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Technology shifts from entertainment to defense

aAugust 2022, I have worked as a tech professional for 40 years. As an apprentice software engineer fresh out of college, the world of “technology” didn’t look much like ours. Computers, still rare and very expensive, never made their way into our homes.

It will take another 30 years for them to shrink into smartphones and settle on our wrists. In the early 1980s, technology meant big and powerful. This mostly referred to either something with a distinct military purpose or a direct descendant of something with a distinct military purpose.

Throughout history, technology and war have gone hand in hand. Technological advances contain the seeds of an arms race as civilizations scramble to master the latest advances: bronze, iron, stirrups, gunpowder, aircraft, radar and, most recently, the secrets of the atomic nucleus. World War II began with a cavalry charge in Poland, but ended with a mushroom cloud over Nagasaki.

In the early 1980s, technology meant big and powerful things.

During the Cold War, huge sums of money were spent developing new technologies to maintain balance between superpowers. In the early 1960s, my aunt spent several years writing code for a system that simulated the re-entry aerodynamics of his ICBM. This is what technology looked like for his 40 years in the Cold War, with both sides furiously devoting resources to an accelerating arms race that ultimately bankrupted the Soviet Union and destroyed much of the world’s technology in the 21st century. directly brought.

The Internet remains a prime example of technology originally developed for military needs.It was to keep America’s military systems well connected while undergoing a massive thermonuclear attack, and has since found endless non-military uses. Its original name, ARPAnet – After the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Corporation – Reflects its provenance. As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, these technologies experienced their own “emancipation” and found their way into consumer devices.

World War II began with a cavalry charge in Poland, but ended with a mushroom cloud over Nagasaki.

Another DARPA investment focused on systems that could be used to simulate and visualize data collected from the battlefield in real time and in three dimensions. All modern computer graphics found in any smartphone, laptop, or PC have their roots in these military simulators. Some of that technology was incorporated into the information-dense “heads-up” displays used by jet fighter pilots, but some was also incorporated into NASA, and by the mid-1980s, engineers were ” I made a prototype of “virtual environment workstation”. .VIEW generated his 3D world which is immersive and interactive. This is a tool Space Shuttle astronauts can use to rehearse spacewalks before they exit the airlock. VIEW became the prototype for all subsequent “virtual reality” systems. In fact, it looks almost identical to the original model from nearly 40 years ago.

As the Cold War came to an end, the United States and its allies received a “peace dividend”, cut defense budgets, and settled in what they believed was the “end of history” of victory. In an instant, Cold War technology found its way into a new kind of arms race: the fight for attention. Video game consoles have been popular since the late 1970s, dating back to Atari’s first video computer system.Sony changed everything with its first product playstationhas squeezed some of its advanced real-time interactive 3D technology developed for military simulation into an inexpensive device that can sit next to your home TV.

The Internet remains a prime example of technology originally developed for military purposes.

In an unexpected shift, the art of warfare was reframed as the art of entertainment. Highly realistic 3D graphics dominated cinema with movies like: Jurassic Park When toy storya more primitive, but more engaging simulation tomb Raider When Gran Turismo It has delivered an immersive (some say addictive) experience to tens of millions of people. Another arms race – the ‘battle for the living room’ – pitted Sony’s PlayStation against Microsoft’s Xbox as the next generation of consoles pushed semiconductor technology to its limits.

By the early 2000s, consumer electronics were far superior to all but the most sophisticated (and classified) military systems. Morpheus, the god of dreams, dazzled and passed by Mars. Current generation smartphones contain circuits with nanometer-scale functionality. This is at least as good as, and probably better than, what the military can buy from any weapons manufacturer.

DALL.E’s AI interpretation of the Greek god Ares wears armor made from mobile phones.

This shift in power didn’t go unnoticed by those military forces. The goal (and funding) of this institute grew out of the US military’s desire to make people’s creative talents and technological capabilities accessible. We design systems for the living room, not the battlefield. Where entertainment has led technological development, the military will gladly follow suit.

By the early 2010s, the line between entertainment and battlefields began to blur. Advances in smartphone technology have made virtual reality cheap and accessible, augmented reality technologically possible, and seamlessly blended the virtual and real worlds. The military has long recognized the need for augmented reality to drive integrated command-control communication (CCC) systems for soldiers on the battlefield, making it familiar to players of real-time “open-world” games. Provides soldiers with “heads-up” that battlefield 2042.

The art of war morphed into the art of entertainment.

No one characterizes this Janus-like transition from Morpheus to Mars more than Palmer Lucky. Ten years ago, at the age of 19, Luckey founded his VR startup Oculus and launched his first VR headset on Kickstarter, raising over $1 million in his first 24 hours. As perennial competitors Sony and Microsoft set out to develop their own VR systems, what was thought to be a dying technology was revived. Two years later, Mark Zuckerberg bought his Oculus for over $3 billion.

In October 2021, Palmer’s Oculus effectively “ate” Facebook’s core social media business. That’s when Zuckerberg changed the company’s name to “Meta,” after the “Metaverse.” But Palmer was already long gone following the pendulum of technological development that began swinging away from Morpheus and toward Mars 30 years later.

Smartphones very likely contain better circuitry than almost anything the military can buy.

With Facebook funding and less than 25 years old, Palmer scrambled for his next move. …The people who actually built this stuff for our military just couldn’t pull it off.

Driven by the desire to capture trillions of consumer dollars, Sony, Microsoft, and Apple are able to build cutting-edge hardware and software systems. Meanwhile, defense contractors got lost in the weeds of a never-ending procurement cycle. None of the “start-up mindset” that made Silicon Valley successful had permeated the defense sector. So in 2017 Palmer founded his own defense startup, his Anduril Industries. Lord of the Ring), making something that wouldn’t surprise you on the shelf of your average electronics store, but with a military advantage…

The military has long recognized the need for augmented reality.

“We are building unmanned aerial vehicles, from surveillance drones to aerial interceptors that knock other drones out of the sky. Communicating, ensuring that all humans and all machines have the right information at the right time.We build underwater vehicles that can dive to depths of 6000 meters and even to the bottom of the sea. I’m here. [almost] any part of the sea. ”

This last point is very important for Australians. Anduril has contracted with ADF to develop a fleet of XL-UAVs (Extremely Large Underwater Autonomous Vehicles). If that works (one of the advantages of the start-up approach is that you’ll see results in a year or two, as opposed to ten or three years), Australia’s undersea border will soon become a continuation by hundreds of fleets. probably thousands of these “drone” submarines. This is possible because, from sensors to machine learning to communications, technology developed in the entertainment sector is being repurposed for military purposes, like Mars crafting new armor from Morpheus’ dreams.

The “start-up mindset” that made Silicon Valley so successful was never applied to the defense sector.

In addition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ever-escalating threat of forced “reunification” between Taiwan and mainland China is of interest to policy makers and military planners. The budget will be decided soon. Within this decade, the focus of technological development could definitively shift from Morpheus to Mars.

We have been here before. First Decades of the Twentiesth In the 20th century, all the technologies of the Industrial Revolution, which provided clothing, communication, and comfort to tens of millions of people who had never known such luxuries before, contributed to the wars that unfolded in Flanders and Verdun. I found my way to the engine. We need to keep that in mind as we wake up newly armed from our comfortable sleep.