda already did the legwork. (No-one reads my links, oh well).

I'd posit something a little more radical and a lot less funny though: at some point (probably under 20 years) the state of the oceans is going to become a Very Big Issue [tm] and people will start edging towards radical stuff.

Like bioengineering and seeding plastic gyres with beasties that are designed to remove them from the ecosystem. Some smart radical will at a similar point realize that you can probably gene-hack the beasties (or relatives thereof) that eat steel into the equation.

And, it's not so much oil platforms as pipelines you'd be worried about (and not necessarily the pipelines carrying oil).

Disclaimer: pure Snow Crash territory there.

On Daesh, of course: I use ISIL as it's the least offensive easily spotted version.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity


Nose wiggling stuff, all freshly under 24hrs old:

Turkey arrests ~1,000 terrorists / militants (mostly PKK) and calls NATO emergency meeting

http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/07/26/mideast-crisis-turkey-meeting-idINKCN0Q00PJ20150726

Today, the White House launched the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” with 13 U.S. businesses—Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS and Walmart—committing a total of $140 billion in new low-carbon investments and more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy.

https://ecowatch.com/2015/07/27/american-business-act-on-climate/


~


The comic-book gag was really good though.

416:

The USA can't imagine losing a carrier to a tinpot little country (i.e. anyone else), but that doesn't mean it can't happen. I can think of at least half a dozen, low probability of success, not usable to order, scenarios where an ingenious, high-tech small country could take out a USA carrier. That's not militarily useful but, as you said, it would trigger an inappropriate kneejerk action.

417:

On Daesh, of course: I use ISIL as it's the least offensive easily spotted version.

As partially discussed up thread, Da'esh is the preferred term amongst moderate Muslims (and I know several of those). It also has the side benefits of denying Da'esh the legitimacy they crave, and of actually annoying them.

418:

And, since I'm a stickler for form:

Lagoon & Juggler's Seas have been foreshadowed in previous posts:

In Absolution Gap it is suggested that marine ecosystems continue to exist beneath the Pattern Jugglers. Whether or not they exhibit consciousness is up for debate, but in either case they are certainly advanced, capable of spontaneously gathering large rafts of complex organic systems and producing structures as advanced as superconductive strands. Human swimmers in Pattern Juggler seas appear to be infiltrated by the alien organisms(s), often resulting in out of body experiences and giving the swimmers short-lived periods of heightened consciousness and mental clarity. Some swimmers also report feelings that they encountered the memories or minds of other past swimmers during their immersion. Repeat swimmers, however, face the risk of the sea taking too much of a liking to them, in which case they never return to land. The novella Turquoise Days goes into more detail about the Pattern Jugglers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Races_in_Revelation_Space#Pattern_Jugglers

~

I'm far more worried about genehacked stuff going into marine ecosystems (at about the time there's no more Tuna and Jellyfish are looking like the winners of the race) and permanently ruining it all than I am about rinky-dink battleships and penis envy.

Lawyers, environmentalists and civil society groups are calling it a "blatant violation" of two international moratoria and the news is likely to spark outrage at a United Nations environmental summit taking place in India this week.

Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Californian Russ George that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilisation that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.

Graun, Oct 2012.


The possibility that people are dumb enough to do what I suggested is quite real.

419:

As partially discussed up thread, Da'esh is the preferred term amongst moderate Muslims (and I know several of those). It also has the side benefits of denying Da'esh the legitimacy they crave, and of actually annoying them.

The 'least offensive' was towards Isis (she does hail from that part of the world), not moderate Muslims. But, agreed: if they want it so named, I'm happy to do that.

420:

Killing GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/Baidu satellites with mechanical attacks is not going to work, at least not without a lot more throw-weight in launchers than most folks in a shooting war can commit to easily.

I am not an expert, so I didn't understand about this. Twenty-plus years ago I talked with a woman who was working on military space stuff, and she said a couple of times that if it came to a real war all of that would be gone in about 15 minutes. But she didn't explain in any detail what she was talking about. She was probably talking about her own work, which was probably entirely in LEO.

