Call of Duty: A Futurist on the Future of Warfare | IGN

Talking the present and future of invisibility cloaks, smart guns, exoskeletons and private military companies. By Nathan Lawrence

We’ve already taken a comedic dig at the possibilities for Call of Duty beyond the futuristic setting of Advanced Warfare, but while some of those tongue-in-cheek predictions may turn out to be on the money, what is clear is that Advanced Warfare takes the future of warfare seriously. As is claimed in the initial marketing for Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer Games has spent some quality time with futurists: experts whose job it is to accurately hypothesise about the kind of technological realities that will exist beyond the horizon.

To further push the point, Activision put us in touch with Australian futurist Morris Miselowski to provide some context for the technology and ideas being showcased in Advanced Warfare, and what we can expect beyond.

IGN: How exactly does someone become a futurist?

Morris: There are two parts to this one. There is an academic part to it, and that goes right through to postgraduate and doctorate. You receive a qualification in what’s called foresight – that’s the legal academia word for it – then go on to do whatever you want to do. I come from a business-strategy viewpoint, and that’s where my qualification and experience are, and I’ve done it for 33 years. I also lectured through postgrad in that area, and my speciality was always foresight, and the business-futurist angle was part of that. Believe it or not, there’s actually structure and science to this.

IGN: Don’t futurists just watch a whole lot of sci-fi films and use that to predict what’s coming next?

Morris: No, that’s [sci-fi films] actually what made me want to do it. I’m a baby boomer, so when I grew up and was watching things like Star Trek, I didn’t know I wanted to be a futurist, but I was always besotted by what was going to happen in the future. With business strategy, my clients always wanted to understand what tomorrow looked like so that we could build accordingly, and I found that I was less interested in the theory of what business strategy was, and it was more a conversation about what was likely to occur over the horizon so we could position ourselves appropriately…

As a futurist, I work for a tonne of clients across the globe trying to understand for them what the world of tomorrow might look like so they can make best decisions, best resourcing and best thinking around how they want to meet those demands and, for me, most of my skill set – apart from knowing that stuff – is really allowing people to imagine that space, because you have to buy into the dream if you’re going to move your company or your thinking in that direction. I use a lot of storytelling, a lot of imagination, a lot of evidentiary experience, because I’ve really got to move you beyond what’s known, because if it’s known, it’s not futurism.

Most of the warfare, most of the craft, most of the thinking, in CoD [Advanced Warfare] is actually embedded in pure futurism, and these are things that I know to be true… as in prototype, as in thinking, as in practice, as in methodology. So to actually see it virtually, and to be able to experience it before it happens in real life, for me, it’s just life on toast: it’s wonderful. I know these things are going to be a part of our world and I don’t have to wait until they actually are.

IGN: Is there an element where you and other futurists are inspiring these technologies because, if it doesn’t exist, and you’re saying that you have to get your clients to buy into the idea that it will exist, does that mean futurists help push people towards technology that might not otherwise happen?

Morris: If I had that much influence on the world, we’d all be a bad place. The answer is that I do tell my clients… that the future doesn’t exist: there’s nothing about it that is written with certainty. It’s up to people to decide what elements of it they want and to champion those, and then to move towards creating them. So I would use the word ‘provoke’. I’d like to think that I provoke people to think about whether these things are a part of their future, and if they are, then to commit towards building or assembling or whatever’s appropriate for that piece of that activity towards making it real.

Morris: Oh, yeah… a lot of the things that we’re describing here are what I’d call routine. In other words, they are things that we can do repeatedly, it’s well known what needs to be done and they’re in a sequence. Most of that is going over to technology. So, like drones, like our invisibility cloak, like the ability to fire, all of those things about precision, they can be handed over to a robot or some kind of mechanised activity quite easily. Where soldiers will play a part, and this is really the first shooter experience that you and I had in a CoD game, is that we get to control it. We get what I call the wisdom. So, really, as a player in this game, you have the wisdom to control all of these technologies in the level that you think would make it appropriate for this battle, and that’s the role that people have in war and also in life, moving forward, is to use all of these technologies and to figure out how to use them best, and when’s appropriate, and which ones.

These things, to me, are tools the same way a hammer or a screwdriver is: they’re very sophisticated, and they alleviate a lot of the hard grunt work, but they’re always used in the hands of people. Even when we’re talking about remote which, again, you can see in the game, operates at huge distances. We can fire something and it hits 1,000 kilometres away. It’s still people making that decision that that’s what we should do and then using technology to do it, which is that firsthand experience that we have as the shooter or as the player.

IGN: What type of things are we going to see beyond the technology of Advanced Warfare? Are we going to be seeing lightsabers, laser rifles and space battles in the next iteration of warfare, or is that still way, way off?

Morris: I don’t know about laser battles. We probably will, but there’s lots of stuff on the horizon that we don’t yet know about. We’ve got what are called smart guns. Now, smart guns are guns that know who the shooter is, so it will only work in your hands. You can attach smart bullets, and that will make sure that the bullet doesn’t actually come back to shoot the shooter. So, in other words, if you dropped the gun, nobody else could pick it up and use it… So we’ve got those kinds of technologies. We’ve also got underpinning it, the notion of the PMC, the private military company, and that’s kind of like what the game is built on, this notion that warfare has not been handed over, but is now a private corporation, and that’s something that we’re going to see in warfare. We’re already doing it. I think we’re going to see more and more of it as we move through the decades. What was once a government activity is now also possibly a private activity.

IGN: PMCs seem like such a Hollywood concept.

Morris: Yeah, but they’ve been around for, honestly, 30 or 40 years. They just haven’t been well known, and they’re becoming more and more prominent, as are most things where the government has decided it doesn’t play a part, or shouldn’t play a part anymore. So a government will still engage in war if they think it’s relevant, they’ll still take the battle on, but they will often bring outsourced expertise in, and that’s what you get to play in this game.“

A government will still engage in war if they think it’s relevant, they’ll still take the battle on, but they will often bring outsourced expertise in, and that’s what you get to play in this game.

What you have, I mean, you’re part of this PMC, and what you have is best thinking, best people, best technology, because the argument is the government, with the best of intentions, can’t upgrade their technology very often. They can’t really train their people easily and quickly, they can’t deploy them easily and quickly, whereas a private company, by the nature of it, it makes a profit by making sure that people are well trained, up to date, have the latest technology, are very clear and precise about what their targets are and about what they need to do, and can move quite quickly. That’s why governments like PMCs because they can achieve all those things, where a government is slow and cumbersome.

So in the game, you actually get to be part of the experience of a PMC: somebody who is agile, somebody who has the latest technology. All these things which are part of modern warfare and will be into the future are really just there for us to play with.

IGN: How far ahead into the future can a futurist safely predict things with a decent sense of accuracy?

Morris: The answer is I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the next two minutes. I’m careful about that because all I talk about is hypothesising. I can’t force everyone to have my will, but I can hypothesise the things that are more likely. Now, the furthest that I’m working at the moment is 2060, so some of my projects are really thinking into 2060, around whatever that particular issue is. I’ve done this for 33 years, you can track me back for about 15 years online through my blog and other things, and I’m fairly accurate: I’m up around 90 percent plus. I’m really careful and deliberate about the things that I speak about; I do not make wild accusations or comments. I’m careful and deliberate, but I’m also very much provocative. I don’t just take safe steps. If you talk to most of my clients I talk about outlandish things that they think are incredible, but with the space of time, they can turn out to be quite ordinary. But it’s all about hypothesising, for me, and I know I’m being semantic about the word, but I’m always careful that people understand that I’m not forcing my will on them, I’m just forcing my opinion on them.

They can then use that and, again, that’s what this game has done. It’s used a whole lot of futurists, a whole lot of other people and, together, collectively, looked at what’s ahead. Part of what I think is going to come from this game, which is my science fiction, is everyone that plays it will decide if they like various elements and, without knowing it, they’ll go into the future and create the things they like, because that’s what happened with science fiction. We liked things in the movies we saw and the books we read, in the cartoons we saw, and then, as individuals, we took elements out of it and said, ‘It doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t it? How do I make it exist?’ And we went ahead and created it. It’s just phenomenal. I did a piece about a year ago about the 10 technologies that came out of Star Trek, and they were things that we never thought would happen but have all become real because baby boomers like me saw it and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to make it happen.’ That’s what you get to do with this game, you get to play first-hand, see it, if you love it and think it should be a part of our world, then some of the people that play it will actually be the innovators and inventors of it.

If you plan on inventing something from Advanced Warfare, readers, please push for the personal invisibility cloak so we can add it to our futuristic Predator cosplay.

IGN: Advanced Warfare has exoskeletons, invisibility cloaks and more miniaturised drone technology than what we’re used to seeing; what kind of tangible touchstones do you have as a futurist to be able to predict that these things are going to be part of future warfare?

