Friday, December 23, 2016

And You Thought Skynet Was A Scary Threat


I have another, "you really want to read this", recommendation for another of Daniel Suarez's books: "Kill Decision".

Once again he puts a thrilling, plausible combination of technology, and a scenario that, after you get into it, you're going to start looking over your shoulder for signs of; all with a list of characters, and plot development that keep you on the edge of your seat.

What he presents us with here is a logical extension of what is already happening: ever proliferating drone aircraft operations, inherent limits in not only how you staff operations people to keep them going, but also of bandwidth saturation with all of the control links to keep remote control machines doing useful things, creating pressure for alternative control schemes. And into that he adds the other logical extension of already in use, software implementations of the autonomous control strategies of insects like the Weaver ant (that companies like Amazon are using to control the logistics of products to and from regional fulfillment centers).

This is where you get thrown into a new realm of buzzwords, and technical details. Things like "stigmergy," "stigmergic propagation rates," and self dispersive communication channels that mimic neurons for weighted input signals. A realm where the autonomous agents use simple sets of signal based actions to create self organizing, dynamic strategy sets for the swarm as a whole. Cheap agents in this case, easily assembled from off the shelf, commercial components, that not only provide three dimensional mobility, but, once weaponized, create killing swarms that are scary on a whole new level (where even an aircraft carrier battle group is threatened).

And as scary as the swarms are presented here, challenging a crew of top notch Spec Ops people, what's even scarier is the larger implications of warfare conducted in this manner. Warfare suddenly freed of the age old limitations of the human element; No combatant body counts. No standing armies required. And the ability to be applied with complete secrecy as to who is the actual attacker. If you add to that a targeting capability that uses all of the data collection of our new "big data" world, and the analytic capabilities that provides, and you get a police state with a big stick that would have made Orwell shit his pants.

I mean, just think about it. With everything you do now identifying you in so many ways, making it possible to not only know where you are in a given moment, but also where you're likely to be in the future. They won't need thugs in the night to come knocking down doors, and throwing a sack over your head to disappear you. Just a quiet drone to fire a silenced weapon of some sort. And there wouldn't be anyway to know who was actually behind the attack.

I swear now, I'm beginning to feel like Tommy Lee Jones's character in the movie "No Country For Old Men." Only in this context, though, it's not just the increasing ruthlessness of actors in a particular theater of our war on drugs that is so daunting, it is the whole matrix of increasing threat scenarios that faster changing technology, increasing greed, and/or lust for power, and a planet of decreasing resources, and ever larger populations, provides. So many aspects. So many technical details. And all of it interacting ever more complexly. And even more perverse, I guess, is that so much of it can be just as entertaining as it is frightening.