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Re: [OFFICIAL] Some FT background stuff (guidelines for writers)

From: agoodall@s... (Allan Goodall)
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 03:28:10 GMT
Subject: Re: [OFFICIAL] Some FT background stuff (guidelines for writers)

On Thu, 12 Feb 1998 11:30:51 -0500, Thomas Barclay
<> wrote:

>> The other problem with the argument is that there really isn't a
>> lot of options in space combat.
>Correct me if I'm wrong, but in space you have to deal with gravity 
>(if fighting near a gravity well) which could be greater than 
>Earth's gravity, other cosmic phenomena, the ability of fighters to 
>spin on their axis and fire back in your face or thrust up down or 
>sideways (even better than vectored thrust) and you have to cope with 
>advanced weapons, electronics, and defensive systems. I don't 
>necessarily think this all adds up to easier. 

Well, the gravity thing is less of an effect. Gravity, being an
inverse square (cube?) law means that close to a small gravity object
can be worse than far away from a large gravity object. If you are in
space, you are probably much further up the gravity well than fighters
in the Earth's atmosphere. 

Cosmic phenomena--except maybe for radiation--is less of a problem
than on the Earth. Atmospheric effects (weather mostly) are a much
worse problem than you'd find in space.

Fighters spinning around to fire behind them while proceeding forward
has one major problem: their flight vector is pretty easy to predict
for a few seconds. They will be flying constantly in front of them.
Predicting an aircraft's speed from second to second is a lot more
complex in an atmosphere. On the other hand, we can assume that space
engines are more powerful and capable of greater velocity changes than
terrestrial aircraft (air resistance being a major contributor).

>OTOH, they have more initiative, decision making ability, and a 
>flexibility that no one would be capable or find worthwhile to 
>engineer (especially considering cost and performance) into an AI or 
>computer. Straight out drone fighters may be fine if you KNOW who 
>your enemy is, and know that you are going to a fight. Otherwise, 
>human pilots (even factoring in errors) allow you a lot more 
>discretion and innovation in unknown situations. 

I think human innovation and unpredicatablity are over rated. Take the
case of SAMs versus F4s during Vietnam. A SAM is a very STUPID piece
of electronics. What it's got going for it is high acceleration, high
speeds, and good maneouverability. SAM kills were quite nasty during
that war. Imagine a SAM that could come flying up to a jet, hang back
a second, and let loose with a bunch of missiles of its own. 

I just think that the G force and turning radius advantages will out
weigh the benefits of the human mind. 

On the other hand, as a writer I'm actually quite pleased that this
group is radically defending human pilots on space fighters. They ARE
more interesting from a story point of view. While I might disagree
with them, the fact that the rest of you guys don't mind them makes
things easier for me. 

For the record, the best short story I ever read about autonomous
fighters included a human pilot piggy-backing on the fighter. It was
in one of Pournelle's "There Will Be War" anthologies; I'll find the
reference if anyone is interested.

>I ask: Have you ever seen the maintenance cycle on large scale (1 
>million plus lines) computer programs?

Not personally. The largest system I supported was half a million
lines of code, supported all by my lonesome. Never had a support call
on that system (our Corporate Customer Master system) for well over a
year, and that was only three years after it was completed with quite
a few enhancements along the way. 

More dynamic programs are far worse, though. The industry standard is
for each program change having a 50% chance of introducing a bug (and
that's after testing). One million lines of code on a stable system
could result in virutally no maintenance. On the other hand, our
manufacturing MRPII system needed to have it's hand held almost every
day. It was written in the same language (though it was almost 1
million lines of code).

> On high tech hardware, the 
>likes of which you are referring to if you talk AI or bio-organic 

Actually, I haven't been talking AI. I've been talking advanced flight
combat systems, like flight sim games only much more sophisticated.
Certainly not something capable of thought or self awareness.

Allan Goodall

"Once again, the half time score, 
 Alien Overlords: 142,000. Scotland: zip."
  - This Hour Has 22 Minutes

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