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When the military teams up with science fiction to imagine the worst

Getting the French army out of its strategic blind spots by offering sketches of the future: this is the task of the science fiction authors gathered within the “Red team”, who on Wednesday presented two war scenarios of the future . Scary, coherent, plausible.

Difficult, at first glance, to imagine officers working hand in hand with artists.

Yet a great master of science fiction theorized it: Isaac “Asimov said that science fiction was the only branch of literature that cares about the human response to the progress of science and technology “, reminds AFP Emmanuel Chiva, director of the Defense Innovation Agency (AID) of the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

It was therefore a question of breaking the glass ceiling of the scientist, the soldier, the tactician, to force him to think further.

“We know how to do foresight at 30, that’s what we call the foreseeable military need,” adds Emmanuel Chiva. But “we are so saturated with science and technology that it is difficult to project ourselves beyond”.

However, the authors “know how to invent future worlds that can allow us to identify strategic surprise, new threats, new conflicts in 2060”. “There are probably things that we will not see coming, we might as well find ways not to be surprised,” he argues.

– Worry the army –

The ministry carefully selected the contractor at the end of a call for tenders: the University of Paris sciences et lettres. Who, in turn, has teamed up with authors, designers, illustrators and a researcher to invent the darkest possible future. Including François Schuiten, the author of “Cités obscures”.

Secret-defense skills, they visited military bases to immerse themselves in the codes and customs of this world that they had to shake up.

“We must worry the army”, summarizes Xavier Mauméjean, prolific author of novels and essays, and member of the “Red Team”. The United States had already had a similar experience during the Cold War, he recalls. But today’s world is much more complex, evolving and uncertain. And the playground of the imagination is endless.

“Science fiction is a tool,” explains the writer. “We are not offering parallel worlds or time travel, it must remain a possible anticipation,” he adds. “Literally, we play to scare each other”.

On Wednesday morning, a classified version was exhibited to an audience of officers, before the public presentation in the afternoon of two more frightening scenarios one than the other.

Redesigned geopolitical worlds with a New Balkan Federation leaving NATO and linking up with Greater Mongolia, via a New Digital Silk Road. A network of the Great Mongolian state, “Celestial Eye”, which advocates a return to ethnic and ideological cleansing.

– “Innovation is not a luxury” –

“Alternative spheres of reality” which favor the birth of “new man / machine interfaces”. Or even conflicts which are settled with the hypersonic weapon, at speeds of action which exceed human capacities, against a backdrop of investment in ultra-aerial environments (low orbits, mesosphere, stratosphere).

Pure fantasy? Not at all! In front of the Red Team was created a “Blue Team” of soldiers, responsible for maintaining this flowering of scenarios in “a cone of plausibility”, explains Emmanuel Chiva.

In fact, projects will be well launched following this work, a sign that the reflection has been prolific. Impossible, obviously, to know more: defense secret.

“Innovation is not a luxury, it is an imperative necessity”, assures in any case the boss of AID, recalling that the design of a new weapon represents 15 years of work.

Obviously, the authors are not diviners. The world of tomorrow may look like the hell they promise us. Or not. But “season 2” is already scheduled.

“It is not a question of bringing in the Martians”, explains Captain Géraud Cazenave, of the Prospective and Military Strategy Office of the Armed Forces General Staff. But whether these scenarios are plausible or not, “the objective is to look for blind spots to force us to see outside the frame.” Even if what we see there does not make you want to bequeath it to our children.

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