Why do football players play through the injuries?

I must confess I never played organized football. I am a fan of the sport, a good friend of mine is a former NFL player, I wrote a book on the challenges the sport faces with respect to concussions but I never played organized ball.

I have always wondered, and asked a few former professional players why play injured? Doesn’t that run the risk of making the injury worse?QB Hit

Well, in previous eras of the sport contracts were largely incentive based. Basically, the contract that defined a players salary (and I am exaggerating) would say, “Ok, here’s $20. Now when you get these stats you get an additional $100,000, then when you have this many tackles you get an additional $250,000.” 

That isn’t the game of today. More and more salaries are some large up front chunk with salaries based on just being on the team and doing what the coach says (ok it isn’t that simple, I know but bear with me).

Why, in the modern sport, would someone hide a concussion? I think it is more than money.

First, to a man, all of the former players I have met are very driven, highly competitive individuals. But it is, I think, even more than that.

Why do I say that?

Many High School and NCAA players also don’t want an injury (not just head injury, almost any kind) reported if they don’t absolutely have to report it.

Think about what these guys do to get ready. At most in a season a player gets to play something like 20 games…and that is at the NFL level if you throw in pre-season and they make the playoffs. NCAA and High School it is even fewer.

These guys train for 9 months of the year for a 3 month season to go out and actually play the game at most 20 times. Well shoot if I was playing, and put in that kind of work, and had a chance to play in front of a crowd that few times. I’d want to stay in the game as well.

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The science fiction writers that crafted our world

When I was a kid, I read more than many of my friends. Sure, I played baseball and soccer, but I was what would have been called a bookworm. Many of the books on my list were science fiction. You name it, I read it. Many I just wandered in and found on my dad’s bookshelf, that led me to the library and the rest is now dusty book memory.

When I was determining what my ultimate career path would be I was drawn to writing, but I was more drawn to science and engineering, and I ultimately chose that career path earning a PhD in Physics.

So, how do I think Science Fiction writers showed us the world we live in?

Many of the things we take for granted today were first put into our mind’s in those fiction “stories” of the past.

Cell phones of the flip variety came from Star Trek.

iPad or similar device first appeared on Star Trek the Next Generation (Thank you Captain Picard and welcome back).

Robots as elements in battle (war robots) came from G. Harry Stine in his series Warbots. He also pointed out a lot of political arguments we would have in the future that might result in military action and dang if he wasn’t right on the money. Everything from women in combat to United States border issues.

Warbots Book 4 kindle cover

The point is that as we enter an era where people read less and less and focus on super hero movies and the latest binge worthy TV show I think we miss that inspiration that can be found in these sci fi stories. Most of what we see today is some dystopian future where everyone has died and we need to have a reality TV show where people hunt other people (Hunger Games) to keep us looking to the future.

What does this say about where we are going?

In my work as a writer I try to focus on some of these older topics. How technology will take us places and perhaps lead to a better world. I have even been working on putting out of print sci fi back into print. Finding the rights and prepping them for modern publishing. It is an interesting shift to a scientific career, but one I think will build a better future, and isn’t that what scientists are supposed to do?

Athletic Safety and Artificial Intelligence

There can be no doubt that competitive sports are part of our worldwide culture. The international Olympics are one of those things that all nations seem to agree bring us together. Kids from the youngest age play and compete in athletic events.

Two little kids boys, best friends in autumn forest. Older brother helping younger child to put his bike helmet. Happy siblings with bicycles.

The one thing I try to remind my kids of is to be safe. I also don’t want to just be that parent that gives it lip service and yells “be safe” as they head out the door. I want them to know what it takes to be safe.

Not being an athlete myself (although being an enthusiast) I try to teach them what can be done. The first is, even if you are specifically focused on one sport like baseball, soccer, or football, is to realize that safety goes far beyond just the various bits of safety gear we buy.

Safety is also conditioning. You have to condition your body. That doesn’t mean just play your sport. You have to condition yourself to that sport. So, what the heck does that mean.

Exercise. Specifically targeted exercises to prepare your body to complete are necessary. That doesn’t mean just run, just lift weights. You have to condition your entire body from head to toe. This includes stretch, cardio, yes, strength training and also playing your sport.

The most important thing before doing any of these things is stretching. You need your body to be ready to do what you are about to ask it to do. Get “warmed up.” These aren’t just words to throw out this is an action to be taken and not something I see enough people doing. Especially kids. They just want to get on the field, get to it, have some fun.

I have mine start every sporting event (soccer, baseball) with some stretching. I’m not sure it makes them better athletes but none of them have been hurt on the field (yet).

I know I’m rambling a little, but this is the start of a discussion and an idea nugget I’m working on. There are lots of smart watches and wearables on the market to monitor heart rate and other physiological data. There is also a growing number of Artificial Intelligence Apps on the market. There is a thought gestating (ok something I’m actively working) to combine the data from these various new technologies into useable data that even an amateur can improve performance with.

We live in exciting times and I really think that AI technology will push athletes further and faster than ever before possible. Can you imagine a wearable device (or perhaps a smartphone app) that tells you when you have optimally warmed up? I can see it. I also think that we can help improve safety through technology, and that means technology that goes far beyond padding.

I think, as a parent, I would appreciate such technology as something that would help me feel that my kids were about to compete and do so with a lower chance of injury.

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL!?!?!?

With the upcoming football season upon us there are about to be a ton of articles about who will dominate, which team is going to go all the way, and how various contract negotiations are going to go all long before they happen. I want to go another way.

dick-plasman-nfl-no-helmet-football-player

I want to sit back and enjoy the game. I don’t want to think about what happens next, what happens at the end of 16 weeks…I’m going to sit back and let it evolve. Go week by week with anticipation and excitement building. I’m not going to think about the Superbowl until playoff season is upon us (even if Tom Brady is coming back, we won’t refer to it as the annual Patriots end of season invitational).

I’m going to do one thing differently than I have ever done, while I am reliving the football of my youth (when I didn’t understand what contracts were). One thing I could have never done as a kid.

I’m focused on coaching staffs. Football is a team sport, driven by leaders. There are on field and off field leaders. I’m looking for the team that can become this generations version of America’s Team (Cowboys when Roger Staubach was the on field leader).

I’m looking for the coach that will lead, not the contracts, not the huge dollars. I’m looking for leaders.

From the player side I want to see who is the leader. Not the highest paid, who is going to lead. Who will go on the field and be the guy, then who will come off the field and lead publicly. As a kid I saw some of these guys as American Superstars. The embodiment of what we could be as a country (Yes, I know the military can give you that and I did serve my time in uniform, but it isn’t as much fun as football.)

In other words, I’m looking for the next Roger Staubach. The guy who we can all see as the embodiment of what America can produce due to their on field and off field leadership capabilities. When that person becomes known, we will see the dominant franchise for the next generation.

 

Leave the AR-15 alone it didn’t pick on you

The second amendment to the Constitution is one of those areas that divides Americans into a wide range of opinions. At the two extremes we have those who believe the Amendment should be repealed and all weapons of the firearm variety (beyond muskets) should be confiscated (or bought back) to the other extreme we have people who seem to believe that if you don’t own one and practice regularly you can’t possibly call yourself Patriotic or an American. US Army M4A1 Carbine isolated on a white background

In the middle are a bunch of people who roll their eyes when these two extremes start warring with one another. I am one of the eye rollers. Just an Army Veteran who worked in the defense industry who legally owns some firearms but tend to not carry them everywhere for defense.

A while back I posed an article on how this discussion is one that is just going to be difficult to solve.

The Second Amendment Argument

The two extremes are certainly not going to take a step toward one another. Those of us in the middle aren’t asked for our opinions in any substantive way, and the only thing that can be said for certainty is that the two extremes are full of people who have no idea what they are talking about.

At the center of this discussion is the AR-15.

Contrary to what some people think it does not stand for Automatic rifle. It is the ArmaLite 15. Some people love it some people hate it. Those that hate it will say that it is used in mass shootings, and that has happened, but mostly they seem to not like it because it looks like a military rifle. The people who want to carry these with them while grocery shopping like them because they look like military rifles.

There are those of us who are hunters (like myself) and Army Vets sit in another camp. I don’t understand the obsession with this rifle (pro or con). It is good for target shooting, it doesn’t recoil much, ammo isn’t too expensive, its easy to maintain. It is a decent rifle for someone to learn with, but I wouldn’t own one again (I used to and it is gone now).

There is stuff on the market much better for hunting purposes, and for defense that rifle is relatively useless. For close quarters (inside your home) its not going to swing as fast, it could go through a wall, and carrying it around in need of defense is just silly. Home defense…shotgun (pump action) way better. If nothing else loading it scares your intruder (it makes a distinctive sound). For around town, pistol something you can hide…much better.

For those that are against this rifle because “it is used in….” Do you really think if you got the AR-15 off the street there wouldn’t be another preferred rifle of the criminal intent on killing people? If you have convinced yourself of that you are just as silly as anyone I have ever met.

Leave the AR-15 alone it didn’t do anything to you, and it is a decent rifle for a beginner…But it isn’t the best thing in the world, there are better.

Just my two cents.

 

Warbots Book 4 – Sierra Madre

In this fourth installment of Warbots, G. Harry Stine takes us from his awesome introduction into his vision to the world of robotic warfare, and where it might find use.  It isn’t that far off from what we see today. At the time this book was written no one would have considered it possible, but what you read on these pages isn’t too far from today’s headlines.

The mark of a great fiction writer, especially science fiction, is that he makes us think. In this book he takes us into that same battlefield, with some upgraded Warbots sporting some new Artificial Intelligence, but he brings in a new topic for us to think about. Women on the battlefield.

In Warbots book 1 we are transported into a world where robots to the fighting through telekinetic links, and a new enemy shows us that these robots are not up to the task of fighting all enemies. As a result, humans must fight side by side with their warbots. That meant that over time women in combat units had become the norm. Robot operators are safe, they are way back behind the lines, well not anymore. Now they are side by side with the bots, including the women.

In this novel he shows us that the border between the United States and Mexico can become a very dangerous place. He shows us that left unchecked drug dealers coming across that border are large enough to declare their own defacto War against the United States and cause the border guards to become so overpowered that the military is needed. But…will they be enough to stop the flow of drugs, and the killing that is taking place in towns on the north side of the border.

Written in the late 80s this was not nearly as bad as it is today, and the question is…are we headed to the same place G. Harry Stine predicted, or can we stop the violence before it gets worse.

I hope you enjoy this installment into Warbots, I give you Warbots Book 4: Sierra Madre.

 

80s pop culture warned us about modern day politics! The hairspray stopped us from paying attention…

The older I get the more I look back at history to see if we have either improved as a society or been stuck in the mud. The more I look at the way our political world, otherwise known as governing bodies and elected officials, the more convinced I am than ever we have only gotten worse since the 1980s. We were warned, we knew what was going on, and we let it get worse.

I can cite 100s of political examples, but who cares. In a more general sense we only need to look at pop culture from a decade to see where we were.

For this first one I’m going to claim a song from 1992 as really being a recap of the 1980s. It was probably written in 1991 from ideas they had in 1990. This particular one is Symphony of Destruction by heavy metal band Megadeath.

You take a mortal man
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch people’s heads a’roll
A’roll, a’ roll

Think about what happens when we look at certain politicians. They abuse power, they are considered above the law. They can do whatever they want with no consequence and merely later say “I don’t recall” and we move on. How many times have we had members of the two major political parties dead to rights on a breaking a law and they walk away, and are then re-elected (that’s on us as a society).  But I would argue, do we apply rules and laws to gods? Not usually, but these people aren’t gods we just treat them as such.

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony
Of destruction

We do kind of become lemmings. Someone sings a good song politically and we follow along because it was what we wanted to hear.

Acting like a robot
Its metal brain corrodes
You try to take its pulse
Before the head explodes
Explodes, explodes

Think about some of the congresspeople who have been in office for 40 years. Should they still be there? Honestly? Name one who is more than just a mouthpiece for their staff and donors if you can.

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony
Swaying to the symphony
Of destruction

Very much worth repeating, as it applies more and more everyday (social media?)

The earth starts to rumble
World powers fall
A’warring for the heavens
A peaceful man stands tall
Tall, tall

In the 80s there was a active, vocal and much discussed concern of what happens if the US and USSR go to war. It was thought that it would be nuclear and life on this planet may end (except politicians…crap I mean roaches). We currently have this topic rumbling to the surface again, the players may have changed but the game is the same.

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony
Swaying to the symphony
Of destruction

If we don’t change our ways we may be headed for destruction is the point that Megadeath was trying to make, and I think that with how divided we are as a nation there is some justification for that sentiment.  Is it too late? Of course not. Do we need a nationwide timeout? Yes, I think we do.

Now, along with this we need to look at another 80s tune.

So, no big secret here based on the musical choices I have for showing we are stuck in the mud with respect to moving forward as a nation, I play guitar. Not terribly well, but I do try.

On top of that I am a HUGE fan of 80s rock music. Yes, even the hair bands. However, I was listening to one of my favorites the other day and I was struck by the lyrics.

Over the last decade politics in the United States has gone from a necessary evil, where there were rules, written and unwritten, that people generally followed. Candidates were informed, they really wanted to make a different (typically), and now it has changed. Politicians want to be famous, they want to have people scream their name, and many of them could not possibly care less what the average voter thinks. It is all about donors and developing this “Cult of Personality” around you amongst your support base.

How do politicians do that and what does it have to do with rock music?

Well, there is a bank called Living Colour, and they have a song, Cult of Personality. It rocks, you should listen. But let’s review the lyrics.

Look in my eyes, what do you see?
The cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I’ve been everything you want to be
I’m the cult of personality
Like Mussolini and Kennedy
I’m the cult of personality
The cult of personality
The cult of personality

We just finished a Presidential election cycle with candidates on both sides who could be easily described by this verse. They want us to think they know what we want out of life, and they are the only ones who can get us there. Helpful hint to everyone, no one else can impact you reaching your dreams than you. Who is in an elected office will not make as much of a difference as hard work. Just sayin

Neon lights, a Nobel Prize
Then a mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You don’t have to follow me
Only you can set me free
I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your T.V.
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you still you love me

Well, we just had a President who won a Nobel Price for not being the guy that held office before him. He was the smiling face on TV, and seemed like a nice guy. But what he did to my personal insurance rates, and the amount of coverage we get for that money have gone in the wrong direction. Yet he smiled and said we could keep our plan, and things would get cheaper. Well, I guess in a way. There is a cheaper plan, and I could have kept my plan, I just can’t afford it. But now the deductible is so damn high its irrelevant.

I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality
Like Joseph Stalin and Gandhi
I’m the cult of personality
The cult of personality
The cult of personality

Not convinced? Are we any further down the road these 30+ years later? Or are we still talking about the same issues.

I bring to you a song by the granddaddy of all 80s megabands. Genesis, with front man Phil Collins.

Got out of bed, wasn’t feeling too good
With my wallet and my passport, a new pair of shoes
The sun is shining so I head for the park,
With a bottle of Tequila, and a new pack of cigarettes

I got a cousin and she got a friend,
Who thought that her aunt knew a man who could help
At his apartment I knocked on the door,
He wouldn’t come out until he got paid.
Now don’t tell anybody what I wanna do
If they find out you know that they’ll never let me through.

It’s no fun being an illegal alien
It’s no fun being an illegal alien

Down at the office had to fill out the forms
A pink one, a red one, the colours you choose,
Up to the counter to see what they think
They said ‘It doesn’t count man, it ain’t written in ink’.
Don’t trust anybody least not around here, cause

It’s not fun being an illegal alien,
It’s not fun being an illegal alien,
It’s not fun being an illegal alien,
It’s not fun being an illegal alien,
An illegal alien, O.K.

Consideration for your fellow man
Wouldn’t hurt anybody, sure fits in with my plan
Over the border, there lies the promised land

So don’t tell anybody what I wanna do
If they find out you know that they’ll never let me through.

It’s no fun being an illegal alien,
It’s no fun being an illegal alien,
It’s no fun being an illegal alien,
It’s no fun being an illegal alien.

Agree or disagree with one of the major political parties positions or not, you can’t deny that illegal immigration (aka undocumented citizenry) is still at the forefront of our national discussion.

Come on folks, we deserve better. Stop letting politicians divide us, and let’s start working together to solve our national issues, and those of the world where appropriate.

Warbots Book 1 Sample Chapter

Below you will find a sample chapter from Book 1 in the Warbots series now available at the following link:

 

Warbots Book 1

 

Chapter One

No one noticed them when they boarded Orient Express Flight Seven in San Francisco. They were only six people sprinkled throughout the one hundred seven passengers boarding the hypersonic transport., They’d gone through all the security check points without a hitch. The psychic screeners had “felt” nothing wrong. The detectors had picked up no weapons.

This didn’t mean that these six people carried no weapons. They were all armed to the teeth. When all the available information was pieced together later, nobody could figure out how the hijackers had managed to get aboard with what survivors later reported as an “arsenal of weapons.”

