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My answer to this question essentially came down to the pilot being in a sphere with anything large jutting out of it. Some of the arguments made against me I feel are true if we assume fights like traditional jet planes, but not if a space fighter was designed to make optimal use of 3D space without friction.

By that I mean I was envisioning a fighter that had multiple jets to allow movement in any direction in short notice (since there is no need for a main jet in 'back' to counter friction). I also imagined that the fighter would fight on 3 dimensions, and that you never know exactly what angle you will be attacked from next since all angles are equally valid.

However, the obvious counter to my own arguments seems to be the presumption that this would be optimal for the pilots. A perfectly optimized AI may find this better, but humans have trouble thinking in 3 dimensions. We have an even harder time thinking of a frictionless world. The idea of "this was my front, but now I'm going in a top-right-backwards direction to pursue someone I saw in an angle I wouldn't normally even look in" would just feel odd to a human.

Would a space fighter piloted by humans therefore be made 'inefficiently' to better fit our cognitive biases? Would we have only a few engines and only a few directions we could 'fire' from because it's easier to think in terms of having two or three 'fronts' I can switch between then is to truly grasp the idea that there is no front and any direction is just as valid? Would we have only one set of powerful guns because it's cheaper to build then multiple and we found pilots couldn't handle controlling multiple?

Furthermore, how would we design our fighters, including the UI, control, and similar systems, to help pilots to make split second decisions when they have to handle 3 dimensions at once?

For this question assume we have space fighter jets, piloted by humans, fighting at relatively close ranges. I'm fully aware how impractical it is to use a space fighter over large capital ships and LOTS of AI driven missiles, but that was not the intent of the original question, and my own world uses a number of technological changes to help justify (mostly) space fighters so assume they exist for now.

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    $\begingroup$ I think a huge issue of changing directions as you are talking about is the inertia on the human body, it might be a frictionless area, but going 1000mph one way and changing directions would leave the human a small splat inside the cockpit. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 20 '15 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner a very good point, though you can always handwave either inertial dampeners or claim that some new technology the craft uses is vulnerable to high G forces, forcing the fighter to limit acceleration (which, now that I thought of it, I think that last idea is kind of cool, I think I might be able to work something like that into my 'Shield' technology which so far has managed to handwave most of the reasons (other then AI) that fighters wouldn't exist away. Shields have many uses lol $\endgroup$ – dsollen Mar 20 '15 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner - if this was faaar out into space, could we presume they fly at the speeds of existing fighter jets? Genuinely want to know, not criticizing. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mar 20 '15 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey I would expect them to be moving even faster $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 20 '15 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ The human brain has an amazing amount of plasticity, the brain can be trained to make split second decisions in basically any environment as long as it has enough experience in that environment.the problem with humans vs machines is not one of framing but one of speed. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 12 at 21:01
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Would a space fighter piloted by humans therefore be made 'inefficiently' to better fit our cognitive biases?

No, since there would be inevitably humans without (or with less) cognitive biases, and your inefficient machine would be dead.

Would we have only a few engines and only a few directions we could 'fire' from because it's easier to think in terms of having two or three 'fronts' I can switch between then it is to truly grasp the idea that there is no front and any direction is just as valid?

Again, no.

War quickly encourages optimal solutions to problems. If the optimal arrangement is a fixed gun and rotating the entire craft, it'll do that. I doubt that will be the case.

Would we have only one set of powerful guns because it's cheaper to build then multiple and we found pilots couldn't handle controlling multiple?

Possibly, but more likely there would be fewer guns because it simplifies the system, which makes it lighter, which gives it greater range/maneuverability. Or that there are fewer guns because it's better to have a single, very accurate placement than more inaccurate ones.

If the fighter is piloted by humans and uses projectile/laser weapons and somehow AI is worse than today's equivalents, I would expect 1 pilot and 1+ gunners working with 2-6 weapon emplacements. The emplacements would likely be virtually controlled so that the gun is always in front of the gunner, meaning the 3Dness is moot. There's only the field of vision into empty space.

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I'm not sure if this is a complete answer but here is my 2-cent:

The first thing to note is that the problem isn't really if a Man can grasp a 3-dimensional situation, but if he can deal with it better than an AI. That heavily depends on how advanced AI are.

The second one is that you could have multiple men in one space fighter to deal with some shortcommings, a bit like un the B52.

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  • $\begingroup$ yes I know, It's almost unfair of me to expect everyone to answer this question when the answer I would be most tempted to give is "it doesn't matter, us an AI". Still, I'm just cruel and unfair enough to ask people to ignore the pink supercomputer in the room :) $\endgroup$ – dsollen Mar 20 '15 at 20:51
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Most likely any inefficiency in the design would not be required for a space fighter. It seems spherical design are the best, with some way to rotate the chair so the pilot could look in all directions, and an alarm system in the UI for the area behind him/her. Movement could be controlled with the same system as modern fighters (steering wheel for roll left, roll right, turn up, & turn down, with accelerator and brake and extra buttons for banking in the first 4 directions), or perhaps a direct mind-over-matter interface. As for the guns, there would be no need for limiting directional capacity , especially for larger ships that had another person inside each gun compartment, with the pilot relying on video screens instead of direct lines of sight. This last arrangement could be limiting if all the cameras were destroyed, but otherwise it would make good use of all resources. And obviously pilot-only fighters (still following the 1st arrangement) would have one gun aligned to the pilot's line of sight, with maybe another controlled by an AI.

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why do you presume humans have trouble thinking in 3 dimensions? if they're trained, there is no problem.

evidence: quite many space simulator games, some with frictionless environments.

what is going to be harder for you is to try to explain the tactics as interesting. and not just "ok we're in range, lob some kinetics at him".

you should play something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-War_%281997_video_game%29 perhaps for inspiration. they're not spherical, but can move in all directions. there's plenty of reasons to not make spherical fighters, like minimizing hit area, or to accompany insides to fit equipment. a spherical ship would be larger than is necessary - always - for no benefit. there is always technical drawbacks to stuff like weapons turrets whilst there are benefits to having them.

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  • $\begingroup$ And of course, a simple "we're in range" doesn't make sense because "in range" isn't something binary particularly in a frictionless environment. Any projectile will continue along its path (orbit) until it hits something, at which time it will do something else (generally but not necessarily lithobrake). The metric of use will be whether you can lob a projectile toward an opponent with sufficient velocity that the opponent spacecraft cannot maneuver out of the way sufficiently that the projectile cannot maneuver to match (which is dependent on its delta-v capability). $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 19 '16 at 20:53

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