Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illogical

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Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illogical

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 03:51pm

A common trope to go along with power armor is that the people in it are also genetically engineered supersoldiers. Clan Elementals from Battletech, Space Marines from 40K, I'm sure there are other examples.

Funny thing, isn't that kind of missing the point about power armor? If anything, the power armor soldiers should be significantly weaker than their foes. In the ur-example, Starship Troopers, the power armor gave the humans an ability to physically fight the bugs, something they otherwise could not have done. The power armor conferred all of the physical advantages. There could be advantages to making a human better able to live in a suit, maybe directly filtering the blood through the suit to add nutrition and eliminate waste, hardwiring the interface ability into the nervous system with implants, and so forth. But super-strength would be the least likely thing required since, well, they have the damn suit for that.

What would be more interesting to see in a setting with power armor is for all of the genetically-engineered suit troopers be these gaunt, 90lb weakling types who are perfectly suited for fitting into the tight confines of the suit and using them effectively while being bugger-all effective for combat outside of the suit.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Serafina » 2010-10-03 04:08pm

Actually, no, it does make some sense.
Think about it - the armor might do a lot, but your limbs etc. are still moving (even if it is done primarily by your armor). Sure, that helps a lot - but it's still physical activity for you, so better endurance helps.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Srelex » 2010-10-03 04:15pm

Not to mention physical strength being a useful backup if the armor breaks down or runs out of power.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Sinewmire » 2010-10-03 04:22pm

It's not just strength either, for example, 40k Space marines have superior reflexes, combat skills, intellect, redundant organs and numerous implants to help them interface with their power armour.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by PeZook » 2010-10-03 04:43pm

Typically, in real life, the best troops get the best equipment first, because they cost more to train. So it's actually logical that extremely expensive supersoldiers get the extremely expensive armor: it increases survivability and killing power of your major investment.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Imperial528 » 2010-10-03 04:54pm

In the Halo series they actually had to put super soldiers in the armor, since it killed normal marines who went in it, because baseline humans do not having the reflexes to use the suit's enhanced speed and strength properly. In the novel the marine testing it moved his arm just a bit, and the suit moved it faster and farther than he thought it would, which broke the arm, which made him spasm in pain, which made the suit respond, and that is what killed him.

And quite frankly, if I were to put a person in a very powerful and expensive piece of equipment such as power armor, I'd want him or her to be able to react faster and to think faster, and have the discipline to use those attributes correctly, so he or she doesn't completely fuck up my investment, or accidentally kill a fellow soldier.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Oskuro » 2010-10-03 05:02pm

On the other hand it's hard to wank your über-armour if any mook could just step into it and become an unstoppable Alien-queen-bitchslapping killing machine. Gotta keep it exclusive somehow.

But yeah, if said power armour is meant to be lobbed from orbit like a humanoid shaped projectile, it pays to have the pilot be somewhat more durable than a regular squishy humanoid.

Makes me think of this awesome moment in a Masamune Shirow comic (not sure if it was Appleseed or GITS) where an android carrying a human on his arms makes one of those manga-style building-clearing leaps, and the girl goes into Blackout and almost into G-LOC, wich prompts the android to explain that her squishy anatomy cannot withstand such forces easily. Funny how often that is ignored.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 05:15pm

Ok, good discussion. Let's hit the discussions one by one.

1. You need to be strong to use the suit.
Wrong. You need endurance but strength != endurance. Case in point, the gym I go to, you'll find all sorts of meatheads with arms like tree trunks. Are they strong? Sure, but only in a single plane of movement. Ask them to go on a run with you. They'll die in the first five minutes. Why? No endurance. They've been skipping on their cardio. So no, the 90lb weakling look I'm talking about about being physically incapable of living up to the exertion, it's about the physical demands of the suit not requiring you to be built like a gorilla. I think it was one of the WWII reporters who pointed out that the grunts who surprised you as good soldiers weren't the tall, muscular farmboys straight from central casting, it was the wiry little bastards who didn't look like much but had the real endurance.

2. The best guys get the best gear.
Yes, this is true. But the question is "Who's the most suitable?" In WWI, guys who washed out of cavalry training, the dashing elite of army service at the time, would go into the air corps and try their hand at flying. You couldn't be a snacky-cake-gobbling fattie and fly planes but you weren't pitting sheer physical strength against strength. It's not like going up against a knight with a sword. So who is the most suitable? Sheer physical power isn't the deciding factor anymore. And in point of fact, some military services selected against tall people. The rumor had it that the Russians deliberately selected short people for service so they could keep the height of their tanks lower. Might have been a Cold War legend but you can see how a small, wiry guy would be a better fit for a pilot than someone build like Arnie Schartzenegger.

3. What happens when the armor breaks?
Yeah, then you're in the soup but the same goes for when the plane is shot down, the tank is knocked out, etc. The very definition of power armor is that it's powered and doing the work for you.

