46. Integrated Sensors: The Critical Element in Future Complex Environment Warfare

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Dr. Richard Nabors, Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Deputy Director, Operations Division, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), addressing how the proliferation of sensors, integrated via the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT], will provide Future Soldiers with the requisite situational awareness to fight and win in increasingly complex and advanced battlespaces.)

As in preceding decades, that which can be found, if unprotected, can still be hit. By mid-Century, it will prove increasingly difficult to stay hidden. Most competitors can access space-based surveillance, networked multi-static radars, drones and swarms of drones in a wide variety, and a vast of array of passive and active sensors that are far cheaper to produce than to create technology to defeat them. Quantum computing and quantum sensing will open new levels of situational awareness. Passive sensing, especially when combined with artificial intelligence and big-data techniques may routinely outperform active sensors. These capabilities will be augmented by increasingly sophisticated civilian capabilities, where commercial imagery services, a robust and mature Internet of Things, and near unlimited processing power generate a battlespace that is more transparent than ever before.The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare

The complex operational environment of the next conflict cannot be predicted accurately. It has become a battlespace — jungle, forest, city, desert, arctic and cyber — where the enemy is already entrenched and knows the operational environment. Complex and congested environments level the field between the United States and its adversaries. The availability of integrated sensor networks and technologies will be a critical factor in piercing the complexity of these environments and determining what level of military superiority is enjoyed by any one side.

As Soldiers in complex operational situations are presented with significantly more information than in the past and in a broader variety; they have the need to quickly and decisively adapt to the changing situation, but often do not have the time to sort and judge the value of the information received.

Integrated sensor technologies will provide situational awareness by:

• Collecting and sorting real-time data and sending a fusion of information to the point of need by enhancing human vision,




Integrating with computers to detect and identify items of interest in real-time,

• Using augmented reality to overlay computer vision with human vision, and

Fusing data together from multiple sensor sources.

Networks of sensors integrated with autonomous systems will work autonomously to support local operations as well as converge and diverge as needed, accelerating human decision-making to the fastest rates possible and maximizing the U.S. military’s advantage.

Expected advances in Army sensing capabilities will directly address operational vulnerabilities in future environments, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) by a concealed enemy, and poor visibility and short lines of sight in urban environments. These sensors will provide local ISR by collecting, sorting, and fusing real-time data and sending it to the point of need, expanding the small units’ ability to sense the adversary, and providing an understanding of the operational environment that the adversary lacks.

There are several technical challenges that are being addressed in order to maintain and secure overmatch capabilities. These include:

Fusion of disparate sensors into a combined capability.

Tactical computing resources.

• Network connectivity and bandwidth.

• Sensor suitability for environmental observation.

• Reduced power requirements.

• Tailored, individual mechanisms through “sensored” Soldiers.

• Disguised unmanned systems to gather and communicate intelligence.

Future research will focus on automation that could track and react to a Soldier’s changing situation by tailoring the augmentation the Soldier receives and by coordinating across the unit. In long-term development, sensors on Soldiers and vehicles will provide real-time status and updates, optimizing individually tailored performance levels. Sensors will provide adaptive camouflage for the individual Soldier or platform in addition to reactive self-healing armor. The Army will be able to monitor the health of each Soldier in real-time and deploy portable autonomous medical treatment centers using sensor-equipped robots to treat injuries. Sensors will enhance detection through air-dispersible microsensors, as well as microdrones with image-processing capabilities.

Image credit: Alexander Kott

In complex environments, the gathering and fusion of information will lead to greater understanding. Integrated sensors, remote and near, manned and unmanned, can both save Soldiers’ lives and make them more lethal.

Read about how Russia is trying to increase its number of electro-optical satellites in the OE Watch November 2017 issue (page 17).

Listen to Modern War Institute‘s podcast where Retired Maj. Gen. David Fastabend and Mr. Ian Sullivan address Technology and the Future of Warfare.

Dr. Richard Nabors is Associate Director for Strategic Planning, US Army CERDEC Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate.

45. Envisioning Future Operational Environment Possibilities through Story Telling

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them, into the impossible.” — Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 20th Century British science fiction writer, futurist, and inventor








In envisioning Future Operational Environment possibilities, the Mad Scientist Initiative employs the following techniques:

Crowdsourcing: Gathering ideas, thoughts, and concepts from a wide variety of interested individuals assists us in diversifying thoughts and challenging conventional assumptions

Edge Cases: Examining what is at the extreme possible regarding new and emerging technologies allows us to contextualize the future

Historical Analogy: Comparing past events to current and future possibilities allows us to imagine the transformational and sometimes radical changes the Army of the Future may experience

Story Telling: Creative fictional writing and narrative building that helps us explore how technologies are employed and operationalized

While each of these techniques have their own unique merits, Mad Scientist has found that Story Telling serves us especially well in facilitating the exploration of future possibilities. As Mr. Peter David addresses in his Small Wars Journal article entitled “Science Fiction vs. Science Funding: Comparing What We Imagine to What We Invent,” well-written science fiction provides us with more than just a litany of speculative scientific and technological advances. It takes these advances and wickers them seamlessly within an engaging plot. Characters actually employ these advances, enabling us to visualize their effects on both the individual and society as a whole.

In November 2016, Mad Scientist launched its first Science Fiction Writing Competition with the topic “Warfare in 2030 to 2050.” We sought out unconventional thinkers and solicited their unique perspectives — we were not disappointed! With over 150 submissions from authors in 10 different countries around the globe, the diversity of input provided us with a wide variety of thoughts and ideas about warfare and the Future Operational Environment. Through the art of Story Telling, the Army was able to visualize the known, probable, and possible challenges and opportunities that the future holds.

Mad Scientist singled out Mr. Mathison Hall‘s short story entitled “Patrolling the Infosphere” for recognition at our Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle 2030-2050 Conference, co-sponsored by Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on 25-26 July 2017. The following is an excerpt from his winning submission:

I step into my exoskeleton, my link-suit hooking into the inside of the exoskel. “All systems charged and functional. Left knee joint operating at partial strength, but combat ready,” the exoskel’s voice calmly reports. They hit my knee hard three patrols ago. The contractor jury-rigged it to function…partially. I can still run up to forty-miles-an-hour and jump to the third floor windows, but the outside of the joint started vibrating and pulling oddly to the right on patrol this morning. It’ll be fun trying to hoof it in a one-hundred and fifty-five pound exoskel plus another sixty pounds of gear, weapons, and ammo with my own knee power on the left side if that thing gives out.

Angels, let’s go, I think to myself. My two synched drones lift off the charging shelf and lock into my exoskel’s shoulders. The suit hums softly and each step clinks lightly as I line up with the rest of the squad for our final pre-combat checks.

Staff Sergeant Nguyen’s exoskel head turns and looks over us. I can see her face through the clear polymer face shield. She has a sly smile. I’ve got to hand it to her, she loves patrolling.

“Second squad online and ready,” her voice projects over our intercoms.

“Copy second squad. We have a good synch here in the company operations center. Information operations and intel are both online and monitoring. Your Cyber Force bubbas are up and running ready to save your hides. Air Force drones are airborne and you’ve got priority of fires from one Navy railgun. No news feeds right now. There’s at least one Russian cube-sat up there watching our sector, but it’s not projecting over any social media yet. We’ve let Fort Meade know, and they should have it down soon. Tell us when you’re ready to step and we’ll start chatting.”

That’s my drinking buddy, Coder Second Class Hawkins, for you. He never passes up a chance to say in fifty words what can be said in ten. Makes him a good drinking buddy, especially when he gets going. I like to give him crap for being the only Cyber Force hacker deployed in our sector. His whole service spends most of their careers stateside. But no one doubts that they’re the main effort.

Chatting…damn. He and his reach-back squad in Maryland are going to start lighting up the news feeds and social media soon. Lucia’s going to be pissed. I bet she’s watching right now from Fayetteville. Let’s see, how many hours ahead of the East Coast are we? Five? She probably hasn’t left for work at the intel fusion cell on base yet. Probably at home getting Cindy ready for school and watching #DCo3dBCT82ndAirborne right now, monitoring the Russian cube-sat feed and our chatter at the same time. I bet Fort Meade gets the cube-sat down right about the time we’re wrapping up our patrol, as usual.

“Second squad ready to step.” Staff Sergeant Nguyen.

“Copy, second squad. The public affairs specialist is up and transmitting. We’ve got a foothold into the local internet exchange point, and we’ve got good visual on the whole town from the drones. No abnormal activity. Go ahead and step.”

We leave the tent, the nine of us stepping into the scorching sunlight as two Chinese field hackers march across the courtyard in their suits. Their suits’ exoskels look suspiciously like ours…same design and functions and almost the same weapons systems. Suits look a little sleeker and newer; less used. Two headless mules, our ammo, water, and gear resupply drones, fall in behind us, their legs moving rhythmically and spider-like as their LIDAR sensors navigate the terrain in front of them and keep them locked on to us 20 yards to our rear. They follow us like four-legged mechanical spiders, crawling across the dusty, crumbling streets between our company’s firm base and the center of town…


Video envisioning the world described in Mr. Mathison Hall’s “Patrolling the Infosphere.”

You can read the rest of Mr. Hall’s winning entry, as well as 22 other submissions from this contest at Science Fiction: Visioning the Future of Warfare 2030-2050.

Watch Mr. Hall’s presentation entitled “Patrolling the Infosphere” at the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle 2030-2050 Conference.

Mad Scientist Laboratory has also explored the benefits of Story Telling in the televisual arts in Dr. Peter Emanuel’s guest blog post.

Harvard Business Review and MIT Technology Review have both realized the merits of Science Fiction; as Mr. Eliot Peper notes in his article in HBR:

“Exploring fictional futures frees our thinking from false constraints. It challenges us to wonder whether we’re even asking the right questions. It forces us to recognize that sometimes imagination is more important than analysis.”

For additional examples of how Story Telling provides us with provocative and unique insights into future possibilities regarding warfare and the Future Operational Environment, read the finalists from our recent Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas, hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

44. Megacities: Future Challenges and Responses

“Cities now sprawl over large areas of the globe and contain almost two-thirds of the world’s population. These numbers will only increase. Some megacities will become more important politically and economically than the nation-state in which they reside…. Furthermore, the move of large numbers of people to large urban areas and megacities will strain resources, as these areas will become increasingly reliant on rural areas for food, water, and even additional power. From a military perspective, cities represent challenges, opportunities, and unique vulnerabilities.” The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2, in partnership with U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) and the Australian Army, facilitated the Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) in Megacities Conference on April 3-4, 2018 at Fort Hamilton, New York. Briefings and videos from this event are now posted on the Mad Scientist APAN Site’s MDB in Megacities Conference Page and the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise YouTube Channel.