Morris: They exist already. I must say, exoskeletons and drones are the two things that drew me to the game because I talk about those a lot. Exoskeletons actually exist and have existed for about five, maybe 10 years, but not in the way they’re used in the game, yet.

Exoskeletons actually exist and have existed for about five, maybe 10 years, but not in the way they’re used in the game, yet.

Most of the work around exoskeletons is in Japan, and it’s being used around aged care. My first understanding of exoskeletons was actually around working around the future of health and wellness, and it was finding exoskeletons for my aged-care clients. What they’re used for in Japan is for carers who wear them to be able to lift patients around. Traditionally, it takes at least two carers to move a non-ambulatory patient – someone who can’t move themselves – into a shower, out of the bed, into a wheelchair, or wherever. And Japan has a difficult issue and that is they have a huge number of aged people and very few carers. They’re an ageing society.

The other thing Japan does really well is to embrace technology for solutions… Exoskeletons are still being used very much in aged care, I then saw… a prototype of it being used by military for the purpose of, again, adding strength to an individual who was in a war situation, and add agility to them, as well, so they were able to carry more, do more, move more, and basically just extend their physical body beyond its normal means. Exoskeletons are here already. You can buy the suit. They’re talking about exoskeletons being used by quadriplegics and paraplegics in the future. Now this does not mean that everybody with that disability will be able to use them, because it will depend on the individual circumstance, but there’s definite work being done for some to take advantage of [these] things.

IGN: What about things like the invisibility cloaks? Is that something that we’re seeing today?

Morris: Absolutely. What an invisibility cloak is, it’s not like science-fiction where it actually disappears, what they’re doing is creating a light field around the objects that then bends the light and causes the eye to not see that object. This has been around for a little while. The cloaking has been trialled on tanks and other things and, again, I saw that about five years ago.
Again, what CoD’s done with most of the things I’ve seen in this game is they’ve gone to a bunch of futurists, they’ve gone to a bunch of people that know about war craft and warfare in the future, they’ve gone to some technology providers and innovators, and they’ve rummaged around their closets and said, ‘What are you doing today that most people don’t know about that is likely to come about?’ And invisibility is absolutely on the horizon, I mean, chapter and verse kind of stuff is being done on it.

One of the ones I love in the game is they have something called the magnetic slingshot. You will have seen at some stage some superhero, and she or he will put their hands up in the air and… it’s like a gush of wind… and the people in front of them fell away. That’s actually something that we have now, and that’s using magnetics. It’s called a magnetic slingshot. What we’re able to do, again, is to project the magnetic field ahead of us, and the magnetic field does the same thing that you’ve seen in sci-fi: pushes people in that direction. It seems like science fiction, it seems like something I would say, or my workmates would say, but we really are in a space where we’re not far away from making that a reality, because in prototype it works.

IGN: Are you talking about throwing people off their feet with the Force, or is it just pushing you back in the sense that someone’s moving you backwards?

Morris: Both. It depends on the power that you use for that. We’re talking about not physically contacting somebody, but with this force, pushing them back or pushing them over. What we would be able to do in a war situation, which is what you can do in this game… you can push them back away from you without having to make physical contact. So that’s something that seems science fictiony but, in the game, it’s been researched and put in, because there’s lots of evidence that we will do that because we can do that.

IGN: It sounds like warfare is almost moving to more of an automated thing. Do you think that humans will have a place as soldiers in the future of warfare?

Morris: Oh, yeah… a lot of the things that we’re describing here are what I’d call routine. In other words, they are things that we can do repeatedly, it’s well known what needs to be done and they’re in a sequence. Most of that is going over to technology. So, like drones, like our invisibility cloak, like the ability to fire, all of those things about precision, they can be handed over to a robot or some kind of mechanised activity quite easily. Where soldiers will play a part, and this is really the first shooter experience that you and I had in a CoD game, is that we get to control it. We get what I call the wisdom. So, really, as a player in this game, you have the wisdom to control all of these technologies in the level that you think would make it appropriate for this battle, and that’s the role that people have in war and also in life, moving forward, is to use all of these technologies and to figure out how to use them best, and when’s appropriate, and which ones.