4. You need the reflexes and such to use the armor, that sort of enhancement.
Right. And I mentioned that. I just happen to think that beefy super-strength wouldn't be something selected for, not when beefy strength isn't really a factor anymore.

Consider the modern combat aircraft. They're fly-by-wire now. Before hydraulic boost, you needed sheer physical strength to move the control surfaces. A pilot had to have some real strength to go along with the rest. These days, a teenager has sufficient strength to fly the aircraft. The biggest physical demand is handling the G-forces. I forget what the experimental evidence showed for people being able to handle G-forces, I'm thinking smaller bodies handled it better but I'm not 100% sure I'm remembering that correctly. But aside from that, a lighter pilot makes for less wasted weight and a smaller fuselage and a more nimble aircraft. If we were genetically engineering pilots, I'd expect to see more Bruce Lee's and less NFL linebackers in the pilot corps.

Perhaps the reference to 90lb weakling was overdoing it a bit above. But let's consider racing. If we're talking bicycling, the racer is providing all of the vehicle's energy. He's going to have some massive legs and has to have tremendous physical strength. With motorcycles, the rider still has to be fit but he's not providing any motive energy to the vehicle, he's just guiding it. If we were engineering the perfect motorcyclist, massive leg muscles with incredible stamina just aren't a requirement. Some thicker muscles and bone to help act as additional shock absorbers for hard riding might make sense but that won't make him go any faster.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 05:23pm

Oskuro wrote:On the other hand it's hard to wank your über-armour if any mook could just step into it and become an unstoppable Alien-queen-bitchslapping killing machine. Gotta keep it exclusive somehow.
The mental temperament would be a huge issue. Many people wash out of sub training simply because of the claustrophobia. Many people who can otherwise physically hack flying can't deal with the mental stress.
Makes me think of this awesome moment in a Masamune Shirow comic (not sure if it was Appleseed or GITS) where an android carrying a human on his arms makes one of those manga-style building-clearing leaps, and the girl goes into Blackout and almost into G-LOC, wich prompts the android to explain that her squishy anatomy cannot withstand such forces easily. Funny how often that is ignored.
That's one of the reasons why power armor sadly isn't all that realistic. Same with giant robots. We see giant robots take tumbles all the time but just imagine what it would be like for the pilot when a 50ft tall robot falls backwards and hits the ground. That's pretty much like falling off a 50ft building's roof more or less. You'd need to start wanking around with gravity manipulation to explain how he wasn't killed, Star Trek inertial dampeners and the like.

My sneaking suspicion is that we won't see power armor* in the future but something more like the knife missile from the Culture novels. People will still have a need to go into combat but they'll have their own personal escort of combat bots. Anything threatens the human, the bots go after it and the human stays safe. Think of it like the king and his bodyguards. Anything requiring human-squishing G-forces or endurance will be done by a robot so that's no longer an issue.

*There is work on powered exoskeletons but I remain doubtful as to just how useful they'll really be. The rationale for them in fiction has been that people can go places wheeled vehicles can't and so there would be an advantage to giving soldiers super-stamina via the exoskeletons. My suspicion here is that designers will realize there's no need to wrap the exoskeleton around a human and what we'll end up with are robotic pack animals. The Big Dog robot is an early example of this. They'll ferry supplies and maybe even be used as weapon platforms and the consensus is that this is superior to trying to do the same thing with guys in exoskeletons. Sad in a way, though, because power armor is such a cool idea.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Serafina » 2010-10-03 05:31pm

Wrong. You need endurance but strength != endurance. Case in point, the gym I go to, you'll find all sorts of meatheads with arms like tree trunks. Are they strong? Sure, but only in a single plane of movement. Ask them to go on a run with you. They'll die in the first five minutes. Why? No endurance. They've been skipping on their cardio. So no, the 90lb weakling look I'm talking about about being physically incapable of living up to the exertion, it's about the physical demands of the suit not requiring you to be built like a gorilla. I think it was one of the WWII reporters who pointed out that the grunts who surprised you as good soldiers weren't the tall, muscular farmboys straight from central casting, it was the wiry little bastards who didn't look like much but had the real endurance.
Except that the super-soldiers you are talking about often have their super-human strenght as a side effect of their endurance, not the other way round. If you've ever met a soldier with serious endurance training - they also tend to be quite strong.
Yes, this is true. But the question is "Who's the most suitable?" In WWI, guys who washed out of cavalry training, the dashing elite of army service at the time, would go into the air corps and try their hand at flying. You couldn't be a snacky-cake-gobbling fattie and fly planes but you weren't pitting sheer physical strength against strength. It's not like going up against a knight with a sword. So who is the most suitable? Sheer physical power isn't the deciding factor anymore. And in point of fact, some military services selected against tall people. The rumor had it that the Russians deliberately selected short people for service so they could keep the height of their tanks lower. Might have been a Cold War legend but you can see how a small, wiry guy would be a better fit for a pilot than someone build like Arnie Schartzenegger.
And your point is?
Why is the weak guy (which you won't have anyway, since he will lack endurance) better qualified as a front-line soldier than our typical superhuman space marine?
Yeah, then you're in the soup but the same goes for when the plane is shot down, the tank is knocked out, etc. The very definition of power armor is that it's powered and doing the work for you.
Oh, so having the soldier being able to move at least a bit is totally not something you would want if you could. No, obviously not :roll:
Right. And I mentioned that. I just happen to think that beefy super-strength wouldn't be something selected for, not when beefy strength isn't really a factor anymore.
Already adressed - that strenght comes with the training of endurance etc.

Consider the modern combat aircraft.
No, i wont. Because the requirements for a front-line soldier are completely different even with powered armor. It has been pointed out to you that a powered armor won't give you a free lunch - your body is still doing the work. Stop ignoring that point.

That's one of the reasons why power armor sadly isn't all that realistic. Same with giant robots. We see giant robots take tumbles all the time but just imagine what it would be like for the pilot when a 50ft tall robot falls backwards and hits the ground. That's pretty much like falling off a 50ft building's roof more or less. You'd need to start wanking around with gravity manipulation to explain how he wasn't killed, Star Trek inertial dampeners and the like.
Okay, now you are starting to move into idiot-territory.
Because, guess what - powered armor is supposed to be ARMOR, not a high-speed vehicle. You won't have to worry about g-forces - if you can handle the accel of a motorcycle, you sure as hell will be abele to handle that of a power armor (supposing it is better than unarmored anyway).

Powered armor makes sense because you will always need infantry. If you can make it small and agile enough (so that it doesn't remove the point of infantry), then protecting your soldiers with it is more than enough reason to use it. That's the whole point of it - armoring your infantry. Also, adding to their carrying capacity is a very important bonus.
My sneaking suspicion is that we won't see power armor in the future but something more like the knife missile from the Culture novels.
That depends on how our technology advances. Since much of that depends on speculative technologies, you really can't tell right now - except that we can already build basic exoskeletons (which are not much larger than a soldier) that could be equipped with armor, while we are far away from something like a knife missile.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Ford Prefect » 2010-10-03 06:30pm

Oskuro wrote:Makes me think of this awesome moment in a Masamune Shirow comic (not sure if it was Appleseed or GITS) where an android carrying a human on his arms makes one of those manga-style building-clearing leaps, and the girl goes into Blackout and almost into G-LOC, wich prompts the android to explain that her squishy anatomy cannot withstand such forces easily. Funny how often that is ignored.
Yeah, it's basically the first part of Appleseed. Briareos, who is a full body cyborg, goes all out to escape an AFV, and after he jumps Deunan freaks out because she can't see.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Temujin » 2010-10-03 07:30pm

In future societies, genetic engineering / modification will likely be common even among the average citizen. Having soldiers, especially elite soldiers, specially enhanced via bio-tech and cybernetics makes perfect sense.
Serafina wrote:
jollyreaper wrote:That's one of the reasons why power armor sadly isn't all that realistic. Same with giant robots. We see giant robots take tumbles all the time but just imagine what it would be like for the pilot when a 50ft tall robot falls backwards and hits the ground. That's pretty much like falling off a 50ft building's roof more or less. You'd need to start wanking around with gravity manipulation to explain how he wasn't killed, Star Trek inertial dampeners and the like.
Okay, now you are starting to move into idiot-territory.
Because, guess what - powered armor is supposed to be ARMOR, not a high-speed vehicle. You won't have to worry about g-forces - if you can handle the accel of a motorcycle, you sure as hell will be abele to handle that of a power armor (supposing it is better than unarmored anyway).

Powered armor makes sense because you will always need infantry. If you can make it small and agile enough (so that it doesn't remove the point of infantry), then protecting your soldiers with it is more than enough reason to use it. That's the whole point of it - armoring your infantry. Also, adding to their carrying capacity is a very important bonus.
Yeah, we've had quite a few recent threads concerning powered armor recently. It's certainly makes a lot more sense when you consider we will always need some kind of infantry, and in order to even survive on a post modern battlefield they're going to need far more protection than they have today, and an exoskeleton is the only way they are going to be able to carry it.

The US military is certainly interested:
New Exoskeleton Robot Suit is Faster, Stronger

A new second-generation exoskeleton robotic suit developed for the military – and deemed the closest thing to a real-life Iron Man costume – was unveiled on Monday during a demonstration with Paramount Home Entertainment.

The new robotic suit called Exoskeleton (XOS 2) – released by Raytheon Company – is lighter, faster and stronger than its predecessor, yet it uses 50 percent less power. Its enhanced design also means that it is more resistant to the environment.

Raytheon is developing the robotic suit to help with the many logistics challenges faced by the military both in and out of battle. Repetitive heavy lifting can lead to injuries, orthopedic injuries in particular.

Instead, the XOS 2 does the lifting for its operator, reducing both strain and exertion. It also does the work faster. One operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. Deploying exoskeletons would allow military personnel to be reassigned to more strategic tasks.

"XOS 1 was essentially a proof of concept," said Fraser Smith, vice president of operations for Raytheon Sarcos. "With XOS 2, we targeted power consumption and looked for ways to use the hydraulic energy more efficiently. That's resulted in us being able to add capabilities while significantly reducing power consumption."

The suit is built from a combination of structures, sensors, actuators and controllers, and it is powered by high pressure hydraulics. It enables its wearer to easily lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring and repeatedly punch through three inches of wood.

Yet, the suit, which was developed for the U.S. Army, is also agile and graceful enough to let its wearer kick a soccer ball, punch a speed bag or climb stairs and ramps with ease.

"Getting exoskeletons deployed is inevitable in my view," Smith said. "They are desperately needed, and I believe the military looks at them as viable solutions to a number of current issues they are trying to address. With a sustained commitment, they could be in place within five years."

The release coincides with release of Marvel Studios' Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray and DVD.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 09:17pm

Interesting exosuit. These things are still years away from practical deployment. The Army had one they were working on back in the 50's and couldn't get away from the difficult position of mounting a gas engine on the back of the thing. Tanks are noisy but infantry is supposed to be a little quieter. I'm sure we'll have the battery tech for that sort of thing sooner rather than later. But even now the autonomous Big Dog is using noisy chainsaw engines for power. The tethered model operating off of wall power is far quieter.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Justice » 2010-10-03 09:43pm

A lot of the stuff you say is off-base.

You put way, way too much emphasis on "smaller guys" when size does not dictate strength. Just because you are 5'6" does not mean you can not be strong. Sure, you won't be as strong as a really, really big guy, but wiry guys can work out and get strong. A lot of the people you refer to in the military are fairly strong due to their training regimen, even if they aren't absolutely huge. Bruce Lee was not a "weak guy" by any stretch of the imagination, and I think he'd tell you that balance, rather than concentrating on just endurance would be the way to go. The "super soldiers" you refer to are not just enhanced for strength, but everything: Spartans and Space Marines (the two most visible examples) are improved all around. I'd wager this is because, to get the most out of their enhancements, they'd need to be: Even if you have the stamina, you'd need the muscles to make the stamina actually useful.

Not only this, but in the case of the vast majority of super-soldiers with powered armor, there is still motive power necessary. Your motorcycle comparison doesn't work, because most of them still require movement and motive power from their user. To be able to withstand the improvements of the powered armor, they need the extra muscle and bone-improvements so that their suits themselves damage them (The Spartan example above is an excellent one). Most of the tech we are looking at in the future is going to require motive force, so strength is always going to be a part of it.

Your answer for the "Best Troops get the Best Gear" carries a lot of poor examples. First, you don't give any qualification as to why people washed out of Cavalry units, which is deceptive: A lot of them would have likely not been good riders, and strength was still a valued commodity considering some cavalry units expected to get into the thick of it on horseback. Some might even be rejected for not being affluent enough. Secondly, the best equipment certainly was not the aircraft: it was ridiculously dangerous, unreliable, and it wasn't capable of the same strategic influence it is today. And while the pilots were small, you yourself admit they had to have strength to operate the controls since so much of it was manually done. Really, World War I is a poor place to find good examples of quality standards, as things such as social status played a much larger role than it does today. If you want an example, just look at the officer's qualifying exam for the US Army at the time, which was largely meant to keep plebeians out of the Officer Corps.

Your Russian tank example is true, but more due to poor design than anything; the T-34 was notoriously cramped and harsh on the crew, which is why they tried to funnel smaller guys into them. Having a strong guy on a tank crew would have been great, considering that a lot of problems had to be solved by muscle (Ever try to unbog a tank? You might have to do some digging...). If you're the loader, constantly picking up and shoving 76mm shells into the breach, you'll want that arm strength.

Finally, you don't want the suit filtering blood, adding nutrients, or anything else which might endanger the operator if the suit were to go out of action. You'd never be able to pitch that because, while it improves the operator it also makes them more vulnerable and takes up space on the suit. Instead, you want self-sufficiency in a pilot because, by their very nature, powered armor infantry units are going to be in the thick of things. They are going to be exposed to a lot more things than fighter jets, and they are going to run into a great many more problems due to both combat and battlefield conditions (I'd wager powered armor units would work through conditions which jets would be grounded). An example of your idea working is 40K: Give the soldier the ability to filter their blood more efficiently, but put it in their own body rather than the machine. That way the suit doesn't risk bring more risk to the pilot were it to suffer a failure.

As for the future, there is a very bright future for powered armor infantry. Perhaps not in the style of giant Gundam robots, but infantry units outfitted with individual armor is a great force multiplier; individually-outfitted infantrymen would be able to go most places that your average infantryman could go with superior firepower and better protection against the enemy. Plus powered-armor wouldn't require a complete paradigm-shift in infantry tactics; they're more survivable and stronger, but they are still infantrymen. The technology isn't quite here, but even as a rear-area improvement (As an SF example, Ripley's exo-suit in Aliens) where their power supply wouldn't be as much of an impediment is a very real thing.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Rossum » 2010-10-03 09:59pm

Actually, having a big muscular guy in the armor could be a liability.

1). If you want to mass produce the power armor then you need to have pilots who fit inside them. Unless all your soldiers have the same length of arms and legs then the armored parts over their limbs would have to be adjusted and fitted to acount for the position of their joints. Changing the position of the joints means that you need the suit to change shape and that could compromise the armor on the outside.
That is to say the more moving parts the armor has then the less structurally sound the armor is, if you have to fit the armor to different sized people then that means you need different sized bits of armor to fit over them and that gets complicated.

2). The armor does carry the wearer... which means it has to carry his weight. Unless he's doing some lifting on his own then every pound of muscle on the guy inside is dead weight for the suit to carry. Doesn't matter if its a 300 lb fatty or a 300 lb bodybuilder with arms made out of stampeding buffalo. If he's not carrying his own weight inside the power armor then he's just slowing the armor down.
If you put a 90 lb weakling in a suit of power armor as opposed to a 300 lb Arnolt Schwarzenegger clone then that frees up 210 lbs that the suit doesn't have to carry around.
Its kind of like how race jockeys tend to be little guys, if they are lightweights then they don't slow down the horse they are riding.

3). Quick movement and force applied to the suit affects the guy inside. If the suit moves its arms faster than the guy inside can comfortably allow then he gets injured. If he jumps over a tall building and lands then his internal organs get sloshed around while even if the suit itself is fine.
Ideally, the suit would move as fast as its allowed to and the pilot inside would just go along for the ride. If he actually has to have his arms insid emetal sleeves (as opposed to just curling up into a ball in a 'pilot compartment' and having purely robotic arms doing all the movement) then he'd probably be a muscleless weakling with boneless noodle arms and some really comfy sleeves and padding so that the armor can move around his arms without injuring him. Sure, he might have super-fast reflexes so that he can syncronize his own movements to the armor but the armor should be designed to move as fast as possible and thus faster than the human body can do alone.

If you're going to engineer humans who can move their limbs faster than machines can move then... I don't know... give them red "Flash" jumpsuits and have them destroy the enemies by creating sonic booms by running around or something.

4). If the suit is doing the heavy lifting and can move faster than the human inside can move his limbs... then the only purpose the guy inside serves is to ensure that a meaty human brain is piloting the war machine instead of a robot brain. Thats it. If you can create an AI that cna operate the power armor and you feel comfortable with having it in there then there really is no need to put a pilot in there.
Ideally, the pilot would just be a human brain with whatever organs or limbs are needed to keep him alive and interface with the suit.
If you can get 90 lb weaklings, interface their brains with the suit, remove any extra weight or awkward limbs that get in the way of the suits operation, and then cushion whats left of them enough so that their hideous brainlike bodies can survive the impacts of enemy fire against their armored suits then you've pretty much got the perfect pilot.

Having your pilots be decently human, aesthetically pleasing (I suppose big ruggedly handsome guys are better suited to propaganda posters then quadriplegic cyborgs), and comfortable are nice but not necessary to the functioning of the suit.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 10:16pm

Rossum wrote:Actually, having a big muscular guy in the armor could be a liability.
Thanks. This was the line of thinking I was working on.
2). The armor does carry the wearer... which means it has to carry his weight. Unless he's doing some lifting on his own then every pound of muscle on the guy inside is dead weight for the suit to carry. Doesn't matter if its a 300 lb fatty or a 300 lb bodybuilder with arms made out of stampeding buffalo. If he's not carrying his own weight inside the power armor then he's just slowing the armor down.
If you put a 90 lb weakling in a suit of power armor as opposed to a 300 lb Arnolt Schwarzenegger clone then that frees up 210 lbs that the suit doesn't have to carry around.
Its kind of like how race jockeys tend to be little guys, if they are lightweights then they don't slow down the horse they are riding.
I was going to bring up the jockeys but thought someone might bring up jousting and strain the metaphor. :)
3). Quick movement and force applied to the suit affects the guy inside. If the suit moves its arms faster than the guy inside can comfortably allow then he gets injured. If he jumps over a tall building and lands then his internal organs get sloshed around while even if the suit itself is fine.
Ideally, the suit would move as fast as its allowed to and the pilot inside would just go along for the ride. If he actually has to have his arms insid emetal sleeves (as opposed to just curling up into a ball in a 'pilot compartment' and having purely robotic arms doing all the movement) then he'd probably be a muscleless weakling with boneless noodle arms and some really comfy sleeves and padding so that the armor can move around his arms without injuring him. Sure, he might have super-fast reflexes so that he can syncronize his own movements to the armor but the armor should be designed to move as fast as possible and thus faster than the human body can do alone.
That's actually the point where I start scratching my head with power armor. I tend to classify it at three levels: Iron Man which is essentially a form-fitted suit not much larger than a human being, Starship Trooper armor which is bulky and huge but human limbs go in the arms and legs and proper mecha where the pilot's limbs are not in the arms and legs and, depending upon the size of the mecha, he's either in the torso itself or in a tiny compartment in the head (which is really a silly position to place your pilot in!)

I can't even figure out how to fit a human in anything other than an Iron Man suit. If you look at the Space Marine armor, it's just not anatomically possible. Same goes for most Starship Troopr-style armor.
If you're going to engineer humans who can move their limbs faster than machines can move then... I don't know... give them red "Flash" jumpsuits and have them destroy the enemies by creating sonic booms by running around or something.
I am getting visions of a hyper-caffeinated Sheldon shouting "Bazinga!" with doppler-shifting.
4). If the suit is doing the heavy lifting and can move faster than the human inside can move his limbs... then the only purpose the guy inside serves is to ensure that a meaty human brain is piloting the war machine instead of a robot brain. Thats it. If you can create an AI that cna operate the power armor and you feel comfortable with having it in there then there really is no need to put a pilot in there.
Ideally, the pilot would just be a human brain with whatever organs or limbs are needed to keep him alive and interface with the suit.
Like Robocop or the Warhammer dreadnoughts. But there's still a limit to the amount of punishment a human brain can take, even without the rest of the meat bag that goes with it. There are lots of brain injuries coming out of Iraq thanks to the IED blast waves. In previous wars, most of those guys would have died on the battlefield and we never even would have had to worry about the brain damage that went with the injury.
Having your pilots be decently human, aesthetically pleasing (I suppose big ruggedly handsome guys are better suited to propaganda posters then quadriplegic cyborgs), and comfortable are nice but not necessary to the functioning of the suit.
The end result of my thought experiment is that there wouldn't need to be a human in the suit and thus it wouldn't really be a suit or humanoid for that matter. It's the same logic that's taking the humans out of combat aircraft.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Oni Koneko Damien » 2010-10-03 10:31pm

Actually, yeah, I'm on the side that bigger/stronger people will not necessarily be better fits for powered armour.

Powered armour is for all intents and purposes a vehicle rather than clothing. The work is done by hydraulics (or whatever equivalent the armour has) rather than the muscle power of the human piloting it. To put it in an analogy, will a tank driver be better at his job if he's a muscle-bound genetic freak? Will four hundred pounds of muscle-mass help him aim the turret better? Operate the visual screens faster and more effectively?

Genetically altering people for powered armour, I believe, would place strength pretty far down the list as far as priorities are concerned. Near the top of the list would be things like fine-tuning senses and reaction-times to better meld with electronic imput, decreasing overall body mass to leave more room for armour and weapons, streamlining metabolic needs to minimize the space needed for food, water and air to sustain the driver, and maybe enhancing stamina (not sheer strength) so that the driver and remain awake and continue to move during extended operations.
Its kind of like how race jockeys tend to be little guys, if they are lightweights then they don't slow down the horse they are riding.
I was going to bring up the jockeys but thought someone might bring up jousting and strain the metaphor.
It doesn't strain the metaphor at all. Jousters need strength because they're engaging in human-powered hand to hand combat. This wouldn't be the case with powered armour.
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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Drone » 2010-10-03 10:47pm

Oni Koneko Damien wrote: To put it in an analogy, will a tank driver be better at his job if he's a muscle-bound genetic freak? Will four hundred pounds of muscle-mass help him aim the turret better? Operate the visual screens faster and more effectively?
Its kind of like how race jockeys tend to be little guys, if they are lightweights then they don't slow down the horse they are riding.
I was going to bring up the jockeys but thought someone might bring up jousting and strain the metaphor.
It doesn't strain the metaphor at all. Jousters need strength because they're engaging in human-powered hand to hand combat. This wouldn't be the case with powered armour.
To answer the first two questions, with current tech, yes. Being a driver of an armored vehicle requires a lot of strength, and while being a 400 pound freak might be too much, but being in good shape matters. The muscle also lets you handle the jarring and impacts suffered in combat conditions, it absorbs blows better, especially neck muscle which helps with blows to the head. Same principal applies inside of power armor, the armor will be doing the work, but you're going to have to deal with the ride, and being well muscled helps with that. Again not huge, but not the jockey type people you guys seem to be talking about.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by keen320 » 2010-10-03 11:01pm

jollyreaper wrote:If you look at the Space Marine armor, it's just not anatomically possible. Same goes for most Starship Troopr-style armor.
Just want to point out, we don't really know what Starship Trooper armor looks like, all we have to go on is some descriptions in the book that don't say proportions, and cover art.

