December 03, 2014

When Superiority Goes Wrong: Science Fiction and Offset Strategies

By Ben FitzGerald

For all our talk about the need for military technical superiority, what if pursuit of that goal becomes our downfall? A couple of weeks ago, Bill Sweetman from Aviation Weekly and I were talking about technology development issues and the Pentagon’s new offset strategy, the Defense Innovation Initiative. During the conversation he mentioned an Arthur C. Clarke story, Superiority, from 1951 that reminded him of some of our current challenges. Being the nerd that I am, I read it that evening with high hopes.

The story is great: It’s short and you should all read it. I’ll unpack it in a moment, but I’d like to pause for a second and consider the role of science fiction in military technology thinking. Why would I automatically assume that a science fiction short story from 63 years ago would be useful today?

Most defense nerds love science fiction. Peter Singer famously explored this relationship in Wired for War — drawing out the relationship between the technologists behind unmanned weapons system development and the science fiction that inspired them. The New America Foundation recently hosted a daylong conference, headlined by Neal Stephenson, that sought to re-focus science fiction on providing inspiration to today’s scientists and engineers. August Cole, of the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfareproject, and Peter Singer will publish Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War next year. And, well, this is how Lt Col Dan Ward writes his books.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.

  • Reports
    • November 20, 2019
    Make Good Choices, DoD

    In a new report, Susanna V. Blume and Molly Parrish offer a deep dive into how the U.S. Department of Defense makes decisions about what the U.S. military needs, what to buy a...

    By Susanna V. Blume & Molly Parrish

  • Video
    • November 20, 2019
    Results of the second Pentagon audit

    Bob Hale discusses takeaways from the Department of Defense’s latest audit, and the impacts it’s having on the agency’s culture.Watch the full conversation on Government Matte...

    By Robert F. Hale

  • Commentary
    • The American Interest
    • November 8, 2019
    The Enduring Relevance of Reagan’s Westminster Speech

    Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of three essays, commissioned by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, examining the legacy of Reagan’s Westmin...

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • November 8, 2019
    Friday Roundtable

    On the Roundtable episode of the Defense & Aerospace Podcast, Robert F. Hale joins Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis and the Aerospace Security Project at...

    By Robert F. Hale

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia