Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What does the future hold?

future war
Originally uploaded by chimera_aquarius.
America's fifth military service has been doing scenario-based planning for the last several years. I'm pretty sure the Department of Defense has been, too, but I don't remember seeing anything about it.

Now, however, comes a story about scenario planning from Great Britain. Richard Norton-Taylor published an interesting (and disturbing) piece in the The Guardian. Mr. Norton-Taylor describes a 90-page report from Britain's Minstry of Defence that provides a vision of a possible future.
Information chips implanted in the brain. Electromagnetic pulse weapons. The middle classes becoming revolutionary, taking on the role of Marx's proletariat. The population of countries in the Middle East increasing by 132%, while Europe's drops as fertility falls. "Flashmobs" - groups rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups.

This is the world in 30 years' time envisaged by a Ministry of Defence team responsible for painting a picture of the "future strategic context" likely to face Britain's armed forces. It includes an "analysis of the key risks and shocks". Rear Admiral Chris Parry, head of the MoD's Development, Concepts & Doctrine Centre which drew up the report, describes the assessments as "probability-based, rather than predictive".
I'm sure the US Department of Defense is doing similar work. The Brits paint a scary picture, however. Try these on for size:
New weapons

An electromagnetic pulse will probably become operational by 2035 able to destroy all communications systems in a selected area or be used against a "world city" such as an international business service hub. The development of neutron weapons which destroy living organs but not buildings "might make a weapon of choice for extreme ethnic cleansing in an increasingly populated world". The use of unmanned weapons platforms would enable the "application of lethal force without human intervention, raising consequential legal and ethical issues". The "explicit use" of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and devices delivered by unmanned vehicles or missiles.


By 2035, an implantable "information chip" could be wired directly to the brain. A growing pervasiveness of information communications technology will enable states, terrorists or criminals, to mobilise "flashmobs", challenging security forces to match this potential agility coupled with an ability to concentrate forces quickly in a small area.
Oh, pleasant, eh?

You can read the full article here.

For those who want to tackle the full report, see: Global Strategic Trends 2007-2036 (or here for the pdf direct).

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