Nov 012016
 

A video apparently produced by or for the Pentagon discussing the military nightmare of the future: megacities.

Megacities are themselves necessarily threats to humanity. Breeding grounds of disease and insanity and socialism (but then  repeat myself) these gigantic human-scale “Universe 25” analogues are of dubious stability. A bit of a power outage and the tens of millions of inhabitants will soon begin to not only set upon each other, but will spill out into the surroundings and will consume and destroy the natural and agricultural environments. But from the Pentagons point of view, there is the further complication of “how do you fight a war in a megacity? And the Pentagon has this problem because you have a city of tens of millions of noncombatants that you want to protect, interspersed with hundreds of thousands of enemies who blend right it.

I suspect that within a few generations the DoD might give serious consideration to abandoning the long-held American viewpoint of trying to minimize collateral damage, and take up the Russian approach: carpet bomb the whole damn thing. Surround the enemy megacity, put it under siege, and utterly destroy it. While this could be accomplished with many bombing runs of B-52s, B-1s, B-2s and C-5s all loaded with dumb bombs, it can also be accomplished by a small number of tactical nuclear weapons. And even more easily accomplished with biowarfare. Given how strained the systems are in *current* high population density megaslums, a little bit more time, population and resource strain could easily make a city of tens of millions ready to be virtually exterminated with a small outbreak of a disease that could be easily explained as entirely natural in origin. And once the outbreak becomes public knowledge, shipments of food and medicine into the megacities will slow, because who’d want to go there, and things will rapidly progress.

The recently released movie “Inferno” (a staggering bomb domestically, but doing fairly well overseas) touches on this. A James Bondian villain has spent his fortune developing a virus that will kill half the population of the planet, and Our Hero needs to find the bioweapon and prevent it from going off. The plot is entirely ridiculous, and some of the supervillains math is dubious (he assumes a planetary population of 32 billion in something like 30 or 40 years), but he does have something of a point: overpopulation is a serious problem *now* and will only get worse in the future. From the military’s perspective, fighting a war in a megacity where they’re constrained by current notions of preventing collateral damage must be an unwinnable prospect. I have my own preferred solution (get the hell *off* Earth), but in the end a good dose of Vegan choriomeningitis might be the only solution, especially in the megacities.

 Posted by at 3:09 pm
  • thingytest 3

    While I understand your viewpoint to a certain extent (having visited toronto, with its awful traffic and despicable mass transit system, and being aware that many megacities, especially in the third world, are awful places to live), i personally disagree with your point of view. Megacities concentrate manpower and permit efficient provision of public services (it is more economical to run a sewage plant for five million that 100,000; and the higher the population density, the more economical the mass transit system), increasing the quality of public services. Furthermore, I personally enjoy living in my city, where nowhere is more than an hour’s transit away by rail and there are a wide variety of interesting poaces (e.g museums, beaches, hiking trails etc) to go to. Nonetheless, my city (and my viewpoint about it) may be an exception (urban jungle immediately terminating in countryside without intervening sprawl).
    Thank you for your interesting articles.

    • Scottlowther

      > Megacities concentrate manpower and permit efficient provision of public
      services (it is more economical to run a sewage plant for five million
      that 100,000; and the higher the population density, the more economical
      the mass transit system

      You say this like these are good things.

      1) Concentration of manpower is concentrating your targets. Whether discussing nukes, bioweapons, earthquakes, asteroid strikes or just your run of the mill plague, heavy concentrations of people are easy to destroy.

      2) Yes, concentrations make for more efficient machines. Humans aren’t machines. There have been movements throughout history to make humans and human societies more efficient; these movements are rightly remembered as horror shows.

      3) Mass transit systems suck.If you wanted to take mass transit from Logan, Utah to Burlington, Vermont, how would you go about it? today, you can’t. What *possible* mass transit system could be devised that could take people where they want to go? The only way that works is if you convince people that they don’t want to go any further than perhaps a few dozen miles from home. This is a retrogressive step, taking people back to the world view of the old-world serf, never going more than a few miles from where they were born.

