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French army hires sci-fi team to predict future threats

The French army is gathering a small “Red Team” of “futurologists and sci-fi writers” to imagine potential threats that could face their country. The hope is the group will think more creatively than current military officials, generating more varying scenarios for how advanced technology could be used by aggressive forces. Is this strategic thinking on France’s part and how effective can this group really be?

This is not the first time such an idea has been tried. After the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001 reportedly a similar discussion occurred in the US. Their government believed a lack of imagination had resulted in poor preparation for such a scenario. It is hard to truly gauge the success of this endeavour but, whilst terrorism is not eradicated in America (El Paso lost 22 people to an attack less than a week ago), the country has not yet experienced another tragedy at the scale of 9/11 (around 3000 people died and over 6000 were injured).

After the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001 reportedly a similar discussion occurred in the US. Their government believed a lack of imagination had resulted in poor preparation for such a scenario

Though, if other governments have tried similar tactics the information is not forthcoming. Potentially they would be scared to announce such a move as it is easy to perceive these meetings as tax money wasters. When hearing the news I think we all imagine top military officials discussing threats of alien invasion or zombie outbreak but that is not the French team’s current focus.

Instead, they are expected to generate valid scenarios involving pre-existing or likely “disruptive technologies” that will emerge in the near future. Technology has been evolving at an incredible pace and with major advancements in AI on the horizon, constructing and planning for worst-case situations would be sensible. Whilst it could be argued military tacticians could develop these scenarios themselves, bringing in new people has evidence-backed support.

They are expected to generate valid scenarios involving pre-existing or likely “disruptive technologies” that will emerge in the near future

Multiple studies have suggested that diversity makes us smarter and helps to breed better solutions. In this case, we are not necessarily seeing diversity in an ethnicity or gender sense but instead a diversity of experience and life outlook. I would imagine the life experiences of top French military officials and French sci-fi writers would be quite different and in the studies, this difference in experience is believed to be the source of benefit for our own thinking.

As such the creative approach may very likely perceive new threats but also predict unexpected technology uses as well. Digital image processing, originally developed by NASA for studying the moon, is an integral part of MRI and CT scanners. Much like developments in the past, there is no reason future technology could not also be found to have secondary use beyond its original intended purpose, uses that could be far more deadly than expected. The writers may be able to preemptively construct secondary uses themselves and insert them into the scenarios they generate.

Digital image processing, originally developed by NASA for studying the moon, is an integral part of MRI and CT scanners. Much like developments in the past, there is no reason future technology could not also be found to have secondary use beyond its original intended purpose

The future might often seem bright but with the widespread damage new developments could lead to, finding ways to prevent a disaster is a smart option. Time will tell if France’s “Red Team” will really make an impact, though I would be surprised if other countries do not already have similar initiatives up their sleeves. Even if tactical advantages are minor, at least this will give creative writing students another retort when asked what their degree is useful for. ‘Military Scenario Developer’ sounds pretty cool.

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