The Army’s Scary Science Fiction Video
A video recently published on the Intercept offers an ominous view of apocalyptic conditions predicted to emerge in third world countries over the next 15 years. Titled “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” this Pentagon-sponsored, four-minute video offers at least 10 reasons we should be concerned about life in the 21st century:
- Density in these urban areas will jump by at least 1.4 billion by 2030, with these urban areas accounting for 60% of the world’s population.
- Most of this 1.4 billion in growth will occur in the developing world.
- By 2030, 60% of these urban dwellers will be under the age of 18.
- In these urban areas, more and more so-called illicit networks will fill the gaps left by “overextended and undercapitalized governments.” These illicit networks will offer opportunities for the growing mass of unemployed civilians in these urban areas.
- Intense growth in these megacities will magnify the increasing separation between rich and poor. Although, “stagnation will co-exist with un-precedented development as impoverishments, slums and shanty towns rapidly expand alongside modern high-rises, technological advances and ever-increasing levels of prosperity.”
- The challenges of megacities will be significantly augmented by the effects of climate change.
- In the megacities of tomorrow, autonomous digital domains will have the potential to “breed and expand without limit.” These de-centralized syndicates of crime will enjoy global reach at an “unprecedented level.”
- The overall scale of these massive urban centers means that a proportionally smaller number of adversaries will have an increasing dramatic impact on the safety of the populous. Identifying and isolating these smaller numbers of adversaries will become more and more of a challenge.
- Tomorrow’s urban megacities will isolate themselves from their nation states, instead linking themselves with other giant cities.
- Current military strategies and procedures are inadequate to deal with the many problems these megacities pose for the global community.
So, time to move to the safety of rural life in Montana? Maybe not. The video is (at best) a remix of past science fiction narratives, many of which have since been replaced by more optimistic views. As Annalee Newitz writes in Ars Technica, “Strikingly, the megacities the Army imagines are like something from the pages of an early William Gibson novel.”