77. “The Tenth Man” — Russia’s Era Military Innovation Technopark

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the second in our series of “The Tenth Man” posts (read the first one 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 Mr. Ray Finch addressing Russia’s on-going efforts to develop a military innovation center —  Era Military Innovation Technopark — near the city of Anapa (Krasnodar Region) on the northern coast of the Black Sea.  Per The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, “Russia can be considered our ‘pacing threat,’ and will be our most capable potential foe for at least the first half of the Era of Accelerated Human Progress [now through 2035]. It will remain a key adversary through the Era of Contested Equality [2035-2050].” So any Russian attempts at innovation to create “A Militarized Silicon Valley in Russia” should be sounding alarms throughout the NATO Alliance, right?  Well, maybe not….]

(Please note that several of Mr. Finch’s embedded links in the post below are best accessed using non-DoD networks.)

Only a Mad Russian Scientist could write the paragraph below:

Russia Resurgent, Source: Bill Butcher, The Economist

If all goes according to plan, in October 2035 the Kremlin will host a gala birthday party to commemorate President Putin’s 83d birthday. Ever since the Russian leader began receiving special biosynthetic plasma developed by military scientists at the country’s premier Era Technopolis Center in Anapa, the president’s health and overall fitness now resembles that of a 45-year old. This development was just one in a series of innovations which have helped to transform – not just the Kremlin leader – but the entire country.  By focusing its best and brightest on new technologies, Russia has become the global leader in information and telecommunication systems, artificial intelligence, robotic complexes, supercomputers, technical vision and pattern recognition, information security, nanotechnology and nanomaterials, energy tech and technology life support cycle, as well as bioengineering, biosynthetic, and biosensor technologies. In many respects, Russia is now the strongest country in the world.

While this certainly echoes the current Kremlin propaganda, a more sober analysis regarding the outcomes of the Era Military Innovation Technopark in Anapa (Krasnodar Region) ought to consider those systemic factors which will likely retard its future development. Below are five reasons why Putin and Russia will likely have less to celebrate in 2035.

President Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu being briefed on Technopark-Era, Kremlin, 23 Feb 2018. Source: http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56923, CC BY 4.0.

You can’t have milk without a cow

The primary reason that the Kremlin’s attempt to create breakthrough innovations at the Era Technopark will result in disappointment stems from the lack of a robust social structure to support such innovations. And it’s not simply the absence of good roads or adequate healthcare. As the renowned MIT scientist, Dr. Loren R. Graham recently pointed out, the Kremlin leadership wants to enjoy the “milk” of technology, without worrying about supporting the system needed to support a “cow.” Graham elaborates on his observation by pointing out that even though Russian scientists have often been at the forefront of technological innovations, the country’s poor legal system prevents these discoveries from ever bearing fruit. Stifling bureaucracy and a broken legal system prevent Russian scientists and innovators from profiting from their discoveries. This dilemma leads to the second factor.

Brain drain

Despite all of the Kremlin’s patriotic hype over the past several years, many young and talented Russians are voting with their feet and pursuing careers abroad. As the senior Russian analyst, Dr. Gordon M. Hahn noted, “instead of voting for pro-democratic forces and/or fomenting unrest, Russia’s discontented, highly educated, highly skilled university graduates tend to move abroad to find suitable work.” And even though the US is maligned on a daily basis in the Kremlin-supported Russian media, many of these smart, young Russians are moving to America. Indeed, according to a recent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) report, “the number of asylum applications by Russian citizens in the United States hit a 24-year high in 2017, jumping nearly 40 percent from the previous year and continuing an upward march that began after Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.” These smart, young Russians believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction and are looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Everything turns out to be a Kalashnikov

There’s no doubt that Russian scientists and technicians are capable of creating effective weapon systems. President Putin’s recent display of military muscle-power was not a mere campaign stratagem, but rather a reminder to his Western “partners” that since Russia remains armed to the teeth, his country deserves respect. And there’s little question that the new Era Technopark will help to create advanced weapon systems of “which there is no analogous version in the world.” But that’s just the point. While Russia is famous for its tanks, artillery, and rocket systems, it has struggled to create anything which might be qualified as a technological marvel in the civilian sector. As some Russian observers have put it, “no matter what the state tries to develop, it ends up being a Kalashnikov.”

Soviet AK-47. Type 2 made from 1951 to 1954/55. Source: http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil Public Domain

The Boss knows what’s best

The current Kremlin leadership now parades itself as being at the forefront of a global conservative and traditional movement. In their favorite narrative, the conniving US is forever trying to weaken Russia (and other autocratic countries) by infecting them with a liberal bacillus, often referred to as a “color revolution.” In their rendition, Russia was contaminated by this democratic disease during the 1990s, only to find itself weakened and taken advantage of by America.

Since then, the Kremlin leadership has retained the form of democracy, but has removed its essence. Elections are held, ballots are cast, but the winner is pre-determined from above. So far, the Russian population has played along with this charade, but at some point, perhaps in an economic crisis, the increasingly plugged-in Russian population might demand a more representative form of government. Regardless, while this top-down, conservative model is ideal for maintaining control and staging major events, it lacks the essential freedom inherent within innovation. Moreover, such a quasi-autocratic system tends to promote Russia’s most serious challenge.

The cancer of corruption

Despite the façade of a uniformed, law-governed state, Russia continues to rank near the bottom on the global corruption index. According to a recent Russian report, “90 percent of entrepreneurs have encountered corruption at least once.” Private Russian companies will likely think twice before deciding to invest in the Era Technopark, unless of course, the Kremlin makes them an offer they cannot refuse. Moreover, as suggested earlier, the young Era scientists may not be fully committed, understanding that the “milk” of their technological discoveries will likely by expropriated by their uniformed bosses.

Technopark Era is not scheduled to be fully operational until 2020, and the elevated rhetoric over its innovative mandate will likely prompt concern among some US defense officials. While the center could advance Russian military technology over the next 15-25 years, it is doubtful that Era will usher in a new era for Russia.

If you enjoyed this edition of the “Tenth Man”:

– Learn more about Russia’s Era Military Innovation Technopark in the April 2018 edition of the TRADOC G-2’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) OE Watch, Volume 8, Issue 4, pages 10-11.

– Read Mad Scientist Sam Bendett‘s guest blog post on Russian Ground Battlefield Robots: A Candid Evaluation and Ways Forward.

Ray Finch works as a Eurasian Analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office. He’s a former Army officer (Artillery and Russian FAO).

 

76. “Top Ten” Takeaways from the Learning in 2050 Conference

On 8-9 August 2018, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC.  Leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and the government gathered to address future learning techniques and technologies that are critical in preparing for Army operations in the mid-21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces.  The new and innovative learning capabilities addressed at this conference will enable our Soldiers and Leaders to act quickly and decisively in a changing Operational Environment (OE) with fleeting windows of opportunity and more advanced and lethal technologies.

We have identified the following “Top 10” takeaways related to Learning in 2050:

1. Many learning technologies built around commercial products are available today (Amazon Alexa, Smart Phones, Immersion tech, Avatar experts) for introduction into our training and educational institutions. Many of these technologies are part of the Army’s concept for a Synthetic Training Environment (STE) and there are nascent manifestations already.  For these technologies to be widely available to the future Army, the Army of today must be prepared to address:

– The collection and exploitation of as much data as possible;

– The policy concerns with security and privacy;

 – The cultural challenges associated with changing the dynamic between learners and instructors, teachers, and coaches; and

– The adequate funding to produce capabilities at scale so that digital tutors or other technologies (Augmented Reality [AR] / Virtual Reality [VR], etc.) and skills required in a dynamic future, like critical thinking/group think mitigation, are widely available or perhaps ubiquitous.

2. Personalization and individualization of learning in the future will be paramount, and some training that today takes place in physical schools will be more the exception, with learning occurring at the point of need. This transformation will not be limited to lesson plans or even just learning styles:

Intelligent tutors, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven instruction, and targeted mentoring/tutoring;

– Tailored timing and pacing of learning (when, where, and for what duration best suits the individual learner or group of learners?);

– Collaborative learners will be teams partnering to learn;

Targeted Neuroplasticity Training / Source: DARPA

– Various media and technologies that enable enhanced or accelerated learning (Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), haptic sensors, AR/VR, lifelong personal digital learning partners, pharmaceuticals, etc.) at scale;

– Project-oriented learning; when today’s high school students are building apps, they are asked “What positive change do you want to have?” One example is an open table for Bully Free Tables. In the future, learners will learn through working on projects;

– Project-oriented learning will lead to a convergence of learning and operations, creating a chicken (learning) or the egg (mission/project) relationship; and

– Learning must be adapted to consciously address the desired, or extant, culture.

Drones Hanger / Source: Oshanin

3. Some jobs and skill sets have not even been articulated yet. Hobbies and recreational activities engaged in by kids and enthusiasts today could become occupations or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’s) of the future (e.g., drone creator/maintainer, 3-D printing specialist, digital and cyber fortification construction engineer — think Minecraft and Fortnite with real-world physical implications). Some emerging trends in personalized warfare, big data, and virtual nations could bring about the necessity for more specialists that don’t currently exist (e.g., data protection and/or data erasure specialists).

Mechanical Animal / Source: Pinterest

4. The New Human (who will be born in 2032 and is the recruit of 2050) will be fundamentally different from the Old Human. The Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) in 2050 is currently a young Captain in our Army today. While we are arguably cyborgs today (with integrated electronics in our pockets and on our wrists), the New Humans will likely be cyborgs in the truest sense of the word, with some having embedded sensors. How will those New Humans learn? What will they need to learn? Why would they want to learn something? These are all critical questions the Army will continue to ask over the next several decades.

Source: iLearn

5. Learning is continuous and self-initiated, while education is a point in time and is “done to you” by someone else. Learning may result in a certificate or degree – similar to education – or can lead to the foundations of a skill or a deeper understanding of operations and activity. How will organizations quantify learning in the future? Will degrees or even certifications still be the benchmark for talent and capability?

Source: The Data Feed Toolbox

6. Learning isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up. More and more things are becoming instantaneous and humans have no concept of extreme speed. Tesla cars have the ability to update software, with owners getting into a veritably different car each day. What happens to our Soldiers when military vehicles change much more iteratively? This may force a paradigm shift wherein learning means tightening local and global connections (tough to do considering government/military network securities, firewalls, vulnerabilities, and constraints); viewing technology as extended brains all networked together (similar to Dr. Alexander Kott’s look at the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT]); and leveraging these capabilities to enable Soldier learning at extremely high speeds.

Source: Connecting Universes

7. While there are a number of emerging concepts and technologies to improve and accelerate learning (TNT, extended reality, personalized learning models, and intelligent tutors), the focus, training stimuli, data sets, and desired outcomes all have to be properly tuned and aligned or the Learner could end up losing correct behavior habits (developing maladaptive plasticity), developing incorrect or skewed behaviors (per the desired capability), or assuming inert cognitive biases.

Source: TechCrunch

8. Geolocation may become increasingly less important when it comes to learning in the future. If Apple required users to go to Silicon Valley to get trained on an iPhone, they would be exponentially less successful. But this is how the Army currently trains. The ubiquity of connectivity, the growth of the Internet of Things (and eventually Internet of Everything), the introduction of universal interfaces (think one XBOX controller capable of controlling 10 different types of vehicles), major advances in modeling and simulations, and social media innovation all converge to minimize the importance of teachers, students, mentors, and learners being collocated at the same physical location.

Transdisciplinarity at Work / Source: https://www.cetl.hku.hk

9. Significant questions have to be asked regarding the specificity of training in children at a young age to the point that we may be overemphasizing STEM from an early age and not helping them learn across a wider spectrum. We need Transdisciplinarity in the coming generations.

10. 3-D reconstructions of bases, training areas, cities, and military objectives coupled with mixed reality, haptic sensing, and intuitive controls have the potential to dramatically change how Soldiers train and learn when it comes to not only single performance tasks (e.g., marksmanship, vehicle driving, reconnaissance, etc.) but also in dense urban operations, multi-unit maneuver, and command and control.

Heavy Duty by rOEN911 / Source: DeviantArt

During the next two weeks, we will be posting the videos from each of the Learning in 2050 Conference presentations on the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment (OE) Enterprise YouTube Channel and the associated slides on our Mad Scientist APAN site — stay connected here at the Mad Scientist Laboratory.

One of the main thrusts in the Mad Scientist lines of effort is harnessing and cultivating the Intellect of the Nation. In this vein, we are asking Learning in 2050 Conference participants (both in person and online) to share their ideas on the presentations and topic. Please consider:

– What topics were most important to you personally and professionally?

– What were your main takeaways from the event?

– What topics did you want the speakers to extrapolate more on?

– What were the implications for your given occupation/career field from the findings of the event?

Your input will be of critical importance to our analysis and products that will have significant impact on the future of the force in design, structuring, planning, and training!  Please submit your input to Mad Scientist at: usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil.

74. Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference

Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to announce that Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies this week (Wednesday and Thursday, 8-9 August 2018) in Washington, DC.

Future learning techniques and technologies are critical to the Army’s operations in the 21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces. The ability to effectively respond to a changing Operational Environment (OE) with fleeting windows of opportunity is paramount, and Leaders must act quickly to adjust to different OEs and more advanced and lethal technologies. Learning technologies must enable Soldiers to learn, think, and adapt using innovative synthetic environments to accelerate learning and attain expertise more quickly. Looking to 2050, learning enablers will become far more mobile and on-demand.

Looking at Learning in 2050, topics of interest include, but are not limited to: Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Realities (VR/AR/MR); interactive, autonomous, accelerated, and augmented learning technologies; gamification; skills needed for Soldiers and Leaders in 2050; synthetic training environments; virtual mentors; and intelligent artificial tutors. Advanced learning capabilities present the opportunity for Soldiers and Leaders to prepare for operations and operate in multiple domains while improving current cognitive load limitations.

Plan to join us virtually at the conference as leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and government gather to discuss:

1) How will emerging technologies improve learning or augment intelligence in professional military education, at home station, while deployed, and on the battlefield?

2) How can the Army accelerate learning to improve Soldier and unit agility in rapidly changing OEs?

3) What new skills will Soldiers and Leaders require to fight and win in 2050?

Get ready…

– Read our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas finalists’ submissions here, graciously hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

– Review the following blog posts:  First Salvo on “Learning in 2050” – Continuity and Change and Keeping the Edge.

– Starting Tuesday, 7 August 2018, see the conference agenda’s list of presentations and the associated world-class speakers’ biographies here.

and Go!

