Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the surging candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been simultaneously lauded for his devotion to technological innovation, and ridiculed for his warnings about futuristic weapons.
Gingrich, who has dabbled in science fiction and cited both futurist Alvin Toffler and the concept of "psychohistory" in Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels as intellectual inspirations, has long been dubbed "Newt Skywalker" thanks to his vision of future warfare that blends fact and fantasy. This streak of futurism is, by his own admission, rooted in a political and philosophical belief about technology and power. ''I would rather rely on engineers than diplomats for security,'' Gingrich told Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine in 1994, in reference to his support for missile defense.
Sometimes his predictions have even panned out, sort of. Some 25 years ago, Gingrich promised that "tourism in space is coming." This week's announcement of the Burt Rutan and Paul Allen plan to build a massive commercial space plane is a reminder that such a future, while not yet here, is likely on the horizon. (though it appears that the "Hiltons and Marriotts of the solar system" that Gingrich also predicted are not yet in those companies' business development plans).
When it comes to predicting the future of warfare, the devil is usually in the details. Gingrich in 1995 warned of a growing "Islamic totalitarian terrorism." But he was worried about Iran, not terrorists setting up camp in Afghanistan. He also, in that same speech, worried about another attack on the World Trade Center, but his focus wasn't box cutters and commercial aircraft, but a nuclear weapon.
When it comes to futuristic weapons, Gingrich's record is mixed. Here are a few of his more notable predictions: