Futurology blog: what’s the next trend that’ll disrupt our world, financially, socially or just pointlessly?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The new arms race: what new toys can we expect?

With diminishing resources, undiminished American arrogance (and paranoia) and a rash of territorial posturing all over Asia, the arms race is back on. Here's how I see it developing:

South Korea has already deployed robot sentries on their border, with weaponry that would make a very nasty mess of any North Korean who attracted their attention (although it’s inevitable that they’ll do it some innocent kid first). Fortunately the things aren’t mobile, but the Americans are making great strides with self-guided land vehicles, so drone machine gunners will be with us in a few years.

That’ll mean that countries could wage war with no risk to their own soldiers’ lives, through a combination of drone bombers, artillery and drone tanks. For a country like the USA, this effectively takes public opinion ‘back home’ out of the equation.

As a result, nuclear weapons will become an absolute must-have for any despot aligned against the USA that can’t afford a drone army – and then, for their neighbours too. This will put a final end to the practically toothless nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

So we’re looking at a world stuffed with nukes. What’s the response from the West?

Wait for some satellite-based scheme to rear its nose cone again. However, while satellites can detect the firing of a nuclear missile, they can’t detect suitcase nukes or ones dropped out of an aeroplane, whether a bomber or a hijacked airliner.

It seems that a shield-based defence won’t be enough. The generals will want a proper offensive deterrent, but something that’s not provocative enough to automatically kick off a proper nuclear war.

Here’s one idea: a nanofilm solar reflector.

Basically, an immense sun umbrella made from incredibly thin material, which would deploy from a satellite and unfurl in orbit above any would-be offender’s capital. After a fairly short time, the city will freeze solid. The idea is that, before then, the native population would quickly take to the streets and unseat their leadership, after which the reflector could be refurled (if there’s such a word). Relatively benign and not a bad bargaining tool to convince a dictator not to acquire nukes. (And it would reduce global warming too.)

Any other thoughts?

No comments: