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Why you already live in a cyberpunk future

Our perception of a cyberpunk future is shaped by the foresight of luminaries like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling. Their vivid scenarios of ubiquitous computers, high tech weaponry, corporate tyranny and social disintegration have never been closer to reality than in the world of 2011. Here’s a few facts that will make you question the very fabric of our contemporary existence and learn to embrace the promise and perils of an increasingly cyberpunk reality.

A reality filled with high technology run by low life.

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How US strategic antimissile defense could be made to work

The authors show that the United States has the ability to defend itself from long-range nuclear armed ballistic missiles if it builds the right systems defenses based on stealthy drones that could shoot down ballistic missiles in powered flight after they have been launched from fixed known sites.This same system could defend Northern and Western Europe, and Northern Russia from large and cumbersome long-range ballistic missiles that Iran might build in the future.

Source: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (PDF).

Report: Space Security 2010

The rate at which new states gain access to space increased dramatically in the past decade. By the end of 2009 a total of 50 states had placed satellites in space … This number is expected to continue to grow as more states seek the socio-economic benefits that space provides through the efforts of the commercial sector and countries such as China, which are helping states to develop affordable small satellites. Companies such as the former Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited and China have assisted states including Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, Portugal, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, and South Africa in efforts to build their first civil satellites.

Excerpt from the Space Security 2010 Report (PDF). MSNBC has a summary of the report in the article “World’s military projects dominate space“.

Also see “US Space Security Policy” (PDF) from the Centre for International Policy Studies.

Debating Space Deterrence

Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite [KE ASAT]

Lessons from the Schriever X space wargame, which took place at Nellis AFB in May, are driving some hard thinking among deterrence strategists. In the second US Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in Omaha this week, panel speakers explored what turns out to be a nightmarishly complex issue.

One big lesson from Schriever X, which simulated the world of 2022, is that “it’s hard to do attribution”, according to Lt Gen Larry James, boss of Stratcom’s Joing Functional Component Command for Space. “It’s easy with an ASAT” (anti-satellite weapon) “but it is not easy with an object that has been there for years.”

Source: Avation Week.

Aerospace Future: Hypersonic Weapons and Spaceships

X51 scram jet

The wealth of possibilities offered by aerospace vehicles that can ride their own shockwaves likely explains why the project has drawn support from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), NASA, and the U.S. Navy.

“We could have in the future such things as hypersonic weapons that fly 600 nautical miles in 10 minutes,” said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, during a June 1 teleconference.

Source: Space.com. Also read “Ottawa in Space? –Reversing the Burden of Proof Regarding Space Weapons” from the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) (PDF).

The Fair and Responsible Use of Space

As space applications become central to modern interaction, more and more entities are becoming involved in space activities. Consequently, strategies to establish the coordinated, ethically justifiable and sustainable conduct of space activities have to be found. Such an endeavour requires addressing current questions regarding the use of space, dealing with fair rules in orbit and discussing the way towards achieving truly global engagement on space security issues.

From the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) via Secure World Foundation. Also see the ESPI reports on space policy and strategy. Order the report “The Fair and Responsible Use of Space” from Springer.

Also read “A new eye in the sky to keep an eye on the sky” in Space Review and “Operationally Responsive Space Office” on Wikipedia. Also read the related article “The myth of missile defense as a deterrent” from The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and “Surveillance Suspected as Spacecraft’s Main Role” in the New York Times.

Cyborgs in Space

In 1960, Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline published an essay in Astronautics titled “Cyborgs in Space.” Comparing man in space to a fish out of water, they noted that even if you could bring everything you need on your space explorations, “the bubble all too easily bursts.”

However, if the human body were altered to adapt to the conditions of space, astronauts would be free to explore the universe without limitation.

“Solving the many technical problems involved in manned space flight by adapting man to his environment, rather than vice versa, will not only mark a significant step forward in man’s scientific progress, but may well provide a new and larger dimension for man’s spirit as well,” the authors write.

The Clynes & Kline paper coined the term “cyborg,” and NASA followed up on their suggestions, commissioning a study on the topic. “The Cyborg Study: Engineering Man for Space” was released in 1963, and it reviewed the possibility of organ replacement, as well as how drugs and hibernation could be used to make space travel less stressful. The report concluded that replacing the heart, lungs and kidneys – the organs most stressed by space travel – was not feasible with the technology available at the time.

Source: Astrobiology Magazine. Also see “Where are the Cyborgs in Cybernetics?” by Ronald Kline.

A spacefaring hydraulic civilization

Once the water on the Moon or Mars or the asteroids becomes accessible to humanity, the ownership and control of it will determine which nations or peoples will truly be able to profit from space resources. The unratified Moon Treaty may have its fans, but once the value of the Moon’s water becomes evident, particularly the possibility of using it to produce liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for rocket fuel, it will become just another irrelevant scrap of paper. Peacefully or otherwise, the major spacefaring powers will come to an agreement giving “squatters rights” to whoever first occupies and claims a given bit of the icy Moon.

Source: The Space Review. Also see the Wikipedia entry on “hydraulic empire“.

(c) Copyright Plausible Futures Newsletter 2013