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How Playing War Games Can Save America in WWIII

Written by on Friday, August 24th, 2012

Mammals have developed a rather interesting technique: we have learned to play. Children fight with sticks, puppies romp around and bite each other, and kittens pounce on anything that moves. Scientists believe that play serves two crucial functions: to help establish social bonds and to practice the skills that will be useful later in life. It’s no surprise that young boys like to pretend that they’re locked in mortal combat — that’s because they’re DNA urges them to become better fighters in war games so that when they’re adults they can fearlessly bonk saber-tooth tigers on the head with a club.

The same is true for the US military, except that the games they play could directly affect the future of international warfare. The Department of Defense hosted an elaborate intellectual game known as NeXTech Workshop at Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The war game was run by Noetic, an Australian consulting firm.

They may not use toy guys and dull sticks to wage pretend warfare, but they still rely on their imagination. The game forces participants to stretch their thinking power to consider hard-to-predict future technology that would irrevocably alter the landscape of warfare. When the US bombed Japan in World War II, the Japanese had no way of knowing that anyone was capable of developing such a devastating weapon. The goal of NeXTech Workshop is to predict the next atomic bomb-like invention — or at least prepare for it.

Possible threats to US defense include such diverse valium super weapons as an unstoppable virus, a complete hack into US computer systems, drone warfare, biological enhancement (yes, like comic book super heroes), and laser beams. It all sounds a little bit ridiculous, but I can think of half a dozen pieces of technology that would have sounded absolutely impossible thirty years ago: handheld portable devices that can link every person on Earth to every other person on Earth, laser guns, and self-flying airplanes.

Of course, not every scenario is like a scene out of one of the Terminator movies. Some conflicts are smaller and much more reasonable. For example, the experts running the game encouraged participants to imagine how new and existing technology could help offer relief to civilians in the event of another natural disaster similar to the earthquake in Haiti.

It’s a bit chilling to think that a bunch of government bigwigs hunkered over a table and moved around game pieces that represented thousands of civilians, but that type of thinking is ultimately necessary. These exercises can improve professional lines of communication, identify potential weak spots in existing infrastructure, and build defenses to weapons before they’re even invented. If knowledge is power (and the Age of Information has proven that it most definitely is), then the ability to foresee new technology can make the difference between survival and destruction. Let’s just hope that when the game becomes real, our experts have practiced enough that they know how to stay on the winning side.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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