New anti-terrorism technologies offer great promise

July 10 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Imagine “smart” lasers that seek out, identify and destroy terrorists who threaten our airplanes, buildings, bridges, and public places. This intelligent system automatically senses enemy satellites, missiles, aircraft, ground vehicles, or suicide bombers, and defends against artillery, rockets, mortars, and missiles.

At airports, this weapon will protect planes from attacks by shoulder-fired missiles during takeoff and landing, a time when aircraft are most vulnerable. The U.S. Military hopes to implement this futuristic laser system by as early as 2009.

Terrorists believe they are at war with western society and culture, and they think they are in a war they will win. In fact, we are engaged in a global war on terrorism, which produces casualties, sacrifices, victories, defeats, and setbacks. However, unlike past wars, great powers cannot bring other great powers to their knees. Suicide bombers slip into our country undetected, making face-to-face confrontation difficult.

Dr. James Carafano, in a recent Heritage Foundation speech addressing The Future of Anti-Terrorism Technologies, stated, “We need to get ahead of the terrorists and develop overmatching security systems that protect the public, safeguard liberties, and allow unencumbered travel and commerce”. New technologies that can accomplish these goals, Carafano said, include biometrics, nanotechnology, and directed-energy weapons.

Facial biometrics is rapidly becoming the linchpin of virtually all security and investigatory systems. Video cameras capture us at convenience stores, supermarkets, Wal-Marts, ATMs, and traffic light intersections. Experts claim that new installations of public CCTV cameras are doubling every 18 months; facial biometrics will soon become a routine part of everyday life. Psychologists predict the safer environment created by biometrics will offset many of our concerns over “big brother” and loss of privacy. (cont.)

Nanotech counterterrorism tools under development include shape-shifting “nano-swarms”, originally designed by NASA for space development, which, some say, could also be used to search, identify and immobilize enemy combatants. Another new nano system, tiny structures that interact with human skin at the molecular level, could one day prevent pathogens from entering our body during a bio-terror attack.

Directed-energy weapons include lasers as mentioned above, and microwave radiation emitters. These weapons can inflict casualties and damage enemy equipment by depositing energy directly on targets. Compared with conventional weapons, which rely on the kinetic or chemical energy of a projectile, directed-energy weapons hit a target with sub-atomic particles traveling at light speeds that generate an awesome punch.

Futurists envision a time – possibly 2030 or before – when enhanced mind science and super-intelligence systems, combined with a powerful Internet “global brain”, could eliminate all criminal behavior including terrorism, but those technologies are not available now. Today, researchers must focus on developing new technologies that increase our security and discourage terrorists, making it more difficult for them to carry out their horrible attacks.

It is anyone’s guess though, as to how fast our government will turn these technologies into anti-terrorism tools. The Bush administration spent $90 billion in research last year, but allocated less than one billion to Homeland Security’s science and technology directorate.

However, if we are to survive and enjoy a “magical future” that is sure to unfold over the coming decades, we must think positive and form a unified effort to defeat terrorism now.

Which defense system do you think will have the best chance of thwarting terrorists and crime?

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Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. More than “big brother,” I would be afraid of the technology malfunctioning or not being able to identify the “threat.” The idea of smart lasers that can destroy terrorists makes me wonder what would happen if their targeting system was damaged.

    Posted by: jvarden   July 14, 2008
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  2. Yes, sometime technology wields a double-edge sword. Look at the automobile; its benefits are tremendous, but without proper care, cars can kill.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 15, 2008
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  3. I prefer the present course to the one where we sit on our hands waiting for the next terrorist attack, which is the other option. This is a genie that can’t be put back in the bottle, as with all technology.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   November 18, 2008
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