These things, to me, are tools the same way a hammer or a screwdriver is: they’re very sophisticated, and they alleviate a lot of the hard grunt work, but they’re always used in the hands of people. Even when we’re talking about remote which, again, you can see in the game, operates at huge distances. We can fire something and it hits 1,000 kilometres away. It’s still people making that decision that that’s what we should do and then using technology to do it, which is that firsthand experience that we have as the shooter or as the player.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Gameplay Demo – IGN Live: E3 2014
11:23
IGN: What type of things are we going to see beyond the technology of Advanced Warfare? Are we going to be seeing lightsabers, laser rifles and space battles in the next iteration of warfare, or is that still way, way off?

Morris: I don’t know about laser battles. We probably will, but there’s lots of stuff on the horizon that we don’t yet know about. We’ve got what are called smart guns. Now, smart guns are guns that know who the shooter is, so it will only work in your hands. You can attach smart bullets, and that will make sure that the bullet doesn’t actually come back to shoot the shooter. So, in other words, if you dropped the gun, nobody else could pick it up and use it… So we’ve got those kinds of technologies. We’ve also got underpinning it, the notion of the PMC, the private military company, and that’s kind of like what the game is built on, this notion that warfare has not been handed over, but is now a private corporation, and that’s something that we’re going to see in warfare. We’re already doing it. I think we’re going to see more and more of it as we move through the decades. What was once a government activity is now also possibly a private activity.

IGN: PMCs seem like such a Hollywood concept.

Morris: Yeah, but they’ve been around for, honestly, 30 or 40 years. They just haven’t been well known, and they’re becoming more and more prominent, as are most things where the government has decided it doesn’t play a part, or shouldn’t play a part anymore. So a government will still engage in war if they think it’s relevant, they’ll still take the battle on, but they will often bring outsourced expertise in, and that’s what you get to play in this game.“
A government will still engage in war if they think it’s relevant, they’ll still take the battle on, but they will often bring outsourced expertise in, and that’s what you get to play in this game.

What you have, I mean, you’re part of this PMC, and what you have is best thinking, best people, best technology, because the argument is the government, with the best of intentions, can’t upgrade their technology very often. They can’t really train their people easily and quickly, they can’t deploy them easily and quickly, whereas a private company, by the nature of it, it makes a profit by making sure that people are well trained, up to date, have the latest technology, are very clear and precise about what their targets are and about what they need to do, and can move quite quickly. That’s why governments like PMCs because they can achieve all those things, where a government is slow and cumbersome.

So in the game, you actually get to be part of the experience of a PMC: somebody who is agile, somebody who has the latest technology. All these things which are part of modern warfare and will be into the future are really just there for us to play with.

IGN: How far ahead into the future can a futurist safely predict things with a decent sense of accuracy?

Morris: The answer is I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the next two minutes. I’m careful about that because all I talk about is hypothesising. I can’t force everyone to have my will, but I can hypothesise the things that are more likely. Now, the furthest that I’m working at the moment is 2060, so some of my projects are really thinking into 2060, around whatever that particular issue is. I’ve done this for 33 years, you can track me back for about 15 years online through my blog and other things, and I’m fairly accurate: I’m up around 90 percent plus. I’m really careful and deliberate about the things that I speak about; I do not make wild accusations or comments. I’m careful and deliberate, but I’m also very much provocative. I don’t just take safe steps. If you talk to most of my clients I talk about outlandish things that they think are incredible, but with the space of time, they can turn out to be quite ordinary. But it’s all about hypothesising, for me, and I know I’m being semantic about the word, but I’m always careful that people understand that I’m not forcing my will on them, I’m just forcing my opinion on them.

They can then use that and, again, that’s what this game has done. It’s used a whole lot of futurists, a whole lot of other people and, together, collectively, looked at what’s ahead. Part of what I think is going to come from this game, which is my science fiction, is everyone that plays it will decide if they like various elements and, without knowing it, they’ll go into the future and create the things they like, because that’s what happened with science fiction. We liked things in the movies we saw and the books we read, in the cartoons we saw, and then, as individuals, we took elements out of it and said, ‘It doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t it? How do I make it exist?’ And we went ahead and created it. It’s just phenomenal. I did a piece about a year ago about the 10 technologies that came out of Star Trek, and they were things that we never thought would happen but have all become real because baby boomers like me saw it and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to make it happen.’ That’s what you get to do with this game, you get to play first-hand, see it, if you love it and think it should be a part of our world, then some of the people that play it will actually be the innovators and inventors of it.

If you plan on inventing something from Advanced Warfare, readers, please push for the personal invisibility cloak so we can add it to our futuristic Predator cosplay.

Eye on the Future - Aug 11, 2014 | All, Augmented Reality, Gadgets, Robots, Social, Technology, Wearable Technology
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