Was the early science fiction writer better at predicting the nature of conflict than the Pentagon?
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Predicting the conduct of future wars is an impossible yet time-consuming endeavor of the U.S. government. Among the official documents that are produced in an effort to guess the who, where, and how of future conflict, there are the armed services' Visions, Joint Visions, Roadmaps, Technology Vectors, New World Vistas, and Global Trends. In theory, the scenarios developed within these documents should serve as the basis for the Pentagon's strategic plans. The results from recent forecasting efforts, however, have been dismal. As Paul K. Davis and Peter A. Wilson found in a recent article in Joint Forces Quarterly, "The Looming Crisis in Defense Planning:" "The past decade's experiences have not been encouraging: Visions have sometimes gotten far ahead of technology; reason, criticism, and competition have not been sufficiently valued; and joint experimentation has been neither sufficiently ambitious nor rigorous."
In researching the history of war prediction, I ran across the most imaginative such effort from the pacifist science fiction writer, H.G. Wells. In 1901, Wells published his bestselling work of futurology, Anticipations: Of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought, in which he aimed to predict—with uncanny success—societal and technological developments around the world over the next 100 years. In chapter six, "War in the Twentieth Century," Wells presciently described the invention of the "aeroplane" and its impact upon warfare, parachutes, and bombs. For all his genius, however, some of his predictions were off the mark. See below for some of the predictions Wells got right—and wrong.