Military Spore Technology

The Nanoswarms
Image from Anders Sandberg
Aftermath of a spore attack

Applications in Warfare

Spore technology is a common defence and self-preservation strategy employed by many devices operating in hostile environments. A spore device, typically a bot or vec, periodically releases numerous small "spores" that quickly conceal themselves and then go dormant for some period of time or until they receive an activation signal or, conversely, cease to receive a signal. At this point, the spores begin to rapidly and often stealthily replicate and then construct a duplicate of the original combat unit. The original unit's control software or mind state is also duplicated from highly compressed data (often utilizing quantum memory cores) stored in the spore. Though spore technology is quite common in peaceful industrial or research applications, its use in warfare is more notorious, especially in the form of automated ground combat units.

In addition to dropping spores during combat, many such units also contain large quantities of encysted spores within themselves. If the unit is somehow destroyed, hundreds or thousands of spores may be released into the local environment. Often these spores are spread very widely as a side effect of the energies needed to destroy the combat unit in the first place. As soon as a spore has settled in a suitable location, and sometimes after waiting for a suitable period for an enemy's attention to turn elsewhere, it will rapidly begin the process of recreating the destroyed weapons system.

The use of spore technology can often have rather disconcerting effects on a combat situation, especially for those who are not familiar with such devices. Often a would-be defender may expend tremendous effort and energy to apparently destroy an attacking force only to discover sometime thereafter that they are now facing a larger number of attackers then they originally started with.

Efforts to prevent such delayed attacks may involve various sorts of advanced hunter-seeker or "sweeper" systems often based on swarm technology. However, on several unfortunate occasions desperate or terrified military commands (often under baseline or nearbaseline control) have resorted to attempting to "burn out" a spore infection by massive nuclear or kinetic bombardment. The resulting environmental destruction often far exceeds the damage of the original conflict and has even resulted in planetary sterilization and/or the destruction of the defending civilization.

Another secondary effect of the use of spore devices is the prolongation of warfare. Combat, and the effects of combat, may be stretched out for years or even decades as particularly persistent or covert spore systems activate and rejoin the conflict or attempt to continue a campaign which has long since ended and whose original reason or purpose may even have been forgotten. Synsect swarms with spore capability are particularly insidious in this way.

For those spore tech combat devices that support sophont class minds, various counselling and rehabilitation services and virtuals are available and usually enjoy a high success rate. However, for non-sophont systems or those rare units that will not or cannot be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society, containment and destruction or software stasis is often the only option. In some rare instances, sympathetic transapients may be persuaded to intervene in otherwise intractable cases. The TRHN, Sophic League, Beneficence, and the Utopia Sphere have been particularly active in these rehabilitation efforts.

Spore devices (also sometimes referred to as Dragon's Teeth, or Cadmus bots, both for obscure reasons) are often employed during combat operations as a force multiplier. In addition to the combat units initially deployed, spore units may be spread across the theatre of operations where they immediately begin replicating and working to construct additional units to reinforce the original deployment. Depending on the duration of the engagement and the technological sophistication of the defending forces, such tactics can have varying degrees of success.
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Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner

Initially published on 25 July 2005.