91. Army Installations: A Whole Flock of Pink Flamingos

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Dr. Jason R. Dorvee, Mr. Richard G. Kidd IV, and Mr. John R. Thompson.  The Army of the future will need installations that will enable strategic support areas critical to Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).  There are 156 installations that serve as the initial platform of maneuver for Army readiness. Due to increasing connectivity of military bases (and the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors, and Civilians who live and work there) to the Internet of Things (IoT), DoD and Army installations will not be the sanctuaries they once were.  These threats are further discussed in Mr. Kidd’s AUSA article last December, entitled “Threats to Posts: Army Must Rethink Base Security.” The following story posits the resulting “what if,” should the Army fail to address installation resilience (to include Soldiers, their families, and surrounding communities) when modernizing the overall force to face Twenty-first Century threats.]

“Army Installations are no longer sanctuaries” — Mr. Richard G. Kidd IV, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment), Strategic Integration

Why the most powerful Army the world had ever seen… never showed up to the fight.

The adversary, recognizing that they could not defeat the U.S. Army in a straight-up land fight, kept the Army out of the fight by creating hundreds of friction points around Army installations that disrupted, delayed, and ultimately prevented the timely application of combat power.

The year was 2030. New weapons, doctrine, training, and individual readiness came together to make the US Army the most capable land force in the world. Fully prepared, the Army was ready to fight and win in the complex environments of multi domain operations. The Army Futures Command generated a series of innovations empowering the Army to overcome the lethargy and distractions of protracted counter-insurgency warfare.

Heavy Duty by rOEN911 / Source: DeviantArt

New equipment gave the Army technical and operational overmatch against all strategic competitors, rogue states, and emerging threats.

 

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier / Credit: Joshua B. Livingston / Source: Flickr

With virtualized synthetic training environments, the Army—active duty, Reserve, and National Guard— achieved a continuous, high-level state of unit readiness. The Army’s Soldiers achieved personalized elite-level fitness following tailored diet and physical fitness training regimens. No adversary stood a chance… after the Army arrived.

In the years leading up to 2030, the U.S. Army enjoyed the status of being the world’s most powerful land force. The United States’ national security was squarely centered on deterrence with diplomatic advantage deriving from military superiority. It was a somewhat surprising curiosity when this superiority was challenged by a land invasion of an allied state in the middle of Eurasia. This would not be the only surprise experienced by the Army.

The overseas contest unfolded along a fairly predictable pattern, one that was anticipated in multiple war games and exercises. A near-peer competitor engaged in a hybrid of operations against a partner nation. They first acted to destabilize the country, and then, within the confusion created, they invaded. In response to the partner’s request for assistance, the U.S authorized mobilization and deployment of active and reserve component forces to counter the invasion. The mission was straightforward: retake lost ground, expel the adversary, and restore local government control. This was a task the Army had trained for and was more than capable of successfully executing. It just had to get there. While the partner nation struggled with an actual invasion, a different struggle was taking place in the U.S. homeland. The adversary combined a series of relatively minor cyber, information, and physical disruptions, which taken together, overwhelmed the Army Enterprise. Each act focused on clogging individual systems or processes needed to execute the mobilization and deployment functions.

Cyber-mercenaries, paid in cryptocurrency, attacked the information environment and undermined the communication mechanisms essential for mobilizing the Army. Building on earlier trials in Korea and Europe, a range of false orders were sent to units and individuals. These false orders focused on early entry forces and reserve units needed to open ports and railheads in the United States. Compounding the situation, misleading information was simultaneously placed on social media and the news that indicated the mobilization had been cancelled. These efforts created so much uncertainty in the minds of individual Soldiers over their place of duty, initial musters for key reserve component units ran at less than 40% strength. Days were added to mobilization timelines as it took time for accurate information to be disseminated and formations to build to full strength.

Focused cyber attention was given to individuals with critical enabling jobs – not just commanders or senior NCOs – but those with access to arms rooms and motor pools. Long-standing efforts to collect PII from these individuals allowed the adversary to compromise credit scores, alter social media presence, and target family members. Soldiers with mission-related demands already on their hands, now found themselves unable to use their credit cards, fuel their vehicles, or operate their cell phones. Instead of focusing on getting troops to the battle, they were caught in an array of false social media messages about themselves or their loved ones. Sorting fact from fiction and regaining their financial functionality competed for their time and attention. Time was lost as Soldiers were distracted and overwhelmed. Arms rooms remained locked, access to the motor pool was delayed, and deployments were disrupted.

 

The communities surrounding Army installations also came under attack. Systems below the threshold of “critical,” such as street lights, traffic lights, and railroad crossings, were all locked in the “off” position, making road travel hazardous. The dispatch systems of key civilian first-responders were overwhelmed with misleading calls reporting false accidents, overwhelming response mechanisms and diverting or delaying much needed assistance. Soldiers were prevented from getting to their duty stations or transitioning quickly from affected communities. In parallel, an information warfare campaign was waged with the aim of undermining trust between civilian and military personnel. False narratives about spills of hazardous military materials and soldiers being contaminated by exposure to diseases created by malfunctioning vaccines added to the chaos.

Key utility, water, and energy control systems on or adjacent to Army installations, understandably a “hard” target from the cyber context, were of such importance that they came under near constant attack across all their operations from transmission to customer billing. Only those few installations that had invested in advanced micro-grids, on-site power generation, and storage were able to maintain coherent operations beyond 72 hours. For most installations, backup generators that worked singularly when the maintenance teams were present for annual servicing, cascaded into collective failure when they all operated at once. For the Army, only the 10th and 24th Infantry Divisions were able to deploy, thanks to onsite energy resilience.

Small, but significant physical attacks occurred as well. Standard shipping containers, pieces of luggage, and Amazon Prime boxes were “weaponized” as drone transports, with their cargo activated on command. In the key out-loading ports of Savannah and Galveston, shore cranes were disabled by homemade thermite charges placed on gears and cables by such drones using photo recognition and artificial intelligence. Repairing and verifying the safety of these cranes added days to timelines and disrupted shipping schedules. Other drones deployed, having been “trained” with thousands of photo’s to fly into the air intakes of jet engines, either military or civilian. Only two downed airliners and a few near misses were sufficient to shut down air transportation across the country and initiate a multi-month inspection of all truck stops, docks, airports, and rail yards trying to find the “last” possible container. Perhaps the most effective drone attacks occurred when such drones dispersed chemical agents in municipal water supplies for those communities adjacent to installations or along lines of communication. The effects of these later attacks were compounded by shrewd information warfare operations to generate mass panic. Roads were clogged with evacuees, out-loading operations were curtailed, and key military assets that should have been supporting the deployment were diverted to provide support to civil authorities.

Cumulatively, these cyber, informational, social, and physical attacks within the homeland and across Army installations and formations took their toll. Every step in the deployment and mobilization processes was disrupted and delayed as individuals and units had to work through the fog of friction, confusion, and hysteria that was generated. The Army was gradually overwhelmed and immobilized. In the end, the war for the partner country in Eurasia was lost. The adversary’s attacks on the homeland had given it sufficient time to complete all of its military objectives. The most lethal Army in history was “stuck,” unable to arrive in time. US command authorities now faced a much more difficult military problem and the dilemma of choosing between all out war, or accepting a limited defeat.

There’s a saying from the Northeastern United States about infrastructure. It refers to the tangled mess of roads and paths in New England, specifically Maine. Spoken in the Mainer or “Mainah” accent, it goes:

You cahn’t ghet thah from hehah.”

That was the US Army in 2030. Ignoring its infrastructure and its vulnerabilities at home, it got caught in a Mainah Scenario. This was a classic “Pink Flamingo;” the US Army knew its homeland operations were a vulnerability, but it failed to prepare.

 

There were some attempts to recognize the potential problem:

– The National Defense Strategy of 2018 laid out the following:

It is now undeniable that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary. America is a target, whether from terrorists seeking to attack our citizens; malicious cyber activity against personal, commercial, or government infrastructure; or political and information subversion. New threats to commercial and military uses of space are emerging, while increasing digital connectivity of all aspects of life, business, government, and military creates significant vulnerabilities. During conflict, attacks against our critical defense, government, and economic infrastructure must be anticipated.

– Even earlier (in 2015), The Army’s Energy Security and Sustainability Strategy clearly stated with respect to Army installations:

We will seek to use multi-fuel platforms and infrastructure that can provide flexible operations during energy and water shortages at fixed installations and forward locations. If a subsystem fails or is temporarily unavailable, other parts of the system will continue to operate at an acceptable level until full functionality is restored…. Implement integrated and distributed technologies and procedures to ensure critical systems remain operational in the face of disruptive events…. Advance the capability for systems, installations, personnel, and units to respond to unforeseen disruptions and quickly recover while continuing critical activities.

And despite numerous other examples across industry, academia, and the military, only a few locations, installations, or organizations across the Army embraced the notion of resilience for homeland operations. Installations were not considered a true “weapons system” and were left behind in the modernization process, creating a vulnerability that our enemies could exploit.

Installations are a flock of 156 pink flamingos wading around the beach of national security. They are vulnerable to disruption that would have a very real impact on readiness and the timely application of combat power. With the advance of technology-applications, these threats are not for the Army of tomorrow—they affect the Army today. Let us not get stranded in a Mainah Scenario.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see Dr. Jason R. Dorvee‘s article entitled, A modern Army needs modern installations.”

Dr. Jason R. Dorvee serves as the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s liaison to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations Energy and the Environment (ASA IE&E), where he is assisting with the Installations of the Future Initiative.
Mr. Richard G. Kidd IV serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Strategic Integration, leading the strategic effort to examine options for future Army installations and the strategy development, resource requirements, and overall business transformation processes for the Office of the ASA IE&E.
Mr. John R. Thompson serves as the Strategic Planner, Office of the ASA IE&E, Strategic Integration.

90. “The Tenth Man” — War’s Changing Nature in an AI World

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish yet another in our series of “The Tenth Man” posts (read our previous posts here and here). This Devil’s Advocate or contrarian approach serves as a form of alternative analysis and is a check against group think and mirror imaging.  The Mad Scientist Laboratory offers it as a platform for the contrarians in our network to share their alternative perspectives and analyses regarding the Future Operational Environment. Today’s post is by guest blogger Dr. Peter Layton, challenging the commonly held belief of the persistent and abiding nature of war.]

There’s a debate underway about the nature of war. Some say it’s immutable, others say hogwash; ironically both sides quote Clausewitz for support.[i] Interestingly, Secretary of Defense Mattis, once an ‘immutable’ defender, has now declared he’s not sure anymore, given recent Artificial intelligence (AI) developments.[ii]

 

At the core of the immutable case is the belief that war has always been violent, chaotic, destructive, and murderous – and will thus always be so. Buried within this is the view that wars are won by infantry occupying territory; as Admiral Wylie opined “the ultimate determinant in war is a man on the scene with a gun.”[iii] It is the clash of infantry forces that is decisive, with both sides experiencing the deadly violence of war in a manner that would have been comprehendible by Athenian hoplites 2,500 years ago.

Technology though really has changed this. Firstly, the lethality of modern weapons has emptied out the battlefield.[iv] What can be ‘seen’ by sensors of diverse types can be targeted by increasingly precise direct and indirect fires. The Russo-Ukraine war in the Donbas hints that in future wars between state-based military forces, tactical units will need to remain unseen to survive and that they will now ‘occupy’ territory principally through long-range firepower.[v] Secondly, Phillip Meilinger makes a strong case that drone crews firing missiles at insurgents from 3,000 miles away or navies blockading countries and staving their people into submission do not experience war the same as those hoplite infantry did years ago.[vi] The experience of violence in some wars has become one-sided, while wars are now increasingly waged against civilians well behind any defensive front lines.

Source: Griffith Asia Institute

AI may deepen both trends. AI has the potential to sharply enhance the defense continuing to empty out the battlefield, turning it into a no-man’s zone where automated systems and semi-autonomous devices wage attrition warfare.[vii]   If both sides have intelligent machines, war may become simply a case of machines being violent to other machines. In a re-run of World War One, strategic stalemate would seem the likely outcome with neither side able to win meaningful battlefield victories.[viii]

If so, the second aspect of war’s changing nature comes into play. If a nation’s borders cannot be penetrated and its critical centers of gravity attacked using kinetic means, perhaps non-kinetic means are the offensive style of the future.  Indeed, World War One’s battlefield stalemate was resolved as the naval blockade caused significant civilian starvation and the collapse of the homefront.

The application of information warfare by strategic competitors against the US political system hints at new cyber techniques that AI may greatly enhance.[ix] Instead of destroying another’s capabilities and national infrastructures, they might be exploited and used as bearers to spread confusion and dissent amongst the populace. In this century, starvation may not be necessary to collapse the homefront; AI may offer more efficacious methods. War may no longer be violent and murderous but it may still be as Clausewitz wrote a “true political instrument.”[x] Secretary Mattis may be right; perhaps war’s nature is not immutable but rather ripe for our disruption and innovation.

If you enjoyed this guest post, please also read proclaimed Mad Scientist Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos’ paper addressing this topic, entitled War is Having an Identity Crisis, hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Dr. Peter Layton is a Visiting Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University. A former RAAF Group Captain, he has extensive defense experience, including in the Pentagon and at National Defense University. He holds a doctorate in grand strategy. He is the author of the book ‘Grand Strategy.’

 


[i] For the immutable, see Rob Taber (2018), Character vs. Nature of Warfare: What We Can Learn (Again) from Clausewitz, Mad Scientist Laboratory, 27 August 2018.  For the mutable, see Phillip S. Meilinger (2010), The Mutable Nature of War, Air & Space Power Journal, Winter 2010, pp 25-28. For Clausewitz (both sides), see Dr. A.J. Echevarria II (2012), Clausewitz and Contemporary War: The Debate over War’s Nature, 2nd Annual Terrorism & Global Security Conference 2012.

[ii] Aaron Mehta (2018), AI makes Mattis question ‘fundamental’ beliefs about war, C4ISRNET, 17 February 2018.

[iii] J.C. Wylie (1967), Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, p. 85.

[iv] James J Schneider (1987), The theory of the empty battlefield, The RUSI Journal, Vol. 132, Issue 3, pp. 37-44.

[v] Brandon Morgan (2018), Artillery in Tomorrow’s Battlefield: Maximizing the Power of the King of Battle, Modern War Institute, 25 September 2018.

[vi] The Mutable Nature of War: The Author Replies, Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2011, pp 21-22.  And also: Phillip S. Meilinger (2010), The Mutable Nature of War, Air & Space Power Journal, Winter 2010, pp 25-28.

[vii] Peter Layton (2018), Our New Model Robot Armies, Small Wars Journal, 7 August 2018.

[viii] Peter Layton (2018), Algorithm Warfare: Applying Artificial Intelligence to Warfighting, Canberra: Air Power Development Centre, pp. 31-32.

[ix] Renee Diresta (2018), The Information War Is On. Are We Ready For It? , Wired, 3 August.

[x] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, Edited and Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (1984), Princeton: Princeton University Press, p.87.

89. “The Queue”

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present our September edition of “The Queue” – a monthly post listing the most compelling articles, books, podcasts, videos, and/or movies that the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Mad Scientist Initiative has come across during the past month. In this anthology, we address how each of these works either informs or challenges our understanding of the Future Operational Environment. We hope that you will add “The Queue” to your essential reading, listening, or watching each month!]

 

1. Can you tell a fake video from a real one? and How hard is it to make a believable deepfake? by Tim Leslie, Nathan Hoad, and Ben Spraggon, Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) News, 26 and 27 September 2018, respectively.

and

Deep Video Portraits by Hyeongwoo Kim, Pablo Garrido, Ayush Tewari, Weipeng Xu, Justus Thies, Matthias Nießner, Patrick Perez, Christian Richardt, Michael Zollhöfer, and Christian Theobalt, YouTube, 17 May 2018.

