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Creating words to invent the future

The creation and the disappearance of words is a part of every language development. Language reacts to current human needs. To create a word thus means being able to predict needs and thus to invent the future. armasuisse S+T’s research program Early Technology Detection is concerned with such future research.

24.08.2020 | armasuisse Science and Technology, Dr. Quentin Ladetto

The identivist is a specialist who identifies enemy fighters, using special identification devices.
The identivist is a specialist who identifies enemy fighters, using special identification devices. Illustration: M. Olivier Fontvieille

It is evident from the new words that are constantly appearing that the future is already being invariably reinvented today. It can be seen that this change also affects the armed forces. Thus the armed forces, like all other civilian areas of activity, are subject to major changes. This can be seen from the increasing number of new developments and innovations in the military, in the area of systems as well as equipment, but also in the new emerging professions. Thus in order to be able to imagine a possible future in the armed forces in more detail, we need to build on current conditions and existing innovations.

The dictionary of the soldier of the future

In order to be able to better understand a potential future in the army as well as to predict potential opportunities and threats, the project «le dico du soldat du futur», the dictionary of the soldier of the future, has been launched as part of the research program «Early Technology Detection» by armasuisse Science and Technology. For this purpose, Quentin Ladetto, Head of the Research Programme, together with Anna-Caroline Paucot, a futurologist writer, are maintaining an online dictionary, in order to engage in joint reflection on the soldier of the future.

In this project, they do not consider only a certain type of troop, but the soldier in his/her entirety. How might the soldier of the future be equipped? Which resources are available to him or her? Which task area would they need to devote themselves to? Which dangers and risks do they need to cope with? In the project «le dico du soldat du futur» not only the probability of the occurrence of this potential future is analysed, but possible future scenarios and suitable word creations are also established. These also include definitions of conceivable new professional groups, fields of activity or systems available to the armed forces, as well as the description of possible areas of application. These ideas for the future make it possible to think today about the as yet unknown future in the armed forces, to expand the observation horizon and to become aware of new, unknown dangers or obstacles.

Each newly created word of the future also includes its own definition and an analysis both of the technological as well as the ethical and sociological challenges that could arise. The example of the word «Identivist» is intended to provide a brief insight into the results of this «le dico du soldat du futur»:

Example of word creation «The Identivist»

Identivist: A word composition from the words «dentification» and «specialist». The identivist is a specialist who identifies enemy fighters, perhaps in the midst of civilians, using special identification devices.

The identivist uses various methods to identify a hostile person:

  • Facial recognition: Facial features, iris, etc.
  • Analysis of movement, gait, heart rate, blood flow, etc.
  • Voice recognition
  • Identification of smell and the substances released by the body such as sweat

The identivist’s toolbox comprises:

  • Information sensors: Camera, laser, recording device, etc.
  • Databases.
  • Artificial intelligence that links the newly acquired information with the saved information.

In a further step, the created future words such as «the identivist» will be brought to life by introducing them into a possible future situation. For each word, this results in short stories in the form of «messages of the future».

A cooperative method

This generation or creation of words necessitates working in a particular language. French has been defined as the language for «le dico du soldat du futur». Work will be carried out in a cooperative process. Each week, one word and a corresponding illustration will be published in the form of a blog. Readers can submit comments, proposals and other remarks.

In order to develop other future words on the subject of the «soldier of the future» or «le dico du soldat du futur», a digital workshop was held on May 26, 2020 with the French Defence Innovation Agency (AID). More than 40 French-speaking persons from different backgrounds have taken part, including persons from the English laboratory «Defence Science and Technology Laboratory DSTL» of the Swiss Embassy in Paris, as well as a retired French general. This online workshop, which was rounded off by the online participation of the French Defence Innovation Agency Director Emmanuel Chiva, revealed an excellent creative dynamic and enabled the development of almost thirty new word concepts. These must now be described and put into context.

In total, around forty of these word creations on the topic of the «Soldier of the Future» are to be published in book form in French at the end of this year. You can find more information on the project here:

Science and Technology Research Management
and Operations Research
Dr. Quentin Ladetto
Feuerwerkerstrasse 39
CH-3602 Thun
+41 58 468 28 09