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Mr.Bookworm
2011-09-30, 02:54 AM
The part where in the stories I've read, I have never once seen any discussion or use of the biggest military development on the planet, UAVs and UGVs. "The future of warfare" is a cliche, but it's more-or-less true.

The United States Air Force (http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4779) is already training more UAV pilots than conventional ones. The Vigilante 502 (http://www.google.com/search?q=Vigilante+502+range&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a) (link is to Google, hit "Quick view" on the first result if you don't want the PDF) is reporting ranges of 2 miles and can fire one round every 6 seconds. It's controlled with a modified Xbox 360 controller and, as the brochure helpfully points out, runs on any PC. The Guardium (http://www.g-nius.co.il/unmanned-ground-systems/guardium-ugv.html) is a completely autonomous patrol UGV that can decide to fire it's weapon with no human input. Here's a drone (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/08/libyan-rebels-are-flying-their-own-mini-drone/) that a group learned to use in less than a day.

Yet despite this, military sci-fi hasn't really changed since Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers. You still have a bunch of humans of some sort personally charging into battle, when they should be sitting in a fortified bunker on the other side of the planet piloting a drone. You have governments with literally hundreds or thousands of worlds, each with a conventional military force, when it should be two guys each controlling thousands of "smart" drones. You have several dozen crewmembers on a starship, when it shouldn't even need human input to function.

And this is just one facet, mind you, not taking into account various other developments of the past decade or two. Basically, it just bugs me majorly when I see tactics, strategy, and gear in military sci-fi taking place decades/centuries/millennium into the future that is less advanced than stuff we've had for decades, or is so far behind even the most conservative estimate of technological progress that it boggles the mind.

/rant over

Uh. With all of that said, I still enjoy the stuff I'm ragging on. Just a pet peeve. It's also, oddly, one I never see brought up in discussions about this sort of thing, which is exactly the sort of thing I would expect military sci-fi fans to harp on.

Liffguard
2011-09-30, 04:22 AM
One series of books I think gets this at least somewhat right is the Takeshi Kovacs series by Richard K. Morgan. You still have people on the battlefield themselves but they go into a fair bit of detail about how tactics have changed to deal with the vast array of massively deadly hi-tech weapons available. Most importantly, the "people" are simply digitised minds downloaded into a heavily upgraded (or even enitrely synthetic) "combat sleeve." If the body is killed, no worries, just download into a new sleeve and get back in the game. It's almost the best of both worlds. You get the instinct and situational awareness of a human on the ground but the reusability and increased hardware of a drone/machine.

hamishspence
2011-09-30, 04:36 AM
In 40K you've got the Tau, who make heavy use of drones- including drone fighter aircraft.

In Starcraft, you've got the Protoss, with Reavers and Carriers, both of which attack with drones.

Grif
2011-09-30, 04:54 AM
In 40K you've got the Tau, who make heavy use of drones- including drone fighter aircraft.

In Starcraft, you've got the Protoss, with Reavers and Carriers, both of which attack with drones.

I would also like to point out that the Protoss also feature Zealots going to hand-to-hand combat with their psychic blades. So... not really a model of ideal futuristic warfare.

Trixie
2011-09-30, 05:08 AM
In 'Invincible', novel by S. Lem, humanity's exploratory military corps (which is essentially a pair of robotic, autonomous supertanks) fights alien military force that consists of millions of leaf sized UAVs alone.

Tanks lose :P

So, I wouldn't say that, certainly.

hamishspence
2011-09-30, 05:08 AM
True- closer to "futuristic fantasy" than "military sci-fi".

Still, the point to be made is- there is future-set fiction (shading into fantasy) where modern-day tactics aren't completely ignored.

Trixie
2011-09-30, 05:18 AM
Also, 'Invincible' raises a good point - UAVs are extremely vulnerable to...

having their signals with base cut, which the leaf-drones do by enveloping them with jamming network, and, when autonomous computer kicked in instead, having been inactive to shield it before, the drones managed to essentially overload its sensors and damage it with specialized EMP-like weaponry, forcing human cruiser to bombard now uncontrollable corps to prevent random destruction.

On the other hand, alien UAVs worked on different principle, that of millions of computers linked into short-range network creating sort of AI, making them immune to both loss of control from base (since none existed) and jamming (since it was impossible to place jammer closer than other drones without it being destroyed) which allowed them to fight centuries after the whole planet was completely razed, rendering it essentially uninhabitable. So, I'd say conventional UAV will be as archaic as manned plane in possible future conflicts, the future more resembling either of the above models, not Predators/Global Hawks of today.

Phishfood
2011-09-30, 05:27 AM
I agree, Star Trek is a particularly bad example IMO.

We have a ship with a crew of over a thousand. What do they DO all day?

The ship appears to be completely run from the bridge, repairs are done by pressing a few buttons mostly and I've never seen any of the crew pushing round a vacuum or a paintbrush/roller. We've seen first hand that the entirety of flying, firing and directing repairs/energy can be done by one person in the games.

On the other hand, iain m banks culture novels feature warships piloted by AIs with little need for human input. Well worth a read for a look at the other side.

What I also find laughable is how the computers in Scifi are so crap, chattering away on tape drives and other than the voice interface being slow and unusable while the ship goes faster than light and fires lasers and such that are deflected by energy shields. Meanwhile in the real world here we are with computers that are busy calculating pi to its last decimal place and no warp drive or lasers. Natch.

Aotrs Commander
2011-09-30, 05:49 AM
Robots and droids - another common sci-fi trope - are several steps above UAVs, and they are very much in evidence.



Also, air power is no subsitute for manpower. At the end of the day, to win a war, you need to capture ground, and you can't do that with with flying units. It just doesn't work that way, despite what Hollywood and some sci-fi writers would have you believe. In the real world, UAVs are good for recon and hitting the odd target of opportunity when they do. They are not a substitute for regular forces (and anyone who tells you otherwise is kidding themselves).

Ground-based drones have even worse problems. They would have to constantly piloted (so you need somewhere between three and four or more blokes on constant duty PER DRONE) - and more importanly, even drones require supply/refuelling/repairs etc. Which means they'd have to have a base close by, or you'd have to have more drones (a lot more, since it takes usually as many support troops as combat troops in a real army) just to maintain the combat troops. It's very likely simply not practical for anything other than air units.

Logistics is something sci-fi seems to deal even less well with (with rare exceptions) and that's a rather more important issue. And if you're going to start bringing in real-wolrd technology, you also have to bring in real-world limitations. If you have several thousand drones, you have to have at least as many if not more blokes to keep them maintained (and if they are autonomous enough that repair drones work like in an RTS, point-and-click, they are robots, not UVs, and you're back to the Clone Wars).

And, as mentioned, if your entire military is remotely controlled, if the enemy does find a way to hijack your datalink - or comes in and kills your "two blokes", you are completely and utterly sunk.

Finally, "smart" weapons aren't nearly as "smart" as they'd have you believe. UAVs are no different. (I certainly wouldn't trust a fully-automated UAV not to make mistakes in targetting - it's bad enough even with trained troops.) Technology is not at the level where it can substitute for people; and even if it was, to do so would require being robots.

Trixie
2011-09-30, 05:55 AM
computers that are busy calculating pi to its last decimal place

...call me when someone manages to do that, we'd just found actual god-like being :smalltongue:

Brother Oni
2011-09-30, 06:39 AM
We have a ship with a crew of over a thousand. What do they DO all day?


Shifts and redundancy.

Since the crew aren't entirely composed of androids, they need to sleep, sleep and have time for R&R. Since the Enterprise isn't a military ship, they also need to spend time with their families.
Assuming an overlapping shift pattern, with 1/3 of the crew on duty at any one time, your ship of over 1000 crew could be sufficiently manned with only 330-odd people.

Redundancy is for when the ship is under attack or in a dangerous situation. Having multiple people who can do the same job is useful when casualties start happening.


Also, air power is no subsitute for manpower.

Ignoring the issues of articulated joints and generalised vehicles not being as good as two separate specialised ones, I was wondering what other people thought about the intended operational role of something like a Macross Variable Fighter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_fighter)?
You essentially have a single man fighter/bomber aircraft which can reversibly self deploy into a light AFV. I believe the in-universe role was for surgical strikes on enemy command centres and other high value targets (from what I can remember of Macross Plus - the other Macross series are less militarised and tend to forget this).



Technology is not at the level where it can substitute for people; and even if it was, to do so would require being robots.

If anybody has seen the film Surrogates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrogates_(film)) where people have remote-controlled versions of themselves, they pose a very interesting development of the technology for warfare uses.
Assuming no bandwidth or connection issues, it turns conflict into a FPS game much akin to Halo or similar - if you die, you just activate (respawn) a spare body from the deployed APC.

Phishfood
2011-09-30, 07:10 AM
...call me when someone manages to do that, we'd just found actual god-like being :smalltongue:

The final digit of pi
Is 7.

;)


Since the crew aren't entirely composed of androids, they need to sleep, sleep and have time for R&R. Since the Enterprise isn't a military ship, they also need to spend time with their families.
Assuming an overlapping shift pattern, with 1/3 of the crew on duty at any one time, your ship of over 1000 crew could be sufficiently manned with only 330-odd people.

Redundancy is for when the ship is under attack or in a dangerous situation. Having multiple people who can do the same job is useful when casualties start happening.

Ok, lets say 10 people on the bridge. 10 in engineering. 10 in sickbay. *3 shifts = 90 people. So what do the rest do all day?

Heck, what do the bridge crew do all day? there doesn't seem to be enough work to keep that many people busy.

Aotrs Commander
2011-09-30, 07:57 AM
Ignoring the issues of articulated joints and generalised vehicles not being as good as two separate specialised ones, I was wondering what other people thought about the intended operational role of something like a Macross Variable Fighter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_fighter)?

You essentially have a single man fighter/bomber aircraft which can reversibly self deploy into a light AFV. I believe the in-universe role was for surgical strikes on enemy command centres and other high value targets (from what I can remember of Macross Plus - the other Macross series are less militarised and tend to forget this).

You can't hold ground with just vehicles, either. You have to have infantry. (This is another huge error sci-fi makes all too often.) It's not a matter of technology, no matter how advanced it is, it's not the right tool for the job. Much as anime would like to have it conversely, walkers are emphatically not infantry.

Heavy strike/urban or dense terrain fighting units, yes, but not a replacement for infantry.




The final digit of pi
Is 7.

;)

Where did you get your information, the Watley Review?



Note of explanation for any nonmathmaticians in the audience: Pi is a transcedental number, which means it is a number with no repeating sequences and an infinite number of significant figures. It has (verifiably) calculated it to 2.7 BILLION decimal places (and there have been claims of up to a few TRILLION).

comicshorse
2011-09-30, 07:59 AM
Well the Enterprise is a science vessel, so I think a lot of them are doing experiments, performing scans, analyzing the data, etc

grolim
2011-09-30, 08:03 AM
They often DID show people doing basic maintenance. And i imagine in peace time, normal flying mode there is a lot of down time. But you need more people when it hits the fan. Sickbay has a full staff for all shifts. Shuttle bays have people in them and pilots ready at all times I would assume. It is primarily a science/exploration ship so I would also imagine there are many labs busy. They talked several times about different science teams on different projects booking time for the long range sensors. Families are on board so there have to be some number of teachers/caregivers. General upkeep would require many people. Don't forget the barber and Guinan and her staff in Ten forward. There are security teams. It all adds up rather quickly. 3 shifts of 30 people = 90 is a rather simplistic view. They have said and shown in the various shows and movies that a ship CAN be configured to work with a very view number of people with the computer doing most of the work and all information being sent to a few consoles. But that is also the exception and efficiency would be horrible for operations or fighting. It can be done just not done well. But a ship that size, with all departments and personnel and shifts for 24/7 operations a thousand people is not out of line.
Also every transporter room has someone in it, though I would imagine they are very bored most of the time. They have never stated for sure if everyone eats only replicated food or in their own quarters, so there may well be a main mess hall that would be open at all times. Look at modern carriers and see how many people there are needed in various "support" jobs that have little or nothing to do with the immediate required running of the ship but still make things go better.

Zen Monkey
2011-09-30, 08:07 AM
I can think of two reasons:

1 - Foresight. Not many authors predicted this particular innovation.

2 - Drama. Not many people want to read a book or watch a movie about a bunch of guys in a bunker playing a video game.

tensai_oni
2011-09-30, 08:14 AM
Science Fiction doesn't use automated or remote-controlled drones because there is no tension.

Having the good guys lose a battle and knowing that nobody really died cheapens the dramatic experience. And if your main cast risks nothing by going into a fight because it's actually a remote drone, that cheaps it even further.

Which is why when used, automated units are usually domain of minor forces you do not care about, or bad guys if you want the audience not to feel too bad for their mooks. Theer are exceptions but this is how it usually goes.

Aotrs Commander
2011-09-30, 08:25 AM
They often DID show people doing basic maintenance. And i imagine in peace time, normal flying mode there is a lot of down time. But you need more people when it hits the fan. Sickbay has a full staff for all shifts. Shuttle bays have people in them and pilots ready at all times I would assume. It is primarily a science/exploration ship so I would also imagine there are many labs busy. They talked several times about different science teams on different projects booking time for the long range sensors. Families are on board so there have to be some number of teachers/caregivers. General upkeep would require many people. Don't forget the barber and Guinan and her staff in Ten forward. There are security teams. It all adds up rather quickly. 3 shifts of 30 people = 90 is a rather simplistic view. They have said and shown in the various shows and movies that a ship CAN be configured to work with a very view number of people with the computer doing most of the work and all information being sent to a few consoles. But that is also the exception and efficiency would be horrible for operations or fighting. It can be done just not done well. But a ship that size, with all departments and personnel and shifts for 24/7 operations a thousand people is not out of line.
Also every transporter room has someone in it, though I would imagine they are very bored most of the time. They have never stated for sure if everyone eats only replicated food or in their own quarters, so there may well be a main mess hall that would be open at all times. Look at modern carriers and see how many people there are needed in various "support" jobs that have little or nothing to do with the immediate required running of the ship but still make things go better.

Exactly. Support stuff far outweighs the front-end bits, especially in military conditions.

We (be being me and my mates) used to scoff at the 16000 crew for a Star Wars Dreadnought1, until we realised that was probably not unreasonable for a vessel that big.

For reference, the comparitively small-to-starships battleships and aircraft carriers (270-330m length) have about 2000-3000 crew (and that's before the 2500-odd crew for supporting the carrier's air units - it takes about 30 blokes to keep one aircraft running.) Kirk getting away with merely 400-odd on the original Enterprise already has several orders of magnitude less.

(It should also be noted in passing the oft-quoted crew of 1000 quoted for Enterpirse-D came from one episode, and did not include just crew, but the families and passengers. Star Trek already must have a huge degree of automation in it's systems.)



1We used to joke there were three blokes for every sliding door - one for the left door, one for the right door, and the third to go "swish".

Thanqol
2011-09-30, 08:25 AM
Science Fiction doesn't use automated or remote-controlled drones because there is no tension.

Having the good guys lose a battle and knowing that nobody really died cheapens the dramatic experience. And if your main cast risks nothing by going into a fight because it's actually a remote drone, that cheaps it even further.

Which is why when used, automated units are usually domain of minor forces you do not care about, or bad guys if you want the audience not to feel too bad for their mooks. Theer are exceptions but this is how it usually goes.

Fallacy. That's what happens if you try to write a SPACE MARINES story with the exception that there's drones instead of people. If you write a story focused on the use of drones instead of people there can be tension all over the place. Assuming that there has to be death on the line for a story to be interesting is lazy storytelling.

Lord Raziere
2011-09-30, 09:53 AM
a compromise between the two that'll probably work in real life:

the UAV's will be the majority of the aircraft, but the MAV's will be the elite forces that are immune to interference, hacking or whatever because they aren't remote controlled.

pendell
2011-09-30, 10:18 AM
Until we develop human-class AI and sensory equipment, I suspect that we will be able to build drones which will be better at specific tasks than humans, but humans will still function as the proverbial swiss army knife, providing a brain and a sensory organ and on the spot decision making. A human can do many tasks tolerably well and can adapt to any number of situations. And so, in a fluid combat environment, it will probably remain more effective to send trained humans with equipment into action than to try to replace them with drones. Augment, them, maybe, but not replace.

This is assuming you're dealing with a world where it is easy and cheap to move technology from world to world. In Jerry Pournelle's world, there is little manufacturing on colonies. Any advanced technology must be imported from earth at tremendous cost and a year's travel time. And if you were to import, say, a tank, you also need to import the fuel and the spare parts et al. That's too expensive for all but the most powerful armed forces.

Consequently most colonial wars are fought with nineteenth century or even earlier technology. Because agrarian technology is all that is currently sustainable on the colonies. This suits the governing body, which maintains a state-of-the-art SF navy to patrol the space lanes between planets and a state-of-the-art marine expeditionary force which can be deployed for a very short time to any planet. They can overwhelm the nineteenth century colonies with ease, but cannot sustain themselves for any length of time due to the length of the supply line.

This makes the grip of the Empire -- such as it is -- nigh-unbreakable, and high-tech combat between opposing forces capable of deploying drones typically takes place only in times of civil war or other fragmentation. Quick "police actions" against primitive forces, or primitive intraplanetary conflict, is the rule.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Philistine
2011-09-30, 10:38 AM
LOL. Since when was the Enterprise not a warship? The only incarnation of the ship to even claim that is the TNG-era Enterprise-D*, and that's as pure an example of Federation propaganda** as you could hope to find. At her commissioning, she's one of the most powerfully armed and shielded vessels in Starfleet - "science and exploration vessels" don't need enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with enemy battleships, and therefore they do not carry that kind of firepower, because it's frakking expensive. It's not just the cost of the offensive and defensive systems themselves either, though that's non-trivial; you also need more power generation/delivery, more personnel to maintain/operate both weapons and the uprated powerplant, quarters and supplies for the added head count, and so on. None of it makes any sense at all unless the NCC-1701D is in fact a warship, just like her forebears. An exceptionally poorly-designed warship, to be sure - the warp drive is ridiculously fragile, and reliance on active force fields for such basics as hull integrity(!!!) is... I don't even have (forum-appropriate) words for that - but a warship even so, despite the Federation's coy protestations to the contrary.


* Excluding perhaps the prequel series - I'd long since lost interest in the franchise by the time that aired, so am unable to properly consider that incarnation.

** The Federation is nothing but a gang of lying liars who lie. See also: "Starfleet is not a military organization," "We've eliminated war, poverty, and disease," etc. Arguably, conquest and enslavement by an XT empire would be preferable to life under the UFP - at least occupation by an external power would provide a focus to rally resistance, thus giving some hope of one day throwing off the shackles.

Keld Denar
2011-09-30, 11:00 AM
Shuttle bays have people in them and pilots ready at all times I would assume.

Lies! Shuttle bays are never manned. If they were, 2/3s of the plotlines would not exist or fall apart.

Ricky S
2011-09-30, 11:10 AM
The idea of both sides fighting with robots or drones is stupid as it ends up being who can continue to replace the lost drones faster. Wars might as well be solved with a game of chess or a flip of a coin. I get that it reduces deaths but it just seems stupid.

Philistine
2011-09-30, 11:22 AM
The idea of both sides fighting with robots or drones is stupid as it ends up being who can continue to replace the lost drones faster. Wars might as well be solved with a game of chess or a flip of a coin. I get that it reduces deaths but it just seems stupid.

And yet, many a war has in fact boiled down to exactly that - victory going to the power with the ability to replace losses faster or for longer. Better to do that with drones than with people, IMO.

Weezer
2011-09-30, 11:58 AM
Don't forget that drones are a very recent invention, they've only been employed at a large scale in the past 5 or so years. This could explain why you haven't seen it, perhaps you haven't been reading miltary sci-fi that's been written recently enough, I know I haven't but I do admittedly tend to read very little of anything that's been recently published. Also as many people have pointed out drone warfare has some major limitations to it which could explain it's lack of implementation in fiction.

Viking_Mage
2011-09-30, 01:25 PM
You can't hold ground with just vehicles, either. You have to have infantry. (This is another huge error sci-fi makes all too often.) It's not a matter of technology, no matter how advanced it is, it's not the right tool for the job. Much as anime would like to have it conversely, walkers are emphatically not infantry.

Heavy strike/urban or dense terrain fighting units, yes, but not a replacement for infantry.

Playing devil's advocate - it depends on the purpose of the conflict. If you want the territory or more importantly the empire, you are absolutely correct. But if you're trying to defeat your opponent in a war of survival (as most military sci-fi is) "nuke it from orbit, its the only way to be sure". Ground forces aren't holding up against orbital bombardment.





Where did you get your information, the Watley Review?



Note of explanation for any nonmathmaticians in the audience: Pi is a transcedental number, which means it is a number with no repeating sequences and an infinite number of significant figures. It has (verifiably) calculated it to 2.7 BILLION decimal places (and there have been claims of up to a few TRILLION).

To be fair, he does have a 10% chance of being correct.

Rockphed
2011-09-30, 01:47 PM
The final digit of pi
Is 7.

;)

That jives with my calculation that the final digit of pi is not 1 - 5 with a 50% probability.


LOL. Since when was the Enterprise not a warship?

The Enterprise is an exploration and diplomatic ship charged with autonomously finding new worlds and new civilizations. Until the stupid prime directive came along, they probably engaged in gun-boat diplomacy at least half the time. In TOS, it spent about half of its time exploring new space, and the other half troubleshooting for the Federation.

Does it technically count as a warship? Yes. But I don't think it was designed for battle first and later retrofitted for exploration. Nor do I think the converse. I think it was designed for the autonomy of exploration, and weapon systems were a necessary part of that.

Aotrs Commander
2011-09-30, 04:51 PM
Playing devil's advocate - it depends on the purpose of the conflict. If you want the territory or more importantly the empire, you are absolutely correct. But if you're trying to defeat your opponent in a war of survival (as most military sci-fi is) "nuke it from orbit, its the only way to be sure". Ground forces aren't holding up against orbital bombardment.

If planetary bombardment comes into play, the main thrust of this thread is moot. It doesn't matter whether you have drones or people, they are still all dead.



And I would contest that "most" military sci-fi is a survival war. A fair proportion, perhaps, but certainly not "most".

Ravens_cry
2011-09-30, 05:01 PM
You know, Star Trek seems to come up in this thread a lot, when fighter like spaceships come up vanishingly rarely, if at all, in any of the iterations.
It is shows like Babylon 5, Battle Star Galactica, or films like Star Wars that use this device.
Yes, there is the shuttles, but they are just that, shuttles for ferrying people to and from places and do not have much in the way of weaponry.
The large craft like the Enterprise are more comparable to navel vessels and we have yet, to the best of my knowledge to see much real effort to create completely or even remote controlled navel vessels. Also, at least in Starfleet, they are often just as much a mobile diplomatic envoy (with more then a little gunship often added to the diplomacy) and scientific research vessel as warships. The Defiant was one of the first main character ships to be predominately a warship.

H Birchgrove
2011-09-30, 05:05 PM
Check out Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forever_Peace), in which US soldiers use remote-controlled robots called "soldierboys".

J-H
2011-09-30, 05:11 PM
To the OP: You obviously have missed the Bolos.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_%28tank%29

Soras Teva Gee
2011-09-30, 05:21 PM
I agree, Star Trek is a particularly bad example IMO.

We have a ship with a crew of over a thousand. What do they DO all day?

The ship appears to be completely run from the bridge, repairs are done by pressing a few buttons mostly and I've never seen any of the crew pushing round a vacuum or a paintbrush/roller. We've seen first hand that the entirety of flying, firing and directing repairs/energy can be done by one person in the games.

The answer is that when Scotty/Geodi/whoever reconfigures the primary plasma coil converter to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow... he hasn't really fixed it he managed to take advantage of inherent redundancies in the ship to get a necessary system back online. What happens between the episodes is the entire engineering department spends hour/days/weeks really fixing things by ripping out the broken stuff and replacing it with freshly replicated parts. Or something thereabouts.

That said there's isn't nearly enough cleaning going on for the ships to be so pretty. But let's count how often we've met Starfleet enlisted aside from Miles O'Brien who as a Chief is more functionally senior then a lot of officiers? Presumably they all hide when all the officers come around so their immediate enlisted superiors can present the illusion up the chain that everything magically gets clean and pretty.

Course at bigger then a supercarrier and with a fraction (about 1/5 or 1/3 depending on how you'd want to count a carriers Air detachment) of the crew its a wonder we see anybody on these ships at all.

The Glyphstone
2011-09-30, 05:29 PM
To the OP: You obviously have missed the Bolos.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_%28tank%29

Bolos had drivers though, right up until the last dozen models or so when they became fully autonomous (and then they got drivers again when it was proven more effective to be in synch).

The_Snark
2011-09-30, 05:53 PM
And yet, many a war has in fact boiled down to exactly that - victory going to the power with the ability to replace losses faster or for longer. Better to do that with drones than with people, IMO.

Which brings us to another point: drones are expensive, whereas most governments have a steady supply of people being produced for free*. If the drones are less cost-effective than manned craft and soldiers, then in an all-out war they are unlikely to see heavy use. Given the choice between minimizing bloodshed and losing the war, or winning by throwing lots of people into a meat grinder... well, which one do you think the average military sci-fi government is going to pick?

*Okay, not exactly free; they have to be fed, housed, and so on. But the people are going to be born anyway, so why not make use of them?


Check out Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forever_Peace), in which US soldiers use remote-controlled robots called "soldierboys".

The Forever War makes some use of this too. The story is focused on infantry, but it's mentioned at one point that ship-to-ship combat is handled almost entirely by a ship's tactical computer. Not only is it better at it, the humans need to be locked away in special pressure suits to avoid being killed by the acceleration involved in combat maneuvers. The crew is there to keep the automated systems running and make command decisions.

McStabbington
2011-09-30, 06:44 PM
Star Trek is military sci-fi?

One aspect that's not been discussed is that your average writer really doesn't understand the tools or tactics of war. To the extent that they do understand them, they ignore them if it interferes with the plot. For instance, the predominant arm of any land war in the past . . . oh, 100 years or so has been artillery. Most of our current tactics built around maneuver warfare are designed to get us around the battlefield without being systematically wiped out by an enemy artillery battery. And yet you never see arty in the movies because a) it's an incredibly impersonal way to kill massed formations of troops for an art form that thrives on personal conflicts, and b) it's overwhelmingly effective.

Drones are more surgical ways of doing the same thing as artillery: killing from a distance too far, at least according to most sci-fi writers, to serve as a good source of conflict.

Brother Oni
2011-09-30, 07:13 PM
Given the choice between minimizing bloodshed and losing the war, or winning by throwing lots of people into a meat grinder... well, which one do you think the average military sci-fi government is going to pick?

I think you mean the average military GRIMDARK government. :smalltongue:

On a more serious note, it depends on how much value a society places on a human life. In one where human life is valued very highly, automation is likely to be high, since the tolerance of 'acceptable losses' is very low.
In one where human life is cheap, the opposite is likely to be true.

Similarly, combat doctrine is likely to reflect the acceptability of loss of human life and the seriousness of the current state of the conflict/war.

There are some real world examples of this, but I suspect that I'd be crossing into politics if I listed them.

There's also the issue of getting these people into the military then screening out the useless ones.
The Starship Troopers Terran Federation uses a carrot and stick process (to do or be eligible for certain things, you need to be a citizen; to be a citizen, you need to volunteer), while the W40K Imperium of Man uses conscription for the vast majority of its forces (PDFs and IG).

You seem to assume the average military sci-fi government is going to have an extremely low regard for life and probably having compulsory conscription in order to keep the troop numbers up.



*Okay, not exactly free; they have to be fed, housed, and so on. But the people are going to be born anyway, so why not make use of them?


Add cost of training, death benefits, etc and people rapidly become expensive, not to mention you can't really put a price on experience, especially since you need experienced soldiers to train new ones, unless all you want are conscripts to throw into the meat grinder.

However there's a reason why human wave tactics have been abandoned - you tend to run out of people before the enemy runs out of ammunition.

Soras Teva Gee
2011-09-30, 10:33 PM
On a more serious note, it depends on how much value a society places on a human life. In one where human life is valued very highly, automation is likely to be high, since the tolerance of 'acceptable losses' is very low.
In one where human life is cheap, the opposite is likely to be true.

The value placed on human life itself will never allow it to be more economical versus automated options. Even if you could somehow get a socially stable system of forced conscription without pay and training, people still need to be fed regularly and have a myriad of systems in place to keep them alive and moved about. A drone can be kept in a box and serviced occaisonally by a much more modest support system. And we are rather space consuming in ways that cannot be miniaturized. Automation will always be more economical where ever possible whatever the tolerance for acceptable losses is.

Of course while drones look hot and modern now, they have yet to truly be tested in the sort of major wars you see in future settings. It is an open question how they would preform in against foes able to perform electronic warfare of the same caliber. Their modern use is to my knowledge has been against foes with considerable technological inferiority.

And once you allow for cutting (or worse hacking) control it becomes necessity to have a high level of AI, which it is just as open how much that could truly advanced it can be.

Though going back to the philosophical aspects, I'd say somewhat paradoxically a high value on human life can lead to an increased presence of humanity versus automation. The belief that there needs to be a certain blood price in it all to give it value, the romanticism of the noble soldier does not hold up to sitting in a room pushing buttons. People don't speak well of "armchair" generals and admirals do they? Or at least not near as much.

Depending on the political evolution one could find drone use put into a category like chemical weapons. Which when boiled down are only looked down upon because they are deemed unmanly and dishonorable. (And cruel though presumably a totally painless gas would not be treated any different)

Comrade
2011-09-30, 10:37 PM
I've not read what's been said so far, but I will just say...

If it was nothing but drones in military sci-fi...what would be the point? :v

The_Snark
2011-09-30, 10:44 PM
You seem to assume the average military sci-fi government is going to have an extremely low regard for life and probably having compulsory conscription in order to keep the troop numbers up.

I'll be the first to admit that I have very limited experience with the genre, but that's a pretty common trend in what I've read (The Forever War, Starship Troopers, Old Man's War and sequels). It goes along with the War Is Hell thing, and while that's not universally a theme in military sci-fi it does tend to pop up whenever you get a group of people writing about war.

Mr.Bookworm
2011-10-01, 07:10 AM
Robots and droids - another common sci-fi trope - are several steps above UAVs, and they are very much in evidence.

Yes. They are. That's kind of what I'm talking about.

I am not talking specifically about UAVs, I'm referring to modern developments in warfare and how even conservative extrapolation paints military tech in the vast majority of sci-fi as being ass-backwards.


Also, air power is no subsitute for manpower. At the end of the day, to win a war, you need to capture ground, and you can't do that with with flying units. It just doesn't work that way, despite what Hollywood and some sci-fi writers would have you believe. In the real world, UAVs are good for recon and hitting the odd target of opportunity when they do. They are not a substitute for regular forces (and anyone who tells you otherwise is kidding themselves).

...which is why the US Air Force is now training more drone operators than regular pilots, right? We have missiles with circular error probabilities measured in centimeters. This is tech we have right now. It's getting better.

And sure, you need ground troops. No reason a drone can't do that.


Ground-based drones have even worse problems. They would have to constantly piloted (so you need somewhere between three and four or more blokes on constant duty PER DRONE) - and more importanly, even drones require supply/refuelling/repairs etc. Which means they'd have to have a base close by, or you'd have to have more drones (a lot more, since it takes usually as many support troops as combat troops in a real army) just to maintain the combat troops. It's very likely simply not practical for anything other than air units.

You did read my first post, right? We already have UGVs capable of acting completely on it's own. This will, again, only get better.

And you don't need multiple operators. I don't know of a single UV in existence that needs more than one.

And sure, you need maintenance, just like every army in existence. And drones couldn't do that, because...?


And, as mentioned, if your entire military is remotely controlled, if the enemy does find a way to hijack your datalink - or comes in and kills your "two blokes", you are completely and utterly sunk.

Encryption is literally unbreakable nowadays, unless you have more time than actually has happened in the universe. You can't hijack a link like that, unless you go straight to the source.

And okay, you kill two guys, which you won't do because they're going to be in orbit or under a mountain or somewhere sensibly safe. Their army of heuristic robots keep's functioning on autopilot.


Until we develop human-class AI and sensory equipment

You don't need AI. Regular computers can do it just fine.

Sensory equipment is already far better than human.


Don't forget that drones are a very recent invention, they've only been employed at a large scale in the past 5 or so years. This could explain why you haven't seen it, perhaps you haven't been reading miltary sci-fi that's been written recently enough, I know I haven't but I do admittedly tend to read very little of anything that's been recently published. Also as many people have pointed out drone warfare has some major limitations to it which could explain it's lack of implementation in fiction.

Nope. Nikola Tesla envisioned them in 1915. Crude ones were used in World War II. UAVs were fast-tracked after a U2 was shot down over Cuba in 1962 and were used in Vietnam (~3500 missions were flown).

Even the Predator drone, which you're probably thinking of, was put into service over a decade ago.

This isn't exactly a modern thing.


Check out Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forever_Peace), in which US soldiers use remote-controlled robots called "soldierboys".

I have no idea how I forgot the Forever War, given that it's one of my favorite books ever.

I really should have had an "usually" or some similar language in my original post.


Which brings us to another point: drones are expensive, whereas most governments have a steady supply of people being produced for free*.

If the drones are less cost-effective than manned craft and soldiers, then in an all-out war they are unlikely to see heavy use. Given the choice between minimizing bloodshed and losing the war, or winning by throwing lots of people into a meat grinder... well, which one do you think the average military sci-fi government is going to pick?

*Okay, not exactly free; they have to be fed, housed, and so on. But the people are going to be born anyway, so why not make use of them?


Any government that is not a complete and total cartoon caricature led by Sauron-in-Space?

A US Army infantry grunt costs something like half a million dollars to train. It costs about a million dollars to keep a single grunt in the field for a year.

It currently costs about 4 million for a Predator. It costs ~$900 to train an operator. The cost of drones is only going down.

And if a drone is destroyed, unlike a soldier being killed, you can just switch the operator to another one.


I'll be the first to admit that I have very limited experience with the genre, but that's a pretty common trend in what I've read (The Forever War, Starship Troopers, Old Man's War and sequels). It goes along with the War Is Hell thing, and while that's not universally a theme in military sci-fi it does tend to pop up whenever you get a group of people writing about war.

This is true.

I just like nitpicking. :smalltongue:

The Glyphstone
2011-10-01, 08:49 AM
Sometimes, stories get interesting when they blur the line between soldier and drone - mass flash-cloned humans, say, with direct-to-brain training downloads...sorta like Star Wars but not sucky and full of plot holes/bad math. You see short stories like that more often in older sci-fi, I think.

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-01, 01:12 PM
Encryption is literally unbreakable nowadays, unless you have more time than actually has happened in the universe. You can't hijack a link like that, unless you go straight to the source.


Wouldn't be so quick to claim that, as a signal always has to be comprehensible to the the receiver it strictly speaking can be broken. By the receiver.

The security of say quantum encryption lies in having keys at either end and that the connection between the two cannot be monitored without causing interference. However poking the topic I'm not finding that this has been done on anything but wired connections, which only makes sense. You can't do the same thing omnidirectionally and something like a laser link is line of sight. And of course you are literally throwing the receiving end keys of your encryption all over the battlefield to be potentially taken and examined by the enemy.

Also in a since we are talking about sci-fi once you start talking space battles there are very practical limits on how far away the operators can be depending on what degree of lag would be considered acceptable. While one can say talk tolerably to someone on the moon which has I believe a one second delay or so, that would be critical deficiency in battle.

Of course even when lightspeed isn't putting the brakes on, anything out of line of sight will generally raise the horrendous issue of needing a relay or twenty. Drone army controlled by satellite... both the USA and China have the capability to kill those already and are only looking to improve. Any computer age savvy war should open with a massive missile attack on communications infrastructure. And it is fundamentally unfeasible to defend these structures in large numbers.

Now there are alternative for computing and comms, such as buried hardlines, but these are obviously no good for drones.

Aotrs Commander
2011-10-01, 01:22 PM
...which is why the US Air Force is now training more drone operators than regular pilots, right? We have missiles with circular error probabilities measured in centimeters. This is tech we have right now. It's getting better.

Just because they are doing it, does not mean it is a good idea. (The British military is getting rid of loads of people, and intends to start using the TA more. This does not make that a good idea, either.) What it really means is that, once again, people are thinking technology works flawlessly all the time, in every enviroment, and that it can replace people. They are making the mistake of thinking UAVs will "buy-off" more manpower. And it is far cheaper to train a UAV pilot than a regular one. Don't kid yourself that is, at the heart of it, about anything but more cost-cutting measures, same as every military else in the Western world! (The fact that is a boon to recon is more incidental.)

But this doesn't work. We ain't even close to the level of technology required. You really think the American military programmers can do a better job than Microsoft have with Windows? (And for once, I'm deadly serious. For all we rag on it, Microsoft does have a bigger budget and development team than the the department of defense, and civilian computing has been leading military applications for years now.)

Technolgy in the field has never been anything like as good as the developers (and frequently, the media) has claimed it to be - partly because of field-tests-over-real conditions, partly because of propaganda.

And remember, this is the same military that, forty years ago, blithly claimed air-to-air missiles would render guns on aircraft obsolete...

(Not that anyone else is any better - see British aircraft carriers, or any of the Royal Navy's rich history of rejecting any and every innovation until really, the end of the Second World War.)


And sure, you need ground troops. No reason a drone can't do that.

No, they can't, for reasons I detailed above. Logistics - which is far more an oversight in military (or for that matter, military fiction in general).


You did read my first post, right? We already have UGVs capable of acting completely on it's own. This will, again, only get better.

Exactly what is does when acting on it's own is a better question. And I mean, in the real world of the field, not in the testing grounds, when it's raining/sandstorm/high winds, with civilians aroud etc...


And you don't need multiple operators. I don't know of a single UV in existence that needs more than one.

Of course you do! UAVs, beleive or not, are not magic. They are not held afloat by the hopes of the nation, they run on fuel - which means they are either disposable or need a base. And you will need at least three operators, and probably more people per drone, unless they have found some magic way of making people not need sleep, food or the bathroom... So you need people in shifts for each drone, if they are UAVs.



(And in practise, for good measure, real combat vehicles usually have at least as many, if not twice as many vehicles in repairs, being refuelled etc etc.)




And sure, you need maintenance, just like every army in existence. And drones couldn't do that, because...?

Because drones are not even remotely good enough. You can't make a drone that can look at another drone that can say "oh bugger, the type twenty-seven plastic pin (supplied by the Lowest BidderTM) has bust again, oh and that widget looks like it needs replacing before it falls apart in flight". And that is actually how maintainance works, as anyone who has worked in that sort of job will tell you. Robots, under current technology, can do one or two things very well - but nothing else. They are simply not capable of making a robot to do an engineer's job.




And okay, you kill two guys, which you won't do because they're going to be in orbit or under a mountain or somewhere sensibly safe. Their army of heuristic robots keep's functioning on autopilot.

That is either a) a really, really bad idea, because computers have no judgement, or b) they are Battle Droids, and thus didn't really need guidence in the first place.




You don't need AI. Regular computers can do it just fine.

Sensory equipment is already far better than human.

The amount of data they bring in is irrelevant, it's the interpretation of it that's important. There is still no substitute for actually being there.



I spoke to my mate What Knows (him being sufficiently knowledgeable as to be an occasional military consultant to the British Army1.) He said, the reason they are doing it, is that an F-22 is twenty times as expensive, but can't shoot down twenty UAVs. (So it is one of those ideas the money-people think is a great idea, because they get twenty times as many units.) But UAVS also have to be flown into the combat area on an (interceptable) transport ship (because their endurance isn't up to much.) He also said, in reality, it actually takes closer the same amount of men to get a UAV into combat as a F-22. (By the time you've added the maintenace team, the transport pilots, the refueling guys to the actual UAV pilots.) So it's not much of a cost-saver in the end...



1Some of the things he tells us are not something I'd feel comfortable posting on a forum!

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-01, 01:47 PM
Because drones are not even remotely good enough. You can't make a drone that can look at another drone that can say "oh bugger, the type twenty-seven plastic pin (supplied by the Lowest BidderTM) has bust again, oh and that widget looks like it needs replacing before it falls apart in flight". And that is actually how maintainance works, as anyone who has worked in that sort of job will tell you. Robots, under current technology, can do one or two things very well - but nothing else. They are simply not capable of making a robot to do an engineer's job.

Don't forget that if you order it now it might get here within the week, assuming of course the requisite supervisors sign off on the thousand dollar order. And oh yeah when the part gets in, oh crap someone borrowed the tool I need without asking (again) does anyone have one... ah hell better just steal Johnson's he'll never miss it.... Oh and look they sent you a "refurbished" one that is busted already or maybe that wasn't the only problem




Absolute truth said it still remains a drone can have far simpler systems then a similar manned craft. A manned fighter has the onerous task needing to transport a breathing squishy adult human who adds a lot of mass and needs concerns made so that he doesn't break in the next five minutes instead of five hours. On a drone your entire cockpit series of equipment... reduced to a small box you can hold in your hand that you can rip out in minutes and plug an identical one in then send the broken one off to the vendor.

Though this is assuming Lowest BidderTM didn't weasel through the contract process with an incomprehensible design.... cripes its still going to take an all-nighter to fix.

Aotrs Commander
2011-10-01, 01:57 PM
Don't forget that if you order it now it might get here within the week, assuming of course the requisite supervisors sign off on the thousand dollar order. And oh yeah when the part gets in, oh crap someone borrowed the tool I need without asking (again) does anyone have one... ah hell better just steal Johnson's he'll never miss it.... Oh and look they sent you a "refurbished" one that is busted already or maybe that wasn't the only problem

That too!


Absolute truth said it still remains a drone can have far simpler systems then a similar manned craft.

I think the problem is all too often that "can have" is not always "does have...!"



To clarify, as a general statement, I'm saying UAVs are far from useless, but like every other new miliatry development in the last half century, they are not nearly as world-changing as their press would have you believe...

Coidzor
2011-10-01, 02:33 PM
The part where in the stories I've read, I have never once seen any discussion or use of the biggest military development on the planet, UAVs and UGVs. "The future of warfare" is a cliche, but it's more-or-less true.

No pathos, really. Very hard to get audiences to care about a hunter-killer drone compared to a human.

Sci-Fi stories are generally stories first and sci-fi second, after all.


To clarify, as a general statement, I'm saying UAVs are far from useless, but like every other new miliatry development in the last half century, they are not nearly as world-changing as their press would have you believe...

I'm pretty sure the internet is still pretty world-changing, regardless of whether it's over-hyped or not.

Aotrs Commander
2011-10-01, 02:47 PM
I'm pretty sure the internet is still pretty world-changing, regardless of whether it's over-hyped or not.

Yeees... I guess technically it was a military invention, though it's the civilian applications that have really changed the world. But the internet has itself, not revolutionised warfare (many things it has done, but not that). I was speaking in terms of "war-winning weapons that change the way wars are fought". (E.g. flight, or more indirectly (since it influenced stratagic planning) atomic weapons - UAVs are not in this territory.)

J-H
2011-10-01, 02:53 PM
Bolos had drivers though, right up until the last dozen models or so when they became fully autonomous (and then they got drivers again when it was proven more effective to be in synch).

Actually, I think over half of the short stories & novels have Bolos operating autonomously. When there is a Commander onboard, his usual job is to provide strategic direction and input for handling "sticky" problems like ROEs and determining friend or foe.

Two of the full-length novels have Bolos acting basically independently-
The Road to Damascus (reprogrammed Bolo breaking free / figuring out the truth)
Bolo Brigade (2 Bolos, 1 Commander)

There are numerous examples from the short stories, including the original book Rogue Bolo (both shorts, the CSR that independently detected, trapped, engaged and destroyed a hostile crystalline lifeform with no input or direction from Command, and JNA, the old hulk sitting in the middle of the town square). Notably, there are a couple of stories set in post-Crash mid-21st century Mexico (enemy is a neo-Aztec group) where a Bolo Mk3 (VERY early) acts on independent after his Commander dies, and goes so far as to make it seem like the Commander is inside and just doesn't want to come out.

Of course, since the Bolos are true high-level AI (smarter, faster, better than human), it could be argued that they are no mere drones. Quite a few of them have their own UAVs (and in a few cases, light hovertank drones) for recon and as spotters for indirect fire. All part of being a Continental Siege Unit.

Yes, I have an entire shelf of Laumer & every Bolo book published, how did you know?

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-01, 03:02 PM
I think the problem is all too often that "can have" is not always "does have...!"

I would say "will have" is pretty well proven from a practical point of view. While not precisely comparable check the fractional cost of drones versus the latest fighters. Though manned equipment is often on the on the wrong side of the military spending problem that's only starting to have real awareness of. And much of it is terrifyingly out of date.


To clarify, as a general statement, I'm saying UAVs are far from useless, but like every other new miliatry development in the last half century, they are not nearly as world-changing as their press would have you believe...


Also true, automation is only better up to the point it can be done. Where that point is an open question, especially since there has yet to be a true electronic war. Even something now as old an reliable as basic coordinate GPS can very hypothetically fold quickly and put people back on using maps and magnets... because satellites are not built to defend themselves.

Mr.Bookworm
2011-10-01, 03:37 PM
What it really means is that, once again, people are thinking technology works flawlessly all the time, in every enviroment, and that it can replace people.

They're currently being tested (live!) in the desert, one of the worst environments for weaponry on Earth. So, yes, they're looking pretty good.

And why is replacing people a bad thing? When a drone gets shot down, nobody dies. This is war. It's not some factory assembly line where you're looking at people out of a job. If a jet gets completely destroyed, someone gets killed. If a drone gets destroyed, the worst that happens is that the military is out a few million dollars.


But this doesn't work. We ain't even close to the level of technology required. You really think the American military programmers can do a better job than Microsoft have with Windows? (And for once, I'm deadly serious. For all we rag on it, Microsoft does have a bigger budget and development team than the the department of defense, and civilian computing has been leading military applications for years now.)

There is not a single part of this statement that is not fallacious or incorrect. We are there, or very close, for the level of technology we need. Go take a look at the links I provided or do some research. Windows is an operating system and thus has nothing in common besides 1s and 0s with the task-built programs you use to run military hard/software. It's like saying I am exactly the same as a giant squid because we're on the same planet. Microsoft's net worth (197 billion) is about 1/6 of the annual DoD budget (685.1 billion in 2010). The American military has precisely jack and squat to do with most of the programming, given that almost all research and development is done by the private sector. The Predator I keep mentioning is made by General Atomics. Civilian computing, unless you mean the military-industrial complex developing or adapting stuff for the military which is kind of a stretch, has never led the military. You can't just take a Windows operating system, slap an app on it, and use it to run a Predator. Well, you could, but that wouldn't be a very good idea.


Technolgy in the field has never been anything like as good as the developers (and frequently, the media) has claimed it to be - partly because of field-tests-over-real conditions, partly because of propaganda.

Care to back that up with any actual evidence?

I mean, in Vietnam alone, there were something like 3500 missions with UAVs flown. That's sounding like a lot of "real conditions" to me.


And remember, this is the same military that, forty years ago, blithly claimed air-to-air missiles would render guns on aircraft obsolete...

Uh, they do render guns on aircraft completely obsolete in the role you describe. Guns are totally worthless in air-to-air on modern aircraft, since missiles have ranges in the miles, aircraft have tech sufficient to engage at those ranges, and engagements happen at speeds so fast that a pilot could literally not react fast enough to fire their gun even if they got close enough.


No, they can't, for reasons I detailed above. Logistics - which is far more an oversight in military (or for that matter, military fiction in general).

Except these are the exact same problems faced by a conventional military, and I'm really not seeing how a robot-based one couldn't do it just as well or better.

And again, I am not talking about current tech. I'm talking about what it'll look like years down the road.


Exactly what is does when acting on it's own is a better question. And I mean, in the real world of the field, not in the testing grounds, when it's raining/sandstorm/high winds, with civilians aroud etc...

So, nothing but complete and total baseless speculation, then?


Of course you do! UAVs, beleive or not, are not magic. They are not held afloat by the hopes of the nation, they run on fuel - which means they are either disposable or need a base. And you will need at least three operators, and probably more people per drone, unless they have found some magic way of making people not need sleep, food or the bathroom... So you need people in shifts for each drone, if they are UAVs.

Autonomous drones are a thing, man. You can't deny that.

"Two guys" is something I'm envisioning in the far future, but the basis of the tech is well established.


Because drones are not even remotely good enough. You can't make a drone that can look at another drone that can say "oh bugger, the type twenty-seven plastic pin (supplied by the Lowest BidderTM) has bust again, oh and that widget looks like it needs replacing before it falls apart in flight". And that is actually how maintainance works, as anyone who has worked in that sort of job will tell you. Robots, under current technology, can do one or two things very well - but nothing else. They are simply not capable of making a robot to do an engineer's job.

Sure you can. That is a relatively simple task, since it's a list of variables on a checklist. That's programming at the most absolute basic level.


That is either a) a really, really bad idea, because computers have no judgement, or b) they are Battle Droids, and thus didn't really need guidence in the first place.

Computers have judgment because humans program it into them.


The amount of data they bring in is irrelevant, it's the interpretation of it that's important. There is still no substitute for actually being there.

When I have detailed aerial maps of the entire area in most of the electromagnetic spectrum, low-level ground photography, constant scans, and the ability to "be there" by sending a drone to that location, I'm not seeing what a human could do that I can't.


I spoke to my mate What Knows (him being sufficiently knowledgeable as to be an occasional military consultant to the British Army1.) He said, the reason they are doing it, is that an F-22 is twenty times as expensive, but can't shoot down twenty UAVs. (So it is one of those ideas the money-people think is a great idea, because they get twenty times as many units.) But UAVS also have to be flown into the combat area on an (interceptable) transport ship (because their endurance isn't up to much.) He also said, in reality, it actually takes closer the same amount of men to get a UAV into combat as a F-22. (By the time you've added the maintenace team, the transport pilots, the refueling guys to the actual UAV pilots.) So it's not much of a cost-saver in the end...

Besides the part where "I know a guy" has never been a valid Internet debating tactic:

Using the math you provide. The F-22 costs $150 million. You can get twenty drones for that, so each drone costs $7.5 million. Are you suggesting that the logistics involved cost $142.5 million?

And what UAVs are these, specifically? Most UAVs have ranges somewhere in quadruple digit miles. The Predator can keep in the air for an entire day. You need transportation aircraft, sure, but that's a logistical thing.


Don't forget that if you order it now it might get here within the week, assuming of course the requisite supervisors sign off on the thousand dollar order. And oh yeah when the part gets in, oh crap someone borrowed the tool I need without asking (again) does anyone have one... ah hell better just steal Johnson's he'll never miss it.... Oh and look they sent you a "refurbished" one that is busted already or maybe that wasn't the only problem

So, uh, something robots would actually do better than humans, given that they wouldn't have to deal with any of the bureaucratic crap you're mentioning?


Absolute truth said it still remains a drone can have far simpler systems then a similar manned craft. A manned fighter has the onerous task needing to transport a breathing squishy adult human who adds a lot of mass and needs concerns made so that he doesn't break in the next five minutes instead of five hours. On a drone your entire cockpit series of equipment... reduced to a small box you can hold in your hand that you can rip out in minutes and plug an identical one in then send the broken one off to the vendor.

Yep. It's not a question of how good we can build manned aircraft, it's a question of whether the pilot is capable of surviving the aircraft.

EDIT: I can literally not overstate this enough. When a drone gets shot down, nobody dies.

Why is the move towards replacing people being painted as a bad thing, then?

The_Snark
2011-10-01, 04:03 PM
A US Army infantry grunt costs something like half a million dollars to train. It costs about a million dollars to keep a single grunt in the field for a year.

It currently costs about 4 million for a Predator. It costs ~$900 to train an operator. The cost of drones is only going down.

I have no clue what the actual costs involved are (and given that this is science fiction it's not really relevant, since the author). I was just pointing out a possible reason why they might not see widespread use in science fiction.

Of course, the real reason, as people have pointed out, is that most military sci-fi authors want to tell something resembling a conventional war story, and heavy reliance on drones (or any other invention that changes how war works) means telling a different sort of story. It's a problem faced by science fiction authors of all stripes, actually: there is only so much drastic social or technological change you can include before it stops being useful to the story and starts hindering it.


Sure you can. That is a relatively simple task, since it's a list of variables on a checklist. That's programming at the most absolute basic level.

Um, again, I'm not an expert on this, but from what I know about the Mars rover expeditions, I'm pretty sure that designing a complex machine that is capable of maintaining and repairing itself (or others of its kind) is in fact a very, very complex automation task. Programming is not the issue. Figuring out a way to make sure that the program's instructions aren't thrown off by some tiny environmental factor—sand in the joints, high winds, that sort of thing—is. Not to mention that the programmer has to anticipate every single thing that could possibly go wrong.

With a human operator it's probably less of a problem, but my inner pedant couldn't let that one slide. I'm sure you know how that feels. :smalltongue:

Ravens_cry
2011-10-01, 04:14 PM
There is one huge advantage of UAV, people are not dying.
Of course, smart enemy would bomb the bases, which we do any way. A fighter jock is just a poorly trained infantry without his mount and the army of technicians to maintain them. For the foreseeable future, whether those jockeys are in the air or manning UAV, we will still need that army of maintenance people.
They may not get the respect or glamour of a guy in the air, but they are just as important to modern warfare.

Aotrs Commander
2011-10-01, 05:01 PM
Sure you can. That is a relatively simple task, since it's a list of variables on a checklist. That's programming at the most absolute basic level.

Computers have judgment because humans program it into them.

So, uh, something robots would actually do better than humans, given that they wouldn't have to deal with any of the bureaucratic crap you're mentioning?

Maintaining things is not that easy, and it never has been. A Nimitz aircraft carrier has 2500 crew supporting 90 aircraft (this is on top of it's own crew). Keeping anything running, let alone something as complex as a piece of military hardware is a job that requires skill and judgement and extremely often, a first-hand knowledge of things that are not in the manual; things you simply cannot program. I don't think you're really grasping how difficult a job it is to do. If it was, as The_Snark said, the Mars Rover would have been vastly more successful.

However, as you are seem firmly convinced that UAVs are starting to encroach towards war-changing superweapon territory, I don't think any further input from me is going to be constructive; so I shall gracefully bow out for the moment.

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-01, 05:44 PM
There is not a single part of this statement that is not fallacious or incorrect. We are there, or very close, for the level of technology we need. Go take a look at the links I provided or do some research. Windows is an operating system and thus has nothing in common besides 1s and 0s with the task-built programs you use to run military hard/software. It's like saying I am exactly the same as a giant squid because we're on the same planet. Microsoft's net worth (197 billion) is about 1/6 of the annual DoD budget (685.1 billion in 2010). The American military has precisely jack and squat to do with most of the programming, given that almost all research and development is done by the private sector. The Predator I keep mentioning is made by General Atomics. Civilian computing, unless you mean the military-industrial complex developing or adapting stuff for the military which is kind of a stretch, has never led the military. You can't just take a Windows operating system, slap an app on it, and use it to run a Predator. Well, you could, but that wouldn't be a very good idea.

COTS

It stands for Commercial Off The Shelf and is exactly what it means. It is the one of the big ideas in the next gen upgrades for military equipment.

Because a positively shameful amount of military equipment dates is using late 70s early 80s tech where not older. And the "upgrades" are from then to now are positively prehistoric 90s tech. The military industrial complex is such that its dedicated equipment is often far behind the times. Buying off the shelf is better because that's where the at least not criminally out of date hardware is.

In fact I believe its been mentioned (if not sourced) in this thread that Predators and the like run off things like modified XBox controllers and can have their software installed on any computer. And who makes those again...

The military is classically overspends for absolute crap, its a systemic problem from everything to major systems to cleaning supplies. The military is not as free as one might imagine to shop around and can objectively be said to have too many cooks in the kitchen between: whoever the Adminstration is at the time, the longer term civil professionals in the bureaucracy, the General and Admirals of the top brass, the lobbyists for the attendant industrial end of the military industrial complex, and whatever Congress feels like doing this election season.

With potential consequences across decades of course. Just a small case you can document cases of the military wanting to make cuts and various congressmen saying "hellz no" because said part is built in their district and they want to support their local economy. And this is stuff that on record, never mind whatever corruption one wishes to read.


Care to back that up with any actual evidence?

I mean, in Vietnam alone, there were something like 3500 missions with UAVs flown. That's sounding like a lot of "real conditions" to me.

The endemic condition of everything ever? Its not that it doesn't work but you should never take the claims of the people building and selling something at face value, because they are trying to sell you something.

We aren't saying they don't work, but its another to assume they should be considered an inevitable and dominant force.

And for perspective 3500 missions versus how many millions of uses of the M16, which once it was established you still had to clean them, have been use constantly ever since? Firearms are an example of a tech that works everywhere and is hasn't changed much since assault rifles have become standard. That's a proven tech.



Uh, they do render guns on aircraft completely obsolete in the role you describe. Guns are totally worthless in air-to-air on modern aircraft, since missiles have ranges in the miles, aircraft have tech sufficient to engage at those ranges, and engagements happen at speeds so fast that a pilot could literally not react fast enough to fire their gun even if they got close enough.

You know that stuff they mumble in Topgun about the US becoming too reliant on missiles and loosing the edge in close combat resulting in unnessecary losses in Vietnam.... exactly why the factual program was established and nobody is taking Vulcans off aircraft.

In the actual world that you can detect and target an aircraft at a hundred miles away doesn't mean you do so every time. And in the real world even smart weapons miss, they just do so far less often. Nevermind the thorny issue of firing on a simple radar detection even in war time.


Sure you can. That is a relatively simple task, since it's a list of variables on a checklist. That's programming at the most absolute basic level.

And thus there is glitch free software universally? Or at all?



Computers have judgment because humans program it into them.

Which means they are somewhat dumber then the dumbest programmer to put their hands on them.


Using the math you provide. The F-22 costs $150 million. You can get twenty drones for that, so each drone costs $7.5 million. Are you suggesting that the logistics involved cost $142.5 million?

And what UAVs are these, specifically? Most UAVs have ranges somewhere in quadruple digit miles. The Predator can keep in the air for an entire day. You need transportation aircraft, sure, but that's a logistical thing.

Wikipedia lists the Predator at $4.5 mil in for the aircraft and that in one year the USA spent $40 mil in 1997 for four of them with the ancillary equipment. Even a cheaper F-35 has (which you can't really buy yet) still has a flyaway cost of $122 mil per plane. I'm going to make a minor leap and say thats without the other equipment.

Though they aren't precisely comparable. Something like an A-10 is probably a better mission match and is listed at a mere $11.8 million in 1994 dollars which depending on contracts might be what the military is still paying. Though there is the question of the A-10 noted durability and firepower versus presumable stealth and dwell time of Predators and how they balance out. I've heard drones mentioned as stealth craft but so help me I'm not finding anything detailed on that at the moment.


So, uh, something robots would actually do better than humans, given that they wouldn't have to deal with any of the bureaucratic crap you're mentioning?

Umm did you read what I just said?

