This is the first installment of my Pop Culture Futurist column. You should be seeing some cool ideas show up in other places as well, as some of my clients begin putting our new projects to the drawing board and beyond. Many of these ideas come out of brainstorming and think tank sessions whereas others come from the near-reality of comic books, novels, and movies. The ideas I’ll be throwing out here are yours for the taking. They’re not proprietary and not in development by any of my clients. All I ask if you create something from my ideas is that you let me try out one of the prototypes. I promise I’ll try not to break it.
My first idea came from the 20th issue of Ms. Marvel published by Marvel Comics in 1978.
Despite the cosmic source of her powers, one in particular struck me as something that has the distinct possibility of becoming commonplace at some point. It’s her ability to mentally change her clothing, or exterior skin covering, if you’d prefer a more scientific application. As you can see from the first two pages of this issue, she obviously likes her hero costume. I have to admit, so do I. Even so, it’s not practical for everyday usage, hence the need to complete the split-second change in attire.
Like Ms Marvel, the everyday sartorial usage is easy to imagine. What is not easily imaginable is the idea that such a material would ever be affordable for that purpose. Could you really see ‘chameleon fabric’ for sale at the local department store? This is something that once created will likely stay in the government realm for a very long time and, even there, in a very limited scope.
There are many disciplines associated with what basically amounts to creative camoflague or the ability to blend into a variety of environments to avoid predators or secure food. Many of them are adapted from common usage in the animal kingdom. You’ll find that most modern military camoflague patterns utilize several of the disciplines, although some are better than others. I’ll leave it to you to decide on the new digital camoflague patterns emplyed by the US military. Personally, I think it looks good but doesn’t work very well. The bad thing about that in the military is that fashionable but visible usually equals dead.
Here are three of the most common disciplines of camoflague-
Crypsis. Making the wearer hard to see. A good example of this is the pattern distortion that makes people appear as something other than man-sized shapes.
Mimesis. Making the wearer appear to be something else. Ghillie suits work well for this, as an expertly crafted suit and a patient wearer can easily appear to be a bush or a pile of leaves.
Motion dazzle. Making the wearer extremely conspicuous, but difficult to zero in on. Early military camoflague patterns were based on this and made it hard for gunners to estimate a target’s speed, distance, and heading.
The clothing change made in Ms. Marvel’s pop culture example goes way beyond the basic principles of camoflague. It even goes beyond what is currently possible in the animal kingdom with their near instantaneous changes in colors and patterns. This example constitutes a change in matter itself. Not possible yet, but this futurist’s wish is that we could soon meet somewhere in the middle.
This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!