The Question

What are the direct consequences of powered armor being practical?


In the setting I have been working on, humanity has invented a man-machine interface, bio-mechanical cells that render aging a non-variable, and a bio-mechanical organ that alters time perception, as a work around FTL. A side effect, when perception is slowed, is that a human's thoughts are also slowed.

Here is where the power armor comes in. Heavy plate for shrapnel, shock absorbent jelly layer, electromagnetic shielding for radiation, and mini-thrusters for extra-mobility. And an AI to make sure to deactivate the organ. With limited self-repair included.


How would power armor, with these specifications, be used? Planet side, and space side, considering that it would be impractical to space travel without it. If you could think of un-intended uses, do include them.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You're asking about powered armour, but then you go on to ask about a time modulation device. Which one are you really interested in? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 11 '19 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ The power armor. Time modulation is just a feature of its intended function. That is space exploration, I put it in to give context to the setting. $\endgroup$ – Rosegold Oct 11 '19 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ The way I read the question, the point of the power armor is to protect people who spend most of their time in a kind of trance, to give them a chance to "wake up" in time and defend themselves. Is that correct? If so, how common is this kind of armor? Is it military equipment or does everyone have such a suit? $\endgroup$ – Ruther Rendommeleigh Oct 11 '19 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ Similar to real life equipment, there's variations of it. Space travel is, practically, too dangerous without it. So any space ship would have all of its crew equipped with it. So its fairly common. $\endgroup$ – Rosegold Oct 11 '19 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ "What are the consequences of X on society?" is already too broad. You are topping that with military and economy. Please substantially rework. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 11 '19 at 10:36

(In this answer, I'll try to focus on the power armor and the immediate ramifications of its widespread availability. There are other setting elements that will have a much bigger impact, but I'll consider them out of scope for the question.)

The power armor itself would not change much

In a society that has interstellar travel and general purpose AI, there are far worse threats than even a reaction-boosted, power armored, AI-assisted human. You are merely "upgrading" people to a level where they can hope to withstand the stresses of extended space travel.

Military implications

A useful thought experiment for the military viability of any kind of manned vehicle (power armor counts) is to replace the squishy human inside entirely and see what would change. Except for the speeding up of thoughts, all the benefits of your power armor (protection, mobility, AI assisted aim) are things that the suit has without its wearer. Current day active defense systems have reaction times in the milli- to microsecond range. That's difficult to beat, even for a heavily augmented human. So unless your "time dilating" organ has incredible, physics-defying powers, you can build a strictly better combatant by just leaving the human out.

It might, however, mean that humans are able to participate in "infantry scale" combat. Since interstellar travel takes a long time and people wearing power armor are readily available, it seems plausible that they would serve as a kind of militia and rapid response force, or perhaps the equivalent of police officers. A warship would probably carry drones and missiles that outperform the dudes in power armor, but you can't have warships everywhere, so the power armor might keep human infantry relevant outside of war zones.

Economical and social impact

Spaceships are expensive and, compared to that, equipping your crew with power armor isn't going to bankrupt anyone. It does, however, set a lower bound on the value of a crew member. That is, purchasing and maintaining the suit has to be less expensive than replacing your crew.

Considering that they don't age and are able to, if needed, think and react at superhuman speeds, it stands to reason that an experienced crew member would be an invaluable resource. They also have practically unlimited time to amass wealth and collect resources. Whether it's due to their own bargaining power or just to protect an investment, I could see the more senior crew constantly upgrading their armor and augmentations as they advance in rank and age, becoming more powerful but also less human in the process.

In this scenario, it will say a lot about your society how they treat young people. Are they expected to spend their first thousand years as cheap, expendable labour? Or are they immediately given the means to contribute and compete in a society of, by a young and broke person's standards, ancient demigods?

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