Monday, 17 February 2014

Infantry weight overload

Many people have begun to realise the stupidity of sending soldiers into harms way with 90-100 lbs of gear on their back. It not only comes with health risks, but seriously impedes performance. There have been notable advances in lightweight field gear, but the military brass have a special talent for putting back every pound that is shed. This issue can be resolved by removing the authority of everyone (except squad and platoon leaders) to interfere with what the soldiers take into battle! Free from the desk jockeys influence, the men will be able to carry a more spartan load that does not exceed 1/3rd of their body weight. Lets see how easy it is to arrange a pack for the infantry.
There is a weight table over at combat reform which is very useful in this process of deliberation. Assuming a 180 pound man in peak physical condition, this sets our load at just 60 pounds. Can we supply the basics that are needed for two days in combat? If we start him off with 5 pounds of cloths, a 8.2 pound SCAR-H long rifle, and either an entrenching tool or an individual first aid kit (both of which weigh about 3 lbs), then hes left with room for just 43.8 pounds.
Leather combat boots, 4.20 lbs
PASGT Kevlar Helmet, 3.00 lbs
PASGT Kevlar Flak Jacket, 8.50 lbs (not including ballistic plate/carrier)
M17A1 Mask, 2.97 lbs
TLBV/ETLBV, 2.00 lbs
-Sub total, 20.67 lbs
1-quart canteen/cover/cup, 3.60 lbs
Medium ALICE ruck, 2.46 lbs
Ecotat lightweight sleeping bag, 2.10 lbs
Meal-Ready-Eat, 1.12 lbs (two)
Personal items, 4.00 lbs
-Sub total, 35.07 lbs
M9 Bayonet/wire cutter, 1.79 lbs
20-round STANAG magazine 7.62mm, 1.51 lbs (ten)
Arges Type 86 hand grenade, 0.39 lbs (four)
-Grand total, 53.52 lbs
UH OH... Does anyone notice a problem here? That 7.62mm ammo is taking up too much weight! But its not like we can switch to a 5.56mm caliber. No way, thats for sissys! We need to get radical here, think outside the box... Reducing the ammo supply clearly isn't an option: 200 rounds is right around the optimum amount required for each soldier *. Hmm... Then maybe we could use aluminum cased bullets? Not so long ago, guys like carlton meyer thought about the pros and cons of this ammunition. Meyers actual quote is: 'Aluminum cases are one-third the weight of brass, so a couple hundred rounds will weigh a pound less.' In reality, he might have been underselling the aluminum cases by quite a lot. Lets run some quick numbers to see.
A 7.62x51mm round weighs 25.5 grams, and the actual casing weighs 12.96 grams. Since it is made of copper (which has a density of 8.92 g/cm3), the weight savings that could be achieved by making it out of aluminum (which has a density of 2.7 g/cm3) are significant. The modified 7.62mm round could weigh just 16.44 grams. Put 20 of them together into a 172 gram STANAG magazine, and thats a weight of just 500 grams, or 1.10 lbs. With ten magazines, you can shave off 4.10 lbs! A laudable achievement, but still not enough for our purposes. We would have to switch out the STANAGs with PMAGs, since they only weigh 110 grams. With that arrangement, you've now saved 5.40 lbs of weight.
This doesn't exactly get us on target, but then, that just goes to show that arranging an infantry mans pack is more difficult than it looks. Its entirely a matter of compromise, and having the freedom to swap out gear on a day to day basis. Sometimes, there are just certain pieces of equipment that you know will not be needed, and they get dumped in favor of other things. A 60 pound limit is a difficult goal, but its something that must be achieved if we want soldiers to be capable of marching at high speeds with minimal fatigue. Modern infantry formations have too large a logistical footprint to be sustainable in a major war: BCTs typically posses around 210 of the lumbering HEMTTs, even though the brigade itself masses less than 5000 men! Western nations cannot depend on perpetual access to a massive quantitys of cheap fossil fuels: Someday, we will have to relearn the fine art of marching by foot.
*Some would suggest an alternative approach of using aluminum casings for 5.56mm (while accepting the inferior ballistics that come with it), but they don't say what all the saved weight would be used for. In practise, the men would probably end up carrying extra belts for the GPMG, which is not a bad a tradeoff.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Monotheists and future shock

Within the religious community, there has been considerable ire raised against the transhumanist and singulatarian movements. Probably the biggest purveyor of this has been thomas horn, a devout christian who has vocally opposed the tenets of self enhancement. His theme has really made its mark amongst the god-fearing patriots in america. You only need to take a look at any number of alex jones or mark dices videos on youtube to confirm this. Of course, much of their vitriol can be understood as a knee jerk reaction to the endless march of technical progress, a repeat of the luddite movement in old england. Futurists have known for quite some time that this dynamic would play out again, simply because there are still so many people who live at the bottom of the future shock spectrum. [1] The vast majority of these individuals seem to be barely at the SL1 level, and cannot be bothered to read seminal works like CFAI or nanosystems.

What are some ways we can curb this unhealthy attitude? Only by making sure not to force more futurism on them than they can handle. This means being keenly aware of the uncanny valley. [2] No matter what optimistic projections are made by psychologists or sociologists, sentient AI (much less humanoid robots) will never be able to work alongside most people. Unless they can perfectly emulate human behaviour and appearance (like data) the presence of an android will inevitably end up alienating people, and no amount of top-down peer pressure will change this. You cannot force people to comingle with ever smarter AIs without invoking the adversarial attitude. [3] Simply put, if humans are made to feel threatened or alarmed by a non human (but highly intelligent) agent, they will respond with aggressive tribal behaviour. Under no circumstances should anyone make their creation look human, act human, or in any way mask what they are. Nor should we mass produce them for use as accessories. Thats asking for trouble.

Now, back to the neo luddites. They actually have a lot of overlap with the bioconservatives, albeit with a distasteful religious bend: Anyone who thinks they can find the answer to their hangups about the future by thumbing through the bible, well, they're beyond hope! Hackneyed attempts to ban GNR (genetics, nanotechnology, robotics) will only drive their proponents underground, where research is conducted in more risky circumstances, with a greater risk of dangerous malfunctions. Cutting funding could prove difficult as well. Nobodys want practiononers of these dark arts being forced to set up a black market, trading their knowledge and technology with criminals in exche for money. On the other hand, if you really want to create a dystopian cyber punk setting, you could always just set up a replica of the ATF to curb this activity! (Wait, thats not funny...) Like it or not, GNR is something that must proceed in the open, where it can be subjected to the scrutiny of the scientific community.

A drug lords brain trapped in the body of an
armed combat droid. What could go wrong?
The bioconservatives will scream bloody murder, but what other alternatives are there? Computer assisted genetic enhancement is going to be a big industry in a couple decades, something that any college level biologist will be able to try his or her hand at. This is our gateway to morphological freedom. An individuals right to body modification is something that should be guaranteed under international law, even if its end result is mankind cladding off into multiple different directions: There are numerous social and ethnic groups who will envoke the right to self determination, up to and including the alteration of their genomes. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a major concern: We'll simply be seeing a return to the kind of genetic diversity that was known 40 or 50,000 years ago, when homo sapiens lived alongside at least three other hominid species. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for nanotechnology. Even though the fear of open air nanomachines has proved groundless, other concerns remain.
Molecular manufacturing will allow engineers to create many different kinds of exotic chemical bonds, which could lead to revolutionary improvements in battery technology, solar panels, capacitors, and fuel cells. Even ordinary substances like steel and concrete could benefit. They are, after all, 'a macro-material strongly influenced by its nano-properties.' Through the use of nanofactorys, we might be able to mass produce mono crystalline iron, which have a tensile and compressive strength 100 times greater than ordinary steel grades. This would have far reaching industrial applications, particularly in skyscrapers or megaships. And who knows what other breakthroughs could come from nanofactorys? The military could use highly reactive compounds like thermium nitrate in bombs and artillery shells. Doctors could use medical nanomachines that synthesise raw atp and deliver it intravenously, alleviating the need to consume dead plant or animal matter.
Last but not least, we come to the neo-luddites greatest concern, artificial intelligence. Sigh. So many bad ideas have been put into the publics mind through the medium of science fiction. The most popular fear, that androids will eventually tire of being treated as slaves and rebel against their human creators, is not even on the experts top 10 list. Pioneers like eliezer yudkowsky, ben goertzel, and nick bostrom are much more worried about the threat posed by recursively self improving AI, which can potentially wreak havoc even with minimal access to the physical world. There really is only one way that you can solve this problem, and it doesn't involve remaining perpetually on guard for rogue superintelligences. Indeed, this is a task that will become more and more difficult in the future: The more powerful computers become through moores law, the easier it will be to create a seed AI. Once you pass a certain computing threshold, all it will take is for a programmer to install the wrong source code onto his machine.

Afterwards, you will likely get a paperclip maximiser scenario. There have been theorys posited about how you could take down a seed AI, but this is really only an interim measure. If we fail to intercept even one of these hostile superintelligences, that will be enough of an opening for it to secure first move advantage and take over the planet. That is why yudkowsky and others have proposed the friendly AI concept: All you have to do is create a machine which has superhuman benevolence, make sure it runs as designed, and allow the AI to bootstrap itself to omnipotence. How we will achieve this is a highly technical question subject to intense debate. There is little an uninformed public can do to help the issue, and much they can do to hamper and obfuscate it. They and the neo-luddites would be better off preparing to confront the department of homeland security, and federal law enforcement. After all, they represent a clear and present threat for which there is an obvious solution to.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Preppers being set up to fail

There are alot of false notions that have taken hold within the resistance movement. One of them is the belief that after the US dollar collapses, our world will be like something from a hollywood apocalypse movie, with law of the jungle reigning supreme. This will not be a mere knockdown like the great depression, but a complete disintegration of society at large. No electricity, no supermarkets, no health care, etc. Preppers and survivalists imagine many  scenarios which could set up this unprecedented knockout blow, only one of which is likely: A disruption of the US' ability to import large quantitys of oil. But if such an event occured now, what good would conventional preparedness do? Consider this: There are 65 nuclear power plants currently operating in the US.

What happens when the power goes out, and their cooling towers stop working? Within 10 days the diesel tanks will be exhausted, and the nuclear fuel rods will melt down and burn through their containment walls. This will scatter radioactive debris in all directions, poisoning countless people, animals, and plants. Where once there was lush forests and teeming citys, there will instead be huge dead zones where nothing can survive. Extrapolating from chernobyl, we can assume a 30 km exclusion zone around each of them. Running away won't help anyone: Somebody has to secure those reactors after the collapse and keep them operating, or millions will die. Thats merely one consideration.

Heres another bummer for the SHTF crowd: Although modern farming techniques need only 2 acres of land to feed an adult male, they are dependant upon fossil fuels for their fertilisers, machinery, pesticides, irrigation, etc. Without them, the vast majority of farms would cease to function, and something like 240 million people would be doomed to starvation. * Real people, dying really slow and painfully. Unless you can set up your own pre-industrial farm, which requires a large plot of land (in a remote, defensible area no less!) just to feed a family, your statistical likelihood of survival is low. Paradoxically, if things get so bad that you need to permanently bug out, then you probably won't endure a peak oil event.
“Members of the survivalist movement put a lot of time, effort, and money into preparing to deal with a catastrophic collapse of society. They anticipate that such an event will be followed by a period of total anarchy. Commercial distribution systems will self destruct, urban populations will face mass starvation, and roving mobs will scour the countryside fighting over scraps of food. Every historical example in the past 300 years suggests that such a total breakdown won't happen. There has never been a case in which a modern, economically developed society suffered total economic and political collapse followed by a lengthy period of anarchy.”
“What has happened is that gangs of organized thugs with guns moved in, took over the government, and imposed a new order of tyranny. Sometimes they were mobs turned into soldiers by a revolutionary leader, sometimes they were the same old army troops of the nation under new leadership, and sometimes they were foreign troops. In every instance, except for the military occupation of Japan and the western part of Germany after World War 11, the new order proved to be less free than the society that was "rescued" from disaster.” -Joseph P. Martino.
Going the way of a hunter-gatherer definitely isn't an option either, because the wildlife population simply isn't able to support such huge masses of humanity. America has about 318 million people, but there are only around 50 million ducks, 90 million rabbits, and 30 million deer! Forrests are 3/4ths the volume they were prior to the arrival of european settlers, and the volume of edible plants has shrunk by an even greater amount. As can be seen, subsistence lifestyles are a zero sum game that most people will lose. But again, this is just courting the impossible: A complete societal disintegration has never happened in all of human history. Few would deny that the nation is experiencing a rapid decline, but this does not imply that a zombie apocalypse is right behind!
The united states has large amounts of infrastructure in place that are intended to prevent these kind of nightmare scenarios. Thats fairly obvious to most people. What these systems cannot prevent, however, are economic melt downs. If we see a repeat of the great depression, most jobs involving a college or university education will end up being wiped out. The common man and woman will lose whatever scraps of dignity and prosperity they have left. To survive in this environment, you don't need to exile yourself to some remote F]forrest and prepare to fight off hoards of sheeple. All you need to do is invest in precious metals, store basic supplys that you would take along on an extended camping trip, and enjoy the sight of americas sheeple reaping the just reward for their decades of ignorance.
*Beyond Collapse, by Joseph T. Miller (page viii).