Monday, September 5, 2011


In the past couple weeks, despite the mid-Atlantic, inland location of my home, I've experienced an earthquake and been grazed by Hurricane Irene. As I type, Tropical Storm Lee is headed my way. I've taken to jokingly wondering when the locusts will come --

And yesterday, I noticed grasshoppers in my yard and garage. 

It's enough to render current events quite scary. 

In this morning's Computerworld: "Hackers steal SSL certificates for CIA, MI6, Mossad." With the stolen certificates, the perps had the ability to launch "man in the middle" attacks, impersonating the named intel agencies, Google, and Facebook, among notworthy organizations. Without details, the above article says Iran is implicated.

Iran is closer than ever to having atomic bombs. From yesterday's New York Times, see, "Iran Has New Equipment to Speed the Production of Nuclear Fuel, Panel Is Told." One wonders where the International Atomic Energy Agency has been. Had it not been for the Stuxnet virus (reference, my January post Cyber war), how much closer would Iran be today to having its own nukes? Iran, whose president regularly raves about destroying Israel ...

Not surprisingly, someone might want to launch a preemptive strike against Iran. Four days ago, President Sarkozy offered that prediction/warning.  See the Google News translation of the Agence France-Presse article "Iranian nuclear bid could provoke attack: Sarkozy."

Meanwhile, robotic warfare moves ever closer. From IEEE Spectrum (August 2011 issue), see, "Autonomous Robots in the Fog of War." (Perhaps I'd be happier if I hadn't watched Terminator movies two nights in a row.)

And either more or less cosmic, depending on how literal you wish to be ...
Why evacuate the just completed ISS?  It turns out that (a) the failed upper stage of the cargo-ship launcher is also used for crewed Soyuz modules, (b) the emergency evacuation capsules at the ISS have a fairly short shelf life, and (c) with the shuttle grounded, Soyuz launchers and capsules are the only human-rated space systems around.

Is the apocalypse, or even the hackpocalypse, upon us? Probably not.  We, are, however, living the proverbial Chinese curse of interesting times.


Erik said...

Asymmetric warfare is definitely the most interesting type. Hackers, nuclear weapons, robot apocalypses...

I think that's one concept the terminator series failed to grasp. As if a war between mankind and robots could be so close. The robots would have to be as stupid as those star-wars droids. If they were all like Sean Connery I don't think they'd be that concerned with a petty human resistance.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Hi Erik,

In equal numbers, terminators would surely have obliterated the human survivors. However ...

What none of the movies addressed was the comparison between human and terminator populations, or the relative capacities of their industrial bases. Three billion people died on Judgment Day -- but that left about three billion more. There weren't three billion killer robots running around on Judgment Day. Meanwhile, the factories and power utilities of the targeted countries were in ruins. That would have been as much a problem for Skynet as for the surviving humans.

It would take a book(s) to get into those sorts of complications. I'd love to see such a book.

- Ed

Erik said...

If only we knew any... ahem... sci-fi writers interested in the topic :p

Edward M. Lerner said...

Interest, I have. The right to use that scenario and its characters ... not so much.

- Ed