Join us at the conference on-line here via live-streaming audio and video, beginning at 0840 EDT on Wednesday, 08 Aug 2018; submit your questions to each of the presenters via the moderated interactive chat room; and tag your comments @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050.

See you all there!

 

73. Keeping the Edge

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. Howard R. Simkin, hypothesizing the activities of an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) deployed on a security assistance operation in the 2050 timeframe.  Mr. Simkin addresses how advanced learning capabilities can improve what were once cognitive load limitations.  This is a one of the themes we will explore at next week’s Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference; more information on this conference can be found at the bottom of this post.]

This is the ODAs third deployment to the country, although it is Captain Clark Weston’s first deployment as a team leader. The rest of his ODA have long experience in the region and country. They all have the 2050 standard milspec augmentation of every Special Operations (SO) Operator:  corneal and audial implants, subdural brain-computer interfaces, and medical nano-enhancement.

Unlike earlier generations of SO Operators aided by advanced technology, they can see into the near-infra red, understand sixty spoken languages, acquire new skill sets rapidly, interface directly with computers and see that information in a heads up display without a device, and survive any injury short of dismemberment. However, they continue to rely on their cultural and human skills to provide those critical puzzle pieces from the human domain which technology and data science alone cannot.

No matter what technologies are at play, the human element will still be paramount. As the noted futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku observed in his discussions of the ‘Cave Man Principle’, “whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time.”[I]

The sound of an onrushing thunderstorm briefly distracted CPT[II] Weston from the report he was compiling. His eyes scanned the equipment hung on wooden pegs protruding from the white plastered walls or scattered on the small wooden desk adorned by a single switch operated lamp. He couldn’t help smiling. The wooden pegs, plastered walls, and primitive lamp were a good metaphor for the region. His apartment back home sported the latest in technology, adaptive video capable walls, a customized AI virtual assistant, and lighting and HVAC[III] that operated without human intervention. Here, it was back to basics.

His concentration broken, he stood up and stretched. Dark of hair and eyes, of medium height and slender build, he could easily pass for a native of the region. As for fluency in the local language, it had been baked into his neural circuitry through rigorous training, cognitive enhancements, and experience. A student of history, Weston had been surprised during his attendance at the SOF[IV] Captains Career Course when he read articles and papers that had heralded the death of language training.

Source: Language Landscapes Blog — http://blogs.fasos.maastrichtuniversity.nl

He wondered. Didn’t the people who wrote those articles pause to consider that no technology works all the time? Either as a result of adversary action or the arrival of mean time between failures, a glitch in a technology-dependent language capability could be at best embarrassing and at worst catastrophic. Didn’t they realize that learning a new language alters the learner’s neural networks, allowing a nuanced understanding of a culture that software had not been able to achieve? Besides, around 65 percent of human communication is non-verbal, he reasoned. Language occurs in a shifting cultural context, something even the best AIs still couldn’t always tackle.

He paced around the room, reflecting on the past few months. Things had definitely taken a turn for the better. With very few exceptions, the Joint security assistance efforts he was aware of were going well. He was very proud of what his ODA had accomplished, training the Ministry of the Interior’s capitol region paramilitary force (CRPF) to what Minerva[V] had deemed a sufficient level of competence in a wide range of tactical skills.

Source: CIO Australia

More importantly, as his Team Sergeant Abdel Jamaal had observed, “We got them to believe in themselves as protectors and to stop acting like bullies.” This had led to the development of an increasing number of information sources which in turn had led to the arrest of a number of senior narco-terrorists.  He and Sergeant Jamaal had advised and assisted in those arrests in a virtual mode. To the local population, it looked like the CRPF was doing all of the work.

The team medical/civil affairs specialist, Sergeant First Class Belinda Tompkins and the team cyber/additive manufacturing authority, Sergeant DeWayne Jones had achieved quite a lot on their own. After consulting with the Nimble Griffin[VI] team, they had employed their expertise to upgrade the antiquated in-country hospital 3D Printers to produce the latest gene editing drugs and fight the diseases still endemic to the region. They had done this in the background, having the CRPF collect the machines quietly and then return them to the hospitals with great fanfare. The resulting media coverage was a public relations bonanza. The only US presence was virtual and invisible to the media or public.

A loud peal of thunder shook Weston from his thoughts. The lights flickered in his room, then steadied up. He sat back down at the table to finish his report. All in all, things were going very well.

[Note that any resemblance to any current events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

If you enjoyed this post, please read Mr. Simkin’s article Technological Fluency 2035-2050, submitted in response to our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas and hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Other Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas submissions include the following:

Soldier Learning 2050, by Charles Heard

Thoughts on Military Education, Training and Leader Development in 2050, by Jim Greer

Cyber Integrating Architecture, by LTC Brett Lindberg, LTC Stephen Hamilton, MAJ Brian Lebiednik, and CPT Kyle Hager

Please also plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference.  This event will be live streamed on both days (08-09 August 2018). You can watch and interact with all of the speakers at the conference watch page or tag @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050.  Note that the live streaming event is best viewed via a commercial internet connection (i.e., non-NIPRNet).

Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He has over 40 years of combined military, law enforcement, defense contractor, and government experience. He is a retired Special Forces officer with a wide variety of special operations experience.
________________________________________________________
[I] Kaku, M. (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Random House (Kindle Edition), 13.
[II] Captain.
[III] Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
[IV]Special Operations Forces.
[V]Department of Defense AI virtual assistant.
[VI]A Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force.

72. First Salvo on “Learning in 2050” – Continuity and Change

[Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2 is co-hosting the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies on 8-9 August 2018 in Washington, DC.  In advance of this conference, Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present today’s post addressing what is necessary to truly transform Learning in 2050 by returning guest blogger Mr. Nick Marsella.  Read Mr. Marsella’s previous two posts addressing Futures Work at Part I and Part II]

Only a handful of years ago, a conference on the topic of learning in 2050 would spur discussions on needed changes in the way we formally educate and train people to live successful lives and be productive citizens.[I] Advocates in K-12 would probably argue for increasing investment in schools, better technology, and increased STEM education. Higher educators would raise many of the same concerns, pointing to the value of the “the academy” and its universities as integral to the nation’s economic, security, and social well-being by preparing the nation’s future leaders, innovators, and scientists.

Yet, times have changed. “Learning in 2050” could easily address how education and training must meet the required immediate learning needs of the individual and for supporting “lifelong learning” in a very changing and competitive world.[II] The conference could also address how new discoveries in learning and the cognitive sciences will inform the education and training fields, and potentially enhance individual abilities to learn and think.[III] “Learning in 2050” could also focus on how organizational learning will be even more important than today – spelling the difference between bankruptcy and irrelevancy – or for military forces – victory or defeat. We must also address how to teach people to learn and organize themselves for learning.[IV]

Lastly, a “Learning in 2050” conference could also focus on machine learning and how artificial intelligence will transform not only the workplace, but have a major impact on national security.[V] Aside from understanding the potential and limitations of this transformative technology, increasingly we must train and educate people on how to use it to their advantage and understand its limitations for effective “human – machine teaming.” We must also provide opportunities to use fielded new technologies and for individuals to learn when and how to trust it.[VI]

All of these areas would provide rich discussions and perhaps new insights. But just as LTG (ret) H.R. McMaster warned us about thinking about the challenges in future warfare, we must first acknowledge the continuities for this broad topic of “Learning in 2050” and its implications for the U.S. Army.[VII] Until the Army is replaced by robots or knowledge and skills are uploaded directly into the brain as shown in the “Matrix” — learning involves humans and the learning process and the Army’s Soldiers and its civilian workforce [not discounting organizational or machine learning].

Source: U.S. Army https://www.army.mil/article/206197/army_researchers_looking_to_neurostimulation_to_enhance_accelerate_soldiers_abilities

While much may change in the way the individual will learn, we must recognize that the focus of “Learning in 2050” is on the learner and the systems, programs/schools, or technologies adopted in the future must support the learner. As Herbert Simon, one of the founders of cognitive science and a Nobel laureate noted: “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.”[VIII] To the Army’s credit, the U.S. Army Learning Concept for Training and Education 2020-2040 vision supports this approach by immersing “Soldiers and Army civilians in a progressive, continuous, learner-centric, competency-based learning environment,” but the danger is we will be captured by technology, procedures, and discussions about the utility and need for “brick and mortar schools.”[IX]

Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks.

Learning is a process that involves changing knowledge, belief, behavior, and attitudes and is entirely dependent on the learner as he/she interprets and responds to the learning experience – in and out of the classroom.[X] Our ideas, concepts, or recommendations to improve the future of learning in 2050 must either:  improve student learning outcomes, improve student learning efficiency by accelerating learning, or improve the student’s motivation and engagement to learn.

“Learning in 2050” must identify external environmental factors which will affect what the student may need to learn to respond to the future, and also recognize that the generation of 2050 will be different from today’s student in values, beliefs, attitudes, and acceptance of technology.[XI] Changes in the learning system must be ethical, affordable, and feasible. To support effective student learning, learning outcomes must be clearly defined – whether a student is participating in a yearlong professional education program or a five-day field training exercise – and must be understood by the learner.[XII]

We must think big. For example, Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Howard Gardner postulated that to be successful in the 21st Century requires the development of the “disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creative mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind.”[XIII]

Approaches, processes, and organization, along with the use of technology and other cognitive science tools, must focus on the learning process. Illustrated below is the typical officer career timeline with formal educational opportunities sprinkled throughout the years.[XIV] While some form of formal education in “brick and mortar” schools will continue, one wonders if we will turn this model on its head – with more upfront education; shorter focused professional education; more blended programs combining resident/non-resident instruction; and continual access to experts, courses, and knowledge selected by the individual for “on demand” learning. Today, we often use education as a reward for performance (i.e., resident PME); in the future, education must be a “right of the Profession,” equally provided to all (to include Army civilians) – necessary for performance as a member of the profession of arms.

Source: DA Pam 600-3, Commissioned Officer Professional Development and Career Management, December 2014, p.27

The role of the teacher will change. Instructors will become “learning coaches” to help the learner identify gaps and needs in meaningful and dynamic individual learning plans. Like the Army’s Master Fitness Trainer whom advises and monitors a unit’s physical readiness, we must create in our units “Master Learning Coaches,” not simply a training specialist who manages the schedule and records. One can imagine technology evolving to do some of this as the Alexa’s and Siri’s of today become the AI tutors and mentors of the future. We must also remember that any system or process for learning in 2050 must fit the needs of multiple communities: Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve forces, as well as Army civilians.

Just as the delivery of instruction will change, the assessment of learning will change as well. Simulations and gaming should aim to provide an “Enders’ Game” experience, where reality and simulation are indistinguishable. Training systems should enable individuals to practice repeatedly and as Vince Lombardi noted – “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Experiential learning will reinforce classroom, on-line instruction, or short intensive courses/seminars through the linkage of “classroom seat time” and “field time” at the Combat Training Centers, Warfighter, or other exercises or experiences.

Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.  Benjamin Franklin[XV]

Of course, much will have to change in terms of policies and the way we think about education, training, and learning. If one moves back in time the same number of years that we are looking to the future – it is the year 1984. How much has changed since then?

While in some ways technology has transformed the learning process – e.g., typewriters to laptops; card catalogues to instant on-line access to the world’s literature from anywhere; and classes at brick and mortar schools to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and blended and on-line learning with Blackboard. Yet, as Mark Twain reportedly noted – “if history doesn’t repeat itself – it rhymes” and some things look the same as they did in 1984, with lectures and passive learning in large lecture halls – just as PowerPoint lectures are ongoing today for some passively undergoing PME.

If “Learning in 2050” is to be truly transformative – we must think differently. We must move beyond the industrial age approach of mass education with its caste systems and allocation of seats. To be successful in the future, we must recognize that our efforts must center on the learner to provide immediate access to knowledge to learn in time to be of value.

Nick Marsella is a retired Army Colonel and is currently a Department of the Army civilian serving as the Devil’s Advocate/Red Team for Training and Doctrine Command. ___________________________________________________________________

[I] While the terms “education” and “training” are often used interchangeably, I will use the oft quoted rule – training is about skills in order to do a job or perform a task, while education is broader in terms of instilling general competencies and to deal with the unexpected.

[II] The noted futurist Alvin Toffler is often quoted noting: “The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

[III] Sheftick, G. (2018, May 18). Army researchers look to neurostimulation to enhance, accelerate Soldier’s abilities. Retrieved from: https://www.army.mil/article/206197/army_researchers_looking_to_neurostimulation_to_enhance_accelerate_soldiers_abilities

[IV] This will become increasing important as the useful shelf life of knowledge is shortening. See Zao-Sanders, M. (2017). A 2×2 matrix to help you prioritize the skills to learn right now. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2017/09/a-2×2-matrix-to-help-you-prioritize-the-skills-to-learn-right-now  — so much to learn, so little time.

[V] Much has been written on AI and its implications. One of the most recent and interesting papers was recently released by the Center for New American Security in June 2018. See: Scharre, P. & Horowitz, M.C. (2018). Artificial Intelligence: What every policymaker needs to know. Retrieved from: https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/artificial-intelligence-what-every-policymaker-needs-to-know
For those wanting further details and potential insights see: Executive Office of the President, National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology Report, Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, October 2016.

[VI] Based on my anecdotal experiences, complicated systems, such as those found in command and control, have been fielded to units without sufficient training. Even when fielded with training, unless in combat, proficiency using the systems quickly lapses. See: Mission Command Digital Master Gunner, May 17, 2016, retrieved from https://www.army.mil/standto/archive_2016-05-17. See Freedberg, S. Jr. Artificial Stupidity: Fumbling the Handoff from AI to Human Control. Breaking Defense. Retrieved from: https://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/artificial-stupidity-fumbling-the-handoff/

[VII] McMaster, H.R. (LTG) (2015). Continuity and Change: The Army Operating Concept and Clear Thinking about Future War. Military Review.

[VIII] Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C. & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 1.

[IX] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-8-2. The U.S. Army Learning Concept for Training and Education 2020-2040.

[X] Ambrose, et al., p.3.

[XI] For example, should machine language be learned as a foreign language in lieu of a traditional foreign language (e.g., Spanish) – given the development of automated machine language translators (AKA = the Universal Translator)?

