US Office of the Secretary of Defense

THE CHALLENGE

Noetic was contracted to assess the implications of emerging technologies on future warfare. The Rapid Reaction Technology Office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense tasked Noetic to explore the nature of ‘game-changing’ technology to inform capability development. It was recognised that technology changes extremely quickly but true game-changers that significantly impact warfighting capabilities are difficult to identify. Noetic was charged with considering emerging technologies and identifying promising and ultimately useful technology.

WHAT WE DID

Noetic initially established a knowledge baseline through research on the state of emerging technologies and a broad spectrum of interviews with leading scientists, engineers, academics, military leaders, policymakers, investors, journalists and futurists. This identified scores of technologies, in a dozen broad fields of science, which were experiencing potentially significant change. These candidate fields were organised around five NeXTech Focal Points: biotechnology, energy, hardware, materials, and software. Noetic then held a series of war games to examine these focal point technologies in a range of scenarios and from different perspectives.

THE BENEFIT

The NeXTech project provided an intellectual foundation to explore the social, economic, and technical implications of new technologies. It developed a new approach to examining disruptive technologies and has influenced senior Department of Defense officials approach to science and technology planning and investment in an era of resource constraint. More broadly, NeXTech created a rare forum for a creative discourse on these issues by convening non-traditional stakeholders in an unconventional setting. The project has led to publication of several journal articles and think tank papers on the nature and impact of game-changing technology, and continues to shape discourse inside and outside government.