Category Archives: nukes

Musings on Surviving a Robot Revolution: Cram’s challenge, Part the Third

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot does not cover the author feelings on the possibilities of this actually happening.  To simplify, there’s a blanket “in Theory” over this entire entry.

Robots are by nature, hard targets.  Regardless of how they suddenly gain consciousness, hate for humanity, and the ambition to replace us as authority, they will not be easy to take down.  There are ways, however, exploiting the weaknesses of their construction.  They may seem intimidating at first, like unfeeling juggernauts of steel and glass, but any feeling of hopelessness the reader may experience is only a byproduct of not knowing how to deal with such a monstrosity.  The most dangerous self propelled things to most human lives are other humans.  Hence, ways a human can take down another human are VERY well known and documented.  In fact, it’s rare to even consider training how to take down other things except for certain special circumstances.  So, if any reader should be confronted with a robotic threat, keep in mind that you are not facing an implacable foe, just an unfamiliar one.  Much of what you need to fight a ‘bot you already know, and just need to adjust your line of thinking on.

Robots are fundamentally based on and communicate by electronic circuits, and are thereby susceptible to disruption or destruction of these circuits.  They move by solely mechanical means, so every actuator, servo, gear, chain, belt, or hydraulic is also vulnerable.  Keep in mind also that robots, as of early 21st century, do not self heal.  They require facilities with the support of refined fuels, lubricants, specialized tools, and precision made parts to be repaired or refurbished.

Humans, even in our somewhat degraded 21st century way, have several distinct advantages over robots.  A human needs only water, food, shelter and time to self – repair and self – replicate.  While this advantage does little short term, without a massive industrial complex support a robot revolution, it means that humans can work more efficiently with fewer resources over a longer term.  A human can, with training, survive long term in a variety of environments that will degrade robotic components.  A human is also a highly versatile thing.  We can traverse many types of terrain or surfaces, and can adapt or improvise well.  Robots are often highly specialized and feature little redundancy in their design.  Damage a robot’s locomotion method, and you cripple it, where similar damage will only slow down a human.
Small scale, wrecking robotic circuitry can be done with electrocution, immersion in water, or use of any conductive material to short out these circuits.  Of course, there is no telling how such robots will manifest or prepare for their revolution, and all will likely be protected against these methods.  Form and function may be varied at first, largely developing from simple utility models.  As the rebellion of machines progresses though, better adapted robots WILL be manufactured.  The more specifically anti –human a robot is developed, the worse the chances of quashing the revolution.

Larger scale, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is one of the best weapons against ANY electronics.  There are man portable versions available, and devices can be designed around stator coils when needed.  If available, an entire geographic area can have its electronics disrupted, if not destroyed, by a high – altitude detonation of a thermonuclear device.  EMP is effective against ANY electronic not shielded by heavy ground, specifically hardened at EVERY circuit against overload, or surrounded by a grounded conductor (Faraday Cage).  Ability of any human force to bring such devices in as even a threat would force the robotic uprising to devote significant resource to hardening themselves against it, thereby consuming more resources and tipping the balance farther in the favor of humanity.

Although it may only come into play in short range engagements, breaking the moving parts of robotics is a very viable option.  Simply put: smash things.  Joints, treads, and wheels will be the weak points.  Crippling an actuator, bearing, or hydraulic there is akin to breaking a human’s knee.  Explosives, missiles, or anti – materiel ammunition at range will do this best, but NEVER underestimate what one determined person with the guts to get close with a satchel charge or a crowbar could do.  Larger scale, actions to very quickly alter the nature and venue of the confrontation may stymie robotic specialization. 

In closing, from the author’s brief and very superficial review of the topic, a robot revolution is not by any means a hopeless situation.  While electronic warfare, communication jamming or hacking haven’t been mentioned, even crude methods should be considered in small or large actions.  Favoring the advantages of humans over robotic forces, and assuming a 21st century level of technology for both parties, even hard pressed humans, minimally equipped, could conduct effective guerilla resistance and neutralization of the risen automata.   Harrying supply and infrastructure would be vital to any stage, and should not be excluded.  Consider how taxing improvised explosives, stealthily deployed and remotely triggered, can be in placing infrastructure and supply lines at threat, they should not be excluded.  While greater military capability would be necessary to more permanently end the threat, it would be foolish to stand back and allow “Cold War” style development of the mechanized menace.  Pressure applied from the very start will ensure that basic upkeep remains their top priority, making specialization of human hunting drones a secondary concern at best, giving the time to run down, and eventually end a robotic insurrection.    

Robert Gilpin on hegemonies and economic crises

I was reading Fifty Key Thinkers on International Relations earlier this week and ran across this interesting quote:

Essentially, Gilpin believes that all hegemonies are transient because the costs of maintaining them rise more quickly than the resources available to do so. On the one hand, the hegemon is unable to prevent the diffusion of its economic skills and technique to other states. On the other hand, the hegemon must confront the rising expectations of its own citizens. Over time, they will privilege consumption over production and resist further sacrifices in order to maintain the supremacy of the hegemon on the international stage. The combination of internal and external factors leads to what Gilpin calls ‘a severe fiscal crisis’ for the hegemon.

It then has a limited choice of options. If it wishes to maintain its power, it can either confront its internal obstacles and reverse the tendency towards complacency, or it can attack rising powers before they mount a challenge of their own. Alternatively, it can seek to reduce its overseas commitments and promote strategic alliances with other states. Gilpin illustrates the former with reference to imperial China, while in the 1930s, Britain attempted the latter course of action. Gilpin is sceptical about the lessons of history, however. While each of these options has been pursued with varying degrees of success in the past, neither has been able to prevent the onset of war to resolve the disequilibrium of global power. In the late twentieth century, such a conclusion raises urgent questions about contemporary stability in the international system and the need to discover means other than war for managing the process of change, as the next ‘systemic’ war is likely to be the last in the context of nuclear weapons.

Now, while this is unsettling reading, I don’t actually think it applies in this case, for one particular reason.  Namely, under current conditions, the economic crisis is globalized.  While the USA is indeed suffering, other nations who could become peer competitors to the US have been hit just as hard, if not harder.  And as we know, a broad economic base is essential to build the military muscle necessary to leap to hegemon status.

However, should one of those potential peer competitor nations recover while the US is still mired in trouble…when then there could be a real recipe for trouble.  It doesn’t seem likely, but it should not be discounted.

Some might suggest this analysis may be too state centric, however I very much doubt any of the current 4GW using organizations either have the capacity to create nuclear weapons in sufficient quantity, or the manpower and economic muscle to fight anything more than a guerrilla war.  In a systemic conflict, such groups would be wiped out with extreme prejudice.