To whet your appetite while we await publication of the preliminary results from the aforementioned conference, the Mad Scientist Laboratory has extracted and reiterated below key findings from the Mad Scientist Megacities and Dense Urban Areas Initiative in 2025 and Beyond Conference Final Report. This conference, facilitated in April 2016 by the TRADOC G-2, Arizona State University Research Enterprise (ASURE), Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), and the Army’s Intelligence Center of Excellence (ICoE), sought to ensure that no U.S. Army Soldier will ever be disadvantaged when operating in an urban environment. The future challenges and responses identified at this conference are presented below:

Future challenges that U.S. forces will face when operating in a megacity environment include:

Rapid growth in urban areas will produce more demand on the infrastructure and flow systems, more waste, and increased urban density.




• A major challenge of megacities is density (data, people, and infrastructure).






• The absence of clearly demarcated boundaries for the area of operations will be problematic.






• The Army will have to consider the rural and regional areas around megacities as well as the world-wide implications of operations within megacities.


• The proliferation of advanced weaponry, coupled with the rapid digital spread of information and ideology, allows anyone to be a threat and will lead to growing instability in many parts of the world.


• Changing infrastructure, subcultures, and places to “hide in plain sight” present a particular challenge to data gathering.




• Megacities are more susceptible to natural and manmade disasters when in close proximity to large bodies of water. Extreme water events caused by floods, hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis will exacerbate life threatening situations in areas of increased urbanization.


Urban vertical and subterranean warfare significantly complicate Army operations, freedom of movement, and force protection.




Disease in megacities can result in catastrophic, global outcomes. Infectious disease will interface with urbanization, impacting military missions (e.g. warfare, humanitarian missions, and force protection). Rapid growth of dense urban areas in developing countries will continue to push people into environments that put them in greater contact with animal reservoirs of disease. Denial, fear, misinformation, decontamination, and disposal are among the many factors future military forces may have to contend with.

(Note: many of these were highlighted at last week’s MDB in Megacities Conference)

Future Army Concepts and Doctrine should account for the following areas:

• Adoption of a city as a system of systems perspective will require adaptation of a significant portion of Army doctrine resulting in an urban analytic framework tailored to address the operational data layers found within urban centers, their environmental dynamism, and their state of connectedness.

• The dynamic nature of urban environments demands an expansion of traditional Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) thinking. IPB often fails to gain sight of the dynamics between the components of problems within an interactively complex system and is not conducive to an interactively complex Operational Environment. The basic definition of IPB often does not take into account how the variables explaining Dense Urban Areas are increasingly interconnected, offers little instruction on how to address a complex, multidimensional environment, and provides little operational advice or examples.

Megacities research needs to better address the likelihood of more lethal competitors. Current mental models are stuck on non-hybrid, warrior-like opponents.

• Changes in doctrine to enable the development of knowledge experts in megacities is needed where personnel are assigned to monitor cities.




Greater emphasis must be placed on strategically supporting, manipulating, and/or undermining the flows, infrastructure, and systems of the megacity, as opposed to current emphasis on kinetic, military tasks.




• The Army must change its thinking to focus more on rigorous big data-driven analysis, instead of relying largely on the same reductionist models that limit holistic thinking.




• The Army must change its attitude towards cyberwarfare and innovate new ideas and concepts for warfare. This is especially important in cities with high densities of smart technology where the Internet of Things (IoT) might provide a wealth of intelligence information.

• A shift in how medical data is defined, stored, captured, visualized, and shared is needed for more easily transportable semi-autonomous and autonomous Tactical Combat Casualty Care capabilities to support future missions. This will require a paradigm shift in the practice of operational medicine from an “art” that employs subjective measures to assess and treat, to a “science” based on employing objective quantifiable measures.

Faster technological iteration and adaptation is needed as opposed to large, long-term development, acquisition, and sustainment programs. Smaller, faster, and more flexible systems to supplement, or supersede, existing weapons and other systems with rapid prototyping, small automated production runs, remote software updates, and development and deployment to upgrade a soldier’s tools in months or weeks will be needed.

For additional insights regarding combat in urban terrain, please listen to the following podcasts, hosted by our colleagues at Modern War Institute:

The Battle for Mosul, with Col. Pat Work

The Future Urban Battlefield, with Dr. Russell Glenn

See Dr. Russell Glenn’s guest blog post, “Megacities: The Time is Nigh

Also see the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise (OEE) Red Diamond Threats Newsletter, Volume 9, Issue 1, January-February 2018, pages 18-21, for Manila: An Exemplar of Dense Urban Terrain. This article “illustrates the complex political and civil-military challenges that would impact potential operations or activities in megacities.”

Please also see Jeremy D. McLain’s article (submitted in response to our Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas) entitled, Full-Auto Teddy Bear: Non-Lethal Automatons and Lethal Human Teaming to Increase Overall ‘Lethality’ in Complex Urban Environments, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.






43. The Changing Character of Warfare: Takeaways for the Future

The Future Operational Environment (OE), as described in The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare , brings with it an inexorable series of movements which lead us to consider the following critical question:

What do these issues mean for the nature and character of warfare?

