One of the strategy  that authors use when they want to create a scenario about the future is to push to the extremes the dissemination and adoption of a so-called new technology (and if possible, dangerous technology). Then, they envision what might be the impact on society, at various levels. Some implications are quite literal (flying cars imply roads in the sky) other are second or third order consequences, and are slightly more interesting and complex. Sometimes, writers are able to create visions of the future that are so extreme that actual rules of interactions/ behaviors are completely irrelevant. Then, imagining how people are able to react is the road to radically different futures.

Ghost in the Shell is full of independent or rogue hackers that have the capacity to shut down entire cities. In “Genocidal organ”, there are quite a few moments when the good guys have to face enemies that are on the same level of technology as them, if not sometimes superior. In the following extract, we see a soldier shooting at enemies and then realizing that they have clearly taken pain inhibitors. When he shares that analysis with his teammates, they simply state that « we’ll have to cut them into pieces if we want to get rid of them ». The opposite sounds obviously true. In that case, current tacit rules of interaction between military opponents are broken. Full destruction is now the sole option and becomes the new socio-technological backbone of the situation.

Dissemination of technology is an issue that has been raised by numerous researchers, and it has clearly been underlined how cyber is a key aspect of it. Reading any page of Marc Goodman’s book on Future Crimes will provide the reader with a chilling description of how technology can be an amazing enabler for evil doing, partly because of the wide availability of some tools.

In the hardware world, this is extremely well depicted by the US army’s proud motto: « we own the night ». Well, surely did, but since anyone can buy night vision goggles at Walmart, let’s say that the advantage is shrinking fast. The answer from the US army seems to be manyfold, with an increase in the capacities offered (higher fidelity etc.), but also lots of research in how to add a layer of informationto these goggles. Hence riding the trend of the network centric warfare. An extreme vision of it being the use of contact lenses that could provide the same capacities (in the somewhat longer futures though)

Now, what is interesting here is that the imaginaries have addressed these issues regularly and the answer that they is not always a « run for the next tech ». By pushing further technological evolution, they show how technology itself is always something to be contested and flighted by ways out of the trends of the technological race. Sociology of innovation frequently highlights that every “technological race” is led by a single and strong vision of a preferable future, but in the meantime it tends to set aside several aspects of the initial situation.

In science fiction, these sides dimensions are exploited to offer new ways to interact with it. This is what we migh call doing “step-back futuring”, leading to the redefinition of tacit rules of actual and potential situation. Considering the example of night vision, situation is redefined in two directions.

  1. Clearly, the battlefield tactics are depicted as being as important as the owning of the technology. Almost any anime from Ghost in the Shell or even Apple Seed will offer extremely visual examples of the proponents defeating the other one even when they have  such technologies available.
  2. Knowledge of the enemy and understanding that there is no « advantage any more » also seems to be important. In genocidal organ, facing an enemy with the same basic capacities implies to develop other ones, but not in the same field. As an example: air bombing to get rid of an opponent with pain inhibitors. This then puts the army in the situation where multi domain battle makes the difference, and not the owning of such or such technology.