We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Converting Military-Industrial Complex for Civilian Use

Large military contractors can continue to make a killing (no pun intended) for their shareholders if half of their military hardware and development was converted towards social benefit.

Previously, The Pragmatist covered the need to utilize the high tech assembly lines, research and development labs, and sophisticated blue collar job creation potential of the current American military-corporate behemoth. Reasons were given.

Now perhaps it is time to look at a few general things that can be accomplished by the declining American empire to avoid the mistakes that Soviet military-industrial complex experienced. This means setting certain long term civilian procurement goals for the American complex that:

1) keep current technical/industrial personnel in place and employed
2) gently push the personnel towards reorientation and training of others
3) make use of existing assets and existing assembly lines
4) require minimal retooling of assembly lines
5) take advantage of economies of scale and export opportunities
6) create new interesting synergies with civilian corporations and civilian personnel
7) create opportunities for technology transfers from abroad
8) require merger with domestic and foreign civilian corporations to aid in economy of scale creation
9) ultimately improve national infrastructure through raising electrical output, transport efficiency, etc
10) maintain/increase employment within R&D departments so as not to lose scientists abroad yet systematically refocus them towards greater civilian purpose
11) ultimately assist in transfer of non-sensitive scientific research and prototypes to civilian corporations, universities, and start ups with minimal red tape

In other words, the 600 billion a year high tech sword maker is partially remade into a high tech plow maker and assistant/trainer of additional plow makers. Every military branch up as well as exotic weapons development can  be made useful. Ultimately a DARPA equivalent for infrastructure should come into existence to complement and work together with DARPA itself. Some examples:

A fleet of floating federally owned nuclear reactors to power coastal cities and those regions hit by near future super-hurricanes

Large government orders (from companies responsible for design and construction of small fission reactors for nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers) for 30-100 floating nuclear reactors and Alaska bound icebreakers. This ensures not just a continual development of small (and hopefully modular) fission reactors but a way to compete with Russians in this area when it comes to exploiting the north pole. A big export opportunity is of course also created. When the inevitable second wave of the financial crisis arrives, it is vital that key fission reactor core companies are locked into long term contracts of concrete social use (since construction of most submarines, aircraft carriers, battlecruisers, and destroyers will be cancelled/halted). This will preserve the essential core within the physical assembly and nuclear research workforce. Electrical energy will always be needed especially if it is clean and relatively portable the way modular 50-250 MW range fission is. There are of course more uses other than energy such as nuclear desalination and floating material processing.

Older cruisers and destroyers can be converted into floating power plants rather than decommissioned, sold, and/or scrapped. They are well protected and armored. Unfortunately, older aircraft carriers are too function specific and are better off sold.

When it comes to airplanes, Lockheed-Martin's converted C-130J Super Hercules airplane can even be a flying power plant that lands to serve emergency hit areas. In case of plane failure, the bathtub fission reactor can disengage and land by parachute. Once again, the assembly lines have been there for decades, retooling will be minimal. Joining corporate forces with makers of the enormous Antonov transport planes is a good idea.

Using General Dynamics built tanks as high speed rural workhorses to keep the plants from shutting down

It is possible to create giant small fission reactor powered tracked transport platforms by splicing multiple M1-Abrams tank platforms into one. Transport of ore from mines or of very large objects such as additional fission reactors and infrastructure parts comes to mind. General Dynamics need not stop mass production of their war machines, just retool for speedy rural tracked platform development in coordination with John Deere company. Conversion of tanks into heartland workhorses will be psychologically pleasing to large segment of the American population. In fact, synergy can be created in terms of tracked platform production between military and civilian assembly lines, each adding its own unique capabilities.

Clothing and accessories

The unfortunate and corrupt trend of police militarization has already created a tendency for the military to equip local police, even when it is ridiculous overkill. With eventual end of the tyrannical drug prohibition and dramatic scaling down of American empire, the military oriented corporations can still continue to mass produce uniforms, bulletproof vests/ceramic armor, helmets, and gear for police units of the North American continent and of those around the world. Russia has recently began a process of large scale conversion of uniforms to meet American standards and there is no reason for American companies to not make money off that. There is also the issue of eventually equipping of international police forces. No other government spends (wastes) as many resources per soldier as US and all that needs to happen is to take advantage of economies of scale for anything ranging from boots to shovels to wearable computer systems. Nothing stops United States from becoming a companion to China in terms of being a "factory of the world" in certain areas. Equipping the entire world's police with cheap, quality, cutting edge equipment also goes further towards standardizing policing practices and making US the global gendarme than current crude aggression. A high tech police state of 310 million people can also flood the market with such mundane things as latest civilian construction helmets, firefighter attire, mining equipment, etc.

Army Corps of Engineers to aid in deconstruction of suburbia, jump starting infrastructure development, and rapid training of civilian cadres for domestic nation building

The current government tendency to reduce youth unemployment and civil unrest through AmeriCorps will take on an intensified desperate form as robotic automation and national rot speeds up. Use of military engineers for crack training serves to empower civilians and provide a real sense of "nation building" while power boosting  infrastructure development. Although it is tempting to hire cheap Chinese labor, rural American peasants have shown an amazing tendency to tirelessly work patrolling streets of Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. They exert themselves again gladly if given actual domestic programs and empowering teaching/work positions as an "elite" labor class. Army Corps of Engineers should be dramatically expanded with those in the army retrained for it.

Systems Engineering for national renewal

Just the way a map of an occupied country can be broken up into problem areas and stable areas, North America can be broken up into areas needing additional electrification/water supplies/employment/terraforming. A corrupt to the bone declining rotting oligarchic society needs a systems approach for tangible rebirth to start occurring. Only this approach will reduce span of renewal by 1-2 decades rather than extend it into the 2040s. All efforts must be made to prevent Chinese style fascist model from becoming a role model for the world. As noted, US military is the last bastion of national elites that are the most technically competent and that are the least parasitic on the whole social body (surprising as this may sound considering they are also the biggest budgetary burden and physical protector of the banking establishment). Instead of gutting and starving them, making use of them and their functional abilities stands to make the transition period a lot more pleasant.

These are some of the examples that come to mind. We will return to more uses for this gargantuan death machine in the future (over 50 countries killed in the last half a century making US government biggest serial killer in the world since WW2).

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