I am writing a novel. It's 2050 and there are pirates who use technology integrated in their boat. They need internet in order to do it. This technology can do things like avoiding storms or hack someone else's boat auto-pilot in order to send them into a trap.

The question is, how can I justify the existence of pirates in a near future? Also, why should they prefer melee weapons over guns? (I dislike gun fights).

Maybe this is a bad idea, but if I want a world without guns at all, how could I justify the existence of high technology but not guns?

If you're wondering, yes, English is not my native language, sorry about that. I'm Italian.


closed as too broad by Chickens are not cows, Cyn, Mathaddict, Renan, Liam Morris May 3 at 16:44

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ welcome to worldbuilding. You are asking two different questions, one about existence and one about weapons. We follow a 1 question per post policy, please comply to it. You can find more in the help center and taking the tour. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch May 3 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ It's only cool when pirates are stealing and fencing a Bad Guy's cargo. Stealing anybody else's cargo makes them much less sympathetic: "Hey look, 10 containers of food and medicine intended for a refugee camp! We're gonna make a lot of money selling this while they starve!" $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 3 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ Do you want them to be the hero's allies or enemies? It definitely depends for their portrayal. Pirates were always very brutal, but the Golden Age of Pirates (i.e. Pirates of the Caribbean pirates) did have a more romantic appearance than modern day Piracy, which tends to be brutal. $\endgroup$ – hszmv May 3 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE Donny. I agree with @L.Dutch that you need to stick to a single question. I suggest taking out the guns part. You can state that your pirates use technology and melee weapons as a given. If you want to ask the question about why they choose those weapons (or why guns don't exist on the world), make a separate question after this one concludes. $\endgroup$ – Cyn May 3 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ To address the question though: pirates exist when people are so desperate that they are willing to destroy other people's lives to keep going. There is nothing cool about the inequities that led them to this life, or about the horrors they perpetrate on others as part of it. Hollywood pirates have never been real. $\endgroup$ – Cyn May 3 at 14:38

The future looks to be even more economically polarized than today, and hence, piracy may make a lot of sense for the disenfranchised masses.

By 2050, cargo ships are likely to be fully automated, without human crews. Such ships are already being built and will likely be standard in 30 years. Stealing without killing will certainly be more romantic than taking hostages or killing crews.

Pirates' weapons should hence not be aimed at hurting people, but rather at hacking AI and disabling automated defense systems (including armed drones). Electrical weapons thus make more sense than guns or cutting or bludgeoning weapons. The pirates may start by shelling a cargo ship with EMPs rather than explosive grenades.

A major issue may be avoiding capture or destruction by supersonic drones directed to sites of pirate attack. I can think of two ways to get around this: 1) Stealth attacks. Fooling a ship's AI to think it isn't being robbed, or jamming or hi-jacking distress signals from the ship so calls for help go unheard.* 2) Using camouflaged, radar-invisible ships, possibly even wooden or plastic sailboats with active camouflage fabric sails and deck coverings.

  • $\begingroup$ Those fully automated cargo ships just made my mind running. Thank you for pointing that out! $\endgroup$ – Donny May 3 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ Also defense systems can be fully automated. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch May 3 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ Some may want to game the system by putting human crew, officially for their versatility in case of problem, in practice to act as victims of teh evilz pirates, but others may simply not care and put murder-everyone killbots on their ships instead. $\endgroup$ – Eth May 3 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ Indiscriminate killbots are a major liability since maintenance personnel will need to board ships at times to perform repairs. So, the AI deffenses on these ships may try to decide a person's threat level by how they are equipped. A ship that looks like a tugboat pulling up to perform emergency maintenance may be way less likely to activate the defences than a boat full of guys with RPGs and assault rifles. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki May 3 at 14:29

Pirates definitely exist in the present day, and will probably do so in the future. It's a pretty natural thing when ships with valuable cargoes need to pass close to poor countries with poor law enforcement.

Having them be cool is definitely challenging. It has always been a sordid crime, taking ships and cargoes by violence. The romance of the classic era of piracy comes from two sources:

  • Hollywood sanitising pirates, where they aren't just making stuff up.

  • The democracy often practiced among classic-era Caribbean pirates. This may account for some of Hollywood's keenness on them, seeing them as fighting against the non-democratic Europeans of the period before the American Revolution.

Doing without firearms in the near future of the present day is hard. Guns are cheap, easy to use and very effective.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd argue the English glorifying Drake didn't help either. :D $\endgroup$ – Stormbolter May 3 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Stormbolter Good point, generally glorifying privateers (aka pirates for everyone else) probably had an impact $\endgroup$ – Eth May 3 at 11:18

Somalian Pirates are a thing, though there are fewer of them recently as crackdowns both on and offshore have had their effect.

As countries destabilise, greater space is created for the chaotic elements of society. Religious extremists, political extremists, organised crime, disorganised crime. Much of the time they're related, the one using the other to fund their activities.

But what would lead to an increasing breakdown in national governments?

Climate change is an easy one here. There's a theory that the Syrian war is related to global warming, as the country dried out the rural population moved to the cities for work and food. When it turned out that there wasn't enough work and food in the cities either the old rule about civilisation being four missed meals from anarchy started to bite.

Large parts of the Near East and Africa are vulnerable to this sort of disruption. Perhaps further afield and closer to home as well as things get worse over the next few decades, so it's entirely reasonable that pirates would appear in increasing numbers to prey on the shipping of the remaining stable countries as regions start to break down.

Can pirates ever be cool?

No, killing people for money or threatening to do so is never cool. Though the romance of a life on the edge is undeniable from a safe position, it's not such a great thing in practice. Leave the swashbuckling to the movies.

I won't go into detail on firearms as we've covered that many times before and it's really hard to do.

  • $\begingroup$ What if these pirates just go after hidden treasures and do not kill if not needed? (self defence) Maybe pirates is not the right word to use for them? $\endgroup$ – Donny May 3 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Donny, then they're not pirates, they're treasure hunters $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 3 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ Jack sparrow is pretty awesome tho. $\endgroup$ – Incognito May 3 at 16:21

Can the pirates be cool for WHOM? For the person being robbed they were never cool. For some family, whose riches are built by this robbery they are terrific.

Probably, you mean coolness for the wide public. If we take the captain Blood as the pattern, he was cool for the public because he fought against the rotten state. Any struggle against a rotten state seems cool, pirate or not.

Will there be any rotten states in 2050? Without a nuclear war, there will be heaps of them, for sure. As we have enough rotten states on the planet, pirates can be very cool, even for the wide public.


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