Mad Scientist has previously sounded the alarm regarding the advent and potential impact of “DeepFakes” – deceptive files created using artificial neural networks and graphics processors that yield nearly undetectably fake imagery and videos. When distributed via Social Media, these files have the potential to “go viral” — duping, deceiving, and manipulating whole populations of viewers.

ABC’s first news piece provides several video samples, enabling you to test your skills in trying to detect which of the videos provided are real or fake. ABC then goes on to warn that “We are careening toward an infocalypse,” where we may soon find ourselves in living in “A world without truth”.

Source: ABC News

In their second piece, ABC delves into the step-by-step mechanics of how DeepFakes are created, using former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull as a use case, and posits placing this fabricated imagery into different, possibly compromising, scenes, manipulating reality for a credulous public.

The Deep Video Portraits YouTube video (snippets of which were used to illustrate both of the aforementioned ABC news pieces) was presented at the Generations SIGGRAPH conference, convened in Vancouver, BC, on 12-16 August 2018. In conjunction with the ABC articles, the combined narration and video in Deep Video Portraits provide a comprehensive primer on how photo realistic, yet completely synthetic (i.e., fictional) re-animations can be accomplished using source and target videos.

Source: Deep Video Portraits – SIGGRAPH 2018 via YouTube /
Christian Theobalt

When combined with the ubiquity of Social Media, these public domain AI algorithms (e.g., FakeApp, DerpFakes, DeepFakes) are democratizing an incredibly disruptive capability. The U.S. must develop and implement means (e.g., education) to “inoculate” its citizenry and mitigate this potentially devastating Gray Zone weapon.

Attacking an adversary’s most important center of gravity — the spirit of its people — no longer requires massive bombing runs or reams of propaganda. All it takes is a smartphone and a few idle seconds. And anyone can do it.” — P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking in LikeWar – The Weaponization of Social Media

 

2.The first “social network” of brains lets three people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads,” by Emerging Technology from the arXiv, MIT Technology Review, 29 September 2018.

In 2015, scientists at University of Washington in Seattle connected two people via a brain to brain interface. The connected individuals were able to play a 20 questions game. Now these scientists have announced the first group brain to brain network. They call the network the “BrainNet” and the individuals were able to play a collaborative Tetris-like game.

Source: BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for
Direct Collaboration Between Brains / https://arxiv.org/pdf/1809.08632.pdf

To date, our future operational environment has described the exploding Internet of Things and even the emerging concept of an Internet of Battle Things. The common idea here is connecting things – sensors, weapons, and AI to a human in the or on the loop. The idea of adding the brain to this network opens incredible opportunities and vulnerabilities. We should start asking ourselves questions about this idea: 1) Could humans control connected sensors and weapons with thought alone, 2) Could this be a form of secure communications in the future, and 3) Could the brain be hacked and what vulnerabilities does this add? (Read Battle of the Brain) There are many more questions, but for now maybe we should broaden our ideas about connectivity to the Internet of Everything and Everyone.

 

3.Scientists get funding to grow neural networks in petri dishes,” Lehigh University, 14 September 2018.

An overview of running image recognition on living neuron testbed / Source: Xiaochen Guo / Lehigh University

The future of computing may not necessarily be silicon or quantum-based — it may be biological! The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded an interdisciplinary team of biologists and computer engineers $500,000. This is in support of Understanding the Brain and the BRAIN Initiative, a coordinated research effort that seeks to accelerate the development of new neurotechnologies. The intent is to help computer engineers develop new ways to think about the design of solid state machines, and may influence other brain-related research using optogenetics, a biological technique that uses light to control cells —  “spike train stimuli” — similar to a two-dimensional bar code. The encoding of the spike train will then be optically applied to a group of networked in vitro neurons with optogenetic labels. This hybrid project could lead to a better understanding of how organic computers and brains function.  This suggests a radically different vision of future computing where, potentially, everything from buildings to computers could be grown in much the same way that we “grow” plants or animals today.

 

4.These “Robotic Skins” Turn Everyday Objects into Robots,” by Rachael Lallensack, Smithsonian.com, 19 September 2018, reviewed by Ms. Marie Murphy.

Source: Yale via Smithsonian.com

A team of roboticists out of Yale University published a report announcing the development of OmniSkins, pliable material with embedded sensors that can animate ordinary, inert objects. OmniSkins turn ordinary objects into robots on contact. These removable sheets can be reused and reconfigured for a variety of functions, from making foam tubes crawl like worms to creating a device which can grab and hold onto objects out of static foam arms. Initially developed for NASA, demonstrations reveal that OmniSkins can make a stuffed animal walk when wrapped around its legs and correct the posture of a person when embedded in their shirt. While these are fun examples, the realistic military applications are vast and varied. OmniSkins could represent a new development in performance-enhancing exoskeletons, enabling them to be lighter and more flexible. These sheets can turn ordinary objects into useful machines in a matter of minutes and can be modified with cameras or other sensors to fit the needs of the mission.

 

5.Movement-enhancing exoskeletons may impair decision making,” by Jennifer Chu,  MIT, 5 October 2018.

PowerWalk / Source: Bionic Power Inc. via MIT

Researchers from MIT have discovered that the use of exoskeletons to enhance speed, power, and endurance could have a negative effect on attention, decision-making, and cognition. The researchers found that 7 out of 12 subjects actually performed worse on cognitive tasks while wearing an exoskeleton through an obstacle course. The researchers tested them on several cognitive tasks from responding to visual signals to following their squad leader at a defined distance. They concluded that more than half of the subjects wearing the exoskeleton showed a marked decline in reaction time to the various tests. This presents an interesting challenge for technology developers. Does a positive solution in one area negatively affect another, seemingly unrelated, area? Would the subjects in the test have performed better if they had prolonged training with the exoskeletons as opposed to a few days? If so, this presents an additional burden and training demand on Soldiers and the Army. Will a trade study involving not just physical measures, but cognitive ones now need to be integrated into all new Army technology developments and what does this do to the development timeline?

 

6.Researchers Create “Spray On” 2-D Antennas,” by Michael Koziol, IEEE Spectrum, 21 September 2018.

Drexel’s MXene “Antenna Spray Paint” / Source: YouTube via IEEE Spectrum

Researchers from Drexel University have developed a novel solution to reducing the size and weight of traditional antennas. Using a metal like titanium or molybdenum, bonded with carbides or nitrides called MXene, they were able to produce a spray-on antenna solution. By dissolving the MXene in water, and using a commercial off-the-shelf spray gun, one can rapidly design, customize, and deploy a working antenna. The spray-on antenna is 100nm thick (versus a traditional copper antenna that is 3,000nm) and has a higher conductivity than carbon nanotubes – a previous solution to the small and thin antenna problem.  On a hyperactive battlefield where Soldiers may need on-demand solutions in a compressed timeline, MXene spray-on antennas may be a potential game changer. How much time, materials, and processing can be saved in an operational environment if a Soldier can quickly produce a low profile antenna to a custom specification? What does this mean for logistics if repair parts for antennas no longer need to be shipped from outside the theater of operations?

 

7.NASA’s Asteroid-Sampling Spacecraft Begins Its Science Work Today,” by Mike Wall, Space.com, 11 September 2018.

NASA Infographic on the OSIRIS-REx Mission / Source: https://www.space.com/11808-nasa-asteroid-mission-osiris-rex-1999-rq36-infographic.html

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft commenced studying near-Earth asteroid Bennu’s dust plumes from afar on 11 September 2018. Once the probe achieves orbit around the ~500m-wide space rock on 31 December 2018, it will further explore that body’s dust, dirt, and gravel. Then, in mid-2020, OSIRIS-REx will swoop down to the surface to collect and return a sample of material to Earth in a special return capsule. While this piece represents very cool extraterrestrial science, it is also significant for what it bodes for the future Operational Environment, Multi-Dimensional Operations in the Space Domain, and our newly established Space Force.

“The $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission will … contribute to planetary-defense efforts. For example, the probe’s observations should help researchers better understand the forces that shape potentially dangerous asteroids’ paths through space… (Bennu itself is potentially hazardous; there’s a very small chance that it could hit Earth in the late 22nd century.)”

OSIRIS-REx is not the only probe sampling asteroids – Japan’s Hayabus2 spacecraft is preparing to touch down on the asteroid Ryugu this month. NASA has estimated the total value of resources locked in asteroids is equivalent to $100 Billion for every man, woman, and child on Earth.

This century’s new space race to capitalize on and exploit our solar system’s heretofore untapped mineral wealth, while defending critical space assets, will demand that the U.S. budgets for, develops, and maintains future space-based capabilities (initially unmanned, but eventually manned, as required by mission) to protect and defend our national and industrial space interests.

 

8.Soldiers who obliterate enemy fighters with drones will be guided on the morality of their actions by specially trained army chaplains,” by Roy Tingle, Daily Mail Online, 25 September 2018.

Source: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DIVIDS)

In possibly an all-time record for the worst news article title, it has been revealed that the British Army is training ethicists to teach soldiers about the morality of killing with drones. Chaplains will spend one year studying and obtaining a Master’s degree in Ethics at Cardiff University so that they can instruct officers on the moral dilemmas involved in killing an enemy from thousands of miles away. Officials have long been concerned about the emotional trauma suffered by drone pilots, as well as the risk that they will be more likely to use deadly force if the confrontation is being played out on a computer screen. This is about the speed of future combat and the decisive action that will be needed on the battlefield in the future. War will remain a human endeavor, but our Soldiers will be stressed to exercise judgement and fight at the ever increasing machine speed. The Army must be prepared to enter new ethical territory and make difficult decisions about the creation and employment of cutting edge technologies. While the Army holds itself to a high ethical standard, new converging technologies may come at an ethical cost. Updating guidance, policy, and law must keep up with what is employed on the battlefield. Many of these ethical dilemmas and questions lack definite answers and are ethical considerations that most of our future adversaries are unlikely to consider.

If you read, watch, or listen to something this month that you think has the potential to inform or challenge our understanding of the Future Operational Environment, please forward it (along with a brief description of why its potential ramifications are noteworthy to the greater Mad Scientist Community of Action) to our attention at:  usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil — we may select it for inclusion in our next edition of “The Queue”!

Crowdsourcing: The Future of Artificial Intelligence on the Battlefield!

Mad Scientist wants to hack your brains regarding the Future of Artificial Intelligence on the Battlefield!

Send us your brilliant ideas NLT 23 October 2018, binned into one of the following four categories:

  • Data Analytics, Sensors, Intelligence, and Effects:

– In what ways can AI be used to support data analytics in complex and cluttered environments?

– In what ways can AI be used to intelligently and/or autonomously assist in fusion between intelligence analysts/systems and sensors? (Help separate the wheat from the chaff)

– In what ways can AI be used to autonomously or semi-autonomously scale and deliver effects (e.g., fires)?

  • Decision Making:

In what ways can AI be used to support human decision-making in high-stake, time-critical situations with ambiguous or incomplete information?

  • Logistics:

In what ways can AI be used to support logistics in areas like supply chain management, just-in-time-support (predictive), and demand reduction?

  • The Kitchen Sink:

In addition to the bins listed above, in what other ways can AI enhance Army operations, from garrison / home station, forward deployed, and on the battlefield (e.g., training, triage / medical treatment, etc.)?

Send your submissions to us:

  • Either by eMail at: usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil

or

  • by Twitter using: #AIBattlefield.

Thank you!

88. Biostorm: A Story of Future War

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the following excerpt from Anthony DeCapite‘s short story of the same title.  This story was written, based on ideas developed in the SciTech Futures Technology Foresight Game:  Bio Convergence and the Soldier of 2050.  This game was conducted by the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, and supported by the SciTech Futures Technology Effort under the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Research & Technology). The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect official views or policies of the United States Army.]

THE YEAR IS 2042…

The US and its remaining NATO allies are engaged in a limited war with the Mektigfolk, an ultra-nationalist techno-state that emerged from northern Europe during the reactionary upheavals that swept the continent in 2026.

The US has deployed a Joint Task Force to protect crucial rare-earth mining operations on a vast ice sheet in the Barents Sea.

Captain Steven Park and his infantry company, of the 10th Mountain Division, must protect an engineering detachment that will build a Combat Outpost around the Strand, a deep-sea mining facility.

Art Credit:  Daniel Brewer

It was good to be outside the wire. As Alpha Company commander, Captain Steven Park had been stuck within the confines of FOB Nordau for weeks while his Platoon Leaders got to go tramping around the ice shelf, conducting recon and planting sensors.

Not today. Nordau was 150 klicks behind them. Park had his company in a wedge formation, protecting the elements of 7th Engineer Battalion that followed them in a column. Their mission: to provide security for 7th Engineers while they built a Combat Outpost at their destination, a mining facility known as the Strand.

The Strand perched on the edge of the shelf, overlooking the Barents Sea. Right in the Mektig’s backyard. Beneath the facility was a treasure trove of a Rare Earth Element crucial in military guidance-and-control systems. With China throttling the global REE market, securing viable sources had become a NATO priority. [i]

Park couldn’t care less about REEs. He had trained host nation security forces and got in firefights with irregular fighters, but he had never faced a near-peer threat before. America had not done so in almost a century. Park was eager to prove his company was up to the task.

The long distance and extreme cold of the mission meant that every one of his Soldiers was packed in a Stryker, JLTV, or mounted on a snowmobile. The boys and girls of the 7th filled bulldozers, heavy equipment transports, and cargo trucks. From the view of their ISR quadcopter drone – the ‘Buzzard’ – the mass of vehicles looked like a deformed caterpillar inching across a white desert.

Park had shunned his JLTV seat and chosen a snowmobile, wanting to brave the same cold that his rifle squads faced here at the head of the caterpillar. There had been no sign of enemies for the entire movement, though their Buzzard, with its array of sensors, had detected a group of sea lions two klicks from the right flank. The latest intel said the nearest Mektig unit was 200 klicks southeast, moving to fortify Franz Josef.

“Six, this is One-Six.” Lieutenant Rowe, leader of First Platoon, was on the hook for him. “Buzzard’s detecting multiple objects descending toward us. Got the Javelins on it.”

“Copy.” Park switched to the formation-wide channel: “Company, prepare for air-to-surface attack.”

The formation dispersed and exposed Soldiers piled into skinned vehicles. Park jumped off his snowmobile and SPC Logan helped him into a Stryker.

Art Credit:  Scott Carter

Park turned on the Augmented Reality display built into his HUD goggles, and a Picture-In-Picture materialized in the top right corner of his vision. It showed a computerized dome view of the airspace over their formation, with metadata: 24 spherical objects dropping like stones. [ii]
Park switched to optical view and zoomed in – softball-sized aluminum bomblets.

“Incoming!” The shout was repeated over the hook and echoed across the icy landscape.

Pff-pff-pff! Instead of exploding, the bomblets impacted in the snow. Then, there was a hiss, and green-brown mist erupted from the bomblets, enveloping the entire formation.

Shouts of “Gas-gas-gas!” crackled over the hook and Park’s Soldiers took out and put on their gas masks. Park tightened the straps on his own, securing it. Still, his nostrils filled with a rotten egg smell. Park felt no effects, and the bio-feedback readout in his HUD showed his Soldiers breathing normally. It wasn’t a chemical attack, at least not the kind Park feared.

First, 7th Engineer’s dozer ground to a halt in the ice. Then, the Stryker he was in stopped.

“Keep moving. We need to clear this gas.” Park ordered.

“It’s not me, sir! The engine died.” The driver replied.

Park heard a squeal of brakes, then there was a horrendous crunch of metal as something slammed into them, knocking Park’s helmeted head into SPC Logan’s.

Park used his AR PIP to get the bird’s eye view. A heavy equipment transport had slammed into his Stryker, and all around, vehicles were slipping and sliding to a stop.

“That gas attack disabled all the vehicles!”

“Prepare for contact,” Park said.

Moments later, the pops of small-arms fire fulfilled his prophecy, echoing from the rear.

“Contact rear!” In his HUD’s PIP, Park saw a platoon-sized element of dismounted Mektig fighters firing on the rear of his formation. Park ran out of the immobilized Stryker.

“Defensive formation! 3rd and 4th squad, on me!” Park said, and led them against the ambushers, using vehicles as cover. At this point, that was all they were good for.

Shoof! An enemy RPG hit a JLTV, sending hot metal skittering across the ice.

He heard the hollow pings of rounds hitting a Stryker, and the shouts of “Contact!” that followed, but the sounds came from the front of the formation. The Mektigs had them in a pincer attack.

Bastards came here to wipe us out, Park thought, but kept that bitter realization from the hook.

“Focus fire missions on lead element attackers. We’re closer to the objective than to Nordau. We gotta break through,” he ordered.

Park tried to hail FOB Nordau for a QRF and MEDEVAC, but could not get through. He tried to call for air support next, and again could not get through. The enemy was jamming them – all they had was the company frequency, and that was crackling with casualty reports from his PLs.

An RPG exploded a few yards from Park, lifting a snowmobile off the ground and ripping Sergeant Jones apart.

 

 

Jones. It hit Park like a punch in the gut, a sickening jolt that threatened to overwhelm him.

Smoke, steam, and the green-brown mist obscured the area.

Park tapped his HUD for the Buzzard’s view, activating multispectral imaging in the AR view, allowing him to see everything on the battlefield, through haze and ice and flesh.

SGT Meadows, in the Stryker Fire Support Vehicle, beat Park to the punch, designating a target that appeared instantly in every Soldier’s AR HUD, and another team in a Stryker mortar carrier launched three rounds in swift succession, pounding the attackers at the front end. SGT Meadows designated another target, and mortar rounds, grenades, and .50 caliber bullets ripped into that arm of the pincer. Then, in concert with his AR-enabled Soldiers, Park pushed back the other arm of the pincer, the attackers at the rear. There was no time to waste, and he got on the hook with his leaders:

“Account for your team, give me SITREPS, and get ready to double time to the objective.”

If you enjoyed this excerpt, Mr. DeCapite‘s full length article may be read at SciTech Futures, or at Small Wars Journal.

Also see Mr. Frank Prautzsch‘s guest blog post, Our Arctic—The World’s Pink Flamingo and Black Swan Bird Sanctuary, addressing the coming competition for Arctic resources.

The SciTech Futures Technology Foresight Game: Bio Convergence and the Soldier of 2050 was facilitated in conjunction with the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference, co-sponsored by SRI International at their campus at Menlo Park CA, on 8-9 March 2018.  Read this Conference’s final report here, including Annex 3 documenting the comprehensive results of the SciTech Futures Technology Foresight Game.

Click here to learn more about USC ICT’s SciTech Futures Technology Effort and engage with their next Technology Foresight exercise.

Anthony DeCapite is a writer and creative content manager at USC ICT. He served in the Marine Corps as a Combat Videographer and Video Chief, and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant (E-5). A graduate of USC’s Writing for Screen and Television Program, he uses his Marine Corps experiences and creative chops to write and produce compelling experiences.


ANNOTATED ENDNOTES

[i] Beneath the facility was a treasure trove of a Rare Earth Element… With China throttling the global REE market, securing viable sources had become a NATO priority.

Rare Earth Minerals: Developing a Comprehensive Approach Could Help DOD Better Manage National Security Risks in the Supply Chain,” GAO-16-161, Government Accountability Office Report, February 2016.

China can’t control the market in rare earth elements because they aren’t all that rare,” James Vincent, The Verge, April 27, 2018, accessed July 12, 2018.

As of this writing, China produces approximately 90 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals. Rare earth elements are “easy to find” but “difficult to produce” (Vincent). This story posits a future in which the viable veins of certain REEs are scarce, a reasonable projection given the ever-growing global demand for new electronic devices.

[ii] Park turned on the Augmented Reality display built into his HUD goggles, and a Picture-In-Picture materialized in the top right corner of his vision.

SciTech Futures Technology Foresight Game: Bio convergence and the Soldier of 2050,” Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Research and Technology), June 11-16, 2018, accessed July 12, 2018.

In the SciTech Futures Technology Foresight Game, players were asked to invest virtual money “on behalf of” the U.S. Army, potential future adversaries, and society at large. Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality was a Top 10 idea by investment for the US Army. The player who submitted the idea, ghorstkj, noted that AR/VR needs to be a in the hands of Soldiers for maximum utility, instead of simply being fielded in a Tactical Operations Center or remaining highly developed in the commercial space.

Sydney J Freedberg Jr. “HUD 3.0: Army to test Augmented Reality for Infantry in 18 Months,” Breaking Defense, March 29, 2018, accessed July 12, 2018.

The US Army is developing AR-enabled HUDs for Infantry Soldiers as of this writing.

87. LikeWar — The Weaponization of Social Media

[Editor’s Note: Regular readers will note that one of our enduring themes is the Internet’s emergence as a central disruptive innovation. With the publication of proclaimed Mad Scientist P.W. Singer and co-author Emerson T. Brooking’s LikeWar – The Weaponization of Social Media, Mad Scientist Laboratory addresses what is arguably the most powerful manifestation of the internet — Social Media — and how it is inextricably linked to the future of warfare. Messrs. Singer and Brooking’s new book is essential reading if today’s Leaders (both in and out of uniform) are to understand, defend against, and ultimately wield the non-kinetic, yet violently manipulative effects of Social Media.]

“The modern internet is not just a network, but an ecosystem of 4 billion souls…. Those who can manipulate this swirling tide, steer its direction and flow, can…. accomplish astonishing evil. They can foment violence, stoke hate, sow falsehoods, incite wars, and even erode the pillars of democracy itself.”

As noted in The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, Social Media and the Internet of Things have spawned a revolution that has connected “all aspects of human engagement where cognition, ideas, and perceptions, are almost instantaneously available.” While this connectivity has been a powerfully beneficial global change agent, it has also amplified human foibles and biases. Authors Singer and Brookings note that humans by nature are social creatures that tend to gravitate into like-minded groups. We “Like” and share things online that resonate with our own beliefs. We also tend to believe what resonates with us and our community of friends.

Whether the cause is dangerous (support for a terrorist group), mundane (support for a political party), or inane (belief that the earth is flat), social media guarantees that you can find others who share your views and even be steered to them by the platforms’ own algorithms… As groups of like-minded people clump together, they grow to resemble fanatical tribes, trapped in echo chambers of their own design.”

Weaponization of Information

The advent of Social Media less than 20 years ago has changed how we wage war.

Attacking an adversary’s most important center of gravity — the spirit of its people — no longer requires massive bombing runs or reams of propaganda. All it takes is a smartphone and a few idle seconds. And anyone can do it.”

Nation states and non-state actors alike are leveraging social media to manipulate like-minded populations’ cognitive biases to influence the dynamics of conflict. This continuous on-line fight for your mind represents “not a single information war but thousands and potentially millions of them.”

 

LikeWar provides a host of examples describing how contemporary belligerents are weaponizing Social Media to augment their operations in the physical domain. Regarding the battle to defeat ISIS and re-take Mosul, authors Singer and Brookings note that:

Social media had changed not just the message, but the dynamics of conflict. How information was being accessed, manipulated, and spread had taken on new power. Who was involved in the fight, where they were located, and even how they achieved victory had been twisted and transformed. Indeed, if what was online could swing the course of a battle — or eliminate the need for battle entirely — what, exactly, could be considered ‘war’ at all?

Even American gang members are entering the fray as super-empowered individuals, leveraging social media to instigate killings via “Facebook drilling” in Chicago or “wallbanging” in Los Angeles.

And it is only “a handful of Silicon Valley engineers,” with their brother and sister technocrats in Beijing, St. Petersburg, and a few other global hubs of Twenty-first Century innovation that are forging and then unleashing the code that is democratizing this virtual warfare.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Enabled Information Operations

Seeing is believing, right? Not anymore! Previously clumsy efforts to photo-shop images and fabricate grainy videos and poorly executed CGI have given way to sophisticated Deepfakes, using AI algorithms to create nearly undetectable fake images, videos, and audio tracks that then go viral on-line to dupe, deceive, and manipulate. This year, FakeApp was launched as free software, enabling anyone with an artificial neural network and a graphics processor to create and share bogus videos via Social Media. Each Deepfake video that:

“… you watch, like, or share represents a tiny ripple on the information battlefield, privileging one side at the expense of others. Your online attention and actions are thus both targets and ammunition in an unending series of skirmishes.”

Just as AI is facilitating these distortions in reality, the race is on to harness AI to detect and delete these fakes and prevent “the end of truth.”

If you enjoyed this post:

– Listen to the accompanying playlist composed by P.W. Singer while reading LikeWar.

– Watch P.W. Singer’s presentation on Meta Trends – Technology, and a New Kind of Race from Day 2 of the Mad Scientist Strategic Security Environment in 2025 and Beyond Conference at Georgetown University, 9 August 2016.

– Read more about virtual warfare in the following Mad Scientist Laboratory blog posts:

— MAJ Chris Telley’s Influence at Machine Speed: The Coming of AI-Powered Propaganda

— COL(R) Stefan J. Banach’s Virtual War – A Revolution in Human Affairs (Parts I and II)

— Mad Scientist Intiative’s Personalized Warfare

— Ms. Marie Murphy’s Virtual Nations: An Emerging Supranational Cyber Trend

— Lt Col Jennifer Snow’s Alternet: What Happens When the Internet is No Longer Trusted?

86. Alternet: What Happens When the Internet is No Longer Trusted?

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present a post by Mad Scientist and guest blogger Lt Col Jennifer “JJ” Snow, addressing the emergence of a post-internet world.]

The Internet of the 1990s was about choosing your own adventure. The Internet of right now, over the last 10 years, is about somebody else choosing your adventure for you.” – Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The internet was designed in its earliest iteration to provide a new form of communication, a way for people to connect, to share information in real-time, to provide a positive tool for collaboration and learning. Looking back at those early ideas, many of the founding fathers of the internet express disappointment in what it has become: a place where privacy and people are abused, information is wielded like a weapon, nations and corporations alike battle each other and other nefarious actors in the digital shadows, and fake news dominates the taglines in hopes of grabbing the most dollars per click. In light of what technologists, ethical hackers, and the public view as a potentially irrecoverable situation, many are suggesting starting over and abandoning the internet as we know it in favor of alternative internet options or “Alternet.” [1]

These initiatives are nascent but are increasingly gaining traction as they offer users the option to manage their own identity and information online; choose what they do and don’t want to share digitally; provide transparency as a currency, meaning users can view rules, policies, and protocols openly at any time and see when changes are made real-time; and allow users to be their own data authority. While progress in this space will be slow but steady over the next two years, expect that “Alternets” will become a publicly recognized substitute to the big internet companies in five years and a commonplace feature of the web in 10 years as users become more disenchanted, distrustful, and decide they want greater control, attribution, or anonymity as needed, and desire an internet that meets their norms, cultural, and community preferences.

There are several interesting challenges that come with the fracturing of the internet in this manner.

First, Alternets will be more insular, require individual verification to join, and users will need to buy special equipment like a community specific encrypted router or use a particular variant of the blockchain to access the web.

Secondly, Alternets may serve to fracture the internet itself in interesting ways that could impact how data and users are able to digitally traverse the globe.

Third, Alternets will provide both the attribution many desire in social media to stop cyber bullying, scammers, and fake news, and the anonymity features that allow both dissident and terror groups to operate safely in virtual spaces. As with all technologies, there will always be opportunities for both positive and malicious use.

Fourth, the development and spread of Alternets may serve to further polarize various interests, organizations, and nations as like-minded communities will group together rather than strive to engage in constructive discourse, further reducing the opportunity for bridging entities to be effective negotiators.

Fifth, such online fracturing may also manifest physically in real life leading to conflict, both digital and physical, and may enhance the weaponization of cyber in new ways to include citizen cyber militia actively operating in defense of their communities and/or their nation or offensive attacks by nations operating from their own “Alternet” separate from the existing DNS system and not regulated and not easily targetable by competitor nations, thus limiting their ability to counterstrike and creating an overmatch situation. [2]

Current examples of “Alternets” that exist today include the private citizen efforts of the Metacurrency Project called Holo; the Russian independent internet for the BRICS block of nations; the PRC alternative which has also been installed in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Vietnam; BitDust, a decentralized, encrypted, anonymous storage and communication solution; Mastodon a decentralized, personally hosted, microblogging solution used in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia; and Hyperboria which was born out of the DarkNet and is an encrypted, distributed, peer-to-peer IPv6 network with Distributed Hash Table (DHT)-based source routing.

A full listing of “Alternet” projects and tools can be found in the footnotes. [3]

To learn more about the security ramifications associated with the rise of Alternets, read the following blog posts:

The Future of the Cyber Domain

Virtual Nations: An Emerging Supranational Cyber Trend, by Marie Murphy

JJ Snow is an Air Force Lt Colonel assigned as the U.S. Special Operations Command Innovation Officer and the J5 Donovan Group Future Plans and Strategy Deputy Director. In her current role, JJ serves as the government representative for technology outreach and engagement on behalf of the command and 756 interagency action officers spanning 40 different government agencies.

She is responsible for maintaining a network of non-traditional experts across industry, academia and ethical hackers/technologists to provide government with critical access, expertise and capacity across a broad spectrum of technologies to rapidly identify best of breed while also proactively responding to potential threat aspects of concern to Special Operations and national security. She supports senior government leadership in process innovation, innovation planning in big government, and the development of smart technology policy and advises senior government representatives on emerging disruptive technologies.

She holds a MS Degree in Defense Analysis with distinction from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and a MA from American Military University in Strategic Intelligence with honors.


[1] Saldana et al., “Alternative Networks: Toward Global Access to the Internet for All.” IEEE Communications Magazine, vol. 55, no. 9, pp. 187-193, 2017.
Lafrance, Adrienne; “The Promise of a New Internet.” The Atlantic (10 JUN 2014)
Finley, Klint; “The Pied Piper’s New Internet Isn’t Just Possible – It’s Almost Here.” Wired (1 JUN 2017)

[2] Eric Harris-Braun, Nicolas Luck, Arthur Brock; “Holochain: Scalable Agent-Centric Distributed Computing.” Holo (15 FEB 2018)
Degurin, Mack; “Russia’s Alternate Internet.” NY Magazine (13 JUL 2018)
Sacks, Sam; “Beijing Wants to Rewrite the Rules of the Internet.” The Atlantic (18 JUN 2018)

[3] The following links are included to provide the reader with the options of exploring some additional alternative internet options that exist and are in use today. A big thank you to Ross Jones in recognition for his detailed GitHub Wiki on this subject which is captured in the last link concerning alternative-internet solutions and tools:  https://hyperboria.net/, https://github.com/redecentralize/alternative-internet

85. Benefits, Vulnerabilities, and the Ethics of Soldier Enhancement

[Editor’s Note: The United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at their Menlo Park, CA, campus on 8-9 March 2018, where participants discussed the advent of new biotechnologies and the associated benefits, vulnerabilities, and ethics associated with Soldier enhancement for the Army of the Future.  The following post is an excerpt from this conference’s final report.]

Source:  Max Pixel

Advances in synthetic biology likely will enhance future Soldier performance – speed, strength, endurance, and resilience – but will bring with it vulnerabilities, such as genomic targeting, that can be exploited by an adversary and/or potentially harm the individual undergoing the enhancement.

 

Emerging synthetic biology tools – e.g., CRISPR, Talon, and ZFN – present an opportunity to engineer Soldiers’ DNA and enhance their abilities. Bioengineering is becoming easier and cheaper as a bevy of developments are reducing biotechnology transaction costs in gene reading, writing, and editing. [1] Due to the ever-increasing speed and lethality of the future battlefield, combatants will need cognitive and physical enhancement to survive and thrive.

Cognitive enhancement could make Soldiers more lethal, more decisive, and perhaps more resilient. Using neurofeedback, a process that allows a user to see their brain activity in real-time, one can identify ideal brain states, and use them to enhance an individual’s mental performance. Through the mapping and presentation of identified expert brains, novices can rapidly improve their acuity after just a few training sessions. [2] Further, there are studies being conducted that explore the possibility of directly emulating those expert brain states with non-invasive EEG caps that could improve performance almost immediately. [3]  Dr. Amy Kruse, the Chief Scientific Officer at the Platypus Institute, referred to this phenomenon as “sitting on a gold mine of brains.”

There is also the potential to change and improve Soldier’s physical attributes. Scientists can develop drugs, specific dietary plans, and potentially use genetic editing to improve speed, strength, agility, and endurance.

Source: Andrew Herr, CEO Helicase

In order to fully leverage the capability of human performance enhancement, Andrew Herr, CEO of Helicase and an Adjunct Fellow at CNAS, suggested that human performance R&D be moved out of the medical field and become its own research area due to its differing objectives and the convergence between varying technologies.

Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors are already trying to enhance themselves with commercial products – often containing unknown or unsafe ingredients – so it is incumbent on the U.S. military to, at the very least, help those who want to improve.

However, a host of new vulnerabilities, at the genetic level, accompany this revolutionary leap in human evolution. If one can map the human genome and more thoroughly scan and understand the brain, they can target genomes and brains in the same ways. Soldiers could become incredibly vulnerable at the genomic level, forcing the Army to not only protect Soldiers using body armor and armored vehicles, but also protect their identities, genomes, and physiologies.

Adversaries will exploit all biological enhancements to gain competitive advantage over U.S. forces. Targeted genome editing technology such as CRISPR will enable adversarial threats to employ super-empowered Soldiers on the battlefield and target specific populations with bioweapons. U.S. adversaries may use technologies recklessly to achieve short term gains with no consideration of long range effects. [4] [5]

There are numerous ethical questions that come with the enhancement of Soldiers such as the moral acceptability of the Army making permanent enhancements to Soldiers, the responsibility for returning transitioning Soldiers to a “baseline human,” and the general definition of what a “baseline human” is legally defined as.

Transhumanism H+ symbol by Antonu / Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transhumanism_h%2B.svg

By altering, enhancing, and augmenting the biology of the human Soldier, the United States Army will potentially enter into uncharted ethical territory. Instead of issuing items to Soldiers to complement their physical and cognitive assets, by 2050, the U.S. Army may have the will and the means to issue them increased biological abilities in those areas. The future implications and the limits or thresholds for enhancement have not yet been considered. The military is already willing to correct the vision of certain members – laser eye surgery, for example – a practice that could be accurately referred to as human enhancement, so discretely defining where the threshold lies will be important. It is already known that other countries, and possible adversaries, are willing to cross the line where we are not. Russia, most recently, was banned from competition in the 2018 Winter Olympics for widespread performance-enhancing drug violations that were believed to be supported by the Russian Government. [6] Those drugs violate the spirit of competition in the Olympics, but no such spirit exists in warfare.

Another consideration is whether or not the Soldier enhancements are permanent. By enhancing Soldiers’ faculties, the Army is, in fact, enhancing their lethality or their ability to defeat the enemy. What happens with these enhancements—whether the Army can or should remove them— when a Soldier leaves the Army is an open question. As stated previously, the Army is willing and able to improve eyesight, but does not revert that eyesight back to its original state after the individual has separated. Some possible moral questions surrounding Soldier enhancement include:

• If the Army were to increase a Soldier’s stamina, visual acuity, resistance to disease, and pain tolerance, making them a more lethal warfighter, is it incumbent upon the Army to remove those enhancements?

• If the Soldier later used those enhancements in civilian life for nefarious purposes, would the Army be responsible?

Answers to these legal questions are beyond the scope of this paper, but can be considered now before the advent of these new technologies becomes widespread.

Image by Leonardo da Vinci / Source: Flickr

If the Army decides to reverse certain Soldier enhancements, it likely will need to determine the definition of a “baseline human.” This would establish norms for features, traits, and abilities that can be permanently enhanced and which must be removed before leaving service. This would undoubtedly involve both legal and moral challenges.

 

The complete Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Final Report can be read here.

To learn more about the ramifications of Soldier enhancement, please go to:

– Dr. Amy Kruse’s Human 2.0 podcast, hosted by our colleagues at Modern War Institute.

– The Ethics and the Future of War panel discussion, facilitated by LTG Jim Dubik (USA-Ret.) from Day 2 (26 July 2017) of the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle in 2030-2050 Conference at Georgetown University.


[1] Ahmad, Zarah and Stephanie Larson, “The DNA Utility in Military Environments,” slide 5, presented at Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and the Soldier 2050 Conference, 8 March 2018.
[2] Kruse, Amy, “Human 2.0 Upgrading Human Performance,” Slide 12, presented at Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and the Soldier 2050 Conference, 8 March 2018
[3]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00034/full
[4] https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/610034/china-is-already-gene-editing-a-lot-of-humans/
[5] https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2018/05/07/russia-confirms-its-armed-robot-tank-was-in-syria/
[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/russia-banned-from-2018-olympics-following-doping-allegations/2017/12/05/9ab49790-d9d4-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d12db68f42d1

84. Quantum Surprise on the Battlefield?

[Editor’s Note:  In the following guest blog post, Mad Scientist Elsa B. Kania addresses quantum technology and the potential ramifications should the People’s Republic of China (PRC) win the current race in fielding operational quantum capabilities].

If China were to succeed in realizing the full potential of quantum technology, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might have the capability to offset core pillars of U.S. military power on the future battlefield.  Let’s imagine the worst-case (or, for China, best-case) scenarios.

The Chinese military and government could leverage quantum cryptography and communications to enable “perfect security” for its most sensitive information and communications. The PLA may look to employ ‘uncrackable’ quantum key distribution (QKD), which involves the provably secure exchange of keys in quantum states, over fiber optic networks for secure command and control, while extending the range of its quantum networks to more far-flung units or even ships at sea, through an expanding constellation of quantum satellites.

If China were to ‘go dark’ to U.S. intelligence capabilities as a result, then a new level of uncertainty could complicate U.S. calculus and assessments, while exacerbating the risks of surprise or misperception in a crisis or conflict scenario.

China’s massive investments in quantum computing could succeed someday in the decadal marathon towards a fully functional and universal quantum computer.

Liaoning Exercise in the West Pacific / Source: Flickr by rhk111

If developed in secret or operational sooner than expected, then these immense computing capabilities could be unleashed to break public key cryptography. Such asymmetric cryptography, which today is quite prevalent and integral to the security of our information technology ecosystem, relies upon the difficulty of prime factorization, a task beyond the capabilities of today’s classical computers but that could be cracked by a future quantum computer. The impact could be analogous to the advantage that the U.S. achieved through the efforts of American code-breakers ahead of the Battle of Midway.

Although there will be options available for ‘quantum-proof’ encryption, the use of public key cryptography could remain prevalent in older military and government information systems, such as legacy satellites. Moreover, any data previously collected while encrypted could be rapidly decrypted and exploited, exposing perhaps decades of sensitive information. Will the U.S. military and government take this potential security threat seriously enough to start the transition to quantum-resistant alternatives?

Future advances in quantum computing could be game changers for intelligence and information processing. In a new era in which data is a critical resource, the ability to process it rapidly is at a premium. In theory, quantum computing could also accelerate the development of artificial intelligence towards a closer approximation to “superintelligence,” provoking concerns of unexpected, by some accounts even existential, risks and powerful capabilities.

PLA Navy Kilo-Class Submarine / Source: Took-ranch at English Wikipedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12184725

Meanwhile, based on active efforts in the Chinese defense industry, the next generation of Chinese submarines could be equipped with a ‘quantum compass’ to enable greater precision in positioning and independence from space-based navigation systems, while perhaps also leveraging quantum communications underwater for secure control and covert coordination.

The PLA might realize its ambitions to develop quantum radar that could be the “nemesis” of U.S. stealth fighters and bolster Chinese missile defense. This “offset” technology could overcome the U.S. military’s advantage in stealth. Similarly, the ‘spooky’ sensitivity in detection enabled by techniques such as ghost imaging and quantum remote sensing could enhance PLA ISR capabilities.

In the aggregate, could China’s future advances in these technologies change the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific?

Su-27 Flanker fighter / Source: DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen

For China, the potential to disrupt paradigms of information dominance through quantum computing and cryptography, while perhaps undermining U.S. advantages in stealth technologies through quantum radar and sensing, and even more actively contesting the undersea domain, could create a serious challenge to U.S. military-technological predominance.

Perhaps, but this imagining of impactful military applications of quantum technology is far from a reality today. For the time being, these technologies still confront major constraints and limitations in their development.

It seems unlikely that quantum cryptography will ever enable truly perfect security, given the perhaps inevitable human and engineering challenges, along with remaining vulnerabilities to exploitation.

At present, quantum computing, while approaching the symbolic milestone of “quantum supremacy,” faces a long road ahead, due to challenges of scaling and error correction.

Certain quantum devices, for sensing, metrology, and positioning, may be quite useful but could enable fairly incremental, evolutionary improvements relative to the full range of alternatives.

There are also reasons to consider critically when Chinese official media discloses (especially in English) oft-hyped advances such as in quantum radar – since reporting on such apparent progress could be variously intended for purposes of signaling or perhaps even misdirection.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) neutral-atom quantum processors — prototype devices which designers are trying to develop into full-fledged quantum computers  https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnistgov/5940500587/

Although China’s advances and ambitions should be taken quite seriously – particularly considering the talent and resources evidently mobilized to advance these objectives – the U.S. military may also be well postured to leverage quantum technology on the future battlefield.

 

Inevitably, the timeframe for the actual operationalization of these technologies is challenging to evaluate, especially because a significant proportion of the relevant research may be occurring in secret.

For that reason, it is also difficult to determine with confidence whether the U.S. or China is truly leading in the advancement of various disciplines of quantum science.

Moreover, beyond concerns of competition between the U.S. and China, exciting research is occurring worldwide, from Canada and Europe to Australia, often with tech companies and start-ups at the forefront of the development and commercialization of these technologies.

Looking forward, the trajectory of this second quantum revolution will play out over decades to come. Future successes will require sustained investments, such as those China is actively pursuing in the range of tens of billions.

As the Chinese military and defense industry start testing and experimenting with quantum technology, the U.S. military should also explore further the potential – and evaluate the limitations – of these capabilities, including through deepening public-private partnership.

As China challenges American leadership in innovation, the U.S. military and government should recognize the real risks of future surprises that could result from truly ‘made in China’ innovation, while also taking full advantage of the opportunities to impose surprise upon strategic competitors.

The above blog post is based on the recently published Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report entitled Quantum Hegemony? – China’s Ambitions and the Challenges to U.S. Innovation Leadership, co-authored by Ms. Elsa Kania and  Mr. John Costello.  Mad Scientist believes that this report is the best primer on the current state of quantum technology.  Note that quantum science – communication, computing, and sensing – was previously addressed by the Mad Scientist Laboratory as a Pink Flamingo.

Ms. Kania was proclaimed an official Mad Scientist following her presentation on PLA Human-Machine Integration at the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference at SRI International, Menlo Park, 8-9 March 2018.  Her podcast from this event, China’s Quest for Enhanced Military Technology, is hosted by Modern War Institute.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article belong to the author alone and do not represent the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or the U.S. Army Training and Training Doctrine Command.

Ms. Kania is an Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS.

83. A Primer on Humanity: Iron Man versus Terminator

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present a post by guest blogger MAJ(P) Kelly McCoy, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), with a theme familiar to anyone who has ever debated super powers in a schoolyard during recess. Yet despite its familiarity, it remains a serious question as we seek to modernize the U.S. Army in light of our pacing threat adversaries. The question of “human-in-the-loop” versus “human-out-of-the-loop” is an extremely timely and cogent question.]

Iron Man versus Terminator — who would win? It is a debate that challenges morality, firepower, ingenuity, and pop culture prowess. But when it comes down to brass tacks, who would really win and what does that say about us?

Mad Scientist maintains that:

  • Today: Mano a mano, Iron Man’s human ingenuity, grit, and irrationality would carry the day; however…
  • In the Future: Facing the entire Skynet distributed neural net, Iron Man’s human-in-the-loop would be overwhelmed by a coordinated, swarming attack of Terminators.
Soldier in Iron Man-like exoskeleton prototype suit

Iron Man is the super-empowered human utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) — Just A Rather Very Intelligent System or JARVIS — to augment the synthesizing of data and robotics to increase strength, speed, and lethality. Iron Man utilizes autonomous systems, but maintains a human-in-the- loop for lethality decisions. Conversely, the Terminator is pure machine – with AI at the helm for all decision-making. Terminators are built for specific purposes – and for this case let’s assume these robotic soldiers are designed specifically for urban warfare. Finally, strength, lethality, cyber vulnerabilities, and modularity of capabilities between Iron Man and Terminator are assumed to be relatively equal to each other.

Up front, Iron Man is constrained by individual human bias, retention and application of training, and physical and mental fatigue. Heading into the fight, the human behind a super powered robotic enhancing suit will make decisions based on their own biases. How does one respond to too much information or not enough? How do they react when needing to respond while wrestling with the details of what needs to be remembered at the right time and space? Compounding this is the retention and application of the individual human’s training leading up to this point. Have they successfully undergone enough repetitions to mitigate their biases and arrive at the best solution and response? Finally, our most human vulnerability is physical and mental fatigue. Without adding in psychoactive drugs, how would you respond to taking the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) while simultaneously winning a combatives match? How long would you last before you are mentally and physically exhausted?

Terminator / Source: http://pngimg.com/download/29789

What the human faces is a Terminator who removes bias and optimizes responses through machine learning, access to a network of knowledge, options, and capabilities, and relentless speed to process information. How much better would a Soldier be with their biases removed and the ability to apply the full library of lessons learned? To process the available information that contextualizes environment without cognitive overload. Arriving at the optimum decision, based on the outcomes of thousands of scenarios.

Iron Man arrives to this fight with irrationality and ingenuity; the ability to quickly adapt to complex problems and environments; tenacity; and morality that is uniquely human. Given this, the Terminator is faced with an adversary who can not only adapt, but also persevere with utter unpredictability. And here the Terminator’s weaknesses come to light. Their algorithms are matched to an environment – but environments can change and render algorithms obsolete. Their energy sources are finite – where humans can run on empty, Terminators power off. Finally, there are always glitches and vulnerabilities. Autonomous systems depend on the environment that it is coded for – if you know how to corrupt the environment, you can corrupt the system.

Ultimately the question of Iron Man versus Terminator is a question of time and human value and worth. In time, it is likely that the Iron Man will fall in the first fight. However, the victor is never determined in the first fight, but the last. If you believe in human ingenuity, grit, irrationality, and consideration, the last fight is the true test of what it means to be human.

Note:  Nothing in this blog is intended as an implied or explicit endorsement of the “Iron Man” or “Terminator” franchises on the part of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or TRADOC.

Kelly McCoy is a U.S. Army strategist officer and a member of the Military Leadership Circle. A blessed husband and proud father, when he has time he is either brewing beer, roasting coffee, or maintaining his blog (Drink Beer; Kill War at: https://medium.com/@DrnkBrKllWr). The views expressed in this article belong to the author alone and do not represent the Department of Defense.