It’s as if the cities of the future were designed by dystopian novelists: Imagine roving bands of child marauders, mazes of squalor extending from high-rises to subterranean networks, and underground slumlords governing from the shadows. These are just a few details from the urban future the Pentagon imagines we’ll experience by 2030.
Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity is a jaw-dropping training video used at the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations University to teach students that traditional tactics for handling urban conflict—create a cordon and wait it out—will be insufficient to regain control after another decade and a half of urban growth.
Acquired by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request, the video offers an ominous narration overlaid upon disturbing images of urban conflict, riots, crowded slums, and buildings destroyed in natural disasters.
“The future is urban. By 2030, urban areas are expected to grow by 1.4 billion,” the video begins. “The urban environment will be the locus, where drivers of instability will converge.”
The gap between rich and poor will become even more pronounced. Slums will proliferate at the base of skyscrapers. Natural disasters from climate change will further destabilize society. Oh, and all of this is “unavoidable,” according to the video.
“We are facing environments that the masters of war never foresaw,” it warns.
To outside eyes, the video’s doom and gloom may seem overblown. Military forces have always adapted to the environments and technologies with which they work. And urban designers and policy-makers just might be able to ameliorate some of the video’s worst predictions. Before disaster strikes.