The nature of war, which has remained relatively constant from Thucydides, through Clausewitz, through the Cold War, and on into the present, certainly remains constant through the Era of Accelerated Human Progress (i.e., now through 2035). War is still waged because of fear, honor, and interest, and remains an expression of politics by other means. However, as we move into the Era of Contested Equality (i.e., 2035-2050), the character of warfare has changed in several key areas:

The Moral and Cognitive Dimensions are Ascendant.

The proliferation of high technology, coupled with the speed of human interaction and pervasive connectivity, means that no one nation will have an absolute strategic advantage in capabilities. When breakthroughs occur, the advantages they confer will be fleeting, as rivals quickly adapt. Under such conditions, the physical dimension of warfare may become less important than the cognitive and the moral. As a result, there will be less self-imposed restrictions by some powers on the use of military force, and hybrid strategies involving information operations, direct cyber-attacks against individuals and segments of populations, or national infrastructure, terrorism, the use of proxies, and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) will aim to prevail against an enemy’s will.

Integration across Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economic (DIME).

Clausewitz’s timeless dictum that war is policy by other means takes on a new importance as the distance between war and policy recedes; but also must take into account other elements of national power to form true whole-of-government and, when possible, collective security approaches to national security issues. The interrelationship across the DIME will require a closer integration across all elements of government, and Joint decision-making bodies will need to quickly and effectively deliver DIME effects across the physical, the cognitive, and moral dimensions. Military operations are an essential element of this equation, but may not necessarily be the decisive means of achieving an end state.

Limitations of Military Force.

While mid-Century militaries will have more capability than at any time in history, their ability to wage high-intensity conflict will become more limited. Force-on-force conflict will be so destructive, will be waged at the new speed of human and AI-enhanced interaction, and will occur at such extended long-ranges that exquisitely trained and equipped forces facing a peer or near-peer rival will rapidly suffer significant losses in manpower and equipment that will be difficult to replace. Robotics, unmanned vehicles, and man-machine teaming activities offer partial solutions, but warfare will still revolve around increasingly vulnerable human beings. Military forces will need to consider how advances in AI, bio-engineering, man-machine interface, neuro-implanted knowledge, and other areas of enhanced human performance and learning can quickly help reduce the long lead time in training and developing personnel.

The Primacy of Information.

In the timeless struggle between offense and defense, information will become the most important and most useful tool at all levels of warfare. The ability of an actor to use information to target the enemy’s will, without necessarily having to address its means will increasingly be possible. In the past, nations have tried to target an enemy’s will through kinetic attacks on its means – the enemy military – or through the direct targeting of the will by attacking the national infrastructure or a national populace itself. Sophisticated, nuanced information operations, taking advantage of an ability to directly target an affected audience through cyber operations or other forms of influence operations, and reinforced by a credible capable armed force can bend an adversary’s will before battle is joined.

Expansion of the Battle Area.

Nations, non-state actors, and even individuals will be able to target military forces and civilian infrastructure at increasing – often over intercontinental – ranges using a host of conventional and unconventional means. A force deploying to a combat zone will be vulnerable from the individual soldier’s personal residence, to his or her installation, and during his or her entire deployment. Adversaries also will have the ability to target or hold at risk non-military infrastructure and even populations with increasingly sophisticated, nuanced and destructive capabilities, including WMD, hypersonic conventional weapons, and perhaps most critically, cyber weapons and information warfare. WMD will not be the only threat capable of directly targeting and even destroying a society, as cyber and information can directly target infrastructure, banking, food supplies, power, and general ways of life. Limited wars focusing on a limited area of operations waged between peers or near-peer adversaries will become more dangerous as adversaries will have an unprecedented capability to broaden their attacks to their enemy’s homeland. The U.S. Homeland likely will not avoid the effects of warfare and will be vulnerable in at least eight areas.

Ethics of Warfare Shift.
Traditional norms of warfare, definitions of combatants and non-combatants, and even what constitutes military action or national casus belli will be turned upside down and remain in flux at all levels of warfare.


– Does cyber activity, or information operations aimed at influencing national policy, rise to the level of warfare?

– Is using cyber capabilities to target a national infrastructure legal, if it has broad societal impacts?

– Can one target an electric grid that supports a civilian hospital, but also powers a military base a continent away from the battle zone from which unmanned systems are controlled?

– What is the threshold for WMD use?

– Is the use of autonomous robots against human soldiers legal?

These and other questions will arise, and likely will be answered differently by individual actors.

The changes in the character of war by mid-Century will be pronounced, and are directly related and traceable to our present. The natural progression of the changes in the character of war may be a change in the nature of war, perhaps towards the end of the Era of Contested Equality or in the second half of the Twenty First Century.

For additional information, watch the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise’s The Changing Character of Future Warfare video.

42. China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance

“While the U.S. military may not necessarily have to fight Russia or China, it is likely that U.S. forces through 2050 will encounter their advanced equipment, concepts, doctrine, and tactics in flashpoints or trouble spots around the globe..” — extracted from The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare

The Future Operational Environment’s Era of Contested Equality (i.e., 2035 through 2050) will be marked by significant breakthroughs in technology and convergences, resulting in revolutionary changes that challenge the very nature of warfare itself. No one actor is likely to have any long-term strategic or technological advantage during this period of enduring competition. Prevailing in this environment will depend on an ability to synchronize multi-domain capabilities against an artificial intelligence-enhanced adversary with an overarching capability to visualize and understand the battlespace at even greater ranges and velocities.

Ms. Elsa Kania, Adjunct Fellow, Technology and National Security Program, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), presented People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Human-Machine Integration” at last month’s Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference. In this presentation, Ms. Kania addressed China’s on-going initiatives that seek to change military power paradigms via competition and innovation in a number of key technologies. This post summarizes Ms. Kania’s presentation.

Xinhua News Agency (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)
Under President Xi Jinping‘s leadership, China is becoming a major engine of global innovation, second only to the United States. China’s national strategy of “innovation-driven development” places innovation at the forefront of economic and military development. These efforts are beginning to pay off, as Beijing is becoming as innovative as Silicon Valley. China continues to strengthen its military through a series of ambitious Science and Technology (S&T) plans and investments, focusing on disruptive and radical innovations that will enable them to seize the high ground with decisive technologies (e.g., AI, hypervelocity, and biotechnology).

President Xi leads China’s Central Military-Civil Fusion Development Commission, whose priorities include intelligent unmanned systems, biology and cross-disciplinary technologies, and quantum S&T. Though the implementation of a “whole of nation” strategy, President Xi is leveraging private sector advances for military applications. This strategy includes the establishment of Joint Research Institutes to promote collaborative R&D; new national labs focused on achieving dual-use advances; and collaboration within national military-civil fusion innovation demonstration zones. Major projects concentrate on quantum communications and computing, brain science, and brain-inspired research.

By 2030, China will be world’s premier Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation center. Building upon their successes with Alpha Go, the PLA is seeking to establish a “Battlefield Singularity,” leveraging AI potential in planning, operational command and control, decision support tools, wargaming, and brain-computer interfaces controlling unmanned systems. They will deepen military-civil fusion AI initiatives with Baidu, Alibaba Group, Tencent, and iFLYTEK. AI is seen as a potential game-changer by the Chinese, a way to augment perceived military shortcomings.

This focused initiative on innovation may result in China’s First Offset, characterized by integrating quantum satellites with fiber optic communication networks; human-machine interfaces; drone swarms able to target carrier task forces; naval rail guns; and quantum computing.

Potential areas for biotechnology and AI convergences include:

“Intelligentized” Command Decision-Making: The Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC) has called for the PLA to leverage the “tremendous potential” of AI in planning, operational command, and decision support. Ongoing research is focusing on command automation and “intelligentization,” with experimental demonstrations of an “external brain” for commanders and decision support systems for fighter pilots and submarines.

Brain-Computer Interfaces: Active research programs in brain-computer interfaces are underway (e.g., at PLA Information Engineering University, Tsinghua University), enabling “brain control” of robotic and “unmanned” systems and potentially facilitating brain networking.


Military Exoskeletons: Several prototype exoskeletons have been tested and demonstrated to date, augmenting soldiers’ physical capabilities, with the latest generations being more capable and closer to being fielded by the PLA.








CRISPR in China: Gene editing is currently underway with animals and human embryos due to less stringent regulatory requirements in the PRC. BGI (a would-be “bio-Google”) is currently soliciting DNA from Chinese geniuses in an attempt to understand the genomic basis for intelligence.






Chinese Superintelligence: The Chinese aspire to develop “brain-like” or human-level AI. Their new National Engineering Laboratory for Brain-Inspired Intelligence Technologies and Applications, with Baidu involvement, is focusing on learning from the human brain to tackle AI, advancing next-generation AI technologies.

While technological advantage has been a key pillar of U.S. military power and national competitiveness, China is rapidly catching up. Future primacy in AI and biotech, likely integral in future warfare, could remain contested between the U.S. and China. The PLA will continue explore and invest in these key emerging technologies in their on-going drive for innovation dominance.

For more information regarding the PLA’s on-going innovation efforts:

Watch Ms. Kania’s video presentation and read the associated slides from the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference.

Listen to Ms. Kania’s China’s Quest for Enhanced Military Technology podcast, hosted by our colleagues at Modern War Institute.

Read Ms. Kania’s “Battlefield Singularity Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China’s Future Military Power,” which can be downloaded here.

Check out Ms. Kania’s Battlefield Singularity website.

41. The Technological Information Landscape: Realities on the Horizon

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos, addressing the future of technological information and the tantalizing possible realities they may provide us by 2050.)

The history of technology and its contemporary developments is not a story about technology, it is a story about people, politics and culture. Politics encouraged military technologies to be developed which have had tremendous value for civilian use. Technologies that were too ahead of their cultural times were left behind. As the saying goes ‘need is the mother of all inventions’, and many technological advances have been thanks to the perseverance of people who were determined to solve a problem that affected their life, or that of their loved ones and community. Ultimately, technology starts with people, ideas come from people, and the perception of reality is a human endeavor as well.

The ‘reality’ related technologies that are part of the current and emerging information landscape have the potential to alter the perception of reality, form new digital communities and allegiances, mobilize people, and create reality dissonance. These realities also contribute to the evolving ways that information is consumed, managed, and distributed. There are five components:




1. Real World: Pre-internet real, touch-feel-and-smell world.






2. Digital Reality 1.0: There are many already existing digital realities that people can immerse themselves into, which include gaming, as well as social media and worlds such as Second Life. Things that happen on these digital platforms can affect the real world and visa-versa.

3. Digital Reality 2.0: The Mixed Reality (MR) world of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). These technologies are still in their early stages; however, they show tremendous potential for receiving, and perceiving information, as well as experiencing narratives through synthetic or captured moments.

Virtual Reality allows the user to step in a “virtual” reality, which can be entirely synthetic and a created digital environment, or it could be a suspended moment of an actual real-world environment. The synthetic environment could be modeled after the real world, a fantasy, or a bit of both. Most virtual realities do not fully cross over the uncanny valley, but it is only a matter of time. Suspended moments of actual real-world environments involve 360 degree cameras which capture a video moment in time; these already exist and the degree in which it feels like the VR user is teleported to that geographical and temporal moment in time will, for the most part, depend on the quality of the video and the sound. This VR experience can also be modified, edited and amended just like regular videos are edited today. This, coupled with technologies that authentically replicate voice (ex: Adobe VoCo) and technologies that can change faces in videos, create open-ended possibilities for ‘fake’ authentic videos and soundbites that can be embedded.

Augmented Reality allows the user to interact with a digital layer superimposed on their physical real world. The technology is still in the early stages, but when it reaches its full potential, it is expected to disrupt and transform the way we communicate, work, and interact with our world. Some say the combination of voice command, artificial intelligence, and AR will make screens a thing of the past. Google is experimenting with their new app Just a Line, which allows the users to play with their augmented environment and create digital graffiti in their physical space. While this is an experiment, the potential for geographic AR experiences, messages (overt or covert), and storytelling is immense.

4. Brain Computer Interface (BCI): Also called Brain Machine Interface (BMI). BCI has the potential to create another reality when the brain is seamlessly connected to the internet. This may also include connection to artificial intelligence and other brains. This technology is currently being developed, and the space for ‘minimally invasive’ BCI has exploded. Should it work as intended, the user would, in theory, be directly communicating to the internet through thought, the lines would blur between the user’s memory and knowledge and the augmented intelligence its brain accessed in real-time through BCI. In this sense it would also be able to communicate with others through thought using BCI as the medium. The sharing of information, ideas, memories and emotions through this medium would create a new way of receiving, creating and transmitting information, as well as a new reality experience. However, for those with a sinister mind, this technology could also have the potential to be used as a method for implanting ideas into others’ minds and subconscious. For an in-depth explanation on one company’s efforts to make BCI a reality, see Tim Urban’s post “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future”.

5. Whole Brain Emulation (WBE): Brings a very new dimension to the information landscape. It is very much still in the early stages, however, if successful, this would create a virtual immortal sentient existence which would live and interact with the other realities. It is still unclear if the uploaded mind would be sentient, how it would interact with its new world (the cloud), and what implications it would have on those who know or knew the person. As the technology is still new, many avenues for brain uploading are being explored which include it being done while a person is alive and when a person dies. Ultimately a ‘copy’ of the mind would be made and the computer would run a simulation model of the uploaded brain, it is also expected to have a conscious mind of its own. This uploaded, fully functional brain could live in a virtual reality or in a computer which takes physical form in a robot or biological body. Theoretically, this technology would allow uploaded minds to interact with all realities and be able to create and share information.

Apart from another means for communicating with others, and transmitting information, it can also be used as a medium to further ideologies. For example, if Osama bin Laden’s brain had been uploaded to the cloud, his living followers for generations to come could interact with him and acquire feedback and guidance. Another example is Adolf Hitler; if his brain were to have been uploaded, his modern-day followers would be able to interact with him through cognitive augmentation and AI. This of course could be used to ‘keep’ loved ones in our lives, however the technology has broader implications when it is used to perpetuate harmful ideologies, shape opinions, and mobilize populations into violent action. As mind-boggling as all this may sound, the WBE “hypothetical futuristic process of scanning the mental state of a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computer” is being scientifically pursued. In 2008, the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University published a technical report about the roadmap to Whole Brain Emulation.

Despite the many questions that remain unanswered and a lack of a human brain upload proof of concept, a new startup, Nectome, which is “Committed to the goal of archiving your mind,” offers a brain preservation service and when the technology is available, they will upload the brains. In return, the clients pay a service fee of $10,000 and agree for the embalming chemicals to be introduced into their arteries (under general anesthesia) right before they pass away, so that the brain can be freshly extracted.

These technologies and realities create new areas for communication, expression and self-exploration. They also provide spaces where identities transform, and where the perception of reality within and among these realities will hover somewhere above these many identities as people weave in and through them in their daily life.

For more information regarding disruptive technologies, see Dr. Kostopoulos’ blogsite.

Please also see Dr. Kostopoulos’ recent submission to our Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas, entitled Letter from the Frontline: Year 2050, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Dr. Lydia Kostopoulos is an advisor to the AI Initiative at The Future Society at the Harvard Kennedy School, participates in NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Program, is a member of the FBI’s InfraGard Alliance, and during the Obama administration received the U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service Award for her pro bono work in cybersecurity. Her work lies in the intersection of strategy, technology, education, and national security. Her professional experience spans three continents, several countries and multi-cultural environments. She speaks and writes on disruptive technology convergence, innovation, tech ethics, cyber warfare, and national security.

