book opensWhite Heat.

by Carroll Pursell

Chapter 6

War in the Age of Intelligent Machines

pages 144-167.

Indian Gurka cavalry rides in formation 1914, called up by Britain to fight in Belgium for the Allies: Great Britain and France.

There are ten pictures in this chapter select two that you think convey best the changes in warfare characterized by the statement he makes on p. 146, when he says:

“First the mechanization, and the automation of the means of killing in our time, however, have destabilized those ancient practices and rituals we call war, a transformation that has placed us all in great peril."

"Death that great harvester of lives is depicted holding a weapon, a scythe which is also a tool. The Art of War is a vastly older term than 'military science.”



Medieval triad:

• introduction of the stirrup “allowed warriors on horseback to engage in what we call shock combat...”

• cross bow and long bow made the difference at the Battle of Agincourt in the 100 Years War (Anglo-French warfare)

• the plow perfected fro Northern European clay soils, at the time, allowed for surplus and better fed or rationed armies.

"Artillery too, especially after the fifteenth century, changed the form of war.”

1. Further specialization of craft and parts
2. Fort redesign (Castillo De San Marcos in St Augustine, I.e.)
3. Gave birth to “engineers” as a profession

The seventeenth century, along with the cannon, introduction of the fixed bayonet established a new paradigm of warfare. (See Pace on the importance of "drill")

A new model produced
“European hegemony over most of the world , or at least its maritime fringe, was ensured.”


armies of interchangeable parts (soldiers) were delivered overseas by vast navies of gunships guided by compasses

“The British Royal Navy ...anticipated the regimen of the coming Industrial Revolution”


“industrialized warfare”
by 1871 the belief in super weapons based on electricity or particle beams were introduced into fiction as a means to end all wars.
Sepoy mutiny

As late as 1850, in the Spew Mutiny in India, guns dominated the field here in what was called the Amritsar Massacre of East Indian by English gunners.


unreal ism gave way to realism by Nicole Tesla in 1900 who observed “every new arm that is invented, every new departure that is made... Only gives a fresh impetus to further development”


MAD -- a military acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction

Atom bomb

“surely war was now unthinkable.”

August 1914, modern technological warfare was not unthinkable; it was only not much thought about.”

“how little the military elite was prepared for them” (changes due to industrial warfare:

• telegraph
• mortars and large ballistic, long-distance cannons
• Battling or machine guns
• poison gas
• tanks
• zeppelins
• air planes
• automobiles & motor bikes
• radio, Marconi's "wireless"

“the British high command was unprepared for the result.”


Somme, 1916

Many a war destroyed the supremacy of hereditary classes, but never to the extent of World War One.
- • Renaissance Wars of the Roses: England
- • Hundred Years War: France and England
- • 30 Years War: Germany, France, Austria & Sweden
- • World War One or the “Great War.”

“if death could be mass produced by unskilled labor, if the skills of war could be replaced by machines, then soldiering was a job like any other and officers were mere mangers in the factories of death.”


“the rites of war made men.”

“Masculinity survived the machine gun”


“clings to the faith that men should fly machines.”


“It was not until the Second World War,..., That a concerted attempt was create ‘an electronic environment for war.’”

War in the Atomic Age

The move to "an electronic environment for war."


war is the greatest stimulus for technological change
Computer as a case in point
analog computers.
Used in 1930s were used in the war to compute ballistics -- bombing runs and analysis of target damages -- and to break the German codes
W.W.I the chemist’s war
W.W.II the physicist’s war

“By the mid-1960s the combination of operations research and progressively more powerful computers was beginning to change the way in which the military carried on its business.”


“the new rationality” in procurement and operations


“all war phenomenon had to be reduced to quantitative form.”

“Environmental warfare devices”
defoliants -- agent orange
cloud seeding
“automated battlefield”

• electronic sensors
• RPV - remotely piloted vehicles
• laser weapons


“The automated battlefield began in 1966 with Robert McNamara’s wall at the demilitarized zone in Vietnam.”

“think coordinate and control.”

“The ‘smart’ bomb was developed in 1966, as a cheap strap-on kit,


the 1973 Middle East war was the next testing ground for ‘smart weapons’

Iraq is where Arabs, Persians, Turks, Jews and Kurds all meet in a border state.

Due to Soviet missiles used by Arab states, Israel lost 15% of its airforce and 25% of its tanks (500 tanks)
1982 in the Falkland’s war a French exocet missile was able to sink a British destroyer. (Costing $40 million)
Size and power (at a huge expense) was neutralized by a relatively cheap, small and portable weaponry ($200,000)


The Falklands dramatically confirmed the power of the new technology, used ...against .. The most expensive weapons platforms of all.”


the downside of ‘smart bombs’

Patriot ground to air missiles were not capable of stopping scud missiles as the TV reporters suggested during the 1991 Gulf War


half the cost of aircraft today is in the electronic components

1972 was the first fly-by-wire aircraft -- F-4 “computer controlled” aircraft

The stealth bomber F-117 is a fly-by-wire aircraft -“computer controlled” aircraft and radar detection is minimized by the design and materials used on the surface.


“The dream, or nightmare, of war by robots is an old one” Tesla c. 1900


“As we move toward an era of cyborg soldiers, not easily categorized as either persons or machines, we approach also the ancient ideal of the soldier: a ruthless, fearless and efficient killing machine.?

“instill machine values and functions in soldiers”

“Instead, television brought in stunning scenes of success by the seven percent of bombs that were ’smart’ and rarely brought to us the scenes of civilian and military carnage.”

“appeared for all the world like a video game, with the same graphics, electronic wizardry and lack of blood.”



The Two Cultures

Postman's analysis

Tools to Technocracy

From Technocracy to Technopoly

Broken Defenses

An improbable world

Invisible Technologies



Pursell | Pacey–World | Postman | Tenner |Pacey–meaning| Eberhart | Snow | Kaku | Boulding | Delillo | Kranzberg

Tulips as tools?
Tools of Toil: what to read.
Tools are historical building blocks of technology.
Technology can be understood if tools have three facets.
Tools used in both Music and Architecture led to mechanization and automation.
Tools and the study of technology require us to reflect on the power of instruments,