Another idea- If you could find a way to sustain high bandwidth, non-jammable communications (admittedley unlikely), why could the armor be used remoteley? That would allow the best of both worlds, a human brain (assuming you don't have a good AI), without worrying about getting squished in the armor. While it was a crummy movie, Lost in Space had something like that.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 11:03pm

There's a difference between being well-muscled for a little guy and being a roid freak. This is why I dropped the 90lb weakling example and suggested a wiry Bruce Lee vs. the NFL linebacker, though a Space Marine tends to make even the largest unaugmented humans look tiny.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Justice » 2010-10-03 11:10pm

jollyreaper wrote:There's a difference between being well-muscled for a little guy and being a roid freak. This is why I dropped the 90lb weakling example and suggested a wiry Bruce Lee vs. the NFL linebacker, though a Space Marine tends to make even the largest unaugmented humans look tiny.
Well, by logic the soldier who is as big as an NFL Linebacker likely to be host to more augmentation, based on size alone. That's the whole reason why a Space Marine is so damn big; they need to be to fit all the extra organs and the black carapace into their body. The smaller the body, the harder doing this will be.

And Space Marine Armor isn't anatomically possible? If that's true, how do they dress that one guy up as a Space Marine at Gamesday every year?

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by jollyreaper » 2010-10-03 11:13pm

keen320 wrote:
jollyreaper wrote:If you look at the Space Marine armor, it's just not anatomically possible. Same goes for most Starship Troopr-style armor.
Just want to point out, we don't really know what Starship Trooper armor looks like, all we have to go on is some descriptions in the book that don't say proportions, and cover art.
The general assumption is that the Starship Trooper armor was bulky, like the deep sea diving armor we've seen. They were described as looking like armored gorillas, not sleek like the Iron Man suit.
Another idea- If you could find a way to sustain high bandwidth, non-jammable communications (admittedley unlikely), why could the armor be used remoteley? That would allow the best of both worlds, a human brain (assuming you don't have a good AI), without worrying about getting squished in the armor. While it was a crummy movie, Lost in Space had something like that.
FTL quantum entanglement ansible. Had an idea for that in a story. The idea is 20 years in the vague future. Intel services keep their operators in secure locations and send androids out into the field. There's no strong AI in this setting and the androids need human operators who use telepresence. These things can't use regular radio signals, too much lag. Each android is given a unique ansible which is paired with a partner ansible back at base. Very expensive to build those things but they are instantaneous and undetectable.

The androids can pass for human. Of course, this brings limitations. They can't weigh that much more than people. there's only so much that can be packed inside. They're nimble and strong but aren't tanks. They can absorb small handgun rounds like the Terminator but anything heavy will tear them to pieces. And assuming an android is lost in combat, the operator can't just reload a saved game. It takes time to deploy the androids, there's never enough to go around, safe houses to consider, etc. And there's the opportunity to bring out combat-optimized androids, ones that really can't pass for human and care less about stealth and more about delivering the pain.

From a storytelling perspective, the main advantage of using androids like this is you can have heroes and villains viciously beating the shit out of each other, to the point of death and dismemberment, and not have to resort to soap opera BS to bring the character back. Actually killing someone for reals would be a lot more difficult than in most stories.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Sarevok » 2010-10-04 12:11am

A power armor is a robot with a meatbag substituting for driving software intelligence. The smaller the meatbag inside the more armor, weapons, sensors etc the powered armor suit can carry. Giant muscled men like spartans or spacemarines are just about the worst candidates for the job. You will want to engineer someone like a battletech clan ASF pilot. Tiny yet able to witstand tremendous gee forces, extreme reflexes, a brain optimized for linking with computer hardware etc,
I have to tell you something everything I wrote above is a lie.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Justice » 2010-10-04 01:02am

Sarevok wrote:A power armor is a robot with a meatbag substituting for driving software intelligence. The smaller the meatbag inside the more armor, weapons, sensors etc the powered armor suit can carry. Giant muscled men like spartans or spacemarines are just about the worst candidates for the job.
Well, if we are talking about it as actually armor, the suit size is going to decrease as well, negating any extra space. You can't just fit a small guy into Space Marine armor; it doesn't work that way. You don't actually "gain" room in so much as you are now just smaller. There are advantages to that, but being able to carry more really isn't one of them.
You will want to engineer someone like a battletech clan ASF pilot. Tiny yet able to witstand tremendous gee forces, extreme reflexes, a brain optimized for linking with computer hardware etc,
Space Marines already do all this. They are huge, but they are insanely fast. Don't mistake them for lumbering giants in any way, shape, or form.