      Megacities restrict horizons. Screw that noise. High population density burgs require that everybody get along, play by the same rules, live the same way. Those who don’t can’t simply buy a house with a great big yard to keep the neighbors and their loud nightly parties at a good, quiet distance. You are *forced* to be within close proximity to everyone else, to put up with their crap, for them to have to put up with yours. The political/governmental system are *necessarily* driven to become dictatorial, otherwise the system will fall apart into chaos.

      > nowhere is more than an hour’s transit away by rail

      How about the places that *aren’t* near the rail lines? What if you suddenly decide that you want to go 150 miles away, in a generally random direction?

      • Paul451

        2) Yes, concentrations make for more efficient machines. Humans aren’t machines. There have been movements throughout history to make humans and human societies more efficient; these movements are rightly remembered as horror shows.

        You act like the trend towards large cities is somehow being forced on people by technocratic elites. Your own life shows that isn’t the case. You want to live in the boonies, you can. But cities have always been the economic powerhouses of nations… that’s why they exist. People are drawn to opportunity. And the effect is self-reinforcing.

        Even in third world shitholes, a vast number of poor people would rather live in a filthy crime-filled disease-ridden slum attached to a megacity than in a rural village or farm. Nobody forces them to do that (indeed the city authorities usually want the slum to Go Away).

        A bit of a power outage and the tens of millions of inhabitants will soon begin to not only set upon each other

        In the first world: a week of blackouts in NYC after HC Sandy show that isn’t a thing.

        In the third world: those same un-electrified slums (and often intermittent power in the city in general) shows it isn’t true there either.

        but in the end a good dose of Vegan choriomeningitis might be the only solution, especially in the megacities.

        I always find it funny that both on the extreme left and right there’s the same fantasy about killing billions of people. Only the fantasised method differs. The left fantasise about “nature” rising up against us in righteous judgement, the right about becoming mega-terrorists and purging the undesirables.

        Surround the enemy megacity, put it under siege, and utterly destroy it. […] more easily accomplished with biowarfare. Given how strained the systems are in *current* high population density megaslums, a little bit more time, population and resource strain could easily make a city of tens of millions ready to be virtually exterminated with a small outbreak of a disease that could be easily explained as entirely natural in origin.

        You can’t blockade a modern city. Even less so a sprawling mega-city. It’s physically impossible to stop people leaving. (Unless there’s unique natural barriers already in place). Hence any disease you introduce will quickly spread through the country and then the world. Precisely because people who think they aren’t infected yet will be desperate to get themselves and their families away from the obvious source of infection.

        • Herp McDerp

          I always find it funny that both on the extreme left and right there’s the same fantasy about killing billions of people.

          Hadn’t you noticed that Scott was talking about vulnerability to enemy attack? He hypothesized that if we were the enemy who used that tactic, we’d have to adopt the morals and doctrines of our more ruthless competitors (e.g., the Russians). And Chairman Mao said that if nuclear war killed off ninety percent of the U.S., the USSR, and China, it would be worth it — China would “win” because they’d still have a hundred million people …

          In the first world: a week of blackouts in NYC after HC Sandy show that isn’t a thing.

          One week is nothing! How about a month? How about a year? An EMP could take out all electric and most electronic infrastructure for months; our friends the North Koreans and the Iranian mullahs would be happy to demonstrate this for you if they could.

          How much food do you have stockpiled in your house/apartment/dorm room? How many batteries? How much gasoline?

          In the third world: those same un-electrified slums (and often intermittent power in the city in general) shows it isn’t true there either.

          Those un-electrified slums couldn’t survive without the higher-tech infrastructure of the cities they depend on for food.

          You can’t blockade a modern city. Even less so a sprawling mega-city.

          Bullshit. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Disaster planning for the aftermath of a major quake is turning out to be a bitch, because most of the major transportation routes on land would be destroyed. Strategic bombing would effect the same sort of destruction as a major earthquake. Do you have any idea how much stuff is carried over rails and roads? And how do you repair railways and roadways and bridges if you can’t get to the failures because of other destruction on the way?

          Hence any disease you introduce will quickly spread through the country and then the world.

          Apples and oranges. It only takes a few people fleeing contagion to spread it. If the majority are left behind, they will die. That’s what the people who introduced the disease would want; if those people have a sufficiently apocalyptic mindset (think ISIS or Twelvers) they may not care if the disease spreads.

          • Paul451

            You can’t blockade a modern city. Even less so a sprawling mega-city.

            Bullshit. […] Do you have any idea how much stuff is carried over rails and roads?

            I was clearly talking about keeping the population confined to the city, necessary for Scott’s scenario.

            Hence any disease you introduce will quickly spread through the country and then the world.

            […] That’s what the people who introduced the disease would want; if those people have a sufficiently apocalyptic mindset (think ISIS or Twelvers) they may not care if the disease spreads.

            And Scott’s scenario was explicitly the DoD adopting a city-killing tactic. “I suspect that within a few generations the DoD might […] take up the Russian approach: carpet bomb the whole damn thing. […] it can also be accomplished by a small number of tactical nuclear weapons. And even more easily accomplished with biowarfare.

            I always find it funny that both on the extreme left and right there’s the same fantasy about killing billions of people.

            Hadn’t you noticed that Scott was talking about vulnerability to enemy attack?

            I quoted what I was responding to. Scott talking about a movie-villain wanting to kill off most of the population with a disease. “but he does have something of a point: overpopulation is a serious problem […] I have my own preferred solution (get the hell *off* Earth), but in the end a good dose of Vegan choriomeningitis might be the only solution, especially in the megacities.”

          • Scottlowther

            > Scott talking about a movie-villain wanting to kill off most of the population with a disease. “but
            he does have something of a point: overpopulation is a serious problem
            […] I have my own preferred solution (get the hell *off* Earth), but
            in the end a good dose of Vegan choriomeningitis might be the only
            solution, especially in the megacities.”

            I wish I could find a quote I once read. A sci-fi author was once confronted by someone who didn’t like the politics of one of his main characters, and assumed that since the author created that character that he shared the characters views. The reply by the author was, as best as I can recall, something like ” We have a word for people who believe that everything an author writes about, he wants to have happen. That word is “‘idiot’.”

          • Paul451

            one of his main characters

            Your blog posts are written as a fictional character?

          • Scottlowther

            If you are too dimwitted to understand the concepts of metaphor, allegory and simile… then, sure, why not.

          • Herp McDerp

            What if there were no hypothetical questions?

          • Scottlowther
          • Herp McDerp

            I’ve seen it attributed to both Larry Niven and S.M. Stirling. I think I once heard Larry Niven say it at a con. I’m pretty sure it’s in one of his collections (Playgrounds of the Mind, perhaps?).

            In a similar vein, there’s Ray Bradbury’s “I wasn’t trying to predict the future, I was trying to prevent it.

          • Scottlowther

            > “I wasn’t trying to predict the future, I was trying to prevent it.”

            I like that one.

            OK, so, let’s all assume that we all recognize that Overpopulation R Bad, that megacities taking up the landscape because we *have* to have hugenormous warehouses for all the bajillions of people is undesirable. How do we go about preventing that future?

            The statist/authoritarian would answer things like:
            1) Punish people who breed too much
            2) Kill the excess population
            3) Slip chemicals into the food/water/air to kill or sterilize