The tow wagon lined up the bat-shaped arrowlike black hulk with the runway and, precisely at noon, the pilots of Orient Express Flight Seven – international rules of that time forbade the use of robot pilots in passenger craft without human pilots acting as “system managers” and backups for them – saw the final clearance from Space Traffic Control and the San Francisco tower appear on the display screen. The thunder of aeroturboramjets was quickly dissipated by the phase dampers of the runway’s noise controls. When the craft attained a speed of ninety meters per second, the pilots noted with satisfaction that the robot pilot signaled for rotation, the nose came up to the precise angle for generating the maximum amount of lift, and the craft was airborne.

Above the shielding effect of the runway noise dissipators, the ripping roar of the engines echoed off the far hills while the shoreline quickly fell behind the climbing black ship.

Another milk run, the pilots told each other. In two hours, they’d be landing in Toyko, at 8:00 A.M. the following morning, having crossed the international date line at an altitude of more than two hundred kilometers.

But the pilots discovered they were wrong when the aft door to the flight deck was blown off its hinges by shaped charges of plasticex. A man stepped through and barked an order. He was armed only with a short dagger with a dark blade. The copilot discovered that the blade was razor-sharp when it nicked his left arm and wet, red blood flowed from the thin cut that had been made almost painlessly. The blade could have been made from flint, obsidian, or any glasslike material that would have an extremely sharp edge upon being flaked or cracked. Such a nonmetallic weapon would pass undetected through any airport security screening device yet developed.

There was only one thing the pilots could do. The flight commander keyed the microphone, using the voice communications channel rather than the computerized digital system. “Pacific Low Orbit Center, this is Oscar Echo Seven. Code seven-five-zero-zero. We are being hijacked. I repeat: We are being hijacked. We haven’t been advised of destination at this time. Please track and clear ahead of us. We’ll monitor the navsat system for anticollision vectors. Oscar Echo Seven out!”

There didn’t seem to be any reason for the hijacking. When aerospaceline managers checked the manifest, they found no one on that flight who was of any particular political or religious sensitivity. The passengers were tourists and business people who could afford the premium fare charged for going halfway around the world in two hours.

And it didn’t make any sense to hijack a hypersonic transport. All five of the national space defense systems immediately came to Yellow Alert and began to track the craft. Space mirrors moved “on target” and billion watt ground-based lasers began to warm up in case the hijacking turned out to be a suicide mission aimed at Toyko, Beijing, or Singapore. No matter where Orient Express Flight Seven went now, it would be tracked by radar, lidar, and infrared systems because it was an unstealthed commercial craft, designed to be seen clearly and plainly by every possible sort of sensor. If it transgressed the international rules of the road in the opinion of some national defense system evaluator, it would be burned out of the sky. More than a hundred lives were at stake, lives that could be extinguished instantly in the inferno of a hydrogen-oxygen explosion.

Within minutes another message came from the en­dangered craft: “Orient Low Orbit Center, please be advised that Oscar Echo Seven has been ordered to land at a place called Zahedan. Its coordinates aren’t even in the autopilot’s computer memory. The hijackers have given the coordinates to us. This place must be out in the boondocks somewhere. I hope you can get us back.”

 

 

 

Captain Curt Carson’s officers had scouts well out on point with flank guards five hundred meters on either side of his advancing company. The enemy was out there somewhere. Lieutenant Morgan’s squads Alpha­One and Alpha-Two, from Alpha platoon, were on reconnaissance but had reported no contact yet. Lieutenant Allen, whose Bravo-Three squad was airborne with sensors out, could find nothing. The communications frequencies were quiet. Only the data channels showed any activity as scouts from Alpha-One, Alpha­Two, and Bravo-Three continued their constant monitoring, feeding back the information they gathered into the Head Honcho company battle computer which was being monitored by Master Sergeant Kester. At this point in the engagement, Carson was using his top sergeant as a control point assimilator and evaluator of data.

This was robot warfare as it was supposed to be fought. No human beings were on the field of battle and thus exposed to the hazards of combat.

The technology of robot warfare had been developing for nearly a century. As long ago as World War II, robot weapons such as the primitive German Henschel Hs 298, an unmanned bomb with a television camera in its nose, had allowed a bombardier to see where it was going and to steer it by radio control. A whole series of “remotely piloted vehicles” and target drone aircraft had evolved from the Henschel until the technology of the “human-machine interface” finally reached the point where true robot warfare was possible. The human soldier remained in a relatively safe and secure position while receiving sensations, from the robot, on television cameras, microphones, and position sensors via radio, microwave, infrared, and laser optical channels. In turn, the human soldier sent commands back to the robot via a similar “duplex” link.

This was different from the robot warfare of the past, however, because data flowed into and out of the human soldier’s nervous system which was directly linked to the communication channels.

Captain Curt Carson didn’t have an electronic connector implanted in his head. Instead, he lay on a couch whose network of small electrode plates made contact with his skin along both sides of his spine and up his neck. Over his shaved head, he wore a close-fitting helmet that put more skin electrodes in contact with his scalp. When he needed to be mobile, he wore a harness which held the electrodes against his back, and neck.

Electroencephalography, EEG, or applying electrode sensors to the scalp, had been used for over a century by medical doctors and research scientists to detect very strong electrical brain activity. By the 1970s, these external sensors had become so sensitive that they could detect the neural activity taking place in the brain during any given activity. Computers were programmed to decipher and recognize command signals or “event related potentials” transmitted by the human nervous system, and to send these translated thought commands to machines. Thus, a human being could “think” a command to a robot, and the machine would carry out that command.

In the 1980s scientists discovered that the human nervous system would respond directly to signals introduced to the surface of the skin by external sensors. Properly encoded by computers, these signals could be made to electrically trigger the sensations of sight, sound, feeling, and smell. This two-way linkage between a human being and a robot allowed soldiers to conduct warfare through robots of various designs and functions.

The soldiers were always in command. The computer programs were designed to ensure this, and would fail­safe in the event of a malfunction.

