France employs science fiction authors to predict threats 

France employs science fiction authors to predict threats 

The French army says it is creating a “Red Team” of science fiction writers to work with strategists to anticipate future security threats.

The newly formed Defence Innovation Agency said around five authors were trying to imagine “scenarios of disruption” that professional military planners had not envisioned.

The report comes after innovation was the main theme of the Bastille Day military commemorations in Paris last week.

The parade saw inventor Franky Zapata (pictured) piloting his jet-powered hover-board over the crowds, prompting praise from French President Emmanuel Macron.

The authors’ futuristic scenarios would remain top secret, the agency said.

Bruno Tertrais of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research said the Red Team would be asked to think creatively, questioning “any certainties that we may have and hypotheses about the future outside the usual bureaucratic procedures”.

“The work of this cell will be to construct valid strategic hypotheses that are likely to upset the capability plan,” the report said. 

Tertrais said US science fiction authors conducted defence brainstorming sessions after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

“The [US] government considered that it had been the victim of a lack of imagination,” Tertrais said.

“It is certainly not the Red Team that will decide France’s military strategy and still less its defence policy. Its role will be to help the Defence Innovation Agency think about future technologies and their impact on strategies.”

Also on display at the Bastille event was the futuristic-looking Nerod F5 microwave-jamming device. The weapon, shaped like an oversized rifle, was designed to target drones by jamming the pilot’s signals.

There have even been plans for robots to support French forces battling Islamist militants in Mali, with experiments currently taking place.

Defence minister Florence Parly said the Barakuda, a “mule” robot, could be deployed to provide logistical support for battlefield troops.

She said there were projects for “aircraft capable of interacting with drones and software capable of instantly analysing thousands of satellite images”.

The minister said artificial intelligence systems were also being developed to extend military capabilities.

Stranger than fiction

Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon depicted three people sent to the Moon in a spaceship from Florida with superficial similarities to the 1969 mission.

The first depiction of a video phone appearing on screens was in the 1927 film Metropolis and folding mobile phones were copied from devices in Star Trek. 

HG Wells predicted the atomic bomb in his 1914 novel The World Set Free, which detailed “indefinitely” exploding bombs based on speculative nuclear theory.


Franky Zapata on Bastille Day. Picture credit: YouTube 

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