August Cole is the director of the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare Project. Here, writing in War On The Rocks, Mr. Cole outlines a frightening scenario:
Of all the potential threats tracked by America’s national security community, the most worrying is to be confronted with a menace that has not even been considered. The likelihood of being taken by surprise seems to increase each day.
As highly disruptive military and civilian technologies like additive manufacturing, autonomous unmanned systems, and human bio-modification proliferate around the world, adversaries will pick from a lengthening menu for the next generation of asymmetric advantages to wield against the United States.
Still, these are known problems, and the United States has grappled with high-stakes asymmetric threats since the end of the Cold War. After all, this is part of DARPA’s charter: preventing strategic surprise. And at a moment when the United States warily eyes China’s military rise, it is also a mainstream mission thanks to the Defense Department’s recently announced “Third Offset” strategy.
Yet after reading the first installment of Chris Martin’s serialized novel Engines of Extinction, Episode One: The Ends & The Means, it is hard not to be concerned that in the twenty-first century, even America’s best efforts may not be enough. And even if they are, we may still be too focused on the most obvious threats to miss the outbreak of “the Final War.”
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