The clip below may look like a trailer for the new Call of Duty video
game, but it’s not. It’s a powerful promotion by the U.S. Army
demonstrating their Future Combat Systems network, a
collection of troops, robots, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and
satellite-guided visualization systems all linked in real-time. The
video presents an impressive war scenario that really gets the
juices flowing (great for recruitment, annoying to pacifists), but
also serves as a great vision of what’s about to be possible on and
off the battlefield in the very near-future.
The interactive real-time, super-detailed graphical interfaces
of combat zones are nothing short of amazing and remind me of many
of the video games that I’ve played. When implemented, it’s obvious
that such systems will provide U.S. troops with an edge over
virtually any conceivable opponent (which is why they’ve been made
public, I’m sure). The coordination capabilities such a system
affords are formidable, resulting in battlefield optimization that
truly will save many lives while more effectively taking
Energy is the life-blood of America – it affects our economy, standard of living and national security. And our prime current energy source – oil – is a product we can no longer afford.
High gas prices, air pollution, and global warming are part of the problem, but more important are the tensions brought about with countries that supply this non-renewable energy. For decades, these tensions have directly or indirectly been at the root of most global conflicts.
In a “Wired Magazine” article, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall say concerns about oil supply are indirectly responsible for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have caused strained relationships with our allies. And clashes with the Muslim world, mired in oil interests, finally brought the unthinkable to our shores – the “9-11” World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Schwartz and Randall believe there’s only one way to insulate the U.S. from oil’s corrosive power. “We must develop an alternative energy,” they say. “Hydrogen stores energy more effectively than batteries, burns twice as efficiently in a fuel cell as gasoline does in an internal combustion engine, and leaves only water. It’s plentiful, clean, and capable of powering cars, homes and factories.”
Today’s energy situation is reminiscent of Soviet cold war times. In 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into space, and in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in orbit. Afraid Soviet space domination would make our country unable to defend itself, President Kennedy announced Apollo, a 10-year, $100 billion program (in today’s dollars) to land a man on the moon. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong made his “giant step for mankind” and America quickly regained world leadership.
Schwartz and Randall believe we face a similar threat today from foreign oil dependency. “As President Kennedy responded to Soviet space superiority,” they said, “Our next president must respond to foreign oil by making energy independence a national priority to be achieved within 10 years.”
In a closed session with reporters last Friday, the leader of
the country’s Justice Department stepped up to the plate,
exclaiming, “I’m surprised by how surprised I am.”
“It’s surprising how varied [the threat] is, how many directions
it comes from, how geographically spread out it is,” he said.
My first reaction to this went something like: “Are you kidding
me? Have you never heard of accelerating change, discussed the
concept of a flattening world, or noticed how quickly technology is
letting people all over the globe do more with limited
Of course, such statements are likely nothing more than
political hyperbole intended to drum-up public support for the big
telecom immunity battle currently shaping-up in Washington, in
which case it’s at least something I can comprehend and chalk up to
politics. But if Mukasey, the Attorney General, is being remotely
serious, it indicates a frightening blind spot for accelerating
change and possibly a deeper lack of strategic thinking throughout
our government, which would not altogether come as a surprise.
Human progress is a double-edged sword. Social evolution
constantly allows us to “do more, better, with less”, as systems
John Smart puts it. We can direct these new capabilities at
improving our economy, finding new cures for new illnesses,
improving the quality of human life, or use them to plot more
effective terrorism, more quickly destabilize systems, or hoard
more resources. The sword can cut both ways.
Last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward cryptically let it be known that much of the recent U.S. success, or lack of failure, in Iraq should be attributed to a “new operational capability” that enables the identification and monitoring of enemy leaders of various ranks and affiliations. Woodward likened this breakthrough to the advent of the tank, which transformed war as it was deployed.
Check out the video for yourself, and please pardon the ad:
As one of the guys who broke Watergate, Woodward’s credibility is impeccable. He cites conversations with members of the Joint Chiefs and President George Bush himself as sources, but does not describe further what this new operational capacity might be.
So, if indeed this is not disinformation, what might this futuristic technology consist of? Super-fine satellite imaging? Microscopic aerial “bugs”? Micro-seismic audio sensing? An aerial drone sensor net? A new laser array?
Let’s hear your best guesses futurists. That is, unless you are actually in the loop, in which case please don’t spill the beans here…