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How Metal Gear Solid Predicted The Future Of High Tech Military Stealth

On more than one occasion, Hideo Kojima has become infamous for his seeming ability to predict the future through his work, and an upcoming book has revealed that he may have done it again in regards to military stealth. 

The video game auteur has been behind a number of titles that have been seen as ahead of their time, including cult classics like "Policenauts" and "Snatcher," as well as marquee franchises like "Metal Gear Solid." In the latter series, Kojima has touched on the dangers of social media manipulation, drone warfare, and even the use of algae as a form of fuel — all well before those concerns and concepts became more globally recognized. 

At this point, it's almost expected for Hideo Kojima to have his finger on the pulse of the times, using his characters as a mouthpiece to explore his many hopes and fears for the future. But one thing that nobody could have expected was for Solid Snake's hilarious use of cardboard boxes to make its way into a real military test.

The military used a cardboard box for stealth

Over on Twitter, The Economist's Shashank Joshi shared a few passages from "Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence," an upcoming book from Paul Scharre that covers the difficulties in harnessing artificial intelligence for military use. In one section of the book, Scharre talks about human interaction being used to improve an AI's ability to detect human targets. After calibrating the AI by spending several days walking closely all around it, the team decided to test its efficiency by having the soldiers attempt to sneak up on the robot.

In order to proceed undetected, however, these soldiers had to get creative. According to a source in the book named Phil, "Two somersaulted for 300 meters; never got detected ... One guy, my favorite, he field-stripped a fir tree and walked like a fir tree. You can see his smile, and that's about all you can see." But it was another soldier's tactic — one that reminded the author of a classic "Looney Tunes" cartoon — that has elicited comparisons to "Metal Gear Solid." 

The book describes two of the soldiers outsmarting the robot by climbing under a cardboard box together and inching their way through the area of detection. Phil notes in the book that the pair of soldiers were laughing loudly enough to be heard outside the box, which apparently did not tip off the military robot in the slightest.

Of course, Raiden from the "Metal Gear Solid" series is known for his somersaults and cartwheels (not always while clothed, either), but it's the use of a cardboard box here that has fans of the video game series cracking up on social media. After all, this is a tried-and-true method of stealth seen in the "Metal Gear" series, starting with the very first installment for the MSX.

Kojima does it again

Fans of the "Metal Gear Solid" series will be well-versed in the ancient stealth art of climbing under a cardboard box. Since the beginning of the series, Snake has used cardboard boxes to hide from enemies and avoid various security measures. In later games, Snake gained the ability to sneak around while under the box — just like the soldiers hiding from the AI in real life.

Since then, the cardboard box tech seen in the series has only become more advanced as the series has continued. Some boxes have been created to hide players in specific environments and shield Snake from infrared scanners, while others have offensive capabilities. Of course, it's unlikely the AI field test covered in Paul Scharre's book will eventually lead to killer cardboard boxes being deployed into battle.

Of course, Kojima Productions has also downplayed the efficacy of the noble cardboard box in recent years. The announcement trailer for 2021's "Death Stranding: Director's Cut" took a playful jab at the "Metal Gear" games in a hilarious sequence. In the trailer, protagonist Sam Bridges briefly considers using a box to get past an enemy group, only to think better of it after he'd actually climbed into one. 

But as ridiculous as the cardboard boxes have become in Kojima's games, but it's always exciting for fans to see a new way in which Kojima was a bit ahead of the curve. Who knows? Maybe this time next year, we'll have given up trying to train new AI, and US soldiers will just be parachuting into duty with a fancy new cardboard box folded in their pack.