            Statists and authoritarians of course suck donkeyballs and their ideas should be avoided as much as possible. What should be the rational, western solution? Realize that these ideas are only for, say, the US… I can’t do jack shit about the population of Africa or India or China or London, since I’m not from there.
            1) Stop paying people to breed. No more government child support payments. That’d suck for a lot of people for a generation or so, until the culture adapts. So how would this work? A Super-Poor mom has a kid. She gets no bennies to help pay for it. So… the kid becomes a ward of the state. This is of course an expense on the taxpayer. But since the mom is not getting extra EBT credit, there’s no incentive for her to have more kids. So this would *tend* to slow down breeding by the poor.
            2) Pay women to get spayed. Pay more the younger they are. Safeguards will have to be put into place to assure that this is the decision of the woman, not family pressure. One free spaying with your second abortion.
            3) Deport violent criminals. “But I’m not from there” is no longer a valid excuse for why you can’t be shipped to Syria after your third assault conviction. This not only gets rid of *them,* but reduced the number of offspring.
            4) Somehow convince many old folks that it’s time to go. I admit to severe fuzziness on how to pull that off. Try to be as compassionate as you like, but dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s and the like are *not* good ways to be… not for them, not for their families, not for society.
            5) Free one-way tickets to the country of your choice. Bonus round: a government propaganda campaign to convince large swathes of people that the Siberian colonies are just swell.

          • Herp McDerp

            Bonus round: a government propaganda campaign to convince large swathes of people that
            the Siberian colonies are just swell.

            All the cool people are emigrating to Venus! Don’t miss out!

          • Kelly Starks

            >…so, let’s all assume that we all recognize that Overpopulation R Bad,

            > that megacities taking up the landscape because we *have* to have

            > hugenormous warehouses for all the bajillions of people is undesirable. ..

            Obviously not a real problem since massive population declines due to droping birth rates are our future.

            Ignoring that.

            Its not clear maga cities are bad. Certainly folks are flocking to cities (not necessarily mega cities – but folks aren’t that adverse to move to L.A. or the Bog Wash. Lived in the later for sevberal years and it wasn’t particularly crowded.

            Big thing to avoid huge crowding CARS!!! No mass transit! Mass transit only works if you crowd folks together near bus stops, subway nodes etc. Its just to much of a pain to drive busses around suburbia. But its no big deal for folks in their own cars to drive another 5-10 min out.

            (Strongly recommend the book “Edge City: Life on the New Frontier” (Anchor Books): Joel Garreau, which covers why cities aren’t becoming the vision in Metropolis, but instead are sprawling out into things like L.A. or Chicago.)

          • Scottlowther

            > massive population declines due to droping birth rates are our future.

            Not all demographic groups are demonstrating dropping birth rates and population declines.

          • Kelly Starks

            All industrial nations have. The poor on welfare tend to have large families (anyone seen the movie idiocracy?), but you don’t sustain a nation with that. Many nations like China, Japan, a couple euro nations are in such steep declines its hard to see how they don’t flat collapse near term.
            Anyway, unless we develop ways to reverse aging and dramatically extend life expectancies. Decline and greying out. Lots less resources available per person. Lower standard of living etc.

          • Scottlowther

            > Many nations like China, Japan, a couple euro nations are in such steep
            declines its hard to see how they don’t flat collapse near term.

            Europe has discovered a final solution to the problem of declining local birth rates…

            http://www.barenakedislam.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GettyImages-494043192-1-e1445907023572.jpg

          • Kelly Starks

            Yeah, that will work real well.

          • Jon Risque

            What if you just turned off the power to the city? Before you do that set up a big FEMA trailer park, let the good guys in and live there for a month or two, sterilize the city, then reboot.

          • Herp McDerp

            >> Bullshit. […] Do you have any idea how much stuff is carried over rails and roads?

            > I was clearly talking about keeping the population confined to the city, necessary for Scott’s scenario.

            So was I. How long do you think the people in the city would last without supplies? Without water and power? Without sewage disposal?

            What supplies do you have stockpiled?

            As for evacuating the cities, how fast and how far do you think those millions of people will walk? And what food and water will sustain them on their journey to wherever?

            Here’s an exercise for you: As an Evil Mastermind, I’ve just bombed or earthquaked the length of I-880 along the San Francisco Peninsula (collapsing all of the overpasses to cut off any and all north-south roads). I’ve also taken out two bridges, the airport, and the docks. Now … keep the City and County of San Francisco alive.

          • Scottlowther

            >Without sewage disposal?

