The media coverage of the recent opening of the MIT Insitute for Soldier Nanotechnologies was mostly confined to articles with a clear news angle. A deep information-rich analysis of the consequences of military nanotechnology on the stability of the world system is rare in mainstream media. This report will examine some consequences of this disruptive emerging technology on military affairs.
The phenomenon of war has fascinated and killed men from prehistory to the agricultural revolution and the subsequent organization of resources. Already in 1929 Maurice Davie noted in his anthroplogyThe Evolution of War , “war is the business of half the human race.” Probing further into the logic of war Joseph Tainters “The Collaps of Complex Societies” raise the question of whatever environmental factors or the failures of group decision-making is the main cause of war. Philosophy student Doyne Dawsons “The Origins of War: Biological and Anthroplogical Theories” look at the functions and causality of war. From the invention of gunpowder to the development of nanotechnology, the logic of war is as cynical as ever.
Defense spending has accelerated the evolution and transfer of advanced technology. DARPA developed the Internet that caused the information revolution (IT/Internet) that later caused a civilian technological powershift. Alvin Toffler explore this with great detail in “War and Anti-War, Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century”. Under this paradigm we live with constant threats of asymetrical warfare waged by knowledge warriors with offensive technology. Toffler reminds us that this is the nature of the threat that has to be adressed, sooner rather than later.
The effects of military spending on nanotech would be similar to information technology, namely more rapid development of nanotech for civilian use. The US Department of Defense 2003 budget worth $379 billion (reaching cold-war levels) has nanotechnology as one of six major research areas. After the National Science Foundation, the DoD is the largest supporter of nanotech research. As part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s $710 million 2003 budget, the DoD is committing $201 million for research in nanoelectronics, magnetics, nanomaterials, and detection and protection against chemical, biological, radiological and explosive threats.
The US may be the present world leader in nanotechnology, but it’s not the only country with big defense budgets. Japan, the world’s second largest military spender, is far behind the United States with an annual defence budget of $49 billion, followed by Britain with $36 billion. The top five spenders–the United States, Japan, Britain, France and China–account for about 62 percent of total world military expenditures. The United States now accounts for 43 percent of world military expenditure. Long-term potential enemies of USAUK, including China and Iran (See Nanotechnology Studies Committee), has already invested in nanotech research centers and may in the future gain significant nanotech capabilities. Although a small part of these military budgets are used for nanoscience research – civilian research budgets will produce results that easily can be transferred for military purposes.
To counter the threat of increasingly sophiscated warfare – satellites and UAVs has become the eyes and ears of the army and intelligence agencies of the world. (See “Attack of the Drones”, BetterHumans) Al Martin, a central iran-contras figure, reported late 2002 about UAVs the size of large soccerballs that hovered and asked for ID papers. According to Mr. Martin this craft was showcased at a secret sales meeting between the US and Chinese military. (See Al Martin RAW) Rumors aside, s cientists are applying nanoscience in aviation technology to improve precision and strength of sensors. Nanotechnology will change defense systems en masse – from the aviation industry to the security/intelligence/surveillance industry and beyond.
1. MILITARY NANOTECH APPLICATIONS
2. DEFENSIVE NANOBOTS?
3. DANGEROUS HEADLINES OF THE FUTURE
4. NON-LETHAL NANOWEAPONS?
5. THE LOGIC OF NANOWAR SCENARIOS
6. 4 NANOWAR SCENARIOS
7. INTERVIEW WITH EDWIN THOMAS, INST. FOR SOLDIER NANOTECHNOLOGIES
The phenomenon of war has fascinated and killed humans from prehistory to the agricultural revolution and the subsequent organization of resources. Already in 1929 Maurice Davie noted in his anthroplogy The Evolution of War, “war is the business of half the human race.” Probing further into the logic of war Joseph Tainters “The Collaps of Complex Societies” raise the question of whatever environmental factors or the failures of group decision-making are the main cause of war. Philosophy student Doyne Dawsons “The Origins of War: Biological and Anthroplogical Theories” look at the functions and causality of war. From the invention of gunpowder to the development of nanotechnology, the logic of war is as cynical as ever.
