When Futurists Get History Wrong, Can They Predict Right?

What if I told you there is ample evidence to say projectiles with lethal effects beyond arm’s reach are as old as weapons themselves?

…researchers found that 14 of the 25 point fragments bore evidence of impact-related damage, animal residues, and wear features that strongly indicated that these points may have been used for hunting. Examination of the impact-related fractures and the distribution of the points indicated that these points may have been attached to handles to form projectile weapons and that these weapons were projected from a distance, most likely with a flexible spear-thrower or a bow. …the new Sibudu Cave site data may push back the evidence for the use of pressure flaking during the MSA to 77,000 years ago…

There’s even a dart-firing Atlatl product design discussion from the Stone Age:

Darts were not only easier to transport but they penetrated hides with greater force, which likely killed animals quicker. In Alberta, darts were used to hunt bison, sheep, elk, deer, antelope, and smaller animals. Each species likely involved a different strategy and context of atlatl use.

If you really want to get more technical about it, archaeologists say things like the blowgun comes from the Stone Age… yet recent digs in Africa also found primitive Middle Stone Age tools used just 11,000 years ago (20,000 years later than previously thought to have been obsolete and deprecated).

Groups of ancient humans were shifting to newer tools at relative speed, not linearly. It’s actually very important to notice how groups were somewhat isolated and developing projectiles based on locality leading to domain shifts and imbalance in conflict.

I mean it’s kind of like a chicken and egg riddle to ask did the rock wall or throwing a rock come first?

All of that is just preamble to introduce a futurist who has written a prediction of future war based on a curious understanding of the past:

Up until now, the history of military innovation has been about moving lethal effects to an intended victim with greater efficiency. In the Stone Age, a club was an inert object wielded by a human hand to create lethal injury. With the advent of metal, a sword became a more maneuverable and sharper instrument to create the same effect. Gunpowder and the advent of projectiles allowed for lethal effects beyond arm’s reach. Artillery increased the range and impact of lethality. Navies became ways of moving artillery over the oceans to bring lethal effects to other ships and to the shore through fire support missions. Aircraft carriers were invented to support aircraft that in turn delivered munitions with lethal effects. And so on.

That phrase “gunpowder and the advent of projectiles allowed for lethal effects beyond arm’s reach” is just so strange as to be unbelievable. It reminds me of how wrong early theories about Easter Islanders holding weapons were, given they were in fact more like hoes or shovels.

Everyone studies the 1415 Agincourt projectile battle, right? And the whole debate about the ethics of crossbows because too automated any peasant could use one versus a highly trained archer… all long predates this “advent of projectiles” sentence that starts with gunpowder.

It doesn’t look like a typo because it is a linear progression by the futurist. Club then sword then boom you have a bullet and a gun with powder? No. Instead imagine a line from the Stone Age to today for projectiles, a line from the Stone Age to today for hand-held weapons… and even parallel lines for artillery and navies instead of a serial one.

From there this futurist, based on what feels like a very weak presentation of history (falsely linear, and falsely handheld first then projectile 10,000s of years later), presents what he calls the next chapter:

Now comes the discontinuity. In 1999, a book called Unrestricted Warfare was published by two Chinese colonels from the People’s Liberation Army. Its take-home message was that all elements of an advanced society could now be considered as means of waging war. We see this visible now in the war of the meme, disinformation, kompromat, lawfare and cyber threats to key infrastructure, to name but a few.

Use of all means of waging war is by no means a new concept. WWI is probably the best foundational reading for “all means of waging war” in our modern context, particularly Woodrow Wilson’s use of propaganda and nationalizing communications as well as German military spy infiltration of British colonies to force fractures and revolution.

It’s just so strange to see this already dated concept labeled “modern” or “future” war, stranger to see it attributed to 1999 Chinese authors, let alone see that earlier false linear history in the windup.

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