August 7, 2015
Cole: How Fiction Can Reveal the Horrors of Future Wars
Our new book Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War explores something quite scary: the risks of war breaking out between the US and Russia and China. The above scene may be the scariest moment in it, because it lays out how a real-world technology originally developed to aid the paralyzed and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (the brain-machine interfaces in Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's (DARPA) Braingate and SUBNET project, which are now migrating into things like video gaming), will also be used in terrifying new ways.
We both work in the policy world, exploring the technology and trends of the 21st century. Over the years, we have learned from various war games we helped organize for the military that narrative and storytelling can play a powerful role in illuminating real issues. Fiction can aid in truth telling by asking tough questions that might otherwise be too complex, too contrarian, or too uncomfortable to posit directly. Questions such as: Have we spent trillions of dollars on weapons that might let us down? Could ubiquitous sensors and artificial intelligence utterly change the way we think of humanity’s role, not just in the economy, but also in war? And, perhaps most uncomfortable of all (because no one wants it but it must be weighed as a real risk) what would the 21st century version of full-out, great power, state-on-state warfare look like?