Defense spending has accelerated the evolution and transfer of advanced technology. DARPA developed the Internet that caused the information revolution (IT/Internet) that later caused a civilian technological powershift. Alvin Toffler explore this with great detail in “War and Anti-War, Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century”. Under this paradigm we live with constant threats of asymetrical warfare waged by knowledge warriors with offensive technology. Toffler reminds us that this is the nature of the threat that has to be adressed, sooner rather than later. Military spending on nanotech would have the same effect as with information technology, namely more rapid development of nanotech for civilian use. The US Department of Defense 2003 budget worth 9 billion (reaching cold-war levels) has nanotechnology as one of six major research areas. After the National Science Foundation, the DoD is the largest supporter of nanotech research. As part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s 0 million 2003 budget, the DoD is committing 1 million for research in nanoelectronics, magnetics, nanomaterials, and detection and protection against chemical, biological, radiological and explosive threats. The US may be the present world leader in nanotechnology, but it’s not the only country with big defense budgets. Japan, the world’s second largest military spender, is far behind the United States with an annual defence budget of billion, followed by Britain with billion. The top five spenders–the United States, Japan, Britain, France and China–account for about 62 percent of total world military expenditures. The United States now accounts for 43 percent of world military expenditure. Long-term potential enemies of USAUK, including China and Iran (See Nanotechnology Studies Committee and “Order for SEM to Iran”, Obducat), has already invested in nanotech research centers and may in the future gain significant nanotech capabilities. Although a small part of these military budgets are used for nanoscience research – civilian research budgets will produce results that easily can be transferred for military purposes. To counter the threat of increasingly sophiscated warfare – satellites and UAVs has become the eyes and ears of the army and intelligence agencies of the world. (See “Attack of the Drones”, BetterHumans) Al Martin, a central iran-contras figure, reported late 2002 about UAVs the size of large soccerballs that hovered and asked for ID papers. According to Mr. Martin this craft was showcased at a secret sales meeting between the US and Chinese military. (See Al Martin RAW) Rumors aside, scientists are applying nanoscience in aviation technology to improve precision and strength of sensors. Nanotechnology will change defense systems, from the aviation industry to the security/surveillance/intelligence industry and beyond.
|1. MILITARY NANOTECH APPLICATIONS Information technology and the Internet has been a precursor of military transformation and have changed the priorities of many defence budgets. Nanotechnology will enable completely new types of defense systems and offensive weaponry. Applied nanotechnology in defense systems range from individual soldier enhancement to completely new surveillance and intelligence gathering tools. Ultra-thin sheets interwoven with sensors can be stretched across miles and give high-resolution surveillance of miniscule changes in temperature, sound or air-quality. Bacterium-sized devices could convert high explosives into inert substances, a technique that would neutralize even nuclear weapons. Most western countries have, with some hesitation, established civilian nanoscience research institutes the last 5-10 years. Today military research institution across the globe is looking at possible military applications of nanotechnology. The most interesting application area is wihtin the materials sciences, where the aim is to reduce the weight of ammunition/food storage and strenghten the properties of equipment. An anti-corrosion nanocoated painting is already being tested on navy vessels. To be able to practically deploy nanotechnology in the armed forces scientists need to mass-produce large quantities of the desired nanomaterial. The genereal term “nanofoundries” refers to all bulk production at the nanoscale. Silicon transistors, and later MEMS, have been produced in bulk since the 1960’s. Today several methodes exist to mass-produce carbon nanotubes and some will probably become commercially viable within the next few years. 2. DEFENSIVE NANOBOTS? To be able to construct machines that operate at the nanoscale, current top-down approaches are cumbersome. This is why many consider the bottom-up approach more promising to build nanoscale devices. The Protonic NanoMachine Project at the Osaka University Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences in Japan is looking at the self-assembly, regulation, conformational switching, force generation, and energy transduction of biological macromolecular complexes. Their aim is to use machinery found in nature to power artificial nanomachines. Military uses of nanodevices could be in parts for smaller robots, systems for containment of dangerous weapons or in-vivo medical devices for soldiers. Self-organization of desired nano structures is crucial for the eventual mass-production of nanomachines. Without self-organization mass production of nanomachines, which work flexibly and precisely at the same time, is impossible. No matter how useful individually made nanomachines could be, there would be no practical applications without large-scale production. The outcome of their studies on protein nanomachines is expected to produce useful knowledge to eventually form a basis for design principles for artificial nanomachines. Biology and mechanical physics is merging to form nanobiotechnology. The use of nanotechnology for detection and defense against biochemical weapons has interested scientist a long time. Combining biocehcmical sensors for early warning with antimicrobial nanoemulsions for treatment would make the soldier practically invulnerable against toxic warfare. The biopharmaceutical NanoBio Corporation produce water/oil emulsions that employ uniformly sized droplets in the nanometer (10-9 meter) range. The nanoemulsions destroy microbes effectively without toxicity or harmful residual effects. The classes of microbes eradicated are virus (e.g., HIV, Herpes), bacteria (e.g., E. coli, Salmonella), spores (e.g., Anthrax), and fungi (e.g., Candida albicans, Byssochlamys fulva). This is an example of the many commercial civilian companies working on dual-use technology. The range of dual-use and multi-purpose nanotechnology would grow as commercial interests look into nanoscience. Many readers may shake their heads in disbelief to this information. Head of unit for nanosciences and nanotechnologies in the European Commission Renzo Tomellini recently said to Cordis News that he “… believes that books and articles have contributed to fears about nanotechnology. Some have combined invisibility, movement and the possibility of reproducing and learning, to create hypothetical ‘nano-robots’. As presented, these fears are not realistic, are beyond science fiction, and have little or nothing to do with nanotechnology…” I agree with Tomellini’s cautionary advice. It still makes me wonder how he can dismiss the many reports and analysis that mention weapons that nobody in the civilian research community have the nerves to even dream up?
|3. DANGEROURS HEADLINES OF THE FUTURE Atlantic Monthly recently published “Headlines over the Horizon” written by defense and technology analysts at the RAND Corporation. Apart from the usual hotspots of future wars; the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Russia (See also “Russia as a Security Disaster Area: Possible Conflicts and Interventions in 2015” PDF, The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis) and Africa – technology was the real shocker. The RAND researchers fears high-altitude anti-satellite nuclear attacks at some 250 commercial and military satellites critical to the western infrastructure. The retalitatory crosshairs from such attacks could be targeted at high-technology countries like Russia and China but also Pakistan, North-Korea, and even Iran. According to RAND researcher future soldiers deployed in urban guerilla warfare will use hand-held computers and micro-robots for real-time battlespace command and control. MEMS-enabled smart dust (See the Plausible Futures Newsletter Oct. 2002, “InfoWar, NanoWar and Exotic Weapons”) and the use of mind-controlled insects to gather information is also covered. Since RAND has the guts to publish this, the really juicy classified stuff would at least include genetically engineered nanoenhanced war dogs/animals. Rats are already used to clear minefields. Research done at the State University of New York on remote controlled rats might be an indicator of where this technology could lead. (See “Here comes the ratbots”, BBC) 4. NON-LETHAL NANOWEAPONS? Most adults remember rubber bullets, first used in the late 1960’s in Palestine and later Northern-Ireland. Non-lethal weapons caused much more controversy in the 1990’s when they became fashionable among civilian police. After much secrecy the government admitted research on; very low-frequency sound generators that would be tuned to incapacitate humans, sticky foams and “calmatives” that would immobilize or sedate adversaries, specially cultured bacteria that would corrode and degrade components of weapons systems, optical munitions that would cripple sensors and dazzle, if not blind, soldiers, acoustic beam weapons that would knock them out, netting and shrouds that would thwart the movement of aircraft, tank, and armored vehicles. (See “The Soft Kill Fallacy”, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists) These and many other related technologies have already been demonstrated at a proof-of-concept level. The proposed technologies raised questions about compliance with international agreements and still many fear black-budget research into these technologies. Nonetheless, government laboratories and private contractors are pursuing numerous similar programs. (See “Wonder Weapons”, US News and World Report and “Weapons of Mass Compliance”, LAWeekly) All these futuristic concepts could be realized sooner with nanotechnology. Due to size-reduction electromagnetic weapons could be integrated into existing handguns. Nanoparticles could be coated on bullets for more punch or other non-lethal properties. To be able to comprehend the complexity of the possible developments of nanotechnology for military purposes the following scenario planning process was exercised.
|5. THE LOGIC OF NANOWAR SCENARIOS Scenario planning found its first practical applications within military planning. The need to have contingency plans ready in case anything went wrong was critical to avoid large losses (there’s always worst case scenarios). Today wargaming and simulations of future battlefields are built using as much empirical “realworld” data to ensure a high degree of realism. Future military planners should be able to determinate the statistical probability of a desired goal with increasingly high accuracy. Scenario analysis had its commercial breakthrough with the Royal Dutch/Shell Group (See Storying Corporate Futures: The Shell Scenarios) when it helped them reduce their losses in the oil crisis of the 70’s. Kees Van Der Heijden’s book “Scenarios, the Art of Strategic Conversation” gives a thrilling and educational view of the world of corporate planning. While strategic thinkers and informed decision makers have many tools at their disposal, scenario planning stand out as the most practical one. For a detailed perspective on how scenario planning is applied in the military, see “The use of Scenarios in Long Term Defence Planning”. The military approach to scenario planning utilizes a set of hypothetical situations for the employment of military forces. The situations are specified in terms of geographic, military and civil parameters. Military capability requirements are determined from assessments of the ability to achieve mission objectives. This article cannot describe the complete process of a succesful scenario planning exercise, but let me describe the general structure. To approach a complex problem you need to aggregate reailty or create abstract worlds where the problem appears and therefore hopefully can be solved. In these carefully consistancy-checked stories, your problem and solution can be played out. To increase the consistancy (scenario logic) and plausibility of your scenarios several methods exits. The US west-coast mileu around the Global Business Network use methods described by Peter Schwartz in the book “The Art of the Long View”. The Swedish company Kairos Future has their own method called TAIDA, short for Tracking, Analysing, Imaging, Deciding and Acting. The list of scenario consulting companies is as long as the different approaches. Some universal concepts can still be found in the fundaments of scenario planning. The world according to a scenario planner is basically following tracks along driving forces (economy, politics, technology, demography, environment etc.) and is continously scaling along dimensions of uncertainty. This is illustrated with the classical 4-cell cross of scenarios. Each cell should contain stories where driving forces and uncertainty has played out differently. Scenario planning involves concepts as “enablers” and “inhibitors” that produce the uncertainty that distinguish the different scenarios. It’s essential that scenarios are a group process where information gathering and brainstorming is closed in a loop of continous reality-checks. The scenario below is therefor not a properly designed scenario, this is my worldview applied to nanowars using scenarios.
|6. NANOWAR SCENARIOSPARADIGM.The underlying paradigm of these scenarios for nanowars is the continously evolving nanoscientific paradigm, the permanent existence of violence and armed conflict among increasingly more technological sophisticated countries with decreasing amounts of natural resources. DRIVING FORCES.I’ve grouped the driving forces as global and local, this is to distinguish between driving forces on the marco-level and on the specific forces driving the weaponization of nanotechnology on the “local” level.Primary driving forces (global):· The access to services depleting natural resources (oil/gas, clean water, fresh air etc.) for an increasingly populated and industrialised world.· The scientific and technological race towards nanotechnology enabled industry and defense applications.· Incidents like 9/11 and the resulting asymmetrical global war (overt and covert)Secondary driving forces (local):· Nanoscience and industrial diffusion of applications in existing products.· Miniaturization of existing information/defence technology.· Global wireless high-speed communications and surveillance technology UNCERTAINTY.The uncertainties of the scenarios are scaled along the degree of diffusion of nanotechnology (X) and the balance between offensive and defensive use of the nanoweapons (Y). Enablers: the promise of nanotechnology. Inhibitors: the funding and brainpower needed for further progress WILD CARD / CRITICAL UNCERTAINTYMajor nanotech breakthrough that would give the power to blakmail for complete global power, e.g. Singularity/AI, controlled Grey-Goo type weapons, genebomb etc. INDICATORS / MILESTONESIndicators work as precursors and gives early warning of an impending trajectory in the scenario. When an “indicators” is proven to cause the expected scenario turn, it becomes a “milestone”. Indicators are continously coming from private and governement research laboratories around the world. 20 YEARS TIMELINE2005: first deployed nanoenhanced battle suit2015: most western armed forces rely on nanotechnology for defensive purposes2025: first conflict where defensive nanotechnology is used to counter an offensive nanoweaponPREDICTABILITY.“Very Low” to “Low” predictability due to the early stages of most nanoscience and lacking information on defense spending on nanotechnology.FUNDINGGovernment, Military, IndustryINFLUENCEThe development of nanotechnology for military purposes will slowly influence all areas of existing industries, from production to the consumer.POTENTIAL PLAYERS.US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Schweitz, Japan, Russia, China, India, Singapore, Taiwan, South-Korea.
OFFENSIVE HIGH DIFFUSION – “COLD NANOWAR”
This world is slowly developing towards complete penetration of nanotechnology in all parts of society due to much open-source research into nanotechnology. In 2010 most military powers (China, N-Korea, Iran) has proven control over many applications of nanotech. USAUK, Russia, China and some European countries has built destructive nanoweapons. The prolifiration of nuclear arms has almost completely been controlled because of new anti-nuke protection nanosystem deployed in all western cities. Although most people feel safe, the elite has retreated to private submarines and space camps to avoid the ravages of nanoweapons among criminals and terrorists. The increasingly critical energy crisis is driving industrial society to the maximum of its capacity. Energy demanding industry has grown with the progress of nanotechnology. Much progress has been done with nanoenergy methods but not enough to counter the burst of energy consumption feeding the wave of new products made possible by nanotech. High diffusion leads to several nanoweapon test-sites that resemble the nuclear test sites of the cold war. The awsome weapons create an intense atmosphere where high-level diplomacy keeps confrontations at a distance on a day-to-day basis. This scenario is a miultipolar stalemate scenario, but has the potential to develop into full-scale nanowar. See the movie “The Animatrix” and the comic book “Judge Dredd, Future Crime” to get some visuals to this scenario.
OFFENSIVE LOW DIFFUSION – “NANO UNDERGROUND”
The nature of this world is characterised by as much patent wars as nano wars. USAUK protected companies have constant legal battles with non-allied nanotech research trying to contain the technology. Much of the technology is restricted to a few government-funded projects, much are “black budget” and classified. China, N-Korea and other non-allied countries has increased competitive intelligence gathering on nanotech and rumors are circulating of large scale bulk purchases of Wilson’s DoubleCore tennis balls (which contain nanomaterials from InMat) and Eddie Bauer pants (containing nanocoatings) for reeningeering at underground laboratories in non-allied countries. Due to the restrictions on access to nanotechnology, many robot-enthusiasts and general techno-freaks buy second-hand nanofabrication equipment to produce defensive technology against government nanotech based surveillance systems.
DEFENSIVE HIGH DIFUSION – “NANOPEACE CORPS”
The competitive marketplace has developed every available application of nanoscience to the consumer market, and the defense sector is continously phasing their products into civilian circulation. The horrible prospect of offensive nanoweapons made all countries involved with nanotech research to agree upon a moratorium on offensive nanoweapons described in the “Nanoweapons Treaty” of 2009. UN Weapons Inspections Teams are continously controlling research institutions around the world. Due to several major breakthroughs with nanotechnology in the energy sector much of the impending energy crisis was avoided. The western world has reduced its dependency on oil and gas because of new energy storage and alternative energy sources. Some hostilities have been reported between rivaling western companies developing nanoweapons. Most global companies have installed nanotech protection systems to avoid industrial espionage but also to protect employees from potential attacks from competing companies.
DEFENSIVE LOW DIFFUSION – “SLOW BURN”
Among the allied countries (USAUK, NATO) only Russia has some offensive weapons. Nanotech is mostly used in communications, space, and the traditional engineering sectors. Nanotechnology didn’t live up to its expectations and many of the anticipated breaktroughs never appeared, and was shown to be impractical for mass production and even on the proof-of-concept level. The defensive applications of the still emerging field of nanoscience are found in improved battlesuits, sensors and surveillance technology. Most military research is transferred for civilian use and little effort is put into offensive weapons due to the slow progress and technical difficulties involed in research and production of nanotechnology for military purposes.
7. AN INTERVIEW WITH EDWIN THOMAS, DIRECTOR OF MIT INSTITUTE FOR SOLDIER NANOTECHNOLOGIES (ISN)
What technology are you currently considering most promising for invisible fabrics? (See “Being Invisible” Wired)
ISN is not working on invisible fabrics, because it’s camoflauge. The army is obviously interested in camoflauge, they work it and probably industry is working on it. All of the research we do at MIT is non-classified. So when you work on something like making people invisible, or whatever, it has to be classified. If you succeed, this would really be remarkable and it would also be such an advantage that it would be highly classified. What you are refering to is probably the Japenese article on the web about seeing-though something. What I think they have is cameras that are looking at the person, while controlling cameras on the back and displaying on the front. It’s quite an elaborate thing. Someome standing still could look transparent or invisible, but how would this person move, run around, and have all this stuff on him. I think the stuff has to be not on them but away from them to be able to look at them. I’m sure DARPA must work on this [. The group in Japan is working on cameras and projectors so it’s hardly nano. What do you think the will be the first applications coming out of ISN? Some of those nanocoatings will come fairly early. Because you are taking an existing object which are valuable and your are increasing it’s functionality by just applying a thin coating. It’s so-called “low hangin fruit”. You can imaging doing it, scaling it up and manufacturing it. Maybe having it tried out with soldiers in a year or two. How do the ISN coperate with the rest of the army for netcentric warfare? What I think they want to do is make the soldier a node on a network. This battlesuit has to have a lot of communications built into it, both in reciecing and transmitting information. They you have to make sure the solider don’t transmit his position to the enemy. Broadcasting radiation somebody might be able to say “There’s a bunch of soldiers over there in the wood” They can’t see them but they can find them from their radio signals. What other countries are currently studying nanotechnology for military/defence purposes? Sounds like Norway is just beginning to do a little bit of it. I know the British is interested. It’s a new thing and I think the US is really taking a lead in trying to do this. A lot of people are visiting us, asking questions and are curious. To see if this is this real and if it makes a difference? If it looks real, and it looks like to be a very valuable thing to invest in other countries will probably start doing this.
China is world leading in several areas of nanotechnology. Iran has a ”Nanotechnology Policy Studies Commitee”. Do you think weaponized nanotechnology could fall in the wrong hands, like WMD of today? Could offensive nanotechnology lead to an arms race similar to that for the nuclear bomb? How could waponized nanotechnology cause imbalance in the world system?
“A weapons race with nanotechnology!? We do everything for defensive purposes; we’re trying to make soldiers survive better. I guess everybody can think of evil things to do with nanotechnology. Protetcing people are not evil.” Thomas Edwin assures us.