            Related: I’m sure we all remember hearing about the Poop Cruise a few years ago… the Carnival Triumph experienced an engine room fire in 2013, killing off propulsion and some backup systems. She was left adrift with 4,000 passengers off the coast of Yucatan, and apparently *promptly* turned into a nightmare. No power = no air conditioning. No power = no food preparation *and* no food freezing/refrigeration. No power = no water pumps… and the toilets didn’t flush.

            You’d think at least some of that could be handled. They were, after all, in the middle of a freakin’ ocean. Poop in a bucket, dump it overboard. But no… poop built up in the *hallways.*

            Now, here you have a situation where the people may be trapped, but they *know* that they will be returned to fine living conditions in just a few days. And it was still squalor. The fire was Feb 10, 2013. It was towed back to port on Feb 14. Four or five days saw well-off people living in shit.

            Imagine if those people knew they were on their own. And that their ship was taking fire. And that nasty epidemic was sweeping through.

          • Herp McDerp

            Oh, and quakes or bombs take out BART at multiple points, too. To be extra nasty, flood the tunnels.

        • Scottlowther

          > You act like the trend towards large cities is somehow being forced on

          people by technocratic elites.

          Not “technocratic elites,” but just sorta the flow of history. “Technocratic elites” are taking advantage of the result, however, as one would fully expect they would.

          > I always find it funny that both on the extreme left and right there’s the same fantasy about killing billions of people.

          Perhaps. But this isn’t a pro-genocide piece; this is a “oh, shit, genocide is probably inevitable” piece. If swarm of tens of thousands of comets were detected heading towards the inner solar system, it would hardly be with glee that I’d report “chances are good that Earth will take a beating.”

          > You can’t blockade a modern city.

          Depends on the city and your timeframe. Take Los Angeles: if word came down that an asteroid was going to hit the center of town in one year, the place could clear out in time (leaving only the nuttiest of the nuts). But let’s say, instead, the city got hit with a good EMP *and* a bioweapon, more or less simultaneously, and that the EMP was a Holly-wood-class car killer. The city will *blockade* *itself* just with the sheer number of roads blocked, if your timeframe is just a few days. Now wait fifty years, and instead take down the transport infrastructure of a giant arcology. Fifty million people in one giant building, with the only way out being to walk. As we saw in New Orleans, even if the federal government issues a “get out, shitstorm a’comin'” warning, a lot of people will simply refuse to budge if someone doesn’t come to pick them up.

    • Herp McDerp

      Megacities are fine when they work. But they are very vulnerable to disruption, and their failure modes are not pleasant for their inhabitants or for their neighbors.

      Megacities can be viewed as utopias. This is not necessarily a good thing.

      • Paul451

        Re: The rat study.

        Researchers haven’t been able to reproduce that study. By rat standards, the habitat wasn’t overpopulated. And even that Gizmodo article you linked to suggests that the result of the original research only came from poor design, creating an scenario that can’t exist in nature and is difficult to even reproduce experimentally. Scientifically, the study is considered worthless, the only reason it persists in pop-culture is because people like you keep trying to use it to justify their prior political beliefs, like Victorian “Social Darwinists”. (The article does the same thing, trying to flip the political “lesson” around to inequality.)

        • Herp McDerp

          Researchers haven’t been able to reproduce that study.

          Oh? Please enlighten me! Could you please provide links to similar studies that had different outcomes?

  • becida

    During the last “declared” war the US fought collateral damage was not really a thought but we were fighting nation-states. In the mega-city this video was fighting gangs.

  • becida

    60% of the world in urban environments with the most growth in the 3rd world. Think slums.

  • Kelly Starks

    Getting the hell off Earth wouldn’t help you if Earth is lost or hurt, your not going to get your supplies to keep your space colony going – eve a big O’Neil is to small to be self sufficient.

    Also population growth is not the problem predicted, the population declines and greying that’s becoming the norm across the developed, and soon whole, world IS! a big problem.

    >…city of tens of millions of noncombatants that you want to protect…
    Yeah, that is the point of the exercise. We’re going to need to keep up on our counter insurgency combat skills.

