Will the 700 year Age of the Gun give way to drones or something else ?

Noah Smith at Quartz makes that the following points
* there has been 700 years where the gun has dominated the battlefield
* infrantrymen displaced the archer
* archers required people with more training

The analysis is a massive simplification of the history of warfare:

Spears and swords were dominant for longer than bows and arrows.

Crossbows were also around for a long time and needed less training than bows.

There were a lot of tradeoffs between deploying armies with muskets, long bows or crossbows.

It was also not just the open battlefield, but cannons that were needed to break the geopolitical structure around defensive castles.

A new open access ebook goes into the detail of military technology and geopolitics. Musket, Map and Money: How Military Technology Shaped Geopolitics and Economics.

From 300AD to about 1400, it was the dominance of heavy cavalry. Cavalry reduced the effectiveness of massed infrantry armies. Mongols, Turk and Arab pushed back or absorbed the classical empires of Rome and China.

The last 80 years has seen the importance of mechanized infrantry. Where soldiers in cars, tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopters.

Also, for the last 70 years the US and many major powers have had professional (volunteer or draft) standing armies. Army, navy and airforce need a lot more training to be truly effective. Also, combat experience for the military forces is important to be truly effective and have real readiness.

It takes a long time to develop the capabilities to operate aircraft carriers. It is not just skill at the individual level.

Nextbigfuture has pointed out that everyone can have personal drone airforces.

Check out DIY drones or my article about it and 3D Robotics. Drone software is getting very easy.

Now you can start having a useful personal robotic airforce for $500-1000.

The price is going down and the capabilities are going up.

DARPA made a chip that integrates the accelerometer and bunch of other nav electonics.
The autonav package will fall from $150-200 down to $1-10.

I believe the transition to add significant levels of autopiloting will be pretty fast over the next 5 years. I see the price dropping to about $50 within 5 years from about $150 now to add in the autopiloting device with its software.

By about 2018, there will be in the range of one million remote controlled vehicles sold or converted to drones each year. These ‘toys’ are mostly made in China. I do not see a meaningful global restriction.

However, this will not change the fact that nations and militaries will be able to have tens of millions of stronger drone weapons.

Also, there will be the introduction of lasers and railguns. Battlefield lasers will be be able to destroy and endless number of cheap drones. Also, the use of EMP pulses and EMP weapons would require drones to have radiation hardening that will drive up the lower end cost.

People will have more investment in robotic cars than they will in drones.

If people adopt robotic cars and use them all the time for commerce then there will be more adoption and use of robotic cars. This would enable large improvized remote control explosive devices.

Flying drones could become the means for wide adoption of devices that would act like flying cars and being to transport people and cargo.

Transformer aimed to develop and demonstrate a prototype system that would provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation for logistics, personnel transport and tactical support missions for small ground units. In 2013, DARPA selected the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) design concept to move forward.

These cargo drones are instead of flying Hummers (armored flying cars). They are cheaper and can still carry and move soldiers but can also move all kinds of other supplies. Plus they could also drop 3000 pound bombs or other ordinance.

* training still matters
* strategy and organization matters

If you analyze situations where “rebels” defeat the Soviets (Afghanistan) or the Americans got pushed back (Vietnam), there was economic and military aid to the opposition. The method of fighting for the Soviets and Americans were restricted by geopolitics.

So I disagree with Noah Smith on his military analysis (historical, present and future) and therefore his social analysis and conclusions.

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