Press the advance, Carson ordered. The command was merely an electronic version of his thought passing through a computer, but the master battle computer made it seem a verbal message to him and his people. Keep moving forward until we make contact. Keep looking for them. They’re out there somewhere. When we find ‘em, we can decide what tactics we use to smear ‘em. Kester, don’t lose comm with the companies on our flanks. We may need their help, so we don’t want to outdistance them and get pinched off.

Roger, Captain. We ‘re sitting fat. Suggest we come to a forward speed of two kilometers per hour at this point.

We’ll do it. Attention, Alpha Leader and Bravo Leader, this is Blue Oscar Leader! Come to and maintain two klicks.

Alpha Leader, roger.

Bravo Leader, roger.

Alpha Leader, this is Blue Oscar Leader, Carson’s thought called out. I’m leaving the Head Honcho vehicle and going out on point.

That may not be wise, sir. It was Lieutenant Allen’s perceived voice-thought.

Thank you for sharing your opinion with me, Carson replied with the catch-all phrase he used when he wanted to let his subordinates know he’d decided to proceed anyway, but since time permitted, he continued with a brief explanation of why. Experience in the field, had taught Curt that a leader should lead people, not drive them. His operational policy had been formed in battle and honed in service under other officers. It had made a taut unit of his company, the Companions, named after the elite Macedonian heavy cavalry squadron that had accompanied Alexander the Great into battle twenty-three centuries before. I want to get an idea of the terrain. When we make contact, I don’t want to be fighting blind. Morgan, which unit do you recommend I join?

Alpha Leader suggests Alpha-Seven. He’s an Alpha Sierra Victor Eighty-eight. An Amphibious Scout Vehicle robot was a good choice.

Thank you. Blue Oscar Leader leaving Head Honcho command, transferring to Alpha Seven.

The transition was swift as usual.

Captain Curt Carson actually didn’t go anywhere. He merely transferred his sensory data inputs from one robot to another.

As a result, the sights, sounds, and feel of the CGV-22 Command Ground Vehicle were immediately replaced in Curt Carson’s mind by those of the Amphibious Scout Vehicle Model 88 going under the code name Alpha Seven. The scout vehicle was literally an extension of Carson because the captain sensed what its cameras and microphones and controls sensed. But Carson didn’t take control; he let the robot scout – a tank-like, treaded, all-terrain vehicle – proceed with its own artificially intelligent computer in command. It greeted him with a verbal thought message, Welcome aboard, Captain.

Glad to be aboard, Alpha Seven. You ‘re Phil Fingers, if I remember.

Named for the digits that play the eighty-eight keys of a piano. Roger, sir. That reply hadn’t been generated by the computer’s artificial intelligence or AI circuitry but had been programmed by one of the technicians in an attempt to ascribe some human qualities to a machine.

Captain Curt Carson treated artificial intelligence with caution. Even though he worked with AI constantly, he subscribed to the old maxim that there are only three forms of intelligence: human, animal, and military.

Give me a sit-rep, Carson ordered, asking the computer called Phil Fingers to provide him with a situation report.

No enemy detected, sir.

He’s out there somewhere. Curt’s thought message passed to the machine.

Yes, sir. I know. I have the briefing stored in memory. But he isn’t where Ess-Two estimated.

Staff Intelligence, S-2, was usually wrong because they worked with information that was at best several minutes old by the time the regimental computers processed what battlefield reconnaissance robots reported to make it intelligible to humans. That’s why Carson always sent his special recon robots out on point for the latest hot skinny.

Because Carson’s own nervous system was linked remotely with the scout’s sensors, he too felt the slamming impact and heard the incredibly loud clang of the shell hitting the scout’s armored glacis plate.

Contact. Incoming, incoming, Phil Fingers reported in the flat and unemotional tone of its computer-voice data channel. Antivehicle round taken on my glacis plate. Small dent, but I’m functional I have contact with the enemy. Bearing one-niner-one magnetic, range three-one-one meters.

Carson disabled the verbal channel, except for the tactical command signals coming from his human officers. He would have been overloaded with information otherwise. Far too much data were suddenly streaming In.

Phil Fingers swiveled Alpha Seven’s turret, laid the thirty-millimeter guns on the computer-derived source of the shelling, and fired a burst. The two eighty-eights on point followed suit.

Fire was immediately returned by the enemy.

Carson got out of the point scout. Doctrine directed that the company commander reduce personal risk by transferring to a suitably protected command, control, communications, and intelligence (“C-cubed-I”) robot upon contact or when under fire. Blue Oscar Leader transferring back to Head Honcho, he snapped into the human voice channel. The computer read his thought command and acted, switching Carson’s sensory inputs. Instantly, Carson was back in his command post.

The tactical situation was displayed for him as though he were seeing it with his own eyes. However, the computer sent him an elevated view of the terrain, a composite derived from television, infrared, and radar sensors in the airborne recon robots. The enemy, now tagged as Red Zulu by the computer, was drawn up in a defensive line on the other side of the small valley Carson’s company was just beginning to cross. Initial contact had been made, and the fire fight started when the point descended the north bank of the gulch, putting the units in maximum exposure.

Carson called up a bigger picture on his visual input. To the west, the valley tapered into a series of shallow, branched gulleys. Eastward, a small dammed lake with a swampy ground downstream of it extended into the forward battle area of another Blue company, Walker’s Warriors, who were yet unengaged.

Head Honcho, request flanking maneuver from Walker.

Request entered, sir, Master Sergeant Kester shot back in verbal. No joy, Captain. Walker is engaged, too.

Carson then knew this would be a loner fight. He’d have to win it without help. But he had good data. He knew what was happening. As the tactical situation began to clear, Carson started to issue orders. Morgan, engage with Alpha platoon in frontal assault. Jerry, take Bravo platoon around the right flank.

I can comply only with my nine all-terrains, Captain. That ground is too rough for my heavy tracked vehicles, Lieutenant Jerry Allen replied quickly. Carson could tell from the new lieutenant’s computer voice that Allen was unsure. The company commander hoped that the young man’s West Point education would prove out. It always had in the past, and Carson knew his own commanding officers had probably harbored the same doubts about him years ago.

Alpha engaging, Lieutenant Alexis Morgan reported. Carson didn’t have to worry about her at all. She was one of the people he would be glad to have with him in any sort of a fracas.

Kester, assume command of the reserve units. Tag them as Charlie Force. Detach all Alpha Tango Victors to Bravo, withdraw the heavies, assign them to Charlie Force, and put Charlie Force in fire support of Alpha.

Roger. Kester exiting Head Honcho for Charlie One now. Lieutenant Allen, you just got command of Charlie’s former Alpha Tango Victors and I’m taking your heavy Charlie Whiskey Bravos.

You’ve got my heavies, Charlie Leader. Bravo Leader is on the move, heading two-four-zero. Picking up some light fire. We’ll suppress it, Lieutenant Allen responded.

Cover, cover. The warning came from the orbiting Bravo-Three recon aircraft. The data suddenly showed Red tactical air support coming in low and fast, fangs out and hair on fire in the strike mode, going for the moving robot vehicles of Bravo platoon.

The air over the right flank was suddenly filled with smart rounds from the quad-forties of Charlie force which Sergeant Kester had prudently moved into place at Bravo’s rear for ground fire suppression as well as the contingency of a Red air strike against the exposed Bravo robots. The smart rounds jinked and zanged, found their targets, and a troika of Red saucer-shaped strike fighters became smoking holes in the ground because their own AI units couldn’t or didn’t react in time to spook the incoming smarts. Fortunes of war, Carson thought.

But there could be more where those had come from. Carson contacted Regimental and requested air cover. It wasn’t available. He’d have to fight this one out on the ground with what he had available, which was adequate if he deployed it properly.

Lieutenant Morgan’s Alpha platoon was moving forward with unexpected ease against what appeared to be light resistance. A disquieting thought entered Carson’s mind: If Morgan was encountering such light resistance, her assault target couldn’t be Red’s main body. Where was Red’s main body?

As Allen and Bravo platoon turned the corner of their flanking attack and began to move east after crossing the gullied terrain and breaking out onto the open, relatively flat mesa beyond, Carson acted on a hunch and extended his sensors deep beyond Red Zulu’s forward battle area. Head Honcho, the main company battle computer, noticed and remarked, I didn’t know you wanted deep coverage, Captain.

I’m looking for the main body, Carson muttered curtly.

And he found it.

It was lurking – unmoving, unseen, camouflaged, and stealthed – in defilade deep in another gulch five hundred meters to the south and rear.

Now it moved.

Bravo, look at what we’ve found, Carson warned his platoon leader, meanwhile instructing Head Honcho to artificially enhance and point out the images of the newly discovered Red main body. Break off the wheel­left and engage Red Main ‘s left flank before it can get out of that valley. Charlie force, I want a rolling barrage in front of Alpha force, but keep the beaten zone to the left and away from Bravo’s advance. Alexis, break through there. Crunch that Red forward party and prepare to hit Red Zulu main in frontal assault.

Carson had done the right thing. In sensing deep, he’d made the critical decision in this skirmish. In the next few minutes, the fight intensified, along with the inevitable “haze of battle” that accompanies such concentrated violence. However, modern sensors and detectors cut through most of the countermeasures and continued to give Carson a realistic picture of what was going on. The science boys in Ordnance Corps had done their job, and the AI units were responding effectively to enemy countermeasures, shifting their own battle management information inputs around Red Zulu’s jamming and spoofing.

Lieutenant Allen caught the Red main force on its left flank as it started to move ahead, and even without air support, Lieutenant Morgan was able to move behind Kester’s rolling barrage and break through the light frontal defense perimeter. By the time her platoon reached the van of Red main, Allen was moving through the enemy force and cutting it to ribbons.

But then it was suddenly all over. Carson’s Companions never got the opportunity to exploit the operation by continuing their deep thrust into Red territory and pursuing the enemy force while maintaining contact.

The call came suddenly from Regimental. Curt recognized the “feel” of the computer “voice” of Colonel Belinda Hettrick: Cancel the battle simulation. Good job, Captain. Also thank your troops; they did an outstanding job managing several robots. Unlink as soon as practical. The critique of today’s exercise is canceled. Assemble for a staff meeting and briefing at Regimental Headquarters. Sorry to rush you, but we’ve just gotten an emergency mission.

The data flow from the tactical training simulation computer suddenly stopped. The sensor outputs and displays froze like a videotape in freeze-frame mode. Curt found himself in a totally static situation. He and his human companions, the “warbot brainies” who were running the robots, couldn’t remain in a nonchanging situation like this for more than a few minutes. It was almost as bad as being killed in action. Since Carson had twice before lost all input from war robot sensors, he didn’t want to experiment with zero-input degradation. So, he immediately began the process of reincorporation, pulling his mind and senses back into his body as it lay on the command couch, still linked with the Head Honcho master battle computer which in turn was tied in with the battle simulator computer of the training center.

Captain Curt Carson was wondering to himself what the hell was going on? Why the sudden cut-off of the battle-training simulation? It was not only dangerous to pull people out of linkage quickly, but the colonel’s procedure was definitely nonregulation. Even with Carson’s extensive training, his nervous system would still be attuned to the electrodes of the combat couch for another hour or so. He’d have to work hard to force himself to accept the perception of the actual world coming in through his normal senses. Any warbot brainy, especially an officer with a command, would normally be given a resynchronization period of several hours after coming out of linkage. Whatever the new assignment was, it had to be something requiring an unusually rapid response.

He mentally steeled himself for withdrawal. Coming out from under direct linkage with computers and robots was like waking from a dream, a transition from one reality to another. It took a lot of training to enable modern soldiers to discriminate between experience and existence. Sometimes, an officer or NCO got confused in spite of all the training and the subliminal commands. When that happened and battle fatigue set in, it might mean six months to forever under psychological reprogramming. A few never made it back. They became human vegetables and were listed as Missing In Action on the roster. But Captain Curtis Christopher Carson never had trouble coming back. He was a fighter and a survivor; the genes of eight generations of military people were very powerful.

As the operations room took form around him, Curt sensed his body reclining on the couch. Sergeant Helen Devlin, a linkage biotechnician, was at hand, checking him as his mind returned. Helen was one of the pleasant things about coming back; a Biotech Sergeant Second, Helen was as expert at therapy as she was with the biological aspects of human-computer interfaces.

“Back from the wars, Captain?” she asked him pleasantly as she sponged him down to get the stink and sweat of battle off him.

Curt snorted. “Just war games!”

“But they’re as realistic as a war.” Lieutenant Alexis Morgan declared. She lay nearby on her own couch.

“Except you can’t get killed in action in a simulator,” her company commander reminded her, as he reached up to remove his skull cap.

“Begging your pardon, Captain.” It was Lieutenant Jerry Allen, the new officer under Curt’s command, who was just coming out of linkage on another couch. “If the robot quits before you can transfer away from it, it’s just as bad.”

“Don’t ever let me find out that you got caught in that situation, Lieutenant,” Curt told him flatly. “No competent, trained Academy graduate should ever delay transferring out of a malfunctioning robot. Machines and computers are cheap; humans aren’t! Or have they changed the doctrine at West Point lately?” He sat up slowly, separating his neck and spine from the network of sensors and probes attached to the couch. As usual, being shot at, even in a simulator, had had an effect upon his sexual drive, triggering the gallant reflex. “Sergeant, my fatigues, please,” he said to Helen Devlin. He then pulled on and fastened the trim, insignia-bedecked coverall which the biotech sergeant handed him.

Other biotechs were assisting his two officers and three NCOs as they detached their minds and nervous systems from the nonintrusive sensors and probes which had linked them to the electronic circuits of the battle simulator. There was much groaning and stretching of cramped and stiffened muscles, but the loudest complaints came, as usual, from Master Sergeant Henry Kester.

“I’m getting too old for this!” the lean but wrinkled man muttered.

“Want out again, Henry?” Curt Carson asked him. That was part of the unofficial ritual.

“Hell, I couldn’t live a normal life now. Probably go out and clobber some innocent vending machine in a flashback,” the master sergeant replied. “Besides, if we’ve got a hot operation comin’ up, there isn’t time for me to train-up either Nick or Edwina.”

“Face it, Henry,” the powerfully built Sergeant Edwina Sampson observed, “that’s just an excuse. If we wouldn’t get caught, I’d suggest we go over to the gym later and see who’s trained-up.” She knew what she was talking about. The ·standing order in the RI, the Robot Infantry of the United States Army,[1] prohibited only one form of physical contact between male and female warriors: hand-to-hand simulated combat. No reasons were ever given, but it was widely assumed that the RI didn’t want its male officers and NCOs injured when it wasn’t absolutely necessary in the line of duty.

The master sergeant started to say something, but Sergeant Nick Gerard put in, “Yeah, we know, Henry: The Army’s gone to hell ever since they let women into the service.”

“Naw, only since they got tired of being assigned to dangerous posts but not being allowed to defend themselves,” Kester pointed out.

“I’m glad that’s changed,” Sergeant Sampson retorted. “Henry, face it, you just like the good Army life.”

Captain Curt Carson listened to this banter as Helen Devlin ran her post-linkage physical checks on him. The little tech sergeant finally looked up at him and reported, “Fit for duty, Captain.”

“Fit for duty, but tired. And, unfortunately, duty calls,” Curt told her quietly.

“How’s the post-battle tension?”

“It’s there. It’s always there.”

“If duty doesn’t call tonight, will you need some relief? As your chief biotech sergeant, it’s in my line of duty, you know.”

“I could go for some recreational sack time…as you damned well know. But I’ve got to find out what the colonel has in mind since she pulled us out of the simulator so quickly.”

“Rain check?”

“Any time.” Provided Alexis doesn’t beat her to me, Carson told himself. Battle stimulated erotic tension often affected women warbot brainies more strongly than men. What was it? They weren’t actually on a battlefield, but the stink of fear and adrenalin and other powerful pheromones was still there. He didn’t know why. Maybe some scientist types would find out.

Even in modern robot war, as the news media incorrectly termed it, it made no difference that people were no longer physically involved in battle. The minds of men and women alike, linked with computers and intelligence amplifiers so they might run warrior robots, were subjected to the same stimuli and stresses they’d undergo on the battlefield. In the early decades of the twenty-first century, the enormous technological strides made allowed machinery to be placed at risk in war rather than human beings. Machines made the human body far less important, even unnecessary, on most battlefields, but the human mind was still the most important factor in warfare.

And the human mind reacted as it always had, because technology made robot or telewar startlingly real.

The computers had to make it seem real. Otherwise, no warrior would take battle seriously. Players of video games, those early simulators of the twentieth century, perceived war without jeopardy. “Well, I can quit and disengage and go have a beer if I start to lose.” That attitude didn’t win battles. Effective warbot brainies had to be involved.

Captain Curt Carson took war very seriously. So did his officers and noncoms.

But Carson’s Companions was an elite outfit. As a result, it got all the dirty little jobs. Curt wondered which one it would be this time?

His warbot brainies were dressed and ready now. They looked sharp in the light green fatigues. It was easy to tell they weren’t rookies – except for Lieutenant Allen, fresh out of the Academy with no chest full of ribbons and citations.