No really you cannot tell me that because you use a robot instead of a tech it will magically be able to recieve parts faster. The delay is not anything the robot can do anything about. It might save time by being able to send the order electronically faster then you could load up the nearest console and fire off the order, but that's a small change. It will not change a realities like:

"oh we had the parts until yesterday but our base in Japan is having the same problem and took it first. And because the government hired a undersized contractor to support small business they won't have that precise part made and shipped until next Tuesday"

Only they probably won't be nice enough to explain that and just tell you to "make do" or something. Heaven help you when its after a few decades the outdated equipment is still in use but the company that made the part hasn't in five years... if it still exists at all.

No you cannot automate the entire process. It is still created by humans who will inevitably wish for control, thus bureaucracy.

Oh and that's assuming you have a robot that can actually do troubleshooting in the first place. Very dubious from both a dexterity point of view, we are still worth a hundred different robots with two hand and basic tool kits of shaped metal. Second there's the comprehension issue, troubleshooting guidelines are just that, guidelines. In the real world especially dealing with multiple different interacting systems, problems are often not reducible to simple measures that can be programmed. Even talking about remote controlled devices allowing a tech to cross the globe in minutes... well fixing stuff is not called a hand's off profession.


Why is the move towards replacing people being painted as a bad thing, then?

Good or bad doesn't enter into the equation. Ever. Its about possibilities and practicalities.

Bloodless approaches to war have been tried in the last few decades and shown to have many problems against even technologically inferior foes. Many of which required a human element, the proverbial boots of the ground. Good or bad its not something that gets the job done.

When you start talking about a foe able to counter the technological advantage itself, that need for a human element is not likely to decrease.

GolemsVoice
2011-10-01, 06:23 PM
I can think of several reasons. But first: I am no military expert. Not even close to that. There are several people in this thread who seem to know quite a lot about military matters (in th US), and I'll leave these things to them.

So!

The most important reason is, as others have mentioned, that it just wouldn't be very engaging, especially as a book. You CAN write stories on the use of drones, but what would that look like? I'd be a 400 page description of a drone firing it's weapons. Because a drone doesn't care. It does just what it's ordered to do.

Now, you can circumvent that by making the drones intelligent, but in that case, you just have people who look differently. That could make a fascinating story, but I guess that would technically be robots, not remote controlled drones.

Or you could describe what happens at the base to get something interesting going, but then, why do you focus so much on the drones anyway?

I mean, I'm sure there ARE people who are fascinated by a complex and intelligently executed strategy involving (mostly) drones, with combat that is well thought-out and well written. But I doubt there are enough people to make a real market.

Also, as others have said, writers often just don't know. After all, what do the writers of Warhammer 40K, Star Trek, Star Wars etc. really know about the technology they're talking of, let alone military tactics? It's mostly written by laymen for laymen, and often, cool and thrilling action is not sensible action, as far as the military is concerned. But that's the way it is, and I don't feel to bad about that.

Now, if anyone could make a good suggestion as to how a movie/book featuring mostly drones could actually be interesting and gripping to read while still aiming at a larger audience, I'd be interested.

And another thing: the Command&Conquer games make frequent use of robotics, automated things and drones. But on the other hand, C&C is about as far from "hard" military fiction as you can get.

The Glyphstone
2011-10-01, 06:28 PM
Actually, I think over half of the short stories & novels have Bolos operating autonomously. When there is a Commander onboard, his usual job is to provide strategic direction and input for handling "sticky" problems like ROEs and determining friend or foe.

Two of the full-length novels have Bolos acting basically independently-
The Road to Damascus (reprogrammed Bolo breaking free / figuring out the truth)
Bolo Brigade (2 Bolos, 1 Commander)

There are numerous examples from the short stories, including the original book Rogue Bolo (both shorts, the CSR that independently detected, trapped, engaged and destroyed a hostile crystalline lifeform with no input or direction from Command, and JNA, the old hulk sitting in the middle of the town square). Notably, there are a couple of stories set in post-Crash mid-21st century Mexico (enemy is a neo-Aztec group) where a Bolo Mk3 (VERY early) acts on independent after his Commander dies, and goes so far as to make it seem like the Commander is inside and just doesn't want to come out.

Of course, since the Bolos are true high-level AI (smarter, faster, better than human), it could be argued that they are no mere drones. Quite a few of them have their own UAVs (and in a few cases, light hovertank drones) for recon and as spotters for indirect fire. All part of being a Continental Siege Unit.

Yes, I have an entire shelf of Laumer & every Bolo book published, how did you know?

I bow to your superior Bolo knowledge then, as I own only the Bolo! collection.

The_Snark
2011-10-01, 07:15 PM
Now, if anyone could make a good suggestion as to how a movie/book featuring mostly drones could actually be interesting and gripping to read while still aiming at a larger audience, I'd be interested.

It's been mentioned already, but Joe Haldeman's The Forever Peace is apparently about warfare using remotely operated drones. Haven't read it myself, though.

I certainly don't think it's impossible to tell interesting stories about automated warfare. Obviously you don't want to spend too much time describing drones blowing each other up, but most people aren't going to be that interested in long descriptions of people shooting one another either. There has to be something more to it: funny dialogue, character arcs, an interesting overarching plot, that sort of thing. Presumably, a story set in a heavily automated war would focus on the human strategists, or drone operators, or maintenance techs, or... whatever. Maybe they're not in personal danger as much as infantry, but so what? There are plenty of novels where the protagonist is never physically in danger. Not usually war novels, but the point is that the danger is not an essential component to every story ever written.

It's not the same as your traditional war story, and I think that's why so few authors use the concept, but it is by no means categorically impossible.

Ravens_cry
2011-10-01, 08:14 PM
This was taken to the utter limit in the Original Series Star Trek Episode. A Taste of Armageddon (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/A_Taste_of_Armageddon). Deaths in a war simulation are tabulated, and those who would have died are disintegrated communally.

shadow_archmagi
2011-10-01, 08:23 PM
In Supreme Commander, only the Commander himself is actually on the ground. Everything else is a robot. (The commander is in a giant robot too, because giant robot).

At one point in supcom two, you break like seven people out of prison and that's a huge deal because they're all command-trained, so each one is effectively an extra army.

Mewtarthio
2011-10-01, 11:09 PM
This was taken to the utter limit in the Original Series Star Trek Episode. A Taste of Armageddon (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/A_Taste_of_Armageddon). Deaths in a war simulation are tabulated, and those who would have died are disintegrated communally.

This is why I consider Star Trek incredibly silly. :smalltongue:

douglas
2011-10-01, 11:20 PM
I've only seen descriptions of that episode, but what I've read sounds pretty good. Kind of funny when the simulator computer declares the Enterprise got destroyed and Kirk's response is, essentially, "prove it! You know, by actually destroying it."

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-01, 11:35 PM
Yeah that was a pretty good episode, well by ST: TOS standards at any rate. And is an example of the sort of thinking that might result in a level of human presence regardless of automation, it uses the planet as a strawman for romancing more 'honorable' methods of combat.

Ravens_cry
2011-10-01, 11:43 PM
Yeah that was a pretty good episode, well by ST: TOS standards at any rate. And is an example of the sort of thinking that might result in a level of human presence regardless of automation, it uses the planet as a strawman for romancing more 'honorable' methods of combat.
I don't think it exactly romances them, Kirk explicitly condemn their machines for making war "too easy," too clean and neat and making it seem an attractive solution rather then the horrific brutality it is, a better alternative then the hard struggle of finding peace.

chiasaur11
2011-10-02, 12:22 AM
I don't think it exactly romances them, Kirk explicitly condemn their machines for making war "too easy," too clean and neat and making it seem an attractive solution rather then the horrific brutality it is, a better alternative then the hard struggle of finding peace.

Yeah.

Kirk's not for warfare here.

He's just taking the angle that they're too used to it. No blood, no smell of death, no noticing that they're, you know, at war, and that war is a bad thing to be at.

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-02, 01:02 AM
I don't think it exactly romances them, Kirk explicitly condemn their machines for making war "too easy," too clean and neat and making it seem an attractive solution rather then the horrific brutality it is, a better alternative then the hard struggle of finding peace.

Exactly. Its a love letter to the blood and suffering of war giving it meaning. Too clean and you abandon all purpose to it. It becomes dead calculation or worse yet a game, as the only ones to die will be the loosing civilians

Like drone on drone combat.

The_Snark
2011-10-02, 01:27 AM
Exactly. Its a love letter to the blood and suffering of war giving it meaning. Too clean and you abandon all purpose to it. It becomes dead calculation or worse yet a game, as the only ones to die will be the loosing civilians

Like drone on drone combat.

The counterpoint to that is: if war is clean and there's no death, why is it such a bad thing? Unless you do something silly like arbitrarily declaring that the losing side's drone operators or civilians all have to be executed, it could theoretically be bloodless. It's not that you forget how horrible how war is, it's that you've made war less horrible.

That's how the argument runs, anyway. Personally, I have my doubts that everybody would play nice; I feel like people would always be trying to cheat by targeting the enemy's operators, civilian manufacturing plants, and so on, because when countries go to war they want to win. But even if you could perfect the system, I don't think military superiority is a very good way of satisfying political disputes. Sure, you've eliminated the bloodshed and that's nice, but everybody is still forced to make concessions to whoever wins, and without the bloodshed there's no reason for the strongest person not to shove everybody around. It'd be a bit like a playground where nobody ever stands up to the bully: nobody gets hurt, but they also have to give him whatever he wants.

Lord Raziere
2011-10-02, 02:35 AM
pfff. hahaha

war, bloodless? oxymoron. war will never be bloodless. if you think for a second that just because our armies are replaced by tin cans that it will will change anything, especially human nature, your wrong.

I mean think about it, all you have done is distanced people from the fighting, distanced them from the consequences, the situation. I bet its a lot easier to shoot someone from behind a screen or have a robot do it for you than to do it yourself....

war will only become worse, you'll have people thinking in nothing but numbers and cold calculations deciding the battles and who to kill from miles away, and I'm guessing that the civilians won't like inhuman things occupying their towns that can kill them with a press of a button. that and no one progresses technology at the same rate, there will be people who don't have such technology and still have human soldiers.

and furthermore- there is the fact that you will have inhuman things fighting for you, robots whose only purpose is to be a highly intelligent weapon, not a soldier. a soldier is at least still human, still has a heart. one of those robotic things? just a weapon, a walking gun that hasn't fired at you yet.

war wouldn't become cleaner. it would just become colder and therefore ten times worse.

GolemsVoice
2011-10-02, 03:19 AM
There has to be something more to it: funny dialogue, character arcs, an interesting overarching plot, that sort of thing. Presumably, a story set in a heavily automated war would focus on the human strategists, or drone operators, or maintenance techs, or... whatever. Maybe they're not in personal danger as much as infantry, but so what? There are plenty of novels where the protagonist is never physically in danger. Not usually war novels, but the point is that the danger is not an essential component to every story ever written.

Of course, but then you essentially have a story about humans that just happens to feature drones at some point. And as you said, it's unlikely that they will be mentioned all that much.

Mr.Bookworm
2011-10-02, 03:56 AM
However, as you are seem firmly convinced that UAVs are starting to encroach towards war-changing superweapon territory, I don't think any further input from me is going to be constructive; so I shall gracefully bow out for the moment.

That's not what I ever said, but I'm going to bow out of this as well.

I think I've gotten my arguments about modern tech versus future tech a little scrambled, and this is starting to verge a little too close to politics for my comfort.

H Birchgrove
2011-10-02, 08:30 AM
Yeah that was a pretty good episode, well by ST: TOS standards at any rate. And is an example of the sort of thinking that might result in a level of human presence regardless of automation, it uses the planet as a strawman for romancing more 'honorable' methods of combat.

I think it was partially an analogy to the Terror Balance during the Cold War; by people knowing how bad World War Three would be, it will hopefully never happen.

Mewtarthio
2011-10-02, 10:26 AM
Wait, when did this become a discussion about bloodless war? I thought it was just about drones. Of course drones won't lead to bloodless wars: The entire point of a war is to violently coerce the other guy into doing what you want, and you can't really do that without killing people. Drones just limit the casualties of the winning side.

It's like bombing someone. Nobody thinks that dropping bombs is "bloodless," but by blowing up your enemies defenses beforehand, you ensure that your infantry doesn't get slaughtered trying to take the area.

Make no mistake: If it comes down to drone-vs-drone warfare, then the winning drones will fly right on over to gun down the humans.

Not a strict rule, obviously. The point is, having drones makes it harder for the other guy to kill your humans, and you kill drones to make it easier for you to kill his humans.

Ravens_cry
2011-10-02, 10:44 AM
Drones just limit the casualties of the winning side.
I doubt even that. Bombing civilian targets was an important part of both world wars, and that would not have change just because the bombers and fighters are drones rather then piloted.

Traab
2011-10-02, 11:48 AM
I agree, Star Trek is a particularly bad example IMO.

We have a ship with a crew of over a thousand. What do they DO all day?

The ship appears to be completely run from the bridge, repairs are done by pressing a few buttons mostly and I've never seen any of the crew pushing round a vacuum or a paintbrush/roller. We've seen first hand that the entirety of flying, firing and directing repairs/energy can be done by one person in the games.

On the other hand, iain m banks culture novels feature warships piloted by AIs with little need for human input. Well worth a read for a look at the other side.

What I also find laughable is how the computers in Scifi are so crap, chattering away on tape drives and other than the voice interface being slow and unusable while the ship goes faster than light and fires lasers and such that are deflected by energy shields. Meanwhile in the real world here we are with computers that are busy calculating pi to its last decimal place and no warp drive or lasers. Natch.

On the star trek thing, thats what I actually liked about enterprise. Tucker is the chief engineer, and he often has actual tools in his hand and is shown crawling all over their warp drive trying to fix it or make it do what he wants. It isnt some stupid touch screen technology where, as you said, repairs are made by pressing buttons on a console on the other side of the room.

grolim
2011-10-02, 01:14 PM
Don't know why people think repairs are done by pushing buttons. Sure, they re-route the console or functions to the back up or redundant systems when damaged but they often mention and show people doing actual repairs.

Beleriphon
2011-10-06, 07:45 PM
Ok, lets say 10 people on the bridge. 10 in engineering. 10 in sickbay. *3 shifts = 90 people. So what do the rest do all day?

Heck, what do the bridge crew do all day? there doesn't seem to be enough work to keep that many people busy.

Most of the same stuff and honest to goodness ship's bridge crew does. Run the bridge systems. During most active shifts, when the captain is actually the watch officer then yes having everybody there works. But at some level you are right, having the CO, XO and First Officer there all of the time is kind of silly.

The shows tend to focus on the interesting part, being the command crew mostly. The novels do detail what the rest of the crew does. This is also not taking into account that TNG does explicitly point out that there are at least two other doctors, and at least twice as many nurses that work in the medical department.

What I find abnormal, is the fact that there only appears to be one NCO on the Enterprise, and then he leaves.

Traab
2011-10-06, 07:59 PM
Most of the same stuff and honest to goodness ship's bridge crew does. Run the bridge systems. During most active shifts, when the captain is actually the watch officer then yes having everybody there works. But at some level you are right, having the CO, XO and First Officer there all of the time is kind of silly.

The shows tend to focus on the interesting part, being the command crew mostly. The novels do detail what the rest of the crew does. This is also not taking into account that TNG does explicitly point out that there are at least two other doctors, and at least twice as many nurses that work in the medical department.

What I find abnormal, is the fact that there only appears to be one NCO on the Enterprise, and then he leaves.

What I want to know is, why is the "night shift" the light duty shift on a starship thats travelling across the cosmos? Its one thing to have less people on duty at midnight to 6 am on earth. Less stuff happens then. But travelling through multiple solar systems means radically different internal schedules from race to race, so there is no way to tell when trouble will happen. It may be 3am according to starfleet clocks, but the romulans think its noon. But apparently not. Apparently every inhabited planet rotates around its sun at the exact same speed and at the exact same spot, as earth. So its 5 oclock everywhere.

Lord Seth
2011-10-06, 08:14 PM
LOL. Since when was the Enterprise not a warship? The only incarnation of the ship to even claim that is the TNG-era Enterprise-D*, and that's as pure an example of Federation propaganda** as you could hope to find. At her commissioning, she's one of the most powerfully armed and shielded vessels in Starfleet - "science and exploration vessels" don't need enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with enemy battleships, and therefore they do not carry that kind of firepower, because it's frakking expensive.Considering how many times the Enterprise did need those weapons when they were doing science or exploration, I'd say that it did need to carry that. Though I'm not entirely certain when it was ever stated it wasn't a warship other than when Guinan said it in "Yesterday's Enterprise," but that was to try to contrast the Enterprise in the original timeline with the Enterprise in the alternate timeline, which was used only for war.


** The Federation is nothing but a gang of lying liars who lie. See also: "Starfleet is not a military organization,"Was this ever actually claimed in-universe? I know Gene Roddenbery was of this persuasion, but I don't believe it was ever actually stated in the show.


"We've eliminated war, poverty, and disease,"When was this claimed? I remember Picard said they had eliminated hunger, but I don't recall any of this other parts being claimed...and truth to tell, from what we can tell they did eliminate war (within the Federation) and poverty.

As for the topic, I do believe in the (somewhat obscure) space shooter game Mars Rising and its sequel Deimos Rising, the premise was that you were controlling the ships remotely to attack enemies. Which actually did provide a justification for extra lives...
Wait, when did this become a discussion about bloodless war? I thought it was just about drones.Someone mentioned a Star Trek episode in which two planets at war had come to some kind of arrangement where the war is simulated and anyplace where bombs or strikes would happen would result in a calculated number of deaths, and that many people would be killed. It's obviously not quite bloodless, though.

The reason for that setup, I believe, was that it prevented the war from screwing up their environments or changing their societies. It was a bit of a hokey setup, but I think it was one of the best episodes of the series.

Brother Oni
2011-10-07, 01:05 AM
What I want to know is, why is the "night shift" the light duty shift on a starship thats travelling across the cosmos? Its one thing to have less people on duty at midnight to 6 am on earth. Less stuff happens then. But travelling through multiple solar systems means radically different internal schedules from race to race, so there is no way to tell when trouble will happen. It may be 3am according to starfleet clocks, but the romulans think its noon. But apparently not.

While it is very glossed over, I can see a justification for having a day/night cycle on the Enterprise - all the non-Starfleet crew need one.
Since humans are diurnal at a biological level, it makes sense to mimic this pattern on space ships and current research shows this is beneficial to crew health.

This way, crew know they've drawn the short straw on shift work this month when they're on night shift with Data. :smalltongue:

When trouble happens though, everybody wakes up, regardless of what simulated time it is.



Apparently every inhabited planet rotates around its sun at the exact same speed and at the exact same spot, as earth. So its 5 oclock everywhere.

To be fair, it's fairly easy to adjust to planetary time - just take up orbit above where it is 5 o'clock (or the local planetary equivalent). :smalltongue:

Traab
2011-10-07, 07:52 AM
While it is very glossed over, I can see a justification for having a day/night cycle on the Enterprise - all the non-Starfleet crew need one.
Since humans are diurnal at a biological level, it makes sense to mimic this pattern on space ships and current research shows this is beneficial to crew health.

This way, crew know they've drawn the short straw on shift work this month when they're on night shift with Data. :smalltongue:

When trouble happens though, everybody wakes up, regardless of what simulated time it is.


To be fair, it's fairly easy to adjust to planetary time - just take up orbit above where it is 5 o'clock (or the local planetary equivalent). :smalltongue:

I understand that part. I know we need a day/night setup for people to not go crazy, but my problem is with making that night shift short of staff, as if everyone in the universe is using starfleet time so they generally wont bother attacking at 3am. The entire senior staff, minus maybe one person from the main bridge crew are asleep, for reasons that defy logic. Logically, there should be a full shift of crew on duty at all times, because, when it comes to intergalactic travel, its hard to determine time zones!

Yes, you could always orbit a planet at the equivalent time frame for your world to avoid dealing with jet lag or a screwed up sleep schedule, but that wasnt what I was talking about. Cardassia, and the romulan empire, have their own star systems, and presumably, there own measurement of time. I somehow doubt their day lasts exactly 24 hours, or that it is generally synched with our time. Why doesnt that ever cause conflict between them in outer space meetings? Our light duty shift could coincide with their busy part of the day, or just be randomly off target from federation time. But no, even the federations enemies seem to work on federation time.

Aotrs Commander
2011-10-07, 08:07 AM
I understand that part. I know we need a day/night setup for people to not go crazy, but my problem is with making that night shift short of staff, as if everyone in the universe is using starfleet time so they generally wont bother attacking at 3am. The entire senior staff, minus maybe one person from the main bridge crew are asleep, for reasons that defy logic. Logically, there should be a full shift of crew on duty at all times, because, when it comes to intergalactic travel, its hard to determine time zones!

Yes, you could always orbit a planet at the equivalent time frame for your world to avoid dealing with jet lag or a screwed up sleep schedule, but that wasnt what I was talking about. Cardassia, and the romulan empire, have their own star systems, and presumably, there own measurement of time. I somehow doubt their day lasts exactly 24 hours, or that it is generally synched with our time. Why doesnt that ever cause conflict between them in outer space meetings? Our light duty shift could coincide with their busy part of the day, or just be randomly off target from federation time. But no, even the federations enemies seem to work on federation time.

You might also raise the point why whenever starships meet, they are always orientated with "up" in the same direction. (Or why there's always sound in space; and when programs do omit it, the realism detracts from the experience). Some things are just a construct of good TV.

KillianHawkeye
2011-10-07, 08:45 AM
Wow, I guess I'll be the first one to mention Stargate. :smallconfused:

In Stargate SG-1, the SGC did occaisionally use UAVs for aerial recon. They also regularly used a ground-based remote probe to scout the area around their destination before travelling through the gate. And the Ancients (your typical super-advanced precursor race) used remote-controlled attack drones as their primary weapons platform, as shown in the later seasons and on Stargate Atlantis.

Traab
2011-10-07, 08:55 AM
You might also raise the point why whenever starships meet, they are always orientated with "up" in the same direction. (Or why there's always sound in space; and when programs do omit it, the realism detracts from the experience). Some things are just a construct of good TV.

I know things have to be done to sacrifice realism for enjoyment, but including relative time differences could have actually made things interesting. It would have added in more depth to the show, and new tactics such as the romulans knowing that by federation time X would be the best time to try and sneak attack enterprise, while they are fully awake since its only lunch time according to them. Also could have added some humor to the mix. "Greetings unknown alien vessel, I am captain jean luc picard of the uss enterprise. To whom am I speaking?"

/some time passes, then a man in his night clothes answers.

"What is WRONG with you? Do you have any idea what time it is?"

Tavar
2011-10-07, 09:28 AM
Not sure how that would be humor. Just the other side being absolute idiots; if they're spacefaring, then they should know that different planets have different day/night cycles.

comicshorse
2011-10-07, 10:36 AM
What I want to know is, why is the "night shift" the light duty shift on a starship thats travelling across the cosmos? Its one thing to have less people on duty at midnight to 6 am on earth. Less stuff happens then. But travelling through multiple solar systems means radically different internal schedules from race to race, so there is no way to tell when trouble will happen. It may be 3am according to starfleet clocks, but the romulans think its noon. But apparently not. Apparently every inhabited planet rotates around its sun at the exact same speed and at the exact same spot, as earth. So its 5 oclock everywhere.

Yes but as everybody else is asleep, there are no mad star fleet scientists messing with the fabric of the universe and so causing emergencies that need a full crew to handle

Umbraeques
2011-10-07, 11:09 AM
Being that no modern Navy has it's watches (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watch_system) in anything resembling Star Fleets, despite working under similar conditions (24 hour operation) - the way ST do it is remarkably silly.

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-07, 12:20 PM
I understand that part. I know we need a day/night setup for people to not go crazy, but my problem is with making that night shift short of staff, as if everyone in the universe is using starfleet time so they generally wont bother attacking at 3am. The entire senior staff, minus maybe one person from the main bridge crew are asleep, for reasons that defy logic. Logically, there should be a full shift of crew on duty at all times, because, when it comes to intergalactic travel, its hard to determine time zones!


