Imagining the wars of tomorrow : publication of "Ces Guerres qui nous attendent" ("The Wars that Await Us"), Volume 2, when science meets fiction
A year after the success of the first volume, which has sold 27,000 copies with four reprints, Ces guerres qui nous attendent, Season 2 is now out, published by Équateurs. This book brings to the general public the unprecedented forward-looking work done by the Red Team Defense, combining science and science fiction.
Ces Guerres qui nous attendent – Red Team Defense- Volume 2
Created at the instigation of France’s Defense Innovation Agency, part of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, Red Team Defense pushes the blending of science fiction and innovation to the extreme, building a sustained dialogue between the French armed forces, science and the arts.
“By allowing total immersion in a scientifically informed parallel universe, science fiction introduces the necessary distance from reality to give us a better glimpse of possible futures surrounding the complex issues addressed in this book: the manipulation of living things on the one hand, and energy saving on the other.
This science fiction perspective is key to the success of this project and also the reason for the tremendous reception that the book has received.”
Cédric Denis-Rémis, Vice-President of Université PSL
The project brings together science fiction authors and illustrators for them to imagine threatening scenarios that could directly endanger France and its interests from 2030-2060. Université PSL was commissioned by the Ministry of the Armed Forces to steer the work of Red Team Defense, and has brought in many scientists from its cutting-edge multidisciplinary research laboratories. Their role is to feed the imagination of the authors, ensure the scientific coherence of the stories and assess the impact of the transformations the authors have imagined.
Ces guerres qui nous attendent, Season 2 highlights the unprecedented nature of the scientific work that accompanies Red Team Defense. Terence Strick (ENS – PSL), Nadia Maïzi (Mines Paris – PSL), Greg de Temmerman (Mines Paris – PSL) and other researchers from Dauphine – PSL, Chimie Paris – PSL, and EnsAD react to scenarios imagined by François Schuiten, Romain Lucazeau, Virginie Tournay, Laurent Genefort and Saran Diakité Kaba.
The challenge of this innovative project is to make these explorations plausible, to reveal what is not thought about and to encourage action.
Ces guerres qui nous attendent, Volume 2 - Extracts
Scenario 1: An ecosystem war
What if tomorrow the world once again became a place of open conflict, where the main protagonist is nature, which has become uncontrollable? The tools for intervention on biological matter are now easily obtained and available to all, with the effect that a radical upheaval is created in civil and military societies. 21st-century citizens neither possess nor enjoy the planet, but, because tools of intervention on the living world are readily available, it is up to them to act on their local environment to preserve ecosystems.
The art of war has been profoundly changed by this. “Ecosystem-based” technologies are ambivalent, because they are able not only to resolve famines but also to destroy cropland. By extension, all the kingdoms of the living world, obviously including the human race, constitute a potential weapon. Weapon systems are therefore potentially everywhere.
Nor does war now have its own space as, strictly speaking, the theater of operations is infinite. It has many timescales: any imperceptible change at one moment may prove to be devastating the next. This is the principle behind what we will in future describe as “ecosystem” wars.
Scientific insights - extracts
Terence Strick, Professor at the Institute of Biology ENS – PSL, head of the Motors and Molecular Machines team: “We are engaged in a historic war against viruses and bacteria, and the Covid-19 pandemic reminded us of the destabilizing power of these pathogenic agents. What should we be most afraid of: deliberate “weaponization”, or a laboratory accident? Never mind malice, when incompetence will suffice! A Boston lab announced that it had created a mega-Covid, combining high lethality and high virality. However, they worked at biosafety level P3, when it should have been P4. The risk is there. The enemy is ourselves!”
Michel Goya, Historian, former Colonel in the Troupes de Marine: “The challenge of the work that the Red Team is doing consists precisely of bringing out this possibility, alerting us to an area of confrontation. The “weaponization” of living beings can take place both at the microscopic scale, with viruses and DNA, and at the macroscopic scale, with animal and plant organisms.”
Scenario 2: Low energy, After the carbon night
Following a megafire that burned for months during the summer of 2035 and ravaged thousands of hectares of land, environmental topics are finally becoming a priority for countries around the world. Energy must be decarbonized, both to address the climate catastrophe and to overcome the shortage of fossil fuels. These are now banned from the energy mix.
The “carbon night” raises awareness: decarbonizing the atmosphere is no longer an option, but a matter of global survival.
Citizens, and public and private organizations alike have to adapt. What impact will this have on the functioning and the equipping of the armed forces? Energy capture, storage, circulation and recovery have become major challenges, as illustrated by a race against time during an external operation.
Scientific insights - extracts
Nadia Maïzi, Professor at Mines Paris – PSL, Director of The Transition Institute 1.5, co-author of the IPCC sixth assessment report, Director of the Center for Applied Mathematics and the Forward Modeling for Sustainable Development Chair: “Imagining that technological solutions enable us, for example, to maintain our energy consumption by doing without hydrocarbons, does not rule out the question of the externalities of these innovations, of their own impact on the environment. Or, to put it more simply, the physical and economic limits to using them. Let us try to imagine what diffuse, intermittent energy would be like, at the industrial and economic level. Not easy! Yet this is precisely the experience depicted around the soldiers in the scenario: energy constraints are constantly imposing decisions, tricky compromises between weight, energy, and power. And these trade-offs are managed by individuals. There is a possible world there, into which we must learn to project ourselves.”
Grégory Lefèvre, Research Director, Chemistry Research Institute, Paris (CNRS/Chimie ParisTech - PSL), head of the Master’s degree in Nuclear Energy at PSL: “Almost 70 ‘small modular reactor’ projects are currently listed, in countries with a nuclear tradition such as the United States, France and Russia, but also in countries that do not have such a tradition, such as Denmark. In this still- emerging world, we can distinguish two poles, which involve different research work. Static models, or models placed on floating barges, which will be able to replace coal-fired power plants, as their power is equivalent (100-300 MW), have a very high level of technological maturity. The other pole is less advanced and more ambitious. It is based on different technologies (molten salts as heat transfer fluids, rapid neutrons), and will allow waste to be extracted continuously. Several start-ups are working on this. Research laboratories too: there are some major challenges regarding research, especially due to the specific chemistry of molten salts. Characterization and investigation methods exist – all that remains is to collect the data.”
Greg De Temmerman, Director General of the Zenon Research think tank, associate researcher at Mines Paris – PSL: “The current energy system is very inefficient, as it is based mainly on combustion… the energy transition will see us move from a system based on fossil fuel combustion to a metal-intensive system. There are still substantial efficiency gains to be made, especially by thinking in terms of the system and not necessarily of end use. For example, an urban transport system based on public transport and light vehicles will be much more efficient than a system based on 1.3 tonne thermal cars occupied by a 70kg person.”