Curt took the brick shaped telecommunicator from its belt loop and keyed it for Colonel Hettrick’s office. “Captain Carson speaking. Where does the colonel wish us to assemble?”

On the front of the telecomm, a miniature image of the colonel’s aide saluted and replied, “With the colonel’s compliments, Captain, there will be a briefing in Room Foxtrot-two-zero-seven at fifteen hundred hours. All of Carson’s Companions should be present. That will give you time to hit the open mess. The colonel specifically remarked that she wanted you and your people to have the opportunity to eat after that simulation, sir.”

“Please thank her for me. Carson off.” Slipping the telecommunicator “brick” back on his belt, he turned to the five people lined up before him. Although this turn of events worried him, he didn’t let it show. Instead, he observed, “I don’t think I need to ask this outfit whether or not they want to hit the chow line.”

“No, sir,” Sergeant Nick Gerard replied, but his smile was broad. “We could also have called ourselves Carson’s Chow Hounds.”

“Except the company commander would have overruled that. Let’s go,” Carson told him.

“Eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow-“ Sergeant Edwina Sampson began.

“Tomorrow we may become totally digitized,” Master Sergeant Henry Kester put in.

Captain Curt Carson didn’t add to the lighthearted post-battle banter among his troops. He was worried. The colonel wasn’t one to push her troops to the limit unless it was absolutely necessary. Something big must be brewing. The colonel’s willingness to delay a briefing so Curt’s company could get a hot meal told him that they were going into action and might not have hot food for several days. Field rations meant combat.

 

[1] See Appendix A, Organization of The Robot Infantry.

Introduction to the Warbots Series

I first discovered the Warbots series in 1988 when there were only two books on the market. As someone who would eventually become a physicist my brain was always intrigued by topics such as this, even when presented fictionally. I thought long and hard about it the contents of the series. At the time it seemed like it was impossible. Nevertheless, G. Harry Stine hooked me in and made me surrender to each of the twelve books that would ultimately make up the series.

He did it by bringing to light in a page-turner kind of way several topics we now take for granted.

Would the military ever really allow itself to become dependent upon robots? I thought it would never happen. Robots were simple things at this point in time, banks still had tellers, and we all used dial up computer modems and the internet was just about to be born, Amazon didn’t even exist.

Artificial Intelligence was not a new topic, but mostly it was something we saw in movies, and used to scare us. The Hal-9000 decided that it knew best, Terminators came back in time to kill, and our imaginations ran wild.

That was then.

This is now.

We do indeed depend upon robots, only we call them drones.

Some of them are even armed.

There is even a murmur of a human (at least for Americans) free battlefield.

Would it surprise you to learn that the drones flying around the Middle East today are flown by pilots near Las Vegas? It is true.

Would it surprise you to learn that object recognition, and facial recognition are now common commodity items for the AI community? Probably not. Those technologies are now off the shelf.

When these books were written they were speculative, but dang if G. Harry Stine didn’t get close to what is going on now, thirty years later.

But wait, there’s more!

What about these Middle East terrorists who were dumb enough to take on a massively superior military? Surely no one would be that dumb, using weapons so many generations behind those of the United States that they couldn’t possibly win a war. Or would they?

Yes, he got that one right also. He gave us a fictional version of something close to what we see today. In my opinion he’s still half a generation in front of where we are now, and in time he may be proven absolutely correct. Only time will tell.

I wanted to read these books again as a potential influence for some of my own writing, and when I found out I couldn’t get new copies of these books (as mine were long gone) I was upset. I wanted to read them again. I poured into my favorite used book websites and found they were actually even hard to find there. So, I went on a quest. To find out who had the rights. It took a bit of work, but I found it. Bill Stine, the son of G. Harry, who has followed his father into the model rocketry world, was the answer, and thankfully supportive.

I am proud to be part of getting these books back out on the market, and I want to thank Bill Stine for allowing it.

I think the contents of these books will stick in reader’s brains and if they don’t they will certainly make you think. I hope you enjoy them as much today as I did 30 years ago.

The book can now be found on Amazon at the following link – Warbots Book 1.

Independent Consultant, the untold side (a short)

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So I spent a few years working as an independent consultant focused primarily with younger startup companies. I have a number of people saying “wow so much per hour why would you leave that.” Either that or they said “wow startups that is always exciting.”  Well…there are a lot of reasons to do it, and others to leave it.

  1. Your time off is not ever yours. You always take the call, try to close the next deal or want that client to speak for long enough to get that next billable hour. If that is a little league game, or a soccer game for your kid, you still take it.
  2. You put up with interesting notions from clients. I had one who they and I agreed on a price per hour, and a number of hours per week maximum. End of the week, turn in my bill to the CEO of this 25 employee company, he draws a line through the total, divides it in half and says here, we’ll pay you this much this week, and maybe next time I can pay the rest. When I asked about next week’s hours he said, yeah that might take us a while but we really need you to keep helping.  I didn’t.
  3. You say lots of problems with number 2 can be solved with a retainer. Ok let’s talk about that. I charged this one company a retainer equal to 30 days of the hours to be spent on the project. At the end of those 30 days we had agreed that I would then bill out every two weeks but after the work is completed. Ok no problem. After burning through the retainer and the next two weeks I presented a bill. The owner of the company said, oh yeah…I have been meaning to talk to you. You are going to have to start taking your salary in equity. Which was never discussed….ever.
  4. I have had more than one company hand me a paper check that bounced.
  5. More companies than I can count insist that I invest personal assets before I can draw a consultant check, but only after agreeing to paying me for my time.
  6. I found one company I was helping the owner try to figure out why they weren’t turning profit. Well it turned out the CEO was using company credit cards at “gentlemen’s clubs” every weekend.

Yes, startups can be exciting. They can also be looney tunes. Be careful if you tread in that world.