France Taps Science Fiction Writers As Military Defense Consultants

Like a page out of Elementary’s The Red Team episode, the French army is tapping the minds of science fiction writers to help strategize against national security threats.

The hunt for creative minds is being headed by the Defense Innovation Agency, which was established in September 2018. The agency is looking for four or five visionaries. The members will contribute to making up scenarios that may not cross the minds of military planners.

The agency, also called Defense Innovation Labs, was tasked to identify technologies that can be adapted for military use. Everyday gadgets, and not military-grade ones, have been used to create terror and disrupt national securities. Thus, knowledge of what kind of threat those technologies could implement and how to neutralize them is key to securing France.

Aside from gathering intelligence on the technologies, a part of the agency’s responsibilities is to create and manage future defense programs.

France has been working on improving its defense and military resources. Recently, it has developed a “mule robot” called Barakuda that transports supplies when on the battlefield. The military also demonstrated a new invention, the flyboard, during Bastille Day. Franky Zapata pilot the jet-propelled hoverboard that amazed the crowds.

So, how does the Red Team come into the picture? The agency wants some out-of-the-box thinking for scenarios. With the rise of sci-fi movies and TV series that depicts protagonists against futuristic forces of terror, the military can learn a thing or two on how to maintain peace and restore balance.

Bruno Tertrais, the deputy director for France’s Foundation for Strategic Research, emphasized that the imagination of those writers will help visualize futuristic attacks.

However, Tertrais also mentioned that he expects more innovative scenarios than those shown in the series Black Mirror.

Any scenarios created by the Red Team will be the property of the French Ministry of Defense and will be held as top secret.

Similar Projects

The creation of a Red Team is not a new tactic attributed to the French Ministry of Defense alone.

Tertais cited that a similar project done in the US. After the September 11 attack, the US government has contacted Hollywood filmmakers to provide advice on possible attacks.

Steve E. de Souza, the screenwriter of Die Hard and Die Hard 2, was one of the Hollywood writers and directors tapped by the Pentagon to brainstorm with military advisers and officers. De Souza and the others were in meetings that lasted for three days. In the session, the Hollywood creators pitch possible scenarios for the next terrorist attack.

Aside from the US and France, another country that turned to literary masters for military advice is Canada. In 2005, Karl Schroeder was tasked to write a short novel, Crisis in Zefra, to initiate a discussion on the conceptual development of Canada’s Army.

Literature creatives were not just contacted for scenarios of defenses against other countries. In the case of the US, science fiction also played a part in talks about space.

Science fiction authors Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven helped advanced the space program through the Citizens’ Advisory Council during the administration of Ronald Reagan. They, along with other members of the council, created the National Space Policy.

Other science fiction authors and publishers like Poul Anderson, Greg Bear, and Robert A. Heinlein were included in the council. Pournelle was its Chairman.

Included in the council was astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Gerald Carr, and Pete Conrad. Military officers, space scientists and engineers, and computer scientists were also part of the council.

The meetings of the council were held in Niven’s home. They were able to produce five reports. The first one was titled Space: the Crucial Frontier.

Creative Scenarios Coming to Life

Many think that seeking the knowledge of science fiction writers is a good move when it comes to expecting the unexpected. Learning different perspectives of the writers and building on their imagination will help the military prepare for the worst-case scenarios.

Not long ago, writers and filmmakers have created fiction that eventually became a reality.

Some examples are the 1927 film Metropolis, a science fiction drama film by Fritz Lang. In the movie, it showed the concept of a video phone.

Another example is George Orwells’s 1984, a novel about a society that’s monitored by through two-way television. The book was published in 1949, a time when available technology was cable television and transistor radios. The technology of spying through phones, laptops, and other devices is existing today.

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