What precisely constituted the entire senior staff here. Let's take TNG. Picard and Riker aren't in a regular duty rotation, privilege of command plus needing to be available for any number of contingencies anywhere.

This gives us what Data, Worf, Geordi, Crusher, and Troi as senior staff right?

Almost right away I will point out we only have 5 people and presumably 7 days a week. That means multiple days a week they are forced to change their sleeping habits to accommodate the duty rotation. And the only way to get away with one shift per night is a 6 hour shift, given they don't have a terribly much luxury for using the restroom or getting food. Or terribly much to y'know do. Now mind you the more people you want to stand this watch, the more often and more disruptive to their sleep schedules it will be. And of course these people all have regular jobs to perform aside from their other watch rotations.

This isn't even assessing the question of whether Geordi, Crusher, and Troi should be in that rotation. What with not being operations oriented.

Put simply its dubious that the senior staff of TNG is big enough to actually run the ship themselves, much less have more then one of them present at the odd hours of the day we'd all rather be doing other things in. Incidentially TOS is about the same at best (Damnit Jim I'm a doctor not a spaceship driver!) and Voyager has it worse depending on how you count Ensign Kim and hey-I'm-a-criminal Paris. Though an Ensign running a ship is not as unrealistic as it might sound. And all except show less flexiblity in position then TNG. Clearly all rely on various unnamed officers to fill out their operations.

Mind you its an open question of any Trek representing a realistic command of a ship, but I think you are hard pressed to find realistic depictions of military operations portrayed anywhere.

(Oh and Data presumably could stand watch for long periods of time back to back, but Picard would come down hard on that kind of discrimination and at some point in his development Data would refuse to as well)

Traab
2011-10-07, 12:31 PM
The thing is, it appears basically that for all intents and purposes, the enterprise virtually shuts down at "night" and there is basically 2-3 night watchmen at the helm. We see it happen every now and then. Some ensign or other low ranked mook is working at the bridge with maybe a couple other people. If you ever watched the show Deadliest Catch, they are the deckhands left in the wheel house while everyone else gets to sleep, whose job it is to make sure they dont run into anything. While I get the whole captain and first officer being outside the normal duty roster, there really should be full shifts of bridge crew keeping an eye on things at all times because there is no promise that just because the captain finally went to bed, that there wont be an issue that requires immediate handling, aside from, "Bridge to captain picard. We need you!" If some unknown ship decloaks and starts firing, do you really want some ensign to have to make those initial decisions about the continued survival of your ship?

Tyndmyr
2011-10-07, 12:39 PM
But this doesn't work. We ain't even close to the level of technology required. You really think the American military programmers can do a better job than Microsoft have with Windows? (And for once, I'm deadly serious. For all we rag on it, Microsoft does have a bigger budget and development team than the the department of defense, and civilian computing has been leading military applications for years now.)

I do some RC aircraft driving, and I'm dabbling in the UAV field(scale model predator, 6 ft wingspan), and also happen to be a programmer. There is essentially no equivalence between microsoft windows and the control system on a UAV. Judging the reliability of either based on the other is very, very faulty logic.


And remember, this is the same military that, forty years ago, blithly claimed air-to-air missiles would render guns on aircraft obsolete...

And they essentially have. The F-22 carries enough ammo for about five second of firing. It's a pretty last ditch thing. Cannon designs are all about reduced weight, even at the expensive of ammo capacity and potency of round.

They were just a little bit ahead of the tech, and now, they're being cautious so as to not repeat the error.


I spoke to my mate What Knows (him being sufficiently knowledgeable as to be an occasional military consultant to the British Army1.) He said, the reason they are doing it, is that an F-22 is twenty times as expensive, but can't shoot down twenty UAVs. (So it is one of those ideas the money-people think is a great idea, because they get twenty times as many units.) But UAVS also have to be flown into the combat area on an (interceptable) transport ship (because their endurance isn't up to much.) He also said, in reality, it actually takes closer the same amount of men to get a UAV into combat as a F-22. (By the time you've added the maintenace team, the transport pilots, the refueling guys to the actual UAV pilots.) So it's not much of a cost-saver in the end...

UAVs crush actual aircraft in endurance. Yes, you still need local bases regardless, but you can get some crazy range and endurance from some models of UAV. This is a point that UAVs win solidly over conventional fighters, since they can operate from bases further away and still have great time over the target.

Note that an F-22 is not a particularly good ground attack vehicle, either. Reaper's crush it in cost effectiveness. So, for a lot of things, it really, really makes sense to use drones. I'm an advocate of going entirely for pure quantity of drones. You literally can't lose an engagement when you can field more armed aircraft than your enemy has missiles.

While we're at it, we DO need to automate more ground functionality. Some things are much more manual than they need to be.


1Some of the things he tells us are not something I'd feel comfortable posting on a forum!

Definitely omit that stuff then. Don't want anyone getting in trouble.

Hands_Of_Blue
2011-10-07, 12:54 PM
In Next Gen, Data was usually in command during the night shift, and there was one episode that showed that Dr. Crusher had previously taken the command officer's test and took night shifts every once in a while. And in that same episode Troi passed as well, so she'd be able to take some night shifts too.

In Voyager, I remember Ensign Kim being in charge on nightshift a lot, but they were in a weird predicament. I don't remember who did it on DS9, I think it was actually just unnamed officers.

Brother Oni
2011-10-07, 07:50 PM
The thing is, it appears basically that for all intents and purposes, the enterprise virtually shuts down at "night" and there is basically 2-3 night watchmen at the helm.

Point highlighted.

There's a TNG episode (which some digging shows to be called Data's Day), which shows Data starting and ending the episode with taking the night watch.

Looking up the episode on youtube, it shows 5 crew on the bridge changing over when Data takes over from Worf (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Quv4AjsLI4&feature=BFa&list=PL2A1EC9B0A134C5CC&lf=results_main) (7:37 onwards), so 6 crew in total (command, comms, weapons, sensors, helm and navigation I assume).
That's pretty much full bridge crew to run the Enterprise.

Gnoman
2011-10-07, 08:01 PM
Note that an F-22 is not a particularly good ground attack vehicle, either. Reaper's crush it in cost effectiveness. So, for a lot of things, it really, really makes sense to use drones. I'm an advocate of going entirely for pure quantity of drones. You literally can't lose an engagement when you can field more armed aircraft than your enemy has missiles.

While we're at it, we DO need to automate more ground functionality. Some things are much more manual than they need to be.




The F-22 is a pure fighter-interceptor. Any ground-attack ability it has is entirely an afterthought. The best ground attack aircraft in the inventory at this time are the A-10 and F-16. Both have far greater ground attack capability than a drone, and are fairly cheap to run as well. The only things modern drones are particularly good at (where a manned aircraft would not perform better) are long term surveillance and destruction of undefended point targets.

Soras Teva Gee
2011-10-07, 08:35 PM
The thing is, it appears basically that for all intents and purposes, the enterprise virtually shuts down at "night" and there is basically 2-3 night watchmen at the helm. We see it happen every now and then. Some ensign or other low ranked mook is working at the bridge with maybe a couple other people. If you ever watched the show Deadliest Catch, they are the deckhands left in the wheel house while everyone else gets to sleep, whose job it is to make sure they dont run into anything.

What's so terribly different then? Its not like any series but DS9 takes place in the Federation on a war setting where they actively expect attack. Assuming they have their quals filled out then its entirely likely the lowest men of the totem pole get the lion's share of the unfavorable hours.

The military does not run on rank so much as specific qualifications and positional authority.



While I get the whole captain and first officer being outside the normal duty roster, there really should be full shifts of bridge crew keeping an eye on things at all times because there is no promise that just because the captain finally went to bed, that there wont be an issue that requires immediate handling, aside from, "Bridge to captain picard. We need you!" If some unknown ship decloaks and starts firing, do you really want some ensign to have to make those initial decisions about the continued survival of your ship?

Simple, the answer has already been made for them as part of their training for the position. Boiled down it would be something like this

Problem: Unexpected ship decloaking off starboard bow.
Answer: Raise Shields. Sound Red Alert.
*shots bounce off shields,*

And that would be the answer because its the most sensible one. And they would hardly be calling the Captain so vaguely as that they need him. Given the instant comms it would be more likely the other way around while Picard flies into his clothes and rushes to the bridge getting a report while he rushes to the turbolift.

Ultimately the problem is that you aren't going to have such scenarios often enough to justify the sort of crew rotations that wouldn't be mostly night and day approach. And incidentally something like sudden attack either falls into predetermined responses, and would need at least the XO where not the Captain to make any responses beyond that.

Gnoman
2011-10-09, 11:21 PM
Traditionally, the night shifts on ships have been given over to the purpose of training, to give lower-ranking officers the opportunity to operate semi-autonomously (because the higher officers are off-shift or asleep) while still having the ability to call in the captain if they have a situation that they don't know how to handle. Such a procedure would likely be used in any formal or semi-formal space setting.

Traab
2011-10-11, 08:51 PM
Traditionally, the night shifts on ships have been given over to the purpose of training, to give lower-ranking officers the opportunity to operate semi-autonomously (because the higher officers are off-shift or asleep) while still having the ability to call in the captain if they have a situation that they don't know how to handle. Such a procedure would likely be used in any formal or semi-formal space setting.

True, but thats because traditionally, night times are the slow times. And in space, night time is relative to whatever species you are talking about. If its a full crew of second stringers on the bridge, fine, no harm no foul, but im pretty sure I have seen episodes where there are maybe 3 people on the bridge, none of them main cast members. Its basically a skeleton crew because apparently, since picard declares it night time, everyone in the galaxy is going to go along with this.

Captain Picard: "Attention everyone. I have declared this set of 8 hours to be "night time". That means henceforth, all people in this quadrant of space are compelled to be less active so my senior staff can get some sleep generally uninterrupted while three ensigns with less command experience combined than crusher has alone can keep an eye on things. Make it so"

Story Time
2011-10-12, 05:25 AM
...funny as that might be space-faring must answer the question of a terrestrial species's sleep cycle. Since putting Jean-Luc into a transporter and replicating him out of the food-prep unit is not an option, something has to be done. It's probably not legal to let a Holo Deck duplicate of any crew member man a station on the bridge either, in Federation law.

Regardless of all this, Star Trek is an entertainment show. Any person with real naval experience would be able to shoot holes in how they do a lot of things.


The answer to the original post's question is: Probes. When was the last time that some space-faring vessel in a science fiction Universe did not have two or three probes at their disposal? I'm coming up blank.

Ravens_cry
2011-10-12, 07:29 AM
Probably Star Wars, if you count that as science fiction. I don't remember in the newer Battlestar Galactica unmanned probes being used a lot, if at all. Interestingly, both shows use Fighter style spacecraft a lot.

Traab
2011-10-12, 07:40 AM
In star wars they used probes to try and track down the rebel base that was on hoth. So they used them for scouting missions to cover a vast area of space without having to send out 1000 pilots to every corner of the universe.

Ravens_cry
2011-10-12, 08:31 AM
Oh yeah, forgot about that. A surprisingly logical use for a universe that runs on two-fisted action and Matrix style philosophical rambling.
From a certain point of view.

Joran
2011-10-12, 10:40 AM
The F-22 is a pure fighter-interceptor. Any ground-attack ability it has is entirely an afterthought. The best ground attack aircraft in the inventory at this time are the A-10 and F-16. Both have far greater ground attack capability than a drone, and are fairly cheap to run as well. The only things modern drones are particularly good at (where a manned aircraft would not perform better) are long term surveillance and destruction of undefended point targets.

Don't forget the AC-130, which is essentially a cargo plane that the U.S. Air Force mounted gatling guns and a freakin' 130mm cannon.

I'm really not in favor of an all drone fleet because of the liability of the command and control systems. In case of a war with a developed nation, the satellite infrastructure that allows a base in the United States to communicate with drones across the world is going to be one of the first things under attack. Likewise, signal jamming is going to be an issue. If the enemy can invalidate your entire air force with a good electronic counter-measure, it's not a good air force.

Drones are perfectly fine in the current conflicts against less developed nations and insurgent groups, but against a developed nation, give me the F-22.