[XII] The point here is we must clearly understand what we want the learner to learn and adequately define it and insure the learner knows what the outcomes are. For example, we continually espouse that we want leaders to be critical thinkers, but I challenge the reader to find the definitive definition and expected attributes from being a critical thinker given ADRP 6-22, Army Leadership, FM 6-22 Army Leadership, and ADRP 5 and 6 describe it differently. At a recent higher education conference of leaders, administrators and selected faculty, one member succinctly put it this way to highlight the importance of student’s understanding expected learning outcomes: “Teaching students without providing them with learning outcomes is like giving a 500 piece puzzle without an image of what they’re assembling.”

[XIII] Gardner, H. (2008). Five Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press. For application of Gardner’s premise see Marsella, N.R. (2017). Reframing the Human Dimension: Gardner’s “Five Minds for the Future.” Journal of Military Learning. Retrieved from: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Journal-of-Military-Learning/Journal-of-Military-Learning-Archives/April-2017-Edition/Reframing-the-Human-Dimension/

[XIV] Officer education may differ due to a variety of factors but the normal progression for Professional Military Education includes: Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC B, to include ROTC/USMA/OCS which is BOLC A); Captains Career Course; Intermediate Level Education (ILE) and Senior Service College as well as specialty training (e.g., language school), graduate school, and Joint schools. Extracted from previous edition of DA Pam 600-3, Commissioned Office Professional Development and Career Management, December 2014, p.27 which is now obsolete. Graphic is as an example. For current policy, see DA PAM 600-3, dated 26 June 2017. .

[XV] See https://blogs.darden.virginia.edu/brunerblog/

71. Shaping Perceptions with Information Operations: Lessons for the Future

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present today’s guest post by Ms. Taylor Galanides, TRADOC G-2 Summer Intern, exploring how the increasing momentum of human interaction, events, and actions, driven by the convergence of innovative technologies, is enabling adversaries to exploit susceptibilities and vulnerabilities to manipulate populations and undermine national interests.  Ms. Galanides examines contemporary Information Operations as a harbinger of virtual warfare in the future Operational Environment.]

More information is available than ever before. Recent and extensive developments in technology, media, communication, and culture – such as the advent of social media, 24-hour news coverage, and smart devices – allow people to closely monitor domestic and foreign affairs. In the coming decades, the increased speed of engagements, as well as the precise and pervasive targeting of both civilian and military populations, means that these populations and their respective nations will be even more vulnerable to influence and manipulation attempts, misinformation, and cyber-attacks from foreign adversaries.

The value of influencing and shaping the perceptions of foreign and domestic populations in order to pursue national and military interests has long been recognized. This can be achieved through the employment of information operations, which seek to affect the decision-making process of adversaries. The U.S. Army views information operations as an instrumental part of the broader effort to maintain an operational advantage over adversaries. Information operations is specifically defined by the U.S. Army as “The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare further emphasizes this increased attention to the information and cognitive domains in the future – in the Era of Contested Equality (2035 through 2050). As a result, it has been predicted that no single nation will hold hegemony over its adversaries, and major powers and non-state actors alike “… will engage in a fight for information on a global scale.” Winning preemptively in the competitive dimension before escalation into armed conflict through the use of information and psychological warfare will become key.

Source: Becoming Human – Artificial Intelligence Magazine

Part of the driving force that is changing the character of warfare includes the rise of innovative technologies such as computer bots, artificial intelligence, and smart devices. Such emerging and advancing technologies have facilitated the convergence of new susceptibilities to individual and international security; as such, it will become increasingly more important to employ defensive and counter information operations to avoid forming misperceptions or being deceived.

Harbinger of the Future:  Information Operations in Crimea

Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 effectively serve as cautionary examples of Russia’s evolving information operations and their perception-shaping capabilities. In Crimea, Russia sought to create a “hallucinating fog of war” in an attempt to alter the analytical judgments and perceptions of its adversaries. With the additional help of computer hackers, bots, trolls, and television broadcasts, the Russian government was able to create a manipulated version of reality that claimed Russian intervention in Crimea was not only necessary, but humanitarian, in order to protect Russian speakers. Additionally, Russian cyberespionage efforts included the jamming or shutting down of telecommunication infrastructures, important Ukrainian websites, and cell phones of key officials prior to the invasion. Through the use of large demonstrations called “snap exercises,” the Russians were able to mask military buildups along the border, as well as its political and military intentions. Russia further disguised their intentions and objectives by claiming adherence to international law, while also claiming victimization from the West’s attempts to destabilize, subvert, and undermine their nation.

By denying any involvement in Crimea until after the annexation was complete, distorting the facts surrounding the situation, and refraining from any declaration of war, Russia effectively infiltrated the international information domain and shaped the decision-making process of NATO countries to keep them out of the conflict.  NATO nations ultimately chose minimal intervention despite specific evidence of Russia’s deliberate intervention in order to keep the conflict de-escalated. Despite the West’s refusal to acknowledge the annexation of Crimea, it could be argued that Russia achieved their objective of expanding its sphere of influence.

Vulnerabilities and Considerations

Russia is the U.S.’ current pacing threat, and China is projected to overtake Russia as the Nation’s primary threat as early as 2035. It is important to continue to evaluate the way that the U.S. and its Army respond to adversaries’ increasingly technological attempts to influence, in order to maintain the information and geopolitical superiority of the Nation. For example, the U.S. possesses different moral and ethical standards that restrict the use of information operations. However, because adversarial nations like Russia and China pervasively employ influence and deceptive measures in peacetime, the U.S. and its Army could benefit from developing alternative methods for maintaining an operational advantage against its adversaries.


Adversarial nations can also take advantage of “the [Western] media’s willingness to seek hard evidence and listen to both sides of an argument before coming to a conclusion” by “inserting fabricated or prejudicial information into Western analysis and blocking access to evidence.” The West’s free press will continue to be the primary counter to constructed narratives. Additionally, extensive training of U.S. military and Government personnel, in conjunction with educating its civilian population about Russia and China’s deceitful narratives may decrease the likelihood of perceptions being manipulated:  “If the nation can teach the media to scrutinize the obvious, understand the military, and appreciate the nuances of deception, it may become less vulnerable to deception.” Other ways to exploit Russian and Chinese vulnerabilities could include taking advantage of poor operations security, as well as the use and analysis of geotags to refute and discredit Russian and Chinese propaganda narratives.

A final consideration involves the formation of an interagency committee, similar to the Active Measures Working Group from the 1980s, for the identification and countering of adversarial disinformation and propaganda. The coordination of the disinformation efforts by manipulative countries like Russia is pervasive and exhaustive. Thus, coordination of information operations and counter-propaganda efforts is likewise important between the U.S. Government, the Army, and the rest of the branches of the military. The passing of the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, was an important first step in the continuing fight to counter foreign information and influence operations that seek to manipulate the U.S. and its decision-makers and undermine its national interests.

For more information on how adversaries will seek to shape perception in the Future Operational Environment, read the following related blog posts:

Influence at Machine Speed: The Coming of AI-Powered Propaganda

Virtual War – A Revolution in Human Affairs (Part I)

Personalized Warfare

Taylor Galanides is a Junior at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, studying Psychology. She is currently interning at Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the G-2 Futures team.

70. Star Wars 2050

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present today’s guest post by returning blogger Ms. Marie Murphy, addressing the implication of space drones and swarms on space-based services critical to the U.S. Army.  Ms. Murphy’s previous post addressed Virtual Nations: An Emerging Supranational Cyber Trend.]

