Archive for October, 2014

Is it swarm in here? The Navy announces autonomous swarm boats

October 15, 2014

Is it swarm in here? The Navy announces autonomous swarm boats

“You sunk my battleship!”

Well, technically, you didn’t sink it…robotic ships you unleashed surrounded it and sank it.

In this

media release by David Smalley

the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, proudly says, “The Future Is Now”.

We geeks know that isn’t always a good thing. ūüėČ

In this case, the Navy can retrofit boats with CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing), enabling them to (on their own) coordinate a “swarming attack” on an enemy vessel. They can surround it and just hold it there, or (under human direction), destroy it. The Navy says they can “…deter or destroy attacking adversaries. Any weapons fire from the USVs would need to be initiated by a Sailor supervising the mission.”

There is a video linked on that page, and somehow, it reminded me of the M-5 drill from the original Star Trek’s The Ultimate Computer episode*.

This was kind of a mirror universe version. In the Trek episode, a robotically controlled Enterprise is swarmed by human-controlled starships in a war game.

In this case, a human-controlled vessel was swarmed by robotically-controlled vessels in a war game.

Generally, robots in war are designed to reduce unintended collateral damage. A gun doesn’t have to be “smart” to kill people: it’s made smart so it knows who not to kill. ¬†A smart land mine would choose whether or not to explode, as opposed to current land mines, which maim¬†¬†indiscriminately.

Even as an advocate of robot rights, we at the Measured Circle have to admit feeling a bit…weirded out by this one.

It certainly seems as though military vessels could be sailing along with this fleet of fast boats zooming along side, like dolphins following a fishing boat. The USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) detect that a kayaker has entered the area, and immediately surround it…at their own discretion. They won’t shoot unless told to do so…if everything goes according to plan (and it always does, right?). ūüėČ

Okay, feeling fine with that? What if we throw drones into the mix? Yep, the media release (which shows this is forward thinking…it isn’t a “press release”) specifically mentions that this system could be expanded to include UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). It suggests it could also be used for tanks and such.

There is just something about the way they’ve written the press release and done the video that makes it sound like one of those weapons demonstrations we see in the movies…just before everything goes wrong.

On the other hand, maybe it’s the demo from Short Circuit…one of these vessels¬†gets hit by lightning, becomes self aware, and sets off on a wacky but peaceful boat trip¬†with Zach Galifinakis and Zooey Deschanel on a madcap comedy, while being pursued by Colonel Nick Offerman as it seeks its designer, Jim Parsons.

If that’s the case, carry on…

* I rewatched that episode in preparation for this post, and it is worth noting that there is a “self-driving” spaceship in it…and it seems to be accepted as routine that an ore freighter would be driving itself around. Yet another case where Star Trek preceded reality…

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

 

Today is to the Beatles as the Beatles are to…

October 3, 2014

Today is to the Beatles as the Beatles are to…

As I’ve pointed out before

You‚Äôre showing your age when you say, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre showing your¬†age‚ÄĚ

It’s very different in the modern era, when pop culture of the past is alive and well. If you want to listen to music from the 1960s, or see movies from the 1920s, you can do it with no problem.

In the past, though, that wasn’t the case. Something that was old seemed, well, distant.

Let me illustrate.

The Beatles really became international superstars in 1964…fifty years ago. Today, a kid can listen to the “fab four” (although they probably don’t call them that), and still be thought of as cool.

Imagine that you were a teenager in 1964…no internet, and really, not much credence given to pop culture of the past. Sure, the Universal horror movies might be on TV, and the “monster kids” were into them…but not so much for the mainstream, popular clique.

What would a leap back fifty years look like for a kid in 1964?

It was World War I…and nothing was burning up the airwaves, because there really wasn’t radio for music.

Who was popular in music?

Irving Berlin’s first stage musical, Watch Your Step, included Play a Simple Melody.

So, today is to the Beatles as the Beatles are to World War I.

How about another?

The Judy Garland Wizard of Oz was released in 1939. It really became popular when it was shown on television in the 1950s, but we can fairly use its original theatrical release year.

1939 was 75 years ago.

Jump back another 75 years from then…and it is 1864: the Civil War was coming to a close.

Today is to the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz as the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz is to the Civil War.

Back too far for you?

The TV series Friends debuted in 1994…twenty years ago.

Twenty years earlier than that is 1974…the year Little House on the Prairie debuted.

Today is to Friends as Friends is to Little House on the Prairie.

How about toys and games?

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in America in 1985, twenty-nine years ago.

1956 was twenty-nine years before that.

A nifty, “high tech” gadget for kids in 1956 was a portable Mickey Mouse club record player. It ran off batteries! You didn’t even need to plug it in…I guess we could say it was an early wireless gadget. ūüėČ

If you tried to show off that record player in 1985, it probably wouldn’t go well for you socially. A kid with an NES in 2014? Retro, but awesome.

Today is to the NES as the NES is to the Mickey Mouse Club record player.

In 2014, the past is nearby…in a way that it wasn’t not so long ago.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them


%d bloggers like this: