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Nanotechnology as Portrayed in Video Games - Part 2: Metal Gear Solid
by Sebastian Alvarado on 03/19/12 10:34:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 
Nanotechnology as Portrayed in Video Games - Part 2: Metal Gear Solid (read Part 1 here!)

Nanotechnology as Portrayed in Video Games - Metal Gear Solid Saga - Part 2

The incredibly popular Metal Gear Solid 4 – Guns of the Patriots is a game which extensively employs nanomachines in a number of critical plot elements. In this game, an advanced battlefield control network named “Sons of the Patriots” monitors and enhances the performance of soldiers deployed in combat via nanomachines in their body.

One such nanomachine device is “Octo-camo”, an in-game type of adaptive camouflage, can replicate both the pattern and texture of any surface it comes in contact with. This sort of plot device may sound implausible, but it is not nearly as far-fetched as it seems.

“Although it is tempting to start with a question like, "What would a modern battlefield be like with molecular manufacturing," this question is meaningless. It is as pointless as trying to imagine a modern battlefield without electricity. Without radios, airplanes, and computers, war would be completely different. Imagination is not sufficient to generate this picture-it simply doesn't make sense to talk of a modern military without electricity. Molecular manufacturing will have a similarly profound effect on near-future military affairs.” - Director of Research CRN Chris Phoenix

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4 (MGS4) takes place in 2014, nine years after the “Shadow Moses Incident” (MGS1), covered in part one. The setting follows the development of a worldwide war economy, fought by private military companies (PMCs), which outnumber traditional military forces. PMC soldiers receive injections of various nanomachines which grant them enhanced abilities and combat effectiveness. These nanomachines create an integrated battlefield control network called “Sons of the Patriots” (SOP). So what does it do and how does it work?

Sons of the Patriots

The SOP network performs many functions. For example, SOP allows for detailed, real time monitoring of soldiers engaged in combat, including physiological factors such as body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and chemical balance.

In a real world setting, detailed information such as this would allow commanders to make more informed decisions based on a better knowledge of soldiers' combat readiness. The monitoring of these physiological parameters can be easily accomplished using implanted epidermal electronic devices (EED).

While not technically considered nanotechnology, they have been successfully used to measure brain, heart and muscle activity. The idea is not new - technological predecessors of these devices have been used clinically since the 60’s. On the modern battlefield, several monitoring devices could be implanted into the solider non-invasively, from which readings would be sent wirelessly, forming connections between soldiers and something like the SOP control network.

In part one, I talked about the controlled release from nanocarries in response to local biological cues. Could the SOP network remotely control nanomachines present in the soldiers? Surprisingly, the answer comes from research dealing with cancer.

Remote Control Nanomachines

In a 2010 study , Sungho Jin and colleagues at UC San Diego attempted to find a way to remotely release drugs from nanoparticles. They took hollow silica particles (pictured) and packed them full of anti-tumor drugs.

Also packaged within the nanoparticles were magnetic iron nanoparticles, which acted as signal receivers. When a radio frequency was received by the silica nanoparticles, the iron heated up inside of the silica shell, causing the shell to rupture and the tumor fighting cargo to be released. The researchers were able to show in their study that exposing the nanoparticles to radio waves strongly reduced cancer growth.

Similarly, nanoparticles could be remotely triggered to induce an artificial "combat high" through the controlled release of adrenaline or amphetamine, sharpening the senses and improving alertness of soldiers. Sense of pain is subject to the same treatment -the controlled release of endorphins could prevent injuries from incapacitating a soldier during combat. Reduced blood pressure due to bleeding could trigger the release of blood clotting agents such as thrombin, or antibacterial drugs that accelerate the wound healing process.

Emotional Suppression

In MGS4, soldiers integrated with SOP have their emotions suppressed so that they feel less fear and remorse than non-augmented soldiers. It is not described how this is accomplished, but there are a few interesting possibilities. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids in the diet, is believed to be very important for producing the feeling of fear. In 2003, scientists at Oxford found that people lacking tryptophan were worse at recognizing fearful facial expressions. Theoretically, anti-tryptophan proteins or antibodies could be remotely released from nanocarriers in stressful situations, temporarily reducing the soldiers' ability to perceive fear.

As another example, recent studies have shown that beta blockers (eg. Propranolol), widely used to treat high blood pressure, may interfere with the brain's storage of traumatic memories. In studies where some traumatized patients received the drug and others received an inactive placebo, the people who received the drug had fewer signs of PTSD following traumatic events. Propranolol could be strategically released prior to an expected engagement. Together, these two approaches could be used to prevent the damaging psychological effects of battle.

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Posted by: Kevin Neibert     12:57AM Mar 14, 2012   


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