    • Scottlowther

      > eve a big O’Neil is to small to be self sufficient

      That’s why you want to have a number of them. And you also want to advance technology beyond what’s presently available. Note that a lot of the available land area in an O’Neill is devoted to agricutlure. Because, obviously, people need to eat. But what if you have:
      1) Relatively small, cheap nuclear power (think something like Mr. Fusion)
      2) Relatively small, cheap universal fabricators (i.e. Star Trekkian “replicators”)

      Those two items alone *could* (note “could,” not “would”) make true independence possible.

      Plus, there’s Mars, the Moon and asteroids, which put together have *way* more than enough resources and land area to set up a truly Earth-independent society.

      > the population declines and greying that’s becoming the norm across the developed, and soon whole, world IS! a big problem

      No argument here. You need a population to crank out babies in order to have a vibrant, growing culture. But if they crank out too many babies, it bloats and stifles. If it grays, it stagnates, and increasing proportions of the productivity is devoted to simply maintaining a non-productive population.

      For all history, the balance has always been between birth and death. With death tending to come within 40 or so years of birth for the great majority of the population. That’s no longer the case. Soon we’ll need to start storing our super-old in the Near Death Star, or society will freeze to a halt. The alternative is to just import vast numbers of young third worlders, people who don;t like our culture or want to assimilate, but who want the goodies they think our society will give them. Do that long enough and your native population turns into a bunch of largely helpless old farts walled off from an entirely new society.

      • Kelly Starks

        Resources really isn’t a limiting factor, labor pool and diversity of specialists etc is more of a issue. No nation on Earth has enough to be self sufficient, so the idea a space colony of thousands (like die hard space tragics seem to assume) or likely even millions (as anthropologists assume isn’t enough with next generation tec.).

        >.. Note that a lot of the available land area in an O’Neill is devoted to agricutlure.
        With new factory or vertical farms, you drop the needed “land” area by a order of magnitude or two – and tuck them in warehouses. They are expected to drive out normal farming in a decade or three due to lower costs, etc.
        FYI.

        > 1) Relatively small, cheap nuclear power (think something like Mr. Fusion)
        > 2) Relatively small, cheap universal fabricators (i.e. Star Trekkian “replicators”)
        >
        > Those two items alone *could* (note “could,” not “would”) make true
        > independence possible.
        I’m dubious about that. certainly nuclear or fusion power or such is pretty much a given (you’ld need that to move around ore to make this viable), but even replicators doesn’t eliminate your labor and expertise needs. (if it did, you wouldn’t build the colonies anyway. 😉 )

        • Thucydides_of_Athens

          Arcologies can use vertical farming, but it is energy and cost intensive. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqKQ94DtS54&index=1&list=PLIIOUpOge0LufQYxcfYVqcVQOFOHFynMl

          • Kelly Starks

            Not anymore. Modern tech is making it cost competitive with normal agriculture due to higher productivity, lower need for water and pesticides, etc.

          • Scottlowther

            If arcology-agriculture can become competitive with agriculture-agriculture, imagine what that same tech could do for dedicated farms. And if it works out that farms can adopt and adapt and get that much cheaper, then urban agriculture will remain relatively too expensive. No doubt there’ll be hipsters and locavores and such with their own vertical gardens, but if farm-food remains cheaper then landowners will continue to put their property to most profitable use.

          • RLBH

            > No doubt there’ll be hipsters and locavores and such with their own vertical gardens, but if farm-food remains cheaper then landowners will continue to put their property to most profitable use.
            That, of course, is the catch with ‘vertical farming’ and other obsessions around growing food in cities. You’re not trying to be cheaper than flyover country, though it helps – you’re trying to be more profitable than office space. And farmers who make more money than lawyers are rare beasts indeed.

          • Kelly Starks

            Agree that vertical farms wouldn’t be in cities. They would be out in industrial and warehouse areas, with cheap land, good roads and untilities. Very much like Amazon’s big distribution centers, with their huge automated warehouse systems to move things around between shelves etc with little human involvement.

