Saturday, 20 February 2016

What Is A Weapon?

Any powerful technology can be used destructively. Larry Niven shows this in two short stories:

a hitchhiker holding a knife to a driver's throat is powerless when the driver, a professional actor, pretends to be suicidal and begins to drive dangerously, threatening to crash the car;

a kzinti telepath reports that a human spaceship has no weapons but then the human pilot aims his laser drive at the kzinti ship, fighting as he flees.

Similarly, weapon systems can be put to peaceful uses. In Poul Anderson's For Love And Glory:

antimissile screens can deflect solar flares;
warheads can excavate where shelters are needed;
energy beams drill through ice, giving access to the minerals beneath.

So does a ship carrying what look like weapons necessarily have belligerent intentions? Intelligence and diplomacy would be crucial in inter-species encounters.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember that story by Larry Niven, "The Warriors," when the Kzin first made contact with mankind--and immediately attacked. The interesting thing was that Steve, almost instinctively did the right thing to do, even tho he had to break thru centuries old "conditioning" against the use of any kind of violence. It was the end of a golden age of peace for Earth and her colonies.

If ever get off this rock in a serious way into interstellar space, human space ships had BETTER be prepared for both war and peace. That is, while hoping for the best, they should also be wary. Speak softly but carry a big stick, to paraphrase US President Theodore Roosevelt.


David Birr said...

Isaac Asimov, in his early story "Homo Sol" (1940), has Earth-humans noted as being able to tinker a wide variety of peacefully-designed tools into weapons. One character cites a "gravitational line tracer," originally meant to locate ore deposits for mining (but not all that effective). Earthpeople got our hands on the design and rejiggered it into a weapons-targeting sensor of unparalleled deadliness: "It will automatically lay a gun or projector on a completely invisible target in space, air, water -- or rock, for that matter."

Paul Shackley said...

That is just the sort of thing.