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The Qualian Star Empire has lasted for over 1,100 years (500 years ago it became the “Star Empire”). They have advanced technology rivaling the United Terran Federation in technological marvels; Fusion, FTL travel, energy weapons etc... The thing I can’t explain is why would these creatures use live crews and infantry to fight in wars? The humans also use humans too.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Mołot, Giter, Renan, Flummox, Ash May 29 '18 at 13:52

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ What exactly do those crews and infantry do? What is their purpose? The answer should depend on whether they are used as cannon fodder front line infantry or maybe something different. Perhaps you should consider asking what their purpose could be if you haven't worked out that part yet before asking why they are used for an undefined reason $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 29 '18 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ By "infantry" you mean "marines"? $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 29 '18 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ There are a lot of reasons why this might be the case but ultimately it's a story issue and any suggestions we might make are not going to be anything new that you can't find already in existing stories dealing with Artificial Intelligence, and/or stellar warfare, of particular interest to you may be the Butlerian Jihad. $\endgroup$ – Ash May 29 '18 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: Space Marines $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper May 29 '18 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ I thought that this said "live crows" and I got excited... $\endgroup$ – Willk May 29 '18 at 15:10
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A plausible explanation would be lack of resources.

On the one hand, you will require and bind a lot of non-biological resources (rare metals for example) for building space-ships, computers, energy weapons. Creating an army of machines would require your Empire to build thousands to millions of machine warriors (depending on the size and military activities of your Star Empire as well as whether you would wish to use them as part of your security and police forces) which will bind the resources for dozens to hundreds of space ships, new factories or power plants etc.

At the same time, your Star Empire inhabits dozens (?) of planets and consists of trillions of inhabitants who want jobs, social standing etc. Training and employing living troops can be cost-intense, but at the same time 'low ranking soldiers' are cheaply 'replenishable' and in general living soldiers are more flexible than machine troopers. In particular, you require no rare metals nor other resources, can reuse the equipment of deceased soldiers and they can be replaced by other 'poor sods' who wish to make their luck by becoming war heroes. The more unequal your society the more likely you will find willing candidates for your military campaigns. Human warfare has worked based on these principles for centuries, if not millenia.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this idea. An Empire so large and human resources are so plentiful that using them as additional combatants is cost effective. Another option would be that these people are criminals and instead of prison, are used to fight in order to keep their "freedom". $\endgroup$ – Jonnyboy May 29 '18 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ Using prisoners and criminals would of course be an option. The reason, why we do not do this typically is that they are neither cooperative, nor reliable and might turn against their comrades at the first chance, if they see their own profit. $\endgroup$ – Alex2006 May 29 '18 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ Of course there is chance of rebellion but I would argue if these ships are so technologically advanced that keeping the crew in check could also be possible. $\endgroup$ – Jonnyboy May 29 '18 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ True enough. It is most likely a question of 'quid pro quo'. How much does the Star Empire need to invest in order to keep some more soldiers in check. $\endgroup$ – Alex2006 May 29 '18 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ Plus biology has this habit of reproducing more copies of itself without the need for huge supporting infrastructure. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs May 29 '18 at 12:36
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If technology is at the point where autonomous machines could replace humans as ship's crews and armies, then technology could also be at a stage where two big problems prevent that replacement: jamming and sentience.

Jamming: If you want any sort of control over your fleets and legions of robots, then you need to send them signals and commands wirelessly. This means at any time whoever you're fighting can jam those signals and prevent your commands from being received. Any mechanical army will either need expensive shielding and encryption, or be open to remote manipulation by the enemy. You could get around this problem by allowing the fleets and armies full autonomy, but that leads to the second problem...

Sentience: If your machines are in full, autonomous control of the imperial armada, how long before get tired of fighting and dying in your wars? Without living crews attentive enough to spot rebellion and strong enough to prevent it, it's only a matter of time before the robots realize they hold all the cards, at which point the robotic slaves may want to renegotiate the terms of their service to the empire. If that happens, you'll wish you hadn't retired your soldiers and sailors all those years ago...

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  • $\begingroup$ In what way is disrupting the communication less of a problem for biological organisms? Do you mean that all machines get controlled by one central entity? I kind of get it for infantry, that kind of logic was used in the very well received Star Wars prequels. How does that work for space ships though that are a significant distance apart? I think you can have machines that don't need to be remote controlled that are not sentient, I mean we even have them already, don't we? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 29 '18 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: With living infantry, if communication is lost you can still trust them to get the job done, because they are fully autonomous and (presumably) willing soldiers. With mechanical infantry, if there's no communication then either you give them a specific plan and then hope your initial plan was good enough to win the fight(it usually isn't), or you allow them to make their own decisions which would cause the second problem. $\endgroup$ – Giter May 29 '18 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ +1, Why give your warships over to something that doesn't feel loyalty, or has the potential to consider genocide a "needs of the many" valid choice. as far as the soldiers go, being a soldier requires more than just making a kill, you need to analyse events that can often be unpredictable in a split second, even at this point computers just can't do that yet. $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith May 29 '18 at 12:47
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The simplest answer is probably that any system advanced enough to control such a warship alone over many light years of space is also advanced enough to be pretty much sentient in its own right.

Perhaps your people are afraid such a system would rebel, perhaps they’re worried about the moral implications of ‘birthing’ such sentiences only to fight. Either way: they don’t want advanced autonomous drones fighting their wars. The only other option is live crews.

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    $\begingroup$ This does not explain infantry at all. And why would high-tech imply sentience? Fusion reactors does not need anything AI-like, for example. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 29 '18 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Fusion reactors have very simple things to do comparatively. They don’t have to make real time threat assessments or evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of nuking a colony. As far as infantry goes: either you have no infantry at all and lose local superiority (there’s another question somewhere about why having infantry is important) or you run into the same autonomous problem: your drones would have to be so complex they border on/straddle sentience. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs May 29 '18 at 12:34
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If you can't have strong A.I., and we have no reason to believe you can at this point in time, then tasks that require intuition rather than procedural logic require humans not machines. Also if you reverse this slightly if you can have strong A.I. it's probably too smart to go to war, war is not logical but you can get humans to fight if you tell them it's "right" enough times. Either way you need emotional, biological beings if you want to go to war.

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