          • Scottlowther

            Depends on what the farmers are growing, I suppose. The vertical farmer raising lettuce or tomaters or algae or whatever would have a hard time competing for office space with the lawyers who would merrily sue that farmer into oblivion. But the farmer growing smokables or other expensive “luxury” products might do ok. Until the lawyers sued the into oblivion.

          • Kelly Starks

            To be clear, the big tech changes include getting indoors in warehouse like facilities with no climate, bugs kept beyond closed doors, and 24 artificial light at the optimum spectrum (kind of a magenta- violet color). With the farm, trays on pallets stored on shelves like a warehouse, you shuffle the pallets like goods on pallets in a warehouse.

    • Paul451

      Getting the hell off Earth wouldn’t help you if Earth is lost or hurt, your not going to get your supplies to keep your space colony going – eve a big O’Neil is to small to be self sufficient.

      In a realistic scenario, you’re not going to get an O’Neill-scale habitat without a pre-existing large industrial capacity and a population to create enough demand to power it. It’s the “ecosystem” of space settlements that’s robust, not an individual settlement. (That’s why I dislike the Mars obsession. Without magic/SF-technology, it’s a dependency trap.)

      That said, someone who is concerned with how vulnerable “socialist” cities are, moving into a fragile, inevitably socialist, deeply controlled, soap-bubble in space?

      • Kelly Starks

        Agree with the economic/industrial ecosystem (and with the Mars obsession being frustrating). You won’t build them without a economic base that requires millions to tens of millions of folks out there to staff it. Though even a huge industrial base, doesn’t give you enough range of specialists to keep everything working.

      • Scottlowther

        Yes, the problem of inevitable socialism and tyranny in a small closed space colony is one I’ve mentioned before. The difference is, of course, that the universe is effectively infinite. Your colony gets too crowded, go set up another. There’s enough space just in this solar system to give every human who has ever lived his own nation. Earth, however is essentially closed to new development. Wherever you go someone already owns or controls it. Even in the middle of the ocean.

        • Kelly Starks

          Earth really isn’t that crowded, but yes in space theres enough iron ore in the belt to build enough big O’Neils to have the land area of 10,000 times all of Earths continents, etc.
          …. but that wouldn’t stop there from being wars.

          • Scottlowther

            Not much can stop wars. But:
            1) a system filled with tens of thousands of independent separate “nation states” would be *damn* hard to wipe out with anything short of the sun exploding
            2) a system like that would tend to indicate a post-scarcity economy, reducing (not eliminating) the drivers of warfare

          • Kelly Starks

            1 – wars never wipe everyone out, those space colonies aer easier to kill everyone in a city at once . Its like a plane. Generally everyone dies in a crash.
            2 – Big wars are done (generally – ignoring cultural nuts like the Jihadis) when theirs a economic opportunity (take the country and loot it or take the land) or screw ups where threats escalate. Not sure if colonies don’t make that worse? “Join our combine or I nuke your pressure vessel.”

  • thingytest 3

    Unrelated question:

    Mr Lowther, do you think (two hundred meter/ten-million-ton-range) asteroid redirection (into HEO, say to build solar power satellites with (yes, impractical, but we’ll stick with it)) using scaled up thermonuclear shaped charges (10 megaton?) is possible (maybe in conjunction with a lunar gravity assist) ? If so, would it be better than mass drivera? I always disliked having to lose one half of a perfectly good chunk of iron, nickel, and platinum, and the high setup costs of a mass driver.

    Thank you

    (you came up with using kiloton-range pulse units to move small asteroids)

    • Peter Hanely

      I expect a lot of asteroids would be broken apart by even a small kick from a nuclear pulse unit.

    • Scottlowther

      Assuming that the asteroid can take the mechanical impulse witho0ut flying apart, I see no reason why not. However, assuming pure fusion bombs are developed, there may be questionable economics in using big pulse units. It *may* rove easier to make directional bombs smaller scale, in which case a lower total megatonnage with smaller bombs would do the same job as a large total megatonnage of big bombs. In which case you’d want a production line cranking out *vast* numbers of small bombs… providing additional economy of scale.

      Of course, it might turn out just the opposite.

      And on the gripping hand, it may turn out that your highest Isp fusion bomb system is an inertial confinement rocket engine using pulse units the size of sand grains.

      • thingytest 3

        Thank you very much for your assistance and insight.

  • sferrin

    “Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” 25 MT ought to do the job.

    • Kelly Starks

      A little agreesive there. The point is to recover the friendlies and their city.

      Same thing in WW-II where one option was just to lay waste to everything from the air, but Ike rejected that since you wanted to recover the euro nations and history. (And potential future alies.

  • Robbie

    This is actually the justification for the Death Star. Instead of wasting immense military resources on subjugating a rebelling planet that’s inhabited by billions of potential combatants; just blow the fucker up, lol.

  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    The military already knows how to deal with situations like this: the British developed the “Blockhouse” system during the Boer War, and the French developed the ‘Tache d’guile’ (oil spot) strategy even earlier.

    While I appreciate your historical perspective (Tacticus: “The Romans create a wilderness and call it peace”), for practical purposes, megacities can be divided into sectors, and the sectors isolated from each other , allowing each sector in turn to be cleared and pacified (or just cleared, depending on the situation). The true reason we seem to have difficulties is the lack of resources devoted to these issues, and the insane timelines that political strategists want for these operations to succeed.

    Realistically, pacifying a country and creating self sustaining institutions which are supportive of “our” ideologies and capable of resisting “alien” influences takes generations, not the next election cycle, and you wold have to put the “Surge” into the city, rather than spreading the thousands of troops and enablers throughout the country.

    • Scottlowther

      > Realistically, pacifying a country and creating self sustaining
      institutions which are supportive of “our” ideologies and capable of
      resisting “alien” influences takes generations

      Depends. We deNazified Germany in just a few years, upended Japan in about the same time (but not to the same extent). Of course, the important thing was that we *utterly* *defeated* them, and left them without external allies.

      • Thucydides_of_Athens

        Totally agree on point one (we destroyed their institutions and burned most of their infrastructure to the ground), but *we* also created new constitutions and institutions to take their places, and stayed there with an occupying army for decades (and tightly bound them to the Western alliance with things like the Marshall plan, Bretton Woods, the IMF etc. etc. which is the generational thing.

        And looking at how ultra nationalist parties like the AdF in Germany have sprung up so rapidly in response to the EU and the immigration crisis, you could make the point *we* were not as successful as we hoped…..

        • Scottlowther

          All true. One *might* be tempted to argue that the rise of neo-Nazi & neo-Imperial Japanese Fanbois is due to:
          1) In the former case, the locals made it illegal to advocate for Nazism. And as anybody who has pondered “prohibition” for more than two seconds realizes, telling someone they can’t have something is the surest way to make ’em want it.
          2) We didn’t scrape Japan as clean of the previous administration and culture as we should’ve. Shoulda had a Nuremburg-style trial on full display in Japan, terminating in Hirohito dangling from some lumber.

          • Thucydides_of_Athens

            Agreed.

            In the case of Japan, leaving the Emperor in place was a calculated act to assist in the pacification (and the role of the Emperor was reduced to a ceremonial role).

            This just shows that even 60 years isn’t enough time to make the changes as deep and long lasting as *we* would have liked.

          • Scottlowther

            Oh, I dunno. So far Germany and Japan are well behaved (if perhaps a little *too* well behaved for their own good). No evidence they are going to revert to all-out fascism any time soon.

  • James

    So basically what the pentagon is not saying is that the secret to urban warfare is fucking massive amounts of well trained and lead infantry. Basically the one thing the Pentagon hates most. After all you can’t spend a billion per infantrymen and they aren’t flashy.

  • Robbie

    Unfortunately this is no longer Canon, unless/until Disney says otherwise, but the Empire actually developed a Super Star Destroyer armed with a keel-mounted superlaser that could fire shots ranging from city-buster, up to continent vaporizer, instead of wasting the entire planet. A much more tactically intelligent weapon than the Death Star, in my opinion.