There was talk of using lasers to damage satellites. I didn't realize that the GPS satellites weigh 2 tons each, but a laser might damage their solar cells or something. It could be put in a high-flying airplane to reduce the atmospheric scattering. I just checked, funding for the x-ray laser thing was officially stopped in 2010.

I'm glad to hear from an expert that it isn't practical to stop GPS. I think I'm pretty good at drawing reasonable conclusions from limited data, but unfortunately the reasonable conclusion is typically "I just can't tell". There's no substitute for somebody who actually knows.

421:

It was a worthy attempt at a new approach

Wrong.

The design was flawed from the outset because it suffered from exactly the same problem as the F-35 program: to get the necessary funding it had to satisfy customer bases with divergent and arguably incompatible requirements (NASA and the USAF).

422:

CatinaDiamond; please will you use the "Reply" links when starting a comment in reply to someone else?

It provides a back-link (as at the top of this very comment) to the thing you're responding to, which makes it much easier to follow the discussion.

Context: it's important!

423:

and she said a couple of times that if it came to a real war all of that would be gone in about 15 minutes. But she didn't explain in any detail what she was talking about.


Kessler Syndrome [YouTube: NASA video: 3:09]

Anti-satellite weapons, which are primarily surface-to-space and air-to-space missiles, have been developed by the United States, the USSR/Russia, and the People's Republic of China. Some test firings have been successful in destroying orbiting satellites...

In general use of explosive and kinetic kill systems is limited to relatively low altitude due to space debris issues and so as to avoid triggering the Kessler syndrome.


It's generally observed that M.A.D applies to the higher altitude stuff as once you pop a couple, physics takes over and the world goes dark. (As host stated).

424:

Ah, will do. Used to quotes.

425:

A few years ago I visited a maritime museum in Sydney harbour. One of the exhibits was a retired Australian navy diesel-electric sub (formerly British, 1950s vintage, acquired when the UK began moving to all-nuclear SSNs, retired in the early 80s).

Pride of place, framed, on the ward-room wall, was a photograph of the USS Kittyhawk, dead in the water, range 2000 yards, seen through the sub's periscope from well inside it's ASW screen.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of "old fashioned" equipment in the hands of someone with the experience and professionalism to use it properly.

426:

Oh, I agree with that. But it was impressive how they managed to produce a design that did as well as it did on both; I was supporting it as a piece of experimental engineering (i.e. research) rather than a production design. The point about research is that, if you are sure of success, it isn't research! The REAL mistake was in not backing off when it became clear that the objective wasn't deliverable.

427:

I'm far more worried about genehacked stuff going into marine ecosystems (at about the time there's no more Tuna and Jellyfish are looking like the winners of the race) and permanently ruining it all than I am about rinky-dink battleships and penis envy.

That may be possible but each individual attempt is unlikely. New organisms have to carve out an ecological niche for themselves, competing against things that have had a very long time to defend their own niches.

Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Californian Russ George that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilisation that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.

Ouch. I think the right way to do that is to spread a small enough amount of iron that extensive testing can't detect any result in the following year. Then try a little more. Continue that year after year until you actually do see an effect, and then think about your results.

Of course this sort of thing is hard to get funding for....

"There might be a place for bacteria in that, but you might do better to find the bacteria that already do it well than try to engineer new ones."

Well, I linked to ones that already exist in an academic paper that studies their corrosive effects on three types of steel in an oily medium, so I kinda already did the legwork.

Sure. A lot of the genetic engineering stuff is kind of stupid. Like, bacteria that degrade oil include some that concentrate on aromatics and some that concentrate on linear chains etc. There was an attempt to engineer one strain that could do both at once. They tried dumping some on an oil spill and they disappeared without a trace; the ones that were already there grew faster.

There are two big problems with biodegradation of oil spills. One is that the bacteria have to multiply from small initial numbers, and it takes time for them to reach the numbers required. The other is that they use oxygen, and about the time they're eating the oil fast there's no oxygen left for anything else. Somebody could palliate an oil spill somewhat by having quadrillions of oil-eating bacteria ready, and dumping them on the spill the first day. Depending on how many were already there, that could give them a week or more of a head start. It wouldn't matter whether they were GM oil-eating bacteria or not. It wouldn't do anything for the oxygen problem, except maybe get it over with quicker.

... than I am about rinky-dink battleships and penis envy.

That stuff is an important piece of the puzzle. In the USA there aren't a whole lot of opportunities for upward economic mobility. But a poor boy who can get into the military has a good chance. After 20 years he has a big advantage at getting a civilian government job, and after another 20 years retire with 2 pensions.

Or he can get money for a college degree, while his peers are wrecking their credit trying to pay their student loans after flunking out of community college. Private employers get tax credits for hiring him.

And when there's a war on richer kids are less likely to volunteer since they might get their legs blown off, so he has a better chance to get in.

It's a sort of lottery that can give people a chance to do pretty well, and maybe partly because of that a whole lot of Americans support the military and support new wars.

When we get big military changes, it will affect society. After Pearl Harbor the USA stopped building battleships and started building a whole lot of rinky-dink carriers. They started rationing right away. I heard a family story about it -- my family had a gas station which had failed, and one great-uncle drove a gasoline truck. On Pearl Harbor day they realized there would soon be rationing, so the next day he filled the underground tanks at the gas station, intending to sell the gas on the black market. But somebody saw and turned him in, they said they saw a Texaco truck at an Esso station. He was arrested, but they agreed not to press charges if he volunteered for the army.

I know it doesn't make much sense, but if the USA loses one or more aircraft carriers, Americans aren't going to think about much else for probably 5-10 years. They will have no attention for climate change, or for protecting oil in precarious environments, or reducing air pollution, or any good cause you can think of. Everything will be concentrated on becoming winners again.

There could be some good stuff. Like, there could be an effort to make businesses use less oil so there will be more for the military. Look for ways to use less electricity so there will be more for the military. Americans will eat less beef so there will be more for the military, and also grow less beef so there will be more corn for the military. Lots of conservation that Americans might not achieve any other way.

I don't really know what to expect. But it's likely to be important.

428:

Apologies for repeating the Kessler references.

An interesting thought experiment is this (spurring off comment #390):

Given the countries who have:

a) Deployed their own GPS[tm] networks (not forgetting Galileo's 8)

and

b) Deployed 'safe' low altitude anti-satellite weapons (with the nudge nudge wink wink that black stuff exists that could possibly go higher, with all kinds of ex-Cold War nasties laying in wait with nukes etc on board)

and

c) Wikileaks showing the pressure that Visa/Mastercard etc applied via the State Department on Russia to prevent their own internal banking networks (since over-ruled, Russia has its own system ready to go) and now the new BRIC bank (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Development_Bank) that came to fruition earlier this year with China at the helm...


You've already got a functioning power arrangement of sorts.


Quadriga University of Applied Sciences Berlin is committed to modern, integrated management training and educates managers in communication and human resources management, as well as public affairs. Through its cross-subject structure, Quadriga offers an education that meets the requirements of management, communications and public affairs.

www.en.quadriga.eu/quadriga

These things never seem to be simple though.

429:

Of course, the trouble with Kessler Syndrome is that these days a lot of very unexpected devices rely on GPS for an accurate time signal, never mind location. Banks, stock markets, electricity grids, are all liable to fall apart messily once that signal goes away. Cellphone networks use the time signal to coordinate cellphone handshakes with towers.

Wait a minute. We're talking about a serious war, where the military needs to stop the enemy's GPS more than it needs to keep its own GPS going.

If we just don't know how to do that, then sure, that's a good reason not to.

But are we talking about not doing it because the badly-designed stock market will crash?

Because the badly-designed banking system will stop honoring debit cards at stores?

In the old days, when they worried that enemy bombers could find US cities from the radio traffic, they set up CONELRAD so all the radio stations would broadcast on the same frequencies. They marked those frequencies on all the radio dials.

They mapped all the basements in commercial buildings, and put trefoil signs outside the deepest of them, and some places they stockpiled crackers and barrels of water so people could believe they'd have a chance to wait there until the fallout went away.

Now we have power plants that will fail unless they get GPS signals? And nobody requires that they have any kind of backup?

What the hell? Has everybody decided there just isn't ever going to be a serious war again? They think all this interconnected technology cannot fail?

Dammit, someday the UFO aliens are going to visit us for real. "Oh, pardon us. We did not intend to destroy all your GPS satellites. They were so very quaint, and we did not notice they were there."

What the hell.

430:

If you read my post above yours it rather unsubtly points out what a lot of the Great Game has hypothetically been doing over the last seven years.

*ahem*


If one was cynical, you'd probably want to put money on those able to join the club forming up the 21st C version of the Security Council.


I do get myself into awful pickles sometimes.

431:

Musk, Wozniak and Hawking urge ban on warfare AI and autonomous weapons Guardian 27th July


If I were to continue a thought experiment, I'd map those four regional GPS[tm] networks to Super Computers (where Russia is certainly lagging behind, but is almost there - Roselektronika holding 2014 despite having to lean on Asian production) and so on.

I'd then cross-reference Capital flows into Africa, Asia and Latin America to see who was up to what where.


Hypothetically, of course.

432:

If one was cynical, you'd probably want to put money on those able to join the club forming up the 21st C version of the Security Council.

Sure. But in the old days, the USA and USSR (and to a limited extent the nations that pretended to be playing catch-up) spent a whole lot of effort coming up with more and better weapons to attack each other, even though they officially believed in MAD. There was the possibility that MAD would not happen, or that they could agree to have a limited war, or that technology would change to avert it. At one point some USA strategists believed they could do a successful first strike and hold the USSR ransom without suffering any bad effects themselves.

If we actually have an interconnected economy that collapses without vulnerable shared technology, doesn't that make MAD real? If that's true, why build weapons that are mostly good against the people who can do MAD? Better to stop development on those weapons, and concentrate on weapons to attack second-tier nations that disobey and third-tier nations that are too disorganized to obey.

ECM needs to be good enough to get past, say, Iran. Air-to-air missiles that can shoot down the Iranian air force. Etc.

More cheap. Less destabilizing.

In the war of the rich against the poor, why should the rich fight each other?

433:

What you say is true. Still, Starfire has apparently been trying to work out the bugs for a while. The nice thing about a ground-based approach is that it's not too hard to just throw more equipment and energy at a problem like that.

434:

The nice thing about a ground-based approach is that it's not too hard to just throw more equipment and energy at a problem like that.

Yes, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

You only have to succeed once per satellite. Still, 1630 kilograms. You're not going to just heat them up very fast. You need to actually do damage.

If you just destroy the solar panels, it might have enough stored energy to last awhile. And if you can't take it out in 15 minutes, you might have already lost the war before you do....

Which takes us back to MAD. Why even fight a war that everybody loses? Is this whole thing just more wanking?

435:

From a Chinese standpoint, there could be considerable advantages in taking out communications satellites. There aren't that many transoceanic fiber optic lines, and it's very likely that America, Russia, and China all have plans to shut them off on short order. Take out a few satellites, and data flow between the Americas and Eurasi drops by several orders of magnitude.

The Chinese seem to think they're about ready to fight a war. They don't seem too worried about the possibility of that war going nuclear. It could be a bluff, but the Chinese have a pronounced tendency to groupthink and a disproportionately male population.

436:

Satellites are in an environment where they are "attacked" 24/7 with 1100W/m^3 of energy, the Solar Constant. The GPS constellations are well outside the Allen Belts so they also get beaten on by particles from the Sun, never mind X-rays and regular solar flares and they're armoured to survive and work perfectly for decades in those conditions with redundant everything pretty much. And you think you can faze them with a few measly photons? Listen Bud, they EAT photons for breakfast!

437:

The Chinese seem to think they're about ready to fight a war. They don't seem too worried about the possibility of that war going nuclear. It could be a bluff, but the Chinese have a pronounced tendency to groupthink and a disproportionately male population.

Not what my mainland Chinese friends think (being ready to fight a war). Of course, they have been threatened with nuclear carpet bombing before*. At the Military Museum in Beijing they have this big world map showing all the US military bases; makes China look surrounded**. Add in a tendency for the US to intervene in foreign countries, and the gist of the section on the modern PLA is that they need to be strong enough to stop an invasion. The nuclear missiles (according to ex-PLAAF parents) are a deterrent; mostly against the USSR (now Russia). If you look at the pattern of PLAAF bases you'll see that the former USSR seemed a bigger threat than the US.

I'm not convinced groupthink is a Chinese characteristic — the political class tends to have their disagreements in private, but that doesn't mean they're united. And if you've ever been to China, you'll notice that following orders isn't exactly a Chinese characteristic!

*McArthur. Korean War. Maybe he was a rogue actor to Americans, but at the time memories of warlords were still recent enough that he was taken seriously as a semi-independent threat. Some of my friends' parents joined the PLAAF to protect China from American attack during the Korean War — and were quite happy to survive the war with no attack.

**Imagine the American reaction is China suddenly had bases in the Caribbean and Mexico, while the Russians had bases in Canada — and the US Navy suddenly had no nuclear-powered ships. Would they feel a tad unsafe?

438:

I'm not convinced groupthink is a Chinese characteristic

Well, no more than groupthink is a human characteristic. If you remember the Western reaction after 9/11 you'll remember voices of reason being silenced in the run-up to a retaliatory war against an enemy that had nothing to do with the attacks.

439:

Listen Bud, they EAT photons for breakfast!

I'm just looking at things that seem superficially plausible, so it would be silly for me to argue with somebody who knows.

It seems plausible to me that a GPS satellite might get enough extra photons it chokes on them. Getting rid of surplus heat is a big deal. But it doesn't seem all that plausible to heat one up quick enough that it stops working before it's had plenty of time to communicate with submarines, ICBMs, etc etc etc. If you *need* to take out most of them within 15 minutes, that sounds hard.

So, say we get into a war with somebody who doesn't have their own GPS. We can deny them ours, but maybe one of the others will be available. Or maybe not. If they don't have it themselves, it isn't MAD for them to get rid of ours, it's just common sense they'd want to. Saddam jammed ours some when Iraqis noticed that our cruise missiles depended on GPS. Half our missiles were missing their targets and hitting random civilian sites, and we blamed the Russians for providing Saddam with the method because we were sure Iraqis couldn't figure that out for themselves.

But if it's hard for us to get rid of somebody's GPS, it surely wouldn't be possible for somebody who doesn't have their own. Surely.

440:

"It seems plausible to me that a GPS satellite might get enough extra photons it chokes on them."

It is. A sufficiently impressive solar flare might do it, for a start. What is a lot less plausible is that we could send enough of the things from ground level to cause them trouble in the short term.

A cyber attack (perhaps subverting the built-in denial features) is far more likely, which is one of the reasons the USA is getting paranoid about it. Of course, they are probably looking in the wrong place for potential hackers, but what else is new?

"Saddam jammed ours some when Iraqis noticed that our cruise missiles depended on GPS. Half our missiles were missing their targets and hitting random civilian sites, and we blamed the Russians for providing Saddam with the method because we were sure Iraqis couldn't figure that out for themselves."

I hadn't heard that particular conspiracy theory before, it doesn't make a lot of political sense, and it sounds as if it was invented to divert attention from the cockups we were responsible for.

441:

The Chinese seem to think they're about ready to fight a war.
Really?
EVIDENCE, please.

442:

But, as a piece of experimental engineering, it was successful, just fiendishly expensive

BS.

Many of the bits that made it up were very new, useful, and inventive. But the sum was soooooo much less than the total of the parts. By Congressional fiat.

443:

The REAL mistake was in not backing off when it became clear that the objective wasn't deliverable.

F35

444:

Some notes (all links go to secure .USA gov / mil addresses if you're wary of such things). Of course, I'll not mention the secondary military intarweb America runs either:

On civilian denial abilities:

This capability, known as Selective Availability (SA), will no longer be present in the next generation of GPS satellites. 2007

http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11335

GPS looking to be replaced by new PNT way back in 2006, still on the drawing board in 2013:

Tech America: A day without space...economic effects [PDF. Low value. Only included for wonderful reference towards unknown GPS disruption (global) by... "spurious harmonics" in Butte, Montana, date ?? i.e. classified. Ya'll can do the conspiracy work on that one, it's a freebie. Useful for showing that in 2013 issue of replacement for GPS still not actioned).

GCSE AII - slide 16 has a neat little reminder what US ground bases are actually doing. i.e. signal boosting GPS accuracy data.

link text Note: auto-loads a PP session - might get broken by forum software


Beautiful moment in 2013 when you realize that Patent Trolling is something the USA (GPS being partly a commercial system) does not tolerate, even from its 'best' allies:

Dr. Brecht Clark moved on to discuss the United Kingdom (UK) L1C patent issue. The UK
has identified 41 patent issues worldwide.
Early agreement has been reached with the UK
on the need to withdraw these patents. Thus far, 38 of 41 have been withdrawn
. Three patents remain in Canada, China, and India but action is proceeding to remove them. The U.S. and UK have issued a statement supporting continued open operations for PNT.
p7
link text

This is a chart you'd probably want to take a look at:

Mr. Turner presented a chart of the world’s existing and planned GNSS, RNSS, and satellite-based augmentation systems. p16


April 1st, 2014, attack on GLONASS (60/180 recievers down). Wargaming? More than likely a behind the scenes spank to remind everyone to play nice. Includes the brilliant line:

April 3, 10:36E
-
Mail by Tim Springer (ESA Analysis Center) stating in essence that the “normal” IGS processing (final, rapid, ultra-rapid) was not affected (“nobody noticed”). p8

If you need a little bit of reminding:

The failure was caused by wrong Broadcast Ephemerides. To ponder on this, science!

GPS Ephemeris Verification for Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) Ground Stations PDF - your friendly explanation. Long.

... probably caused by a software update, activated on April 1st at 9h p.m. UTC (24h/0h “Moscow Time”)

Yep, a Witching Hour demonstration of how to electronically remove GLOSNASS from the game.


Nose wiggle!

I shall now return to swearing and hope that the hunter-killer bots buy the CRACKPOT smoke screen.

445:

Broken link (forum hates auto-launching links which is probably a good idea).

Notes on UK patent removal (and other goodies, get digging):

NATIONAL SPACE-BASED POSITIONING, NAVIGATION,AND TIMING ADVISORY BOARD
Eleventh Meeting May 7 - 8, 2013


Hmm. Low/medium density response.


Prolly going to flag something over the GLOSNASS attack though. March... April... May...


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Crimean_crisis

446:

Time taken: less than 15 mins to spot actual response to Crimea that no-one else seems to have noticed.


Our kind don't go mad.

~

“To touch this abomination with anything less perfectly attuned to its nature than the carefully dispersed wings of an engine field would be like an ancient, fragile rocket ship falling into a sun, like a wooden sea-ship encountering an atomic blast.”

447:

Without really checking the plausibility, I'm offering a crackpot (not CRACKPOT) theory re. anti satellite warfare.

item 1: Źapping Sats from ground is hard, because they are far away and you loose power and focus to the athmosphere

item 2: if you want to zap anything, you want to be on ground or the se because you want a huge heat sink nearby

item 3: no one says you need visible light, microwave might work too (this where I handwave away the question what would be best at penetrating the athmosphere)

item 4: fundamentally, a receiving antenna can function as a sending antenna

itam 5: Let's call it the bowl of global disruption

448:

Oh, I agree with that. But it was impressive how they managed to produce a design that did as well as it did on both; I was supporting it as a piece of experimental engineering (i.e. research) rather than a production design.

I guess I just really disagree. USAF mostly wanted a way to launch big honking spy sats in mostly polar LEOs. Commercial interests wanted to loft up small to mid sized sats in various orbits, LEO to geo sync. Nasa wanted to put up various sized things and then get people up to them. Plus shoot various things off to places outside of the area of Earth.

Engineers thought and did the calculation that several sized launch vehicles would be better and and and cheaper. This included a people only (well a few supplies) shuttle. Congress said this doesn't make sense to us (surprise) and said no, build one thing that will do it all and it must be cheaper since we of mostly no technical ability know it can be done if we wish (write it into appropriations bills) it to be done.

NASA and the USAF had just spent 10 years lobbing stuff up on all kinds and sizes of rockets. So why not just toss out all that experience and do it the way Congress wants? Because Congress writes the checks.

One simple thing. Man rated launches are way more expensive than unmanned due to it is desired that the odds of the people returning alive be very very high. So now when you put a sat in the back of the bus you have to make it's propulsion and power systems man rated since they will have to ride with people for 12 o 24 hours. Back in the 80s it was estimated this added $10 million or more to each sat cost.

Congress also said we have Atlas and Delta and thus we don't need any new rockets. Problem with these was they were originally designed for nuclear warhead launching. Which means one major design criteria was they get "up and away" as fast as possible to avoid being wipe out be incoming nukes. So they had boot profiles that were not needed (not to mention expensive in fuel) for launching anything but nukes. Oh, yeah the required machining to make the strength to weight high was incredibly expensive and could be greatly reduced if you get rid of the high initial boost parameters.

On a recent tour of a Shuttle exhibit an engineer from Rocketdyne led the tour and talked about how the design of the engines was that they would last for many launches. But they didn't and NASA couldn't even keep enough "ready" for their slower than promised schedules such that they had to keep swapping them from shuttle to shuttle which created another huge cost setup to "rapidly" remove and add the engines at the back.

And people can write books (and likely have) about how the recoverable SRBs don't really save any costs in their recovery once all costs are factored in. Not with standing that the SRBs would most likely not have been needed if NASA and USAF had done it the way they planned. And if no SRBs how different things might have been.

And if nothing was as big as the shuttle then maybe all the choices could sit on top of a booster stage and skip the external tank. Again how different things might have been.

Just like with airplane (F35!) when you start increasing weight and size you get into some vicious cycles of needing more weight for other things. Then more fuel. Then bigger tanks. Then ....

And on and on and on...

449:

In terms of taking down satellites.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASM-135_ASAT

On 13 September 1985, Maj. Wilbert D. "Doug" Pearson, flying the "Celestial Eagle" F-15A 76-0084 launched an ASM-135 ASAT about 200 miles (322 km) west of Vandenberg Air Force Base and destroyed the Solwind P78-1 satellite flying at an altitude of 345 miles (555 km). Prior to the launch the F-15 flying at Mach 1.22 executed a 3.8g zoom climb at an angle of 65 degrees. The ASM-135 ASAT was automatically launched at 38,100 ft while the F-15 was flying at Mach .934. The 30 lb (13.6 kg) MHV collided with the 2,000 lb (907 kg) Solwind P78-1 satellite at closing velocity of 15,000 mph (24,140 km/h).

NASA learned of U.S. Air Force plans for the Solwind ASAT test in July 1985. NASA modeled the effects of the test. This model determined that debris produced would still be in orbit in the 1990s. It would force NASA to enhance debris shielding for its planned space station.

According to NASA, as of January 1998, 8 of 285 trackable pieces remained in orbit.

Congress passed laws telling the USAF to stop it. Then when China did a similar test a few years ago we got all upset due to debris issues. They said since you did it we get to do a test also.

In terms of debris I think the Motorola comm sat that collided with an old Soviet sat created a bigger mess. I wonder if that will be the first collision of an eventual Kessler event.