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Re: Genetically engineered supertroops and power armor illog

Post by Simon_Jester » 2010-10-04 01:03am

Imperial528 wrote:In the Halo series they actually had to put super soldiers in the armor, since it killed normal marines who went in it, because baseline humans do not having the reflexes to use the suit's enhanced speed and strength properly. In the novel the marine testing it moved his arm just a bit, and the suit moved it faster and farther than he thought it would, which broke the arm, which made him spasm in pain, which made the suit respond, and that is what killed him.
That is some really bad design. It reminds me of the suits from Iron Man 2 that failed and killed their pilots or fell over and shot up the test area. Seriously, if small user movements are so amplified by the suit that it breaks the user's bones, you're doing it wrong: too much feedback. That's going to be a problem even for a superhuman user, because it breaks the correlation between the movements his own instincts tell him his body should be making and the ones that it really is making.
And quite frankly, if I were to put a person in a very powerful and expensive piece of equipment such as power armor, I'd want him or her to be able to react faster and to think faster, and have the discipline to use those attributes correctly, so he or she doesn't completely fuck up my investment, or accidentally kill a fellow soldier.
We routinely trust expensive fighter jets to unmodified humans. Why should power armor be different?

Putting power armor on your supersoldiers is advisable, because it protects your investment (both investments) and adds to the force multiplier. But it isn't mandatory, not if the design is sane.
jollyreaper wrote:That's one of the reasons why power armor sadly isn't all that realistic. Same with giant robots. We see giant robots take tumbles all the time but just imagine what it would be like for the pilot when a 50ft tall robot falls backwards and hits the ground. That's pretty much like falling off a 50ft building's roof more or less. You'd need to start wanking around with gravity manipulation to explain how he wasn't killed, Star Trek inertial dampeners and the like.
50 foot robots are a whole different problem from power armor, though; there are fictional depictions that blur the line between mecha and power armor, but there is a line.
Justice wrote:A lot of the stuff you say is off-base.

You put way, way too much emphasis on "smaller guys" when size does not dictate strength. Just because you are 5'6" does not mean you can not be strong. Sure, you won't be as strong as a really, really big guy, but wiry guys can work out and get strong. A lot of the people you refer to in the military are fairly strong due to their training regimen, even if they aren't absolutely huge. Bruce Lee was not a "weak guy" by any stretch of the imagination, and I think he'd tell you that balance, rather than concentrating on just endurance would be the way to go. The "super soldiers" you refer to are not just enhanced for strength, but everything: Spartans and Space Marines (the two most visible examples) are improved all around. I'd wager this is because, to get the most out of their enhancements, they'd need to be: Even if you have the stamina, you'd need the muscles to make the stamina actually useful.
But how much muscle do you really need? Remember, the whole point here is that the armor does most of the load-carrying. There's no obvious reason why the user needs to be the Incredible Hulk even with the armor out of the picture. In any situation where he has to abandon the armor, it's probably for the best if he has to abandon a lot of the heavy weapons and shit that go with it.
Not only this, but in the case of the vast majority of super-soldiers with powered armor, there is still motive power necessary. Your motorcycle comparison doesn't work, because most of them still require movement and motive power from their user. To be able to withstand the improvements of the powered armor, they need the extra muscle and bone-improvements so that their suits themselves damage them (The Spartan example above is an excellent one). Most of the tech we are looking at in the future is going to require motive force, so strength is always going to be a part of it.
...Uh, no? "Motive power" means that the physical force needed to make the suit go is coming from somewhere. The definition of powered armor is that motive force comes from the armor itself, reducing the burden on the user. At which point there's really no reason to bulk up the wearer until they can bench-press a dozen anvils or whatever, because he is NOT the motive force for the suit, any more than he would be in a tank or a jet fighter.
Finally, you don't want the suit filtering blood, adding nutrients, or anything else which might endanger the operator if the suit were to go out of action. You'd never be able to pitch that because, while it improves the operator it also makes them more vulnerable and takes up space on the suit. Instead, you want self-sufficiency in a pilot because, by their very nature, powered armor infantry units are going to be in the thick of things. They are going to be exposed to a lot more things than fighter jets, and they are going to run into a great many more problems due to both combat and battlefield conditions (I'd wager powered armor units would work through conditions which jets would be grounded). An example of your idea working is 40K: Give the soldier the ability to filter their blood more efficiently, but put it in their own body rather than the machine. That way the suit doesn't risk bring more risk to the pilot were it to suffer a failure.
Why is this a critical feature? Normal soldiers don't have special blood filter enhancements or whatever. Why does putting them in armor make that more important?
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