Drone technology continues to proliferate in militaries and industries around the world.  In the deep future, drones and drone swarms may extend physical conflict into the space domain.  As space becomes ever more critical to military operations, states will seek technologies to counter their adversaries’ capabilities.   Drones and swarms can blend in with space debris in order to provide a tactical advantage against vulnerable and expensive assets at a lower cost.

Source: AutoEvolution

Space was recently identified as a battlespace domain in recognition of threats increasing at an unexpected rate and, in 2013, the Army Space Training Strategy was released. The functions of the Army almost entirely depend on space systems for daily and specialized operations, particularly C4ISR and GPS capabilities. “Well over 2,500 pieces of equipment… rely on a space-based capability” in any given combat brigade, so an Army contingency plan for the loss of satellite communication is critical.[I]  It is essential for the Army, in conjunction with other branches of the military and government agencies, to best shield military assets in space and continue to develop technologies, such as outer space drones and swarms, to remain competitive and secure throughout this domain in the future.

Source: CCTV China

Drone swarms in particular are an attractive military option due to their relative inexpensiveness, autonomy, and durability as a whole. The U.S., China, and Russia are the trifecta of advanced drone and drone swarm technology and also pose the greatest threats in space. In May 2018, Chinese Company CETC launched 200 autonomous drones,[II] beating China’s own record of 119 from 2017.[III] The U.S. has also branched out into swarm technology with the testing of Perdix drones, although the U.S. is most known for its use of the high-tech Predator drone.[IV]

Source: thedrive.com

Non-state actors also possess rudimentary drone capabilities. In January 2018, Syrian rebels attacked a Russian installation with 13 drones in an attempt to overwhelm Russian defenses. The Russian military was able to neutralize the attack by shooting down seven and bringing the remaining six down with electronic countermeasures.[V] While this attack was quelled, it proves that drones are being used by less powerful or economically resourceful actors, making them capable of rendering many traditional defense systems ineffective. It is not a far leap to incorporate autonomous communication between vehicles, capitalizing on the advantages of a fully interactive and cooperative drone swarm.

NASA Homemade Drone; Source: NASA Swamp Works

The same logic applies when considering drones and drone swarms in space. However, these vehicles will need to be technologically adapted for space conditions. Potentially most similar to future space drones, the company Swarm Technology launched four nanosats called “SpaceBees” with the intention of using them to create a constellation supporting Internet of Things (IoT) networks; however, they did so from India without FCC authorization.[VI] Using nanosats as examples of small, survivable space vehicles, the issues of power and propulsion are the most dominant technological roadblocks. Batteries must be small and are subject to failure in extreme environmental conditions and temperatures.[VII] Standard drone propulsion mechanisms are not viable in space, where drones will have to rely on cold-gas jets to maneuver.[VIII] Drones and drone swarms can idle in orbit (potentially for weeks or months) until activated, but they may still need hours of power to reach their target. The power systems must also have the ability to direct flight in a specific direction, requiring more energy than simply maintaining orbit.

Source: University of Southampton

There is a distinct advantage for drones operating in space: the ability to hide in plain sight among the scattered debris in orbit. Drones can be sent into space on a private or government launch hidden within a larger, benign payload.[IX] Once in space, these drones could be released into orbit, where they would blend in with the hundreds of thousands of other small pieces of material. When activated, they would lock onto a target or targets, and swarms would converge autonomously and communicate to avoid obstacles. Threat detection and avoidance systems may not recognize an approaching threat or swarm pattern until it is too late to move an asset out of their path (it takes a few hours for a shuttle and up to 30 hours for the ISS to conduct object avoidance maneuvers). In the deep future, it is likely that there will be a higher number of larger space assets as well as a greater number of nanosats and CubeSats, creating more objects for the Space Surveillance Network to track, and more places for drones and swarms to hide.[X]

For outer space drones and drone swarms, the issue of space junk is a double-edged sword. While it camouflages the vehicles, drone and swarm attacks also produce more space junk due to their kinetic nature. One directed “kamikaze” or armed drone can severely damage or destroy a satellite, while swarm technology can be harnessed for use against larger, defended assets or in a coordinated attack. However, projecting shrapnel can hit other military or commercial assets, creating a Kessler Syndrome effect of cascading damage.[XI] Once a specific space junk removal program is established by the international community, the resultant debris effects from drone and swarm attacks can be mitigated to preclude collateral damage.  However, this reduction of space junk will also result in less concealment, limiting drones’ and swarms’ ability to loiter in orbit covertly.

Utilizing drone swarms in space may also present legal challenges.  The original governing document regarding space activities is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. This treaty specifically prohibits WMDs in space and the militarization of the moon and other celestial bodies, but is not explicit regarding other forms of militarization, except to emphasize that space activities are to be carried out for the benefit of all countries. So far, military space activities have been limited to deploying military satellites and combatting cyber-attacks. Launching a kinetic attack in space would carry serious global implications and repercussions.

Such drastic and potentially destructive action would most likely stem from intense conflict on Earth. Norms about the usage of space would have to change. The Army must consider how widely experimented with and implemented drone and swarm technologies can be applied to targeting critical and expensive assets in orbit. Our adversaries do not have the same moral and ethical compunctions regarding space applications that the U.S. has as the world’s leading democracy. Therefore, the U.S. Army must prepare for such an eventuality.  Additionally, the Army must research and develop a more robust alternative to our current space-based GPS capability.  For now, the only war in space is the one conducted electronically, but kinetic operations in outer space are a realistic possibility in the deep future.

Marie Murphy is a rising junior at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, studying International Relations and Arabic. She is currently interning at Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the Mad Scientist Initiative.

______________________________________________________

[I] Houck, Caroline, “The Army’s Space Force Has Doubled in Six Years, and Demand Is Still Going Up,” Defense One, 23 August 2017.

[II]China’s Drone Swarms,” OE Watch, Vol. 8.7, July 2018.

[III]China Launches Drone Swarm of 119 Fixed-Wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” Business Standard, 11 June 2017.

[IV] Atherton, Kelsey D., “The Pentagon’s New Drone Swarm Heralds a Future of Autonomous War Machines,” Popular Science, 17 January 2017.

[V] Hruska, Joel, “Think One Military Drone is Bad? Drone Swarms Are Terrifyingly Difficult to Stop,” Extreme Tech, 8 March 2018.

[VI] Harris, Mark, “Why Did Swarm Launch Its Rogue Satellites?IEEE Spectrum, 20 March 2018.

[VII] Chow, Eugene K., “America Is No Match for China’s New Space Drones,” The National Interest, 4 November 2017.

[VIII] Murphy, Mike, “NASA Is Working on Drones That Can Fly In Space,” Quartz, 31 July 2015.

[IX] Harris, Mark, “Why Did Swarm Launch Its Rogue Satellites?IEEE Spectrum, 20 March 2018.

[X]Space Debris and Human Spacecraft,” NASA, 26 September 2013.

[XI] Scoles, Sarah, “The Space Junk Problem Is About to Get a Whole Lot Gnarlier,” WIRED, July 31, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

69. Demons in the Tall Grass

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist is pleased to present Mr. Mike Matson‘s guest blog post set in 2037 — pitting the defending Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade with Russian advisors and mercenaries against a Namibian Special Forces incursion supported by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Special Operators.  Both sides employ autonomous combat systems, albeit very differently — Enjoy!]

Preface:  This story was inspired by two events. First, Boston Dynamics over the last year had released a series of short videos of their humanoid and animal-inspired robots which had generated a strong visceral Internet reaction. Elon Musk had commented about one video that they would “in a few years… move so fast you’ll need a strobe light to see it.” That visual stuck with me and I was looking for an opportunity to expand on that image.

The second event was a recent trip to the Grand Tetons. I had a black bear rise up out of an otherwise empty meadow less than 50 meters away. A 200-kilo predator which can run at 60kph and yet remain invisible in high grass left a strong impression. And while I didn’t see any gray wolves, a guide discussed how some of the packs, composed of groups of 45-kilogram sized animals, had learned how to take down 700-kilogram bison. I visualized packs of speeding robotic wolves with bear-sized robots following behind.

I used these events as the genesis to explore a completely different approach to designing and employing unmanned ground combat vehicles (GCVs). Instead of the Russian crewless, traditional-styled armored vehicles, I approached GCVs from the standpoint of South Africa, which may not have the same resources as Russia, but has an innovative defense industry. If starting from scratch, how might their designs diverge? What could they do with less resources? And how would these designs match up to “traditional” GCVs?

To find out what would happen, I pitted an Angolan mechanize brigade outfitted with Russian GCVs against South African special forces armed with a top secret indigenous GCV program. The setting is southern Angola in 2037, and there are Demons in the Tall Grass. As Mr. Musk said in his Tweet, sweet dreams!  Mike Matson

 

Source: Google Maps

(2230Z 25 May 2037) Savate, Angola

Paulo crouched in his slit trench with his squad mates.  He knew this was something other than an exercise.  The entire Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade had road marched south to Savate, about 60 kilometers from the Namibian border. There, they were ordered to dig fighting positions and issued live ammunition.

Everyone was nervous. Thirty minutes before, one of their patrols a kilometer south of them had made contact.  A company had gone out in support and a massive firefight had ensued. A panicked officer could be heard on the net calling in artillery on their own position because they were being attacked by demons in the tall grass. Nobody had yet returned.

A pair of Uran-9s, line abreast; Source: RussianDefence.com / Lex Kitaev

Behind Paulo, the battalion commander came forward. With him were three Russian mercenaries.  Paulo knew the Russians had brought along two companies of robot tanks. The robot tanks sported an impressively large number of guns, missiles and lasers. Two of them had deployed with the quick reaction force.  Explosions suggested that they had been destroyed.

Paulo watched the Angolan officer carefully. Suddenly there was a screamed warning from down the trenches.  He whipped around and saw forms in the tall grass moving towards the trenches at a high rate of speed, spread out across his entire front. A dozen or more speeding lines headed directly towards the trenches like fish swimming just under the water.

“Fire!” Paulo ordered and started shooting, properly squeezing off three round bursts. The lines kept coming. Paulo had strobe light-like glimpses of bounding animals. Just before they burst from cover, piercingly loud hyena cries filled the night.  Paulo slammed his hand on the nearby clacker to detonate the directional mines to his front. The world exploded in noise and dust.

(Earlier That Morning) 25 Kilometers south of Savate

Captain Verlin Ellis, Bravo Group, SANDF, crouched with his NCO, his soldiers, and his Namibian SF counterpart at dawn under a tree surrounded by thick green bush.

“Listen up everyone, the operation is a go. Intelligence shows the brigade in a holding position south of Savate. We are to conduct a recon north until we can fix their position. Alpha and Charlie groups will be working their way up the left side. Charlie will hit their right flank with their predator package at the same time we attack from the south and Alpha will be the stopper group with the third group north of town. Once we have them located, we are to hold until nightfall, then attack.”

The tarps came off Bravo Group’s trucks and the men got to work unloading.

Source: BigDog / DeviantArt

First off were Bravo Group’s attack force of forty hyenas. Standing just under two feet high on their articulated legs, and weighing roughly 40 kilos, the small robots were off-loaded and their integrated solar panels were unfolded to top off their battery charges.

The hyenas operated in pack formations via an encrypted mesh network. While they could be directed by human operators if needed and could send and receive data via satellite or drone relay, they were designed to operate in total autonomy at ranges up to 40 kilometers from their handlers.

Each hyena had a swiveling front section like a head with four sensors and a small speaker. The sensors were a camera and separate thermal camera, a range finder, and a laser designator/pointer. Built into the hump of the hyena’s back was a fixed rifle barrel in a bullpup configuration, chambered in 5.56mm, which fired in three round bursts.

On each side there was a pre-loaded 40mm double tube grenade launcher. The guided, low velocity grenades could be launched forward between 25-150 meters. The hyenas were loaded with a mix of HE, CS gas, HEAT, and thermite grenades. They could select targets themselves or have another hyena or human operator designate a target, in which case they were also capable of non-line-of-sight attacks. The attack dogs contained a five-kilo shaped charge limpet mine for attaching to vehicles. There were 24 attack hyenas.

Source: Fausto De Martini / Kill Command

Second off came the buffalos, the heavy weapons support element. There were six of the 350 kilo beasts. They were roughly the same size as a water buffalo, hence their name. They retained the same basic head sensor suite as the hyenas, and a larger, sturdier version of the hyena’s legs.

Three of them mounted an 81mm auto-loading mortar and on their backs were 10 concave docking stations each holding a three ounce helicopter drone called a sparrow. The drone had a ten-minute flight radius with its tiny motor. One ounce of the drone was plastic explosive. They had a simple optical sensor and were designed to land and detonate on anything matching their picture recognition algorithms, such as ammo crates, fuel cans, or engine hoods.

The fourth buffalo sported a small, sleek turret on a flat back, with a 12.7mm machine gun, and the buffalo held 500 rounds of armor-piercing tracer.

The fifth buffalo held an automatic grenade launcher with 200 smart rounds in a similar turret to the 12.7mm gun. The grenades were programmed as they fired and could detonate over trenches or beyond obstacles to hit men behind cover.

The sixth carried three anti-tank missiles in a telescoping turret. Like the mortars, their fire could be directed by hyenas, human operators, or self-directed.

Source: KhezuG / Deviantart.com

Once the hyenas and buffalos were charging, the last truck was carefully unloaded.  Off came the boars — suicide bombs on legs. Each of the 15 machines was short, with stubbier legs for stability. Their outer shells were composed of pre-scarred metal and were overlaid with a layer of small steel balls for enhanced shrapnel. Inside they packed 75 kilos of high explosive. For tonight’s mission each boar was downloaded with different sounds to blare from their speakers, with choices ranging from Zulu war cries, to lion roars, to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Chaos was their primary mission.

Between the three Recce groups, nine machines failed warmup. That left 180 fully autonomous and cooperative war machines to hunt the 1,200 strong Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade.

(One Hour after Attack Began) Savate

Paulo and his team advanced, following spoor through the bush.  The anti-tank team begged to go back but Paulo refused.

Suddenly there was a slight gap in the tall grass just as something in front of them on the far side of a clearing fired. It looked like a giant metal rhino, and it had an automatic grenade launcher on top of it. It fired a burst, then sat down on its haunches to hide.

So that’s why I can’t see them after they fire. Very clever, thought Paulo. He tried calling in fire support but all channels were jammed.

Paulo signaled with his hands for both gunners to shoot. The range was almost too close. Both gunners fired at the same time, striking the beast. It exploded with a surprising fury, blowing them all off their feet and lighting up the sky. They laid there stunned as debris pitter-pattered in the dirt around them.

That was enough for Paulo and the men. They headed back to the safety of the trenches.

As they returned, eight armored vehicles appeared. On the left was an Angolan T-72 tank and three Russian robot tanks. On the right there was a BMP-4 and three more Russian robot tanks.

An animal-machine was trotting close to the vegetation outside the trenches and one of the Russian tank’s lasers swiveled and fired, emitting a loud hum, hitting it. The animal-machine was cut in two. The tanks stopped near the trench to shoot at unseen targets in the dark as Paulo entered the trenches.

The hyena yipping increased in volume as predators began to swarm around the armored force. Five or six were circling their perimeter yipping and shooting grenades. Two others crept under some bushes 70 meters to Paulo’s right and laid down like dogs. A long, thin antenna rose out of the back of one dog with some small device on top. The tanks furiously fired at the fleeting targets which circled them.

Mortar rounds burst around the armor, striking a Russian tank on the thin turret top, destroying it.

From a new direction, the ghost machine gun struck a Russian robot tank with a dozen exploding armor-piercing rounds. The turret was pounded and the externally mounted rockets were hit, bouncing the tank in place from the explosions. A robot tank popped smoke, instantly covering the entire armored force in a blinding white cloud which only added to the chaos. Suddenly the Russian turrets all stopped firing just as a third robot tank was hit by armor-piercing rounds in the treads and disabled.

Silent Ruin;  Source: Army Cyber Institute at West Point / Don Hudson & Kinsun Lo

If you enjoyed this blog post, read “Demons in the Grass” in its entirety here, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Mike Matson is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky, with a deep interest in national security and cyber matters. His writing focuses on military and intelligence-oriented science fiction. He has two previous articles published by Mad Scientist: the non-fiction “Complex Cyber Terrain in Hyper-Connected Urban Areas,” and the fictional story, “Gods of Olympus.”  In addition to Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington, DC, he has lived, studied, and worked in Brussels, Belgium, and Tallinn, Estonia. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from The American University and an M.S. in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University, both in Washington, DC. He can be found on Twitter at @Mike40245.

68. Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference Final Report

[Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International on 8–9 March 2018 at their Menlo Park campus in California. This conference explored bio convergence, what the Army’s Soldier of 2050 will look like, and how they will interact and integrate with their equipment. The following post is an excerpt from this conference’s final report.]

Source: U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua P. Morris

While the technology and concepts defining warfare have continuously and rapidly transformed, the primary actor in warfare – the human – has remained largely unchanged. Soldiers today may be physically larger, more thoroughly trained, and better equipped than their historical counterparts, but their capability and performance abilities remain very similar.

These limitations in human performance, however, may change over the next 30 years, as advances in biotechnology and human performance likely will expand the boundaries of what is possible for humans to achieve. We may see Soldiers – not just their equipment – with superior vision, enhanced cognitive abilities, disease/virus resistance, and increased strength, speed, agility, and endurance. As a result, these advances could provide the Soldier with an edge to survive and thrive on the hyperactive, constantly changing, and increasingly lethal Multi-Domain Battlespace.

Source: The Guardian and Lynsey Irvine/Getty

In addition to potentially changing the individual physiology and abilities of the future Soldier, there are many technological innovations on the horizon that will impact human performance. The convergence of these technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, augmented reality, brain-machine interface, nanotechnologies, and biological and medical improvements to the human – is referred to as bio convergence. Soldiers of the future will have enhanced capabilities due to technologies that will be installed, instilled, and augmented. This convergence will also make the Army come to terms on what kinds of bio-converged technologies will be accepted in new recruits.

The conference generated the following key findings:

Source: RodMartin.org

• The broad advancement of biotechnologies will provide wide access to dangerous and powerful bioweapons and human enhancements. The low cost and low expertise entry point into gene editing, human performance enhancement, and bioweapon production has spurred a string of new explorations into this arena by countries with large defense budgets (e.g.,  China), non-state criminal and terrorist organizations (e.g., ISIS), and even super-empowered individuals willing to subject their bodies to experimental and risky treatments.

Source: Shutterstock

• Emerging synthetic biology tools (e.g., CRISPR, Talon, and ZFN) present an opportunity to engineer Soldiers’ DNA and enhance their performance, providing  greater  speed, strength, endurance, and resilience.  These tools, however, will also create new vulnerabilities, such as genomic targeting, that can be exploited by an adversary and/or potentially harm the individual undergoing enhancement.  Bioengineering is becoming easier and cheaper as a bevy of developments are reducing biotechnology transaction costs in gene reading, writing, and editing.  Due to the ever-increasing speed and lethality of the future battlefield, combatants will need cognitive and physical enhancement to survive and thrive.

Source: Getty Images

• Ensuring that our land forces are ready to meet future challenges requires optimizing biotechnology and neuroscience advancements.  Designer viruses and diseases will be highly volatile, mutative, and extremely personalized, potentially challenging an already stressed Army medical response system and its countermeasures.  Synthetic biology provides numerous applications that will bridge capability gaps and enable future forces to fight effectively. Future synthetic biology defense applications are numerous and range from sensing capabilities to rapidly developed vaccines and therapeutics.

Source: Rockwell Collins / Aviation Week

• Private industry and academia have become the driving force behind innovation. While there are some benefits to this – such as shorter development times – there are also risks. For example, investments in industry are mainly driven by market demand which can lead to a lack of investment in areas that are vital to National Defense but have low to no consumer demand. In academia, a majority of graduate students in STEM fields are foreign nationals, comprising over 80% of electrical and petroleum engineering programs. The U.S. will need to find a way to maintain its technological superiority even when most of the expertise eventually leaves the country.

Source: World Health Organization

• The advent of new biotechnologies will give rise to moral, regulatory, and legal challenges for the Army of the Future, its business practices, recruiting requirements, Soldier standards, and structure. The rate of technology development in the synthetic biology field is increasing rapidly. Private individuals or small start-ups with minimal capital can create a new organism for which there is no current countermeasure and the development of one will likely take years. This potentiality leads to the dilemma of swiftly creating effective policy and regulation that addresses these concerns, while not stifling creativity and productivity in the field for those conducting legitimate research. Current regulation may not be sufficient, and bureaucratic inflexibility prevents quick reactive and proactive change. Our adversaries may not move as readily to adopt harsher regulations in the bio-technology arena. Rather than focusing on short-term solutions, it may be beneficial to take a holistic approach centered in a world where bio-technology is interacting with everyday life. The U.S. may have to work from a relative “disadvantage,” using safe and legal methods of enhancement, while our adversaries may choose to operate below our defined legal threshold.

Bio Convergence is incredibly important to the Army of the Future because the future Soldier is the Bio. The Warrior of tomorrow’s Army will be given more responsibility, will be asked to do more, will be required to be more capable, and will face more challenges and complexities than ever before. These Soldiers must be able to quickly adapt, change, connect to and disconnect from a multitude of networks – digital and otherwise – all while carrying out multiple mission-sets in an increasingly disrupted, degraded, and arduous environment marred with distorted reality, information warfare, and attacks of a personalized nature.

For additional information regarding this conference:

• Review the Lessons Learned from the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference preliminary assessment.

• Read the entire Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference Final Report.

• Watch the conference’s video presentations.

• See the associated presentations’ briefing slides.

• Check out the associated “Call for Ideas” writing contest finalist submissions, hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.