Aircraft technologies in 2040

Had to post this one up. Just because you're doing futures thinking, doesn't mean you'redoing it right. Exhibit A: a series of videos from BAE Systems looking at possible future fighter aircraft technologies. Apparently, they got a whole lot of experts from their R&D team, and put them together with 'the UK’s leading aviation thinkers from universities, government, and a whole range of companies; to predict and explore how aircraft engineering might evolve in the next 20-30 years. 

Sounds impressive right? Its's not. Instead, it's pretty much one long adolescent fantasy for oversexed military tech heads. The ideas they've come up with are laughable. My seven year old self says "holy crap, energy weapons woohoo!" My grown up self is going, "so hold on, you're telling me that of all the possible ways you could use technology this group of people have decided they want to kill more people more efficiently?" 

What's worse though is that they've failed rule number one of futures thinking - nothing happens in isolation. The nature of the military will change radically by 2040. The notion of using huge, bulky aircraft to conduct long range search and rescue missions or to shoot other bulky aircraft out of the sky will seem laughable by that stage - it's like the oft-quoted example of city planners at the end of the 19th century who worried about the amount of manure that horses would produce in the 20th century. You can't just extrapolate forward based on current technology - you need to think about how the entire system will change. I'm no expert in military futures, but even I can see that the way things are heading is towards smarter, small scale engagement, cyber-warfare and swarmbots and other forms of robotics that will one day make these videos a laughing stock. 

Also... is this really the best they could do with the graphics? It's like watching a bad version of Tron (the original). This is one of the most advanced aerospace companies in the world, with sales of around $30 billion in 2013, and profits of almost $1 billion. You'd think they could hire a half decent animator. Check out the list below for their proposed "aircraft technologies in 2040"

3D printers so advanced they could print UAVs during a mission

Aircraft parts that can heal themselves in minutes

A new type of long range aircraft which divides into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its destination

A directed energy weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light, destroy them and protect the people below

hat tip to Kurzweil AI for the original blog post