40. Megacities: The Time is Nigh

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Dr. Russell Glenn, Director, Plans and Policy, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2, addressing how the United States must be prepared to fight across multiple domains in megacities.)

The time is at hand for America’s armed forces – or, more appropriately, its government at large – to act on the likelihood that America’s men and women and those of partner nations and organizations will be committed to domestic or international, natural or manmade disasters in the world’s largest urban areas. The U.S. Army supported local officials during the 1992 Los Angeles riots; U.S. armed forces assisted Japan during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster threat to Tokyo. Future operations might well require lines of communication from airports or sea ports through a megacity. America’s armed forces need to prepare for and practice for these contingencies now.

Such preparation calls for innovation. History can only help so much. Our World War II and Korea experiences with what are now megacities (Manila and Seoul, respectively) came when each had but a million or so population. Seoul’s population had increased to over ten million by 1996; the megacity exceeds 24 million individuals today. Geographic spread has accompanied this population expansion.


Seoul in 1953 (left) and 1996 (right)



Our planet’s largest urban areas are preponderantly in Asia, increasingly in Africa, and littoral in nature. The last point in particular has significant implications. Littoral urban areas tend to be considerably more prone to natural disasters than cities in geographical interiors. Many are located along the “arc of fire” earthquake zone that traces the rim of the Pacific Ocean. Vulnerability to typhoons or hurricanes is evident as one looks back on recent events in Manila and New York, among other coastal cities.

World City Populations: 1950-2030 (courtesy of Duncan Smith)



We need to avoid current oversimplifications as we innovate. Viewing a megacity by its popular definition of urban areas over ten million in population implies these conglomerations differ from others only in terms of resident numbers. Untrue. Most have additional characteristics that are essential to consider in planning and conducting military operations (or, far more preferably, comprehensive approach operations that effectively orchestrate military, other government, multinational, nongovernmental, inter-governmental, and commercial capabilities).

The interdependencies that link the world’s most vital urban areas must be incorporated in planning and ever kept in mind during execution. A set number of residents does not distinguish global importance; other factors are at least as significant and generally more so. Some urban areas of over ten million have little worldwide reach; others of far less population are crucial to commerce, economic health, and other concerns that span multiple continents. Singapore comes to mind. Better, then, that we view a megacity as:

“an urban area of extraordinary population size, geographic spread, physical and social complexity, interconnectedness, and similarly exceptional characteristics, to include influence with at least national and broader regional scope.”


Panoramic view of Tokyo



The implied scope of responsibilities inherent in megacity operations makes it apparent that an armed force might well find itself better placed in a supporting rather than lead role, particularly if a host nation government is in-place and functioning effectively. Winning on an urban battlefield will only be the starting point when operations include combat; recovery-related tasks should begin during the fighting and will all but inevitably continue long after Western soldiers and their leaders have departed. The complexity, dynamism, and wicked problems confronted will require thoughtful assessment of situations and highly-trained men and women comfortable with the dictates of mission command. Decentralized decision-making will be the norm.

The influence of megacities will increase in the decades to come. Ours must be governments prepared to not only succeed at missions therein anywhere along the spectrum of conflict. They must also be ready to do so simultaneously at many points on that continuum and in partnership with others who heretofore largely remain strangers.

The TRADOC G-2, in partnership with U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) and the Australian Army, is facilitating the Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) in Megacities Conference on April 3-4, 2018 at Fort Hamilton, New York. This conference’s three objectives are to:

• Identify MDB operational and strategic level implications of operations in megacities

• Identify best practices for coordination with intergovernmental and other organizations during megacity operations

• Identify specific U.S. Army Pacific, Australian Army, and TRADOC G-2 primary urban operations concerns/challenges in preparation for later events in this series

While attendance at this conference is by-invitation only, it will be live streamed here, starting at 0830 EDT on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

For additional insights regarding combat in urban terrain, please listen to the following podcasts, hosted by our colleagues at Modern War Institute:

The Battle for Mosul, with Col. Pat Work

The Future Urban Battlefield, with Dr. Russell Glenn

Also see the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise (OEE) Red Diamond Threats Newsletter, Volume 9, Issue 1, January-February 2018, pages 18-21, for Manila: An Exemplar of Dense Urban Terrain. This article “illustrates the complex political and civil-military challenges that would impact potential operations or activities in megacities.”

Please also see Jeremy D. McLain’s article (submitted in response to our Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas) entitled, Full-Auto Teddy Bear: Non-Lethal Automatons and Lethal Human Teaming to Increase Overall ‘Lethality’ in Complex Urban Environments, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Dr. Russell Glenn, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, and has earned four Masters degrees from the University of Southern California (MS, Systems Management), Stanford University (MS, Civil Engineering and MS, Operations Research), and the School of Advanced Military Studies (Master of Military Art and Science). He earned his PhD in American history from the University of Kansas with secondary fields of military history and political science. Past research includes published studies on counterinsurgency, urban operations, military and police training, and intelligence operations. He is currently the Director, Plans and Policy, TRADOC G-2.

39. “Maddest” Guest Blogger!

(Editor’s Note: Since its inception in November 2018, Mad Scientist Laboratory has enabled us to expand our reach and engage global innovators from across industry, academia, and the Government regarding emergent disruptive technologies. For perspective, at the end of 2017, our blog had accrued 3,022 visitors and 5,212 views. Contrast that with the first three months of 2018, where we have racked up an additional 5,858 visitors and 11,387 views!

Our Mad Scientist Community of Action continues to grow in no small part due to the many guest bloggers who have shared their provocative, insightful, and occasionally disturbing visions of the future. To date, Mad Scientist Laboratory has published 15 guest blog posts.

And so, as the first half of FY18 comes to a close, we want to recognize all of our guest bloggers and thank them for contributing to our growth. We also challenge those of you that have been thinking about contributing a guest post to take the plunge and send us your submissions!

In particular, we would like to recognize Mr. Pat Filbert, who was our inaugural (and repeat!) guest blogger by re-posting below his initial submission, published on 4 December 2018. Pat’s post, Why do I have to go first?!”, generated a record number of visits and views. Consequently, we hereby declare Pat to be the Mad Scientist Laboratory’s “Maddest” Guest Blogger! for the first half of FY18. Pat will receive the following much coveted Mad Scientist swag in recognition of his achievement: a signed proclamation officially attesting to his Mad Scientist status as “Maddest” Guest Blogger!, 1st Half, FY18, and a Mad Scientist patch to affix to his lab coat and wear with pride!

And now, please enjoy Pat’s post…)


8. “Why do I have to go first?!”

“Reports indicate there’s been a mutiny by the U.S. Army’s robotic Soldiers resulting in an attack killing 47 human Soldiers.” – media report from Democratic Republic of the Congo, August 2041.

Our robotics systems have not ‘mutinied,’ there was a software problem resulting in several of our robotic Soldiers attacking our human Soldiers resulting in casualties; an investigation is underway. – Pentagon spokesman.

Reconciling the use of robotics has been focused on taking the risk away from humans and letting machines do the “dull, dirty, dangerous” operations. One of the premises of introducing unmanned aircraft systems into the force was to keep pilots, and their expensive aircraft, out of harm’s way while increasing the data flow for the commander.

Potential future use of robotic Soldiers to lead the way into an urban battlefield, absorb the brunt of a defending adversary’s fire to allow human Soldiers to exploit openings is a possible course of action. Keeping human Soldiers to fight another day, while increasing the speed of “house by house” clearing operations so they don’t consume humans—similar to urban area clearing in World War II—could be seen as a way to reduce the time a conflict takes to win.

Now we have search engine algorithms which tailor themselves to each person conducting a search to bring up the most likely items that person wants based on past searches. Using such algorithms to support supervised autonomous robotic troops has the potential for the robot to ask “why do I have to go first?” in a given situation. The robotic Soldier could calculate far faster that survival and self-preservation to continue the mission are paramount over being used as a “bullet sponge” as the robot police in the movie “Chappie” were used.

Depending on robotic Soldier’s levels of autonomy coupled with ethical software academics have posited be used to enable robots to make moral and ethical decisions, the robot Soldiers could decide not to follow their orders. Turning on their human counterparts and killing them could be calculated as the correct course of action depending on how the robot Soldiers conclude the moral and ethical aspects of the orders given and how it conflicts with their programming reveal. This is the premise in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” where the HAL 9000 AI kills the spaceship crew because it was ordered to withhold information (lie) which conflicted with its programming to be completely truthful. Killing the crew is a result of a programming conflict; if the crew is dead, HAL doesn’t have to lie.

Classified aspects of operations are withheld from human Soldiers, so this would most likely occur with robot Soldiers. This aspect could cause initiation of a programming conflict and such an attribute has to be considered for technology development; in professional military school’s syllabi; and on the battlefield as to how to plan, respond, and resolve.

• Can wargaming plans for operations including robotic Soldiers identify programming conflicts? If so, how can this be taught and programmed to resolve the conflict?

• When is the decision made to reduce the AI’s autonomy, and how, related to compartmentalized information for a more automatic/non-autonomous function?

• What safeguards have to be in place to address potential programming conflicts when the AI is “brought back up to speed” for why they were “dumbed down?”

For further general information, search ongoing discussions on outlawing weaponized autonomous systems. For academic recommendations to integrate ethical software into military autonomous systems to better follow the Laws of Warfare, see Dr. Ron Arkin’s “Ethical Robots in Warfare

For more information on how robots could be integrated into small units, thereby enhancing their close-in lethality and multi-domain effects, see Mr. Jeff Becker’s proposed Multi-Domain “Dragoon” Squad (MDS) concept. For insights into how our potential adversaries are exploring the role of robotics on future battlefields, see our Autonomous Threat Trends post.

Pat Filbert is retired Army (24 years, Armor/MI); now a contractor with the Digital Integration for Combat Engagement (DICE) effort developing training for USAF DCGS personnel. He has experience with UAS/ISR, Joint Testing, Intelligence analysis/planning, and JCIDS.

38. The Multi-Domain “Dragoon” Squad: A Hyper-enabled Combat System

“Victory in the future requires a force consisting of the many, small and smart. The United States and its Joint Force needs to get there first, and when it does, it needs to be aware of any advantages—and limitations—these new capabilities will provide.” — Mr. Jeff Becker, from his article entitled, “How to Beat Russia and China on the Battlefield: Military Robots,” originally published in The National Interest on 18 March 2018.

In 2016, General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, asked if the Army of the future would have divisions and brigades, or whether it would utilize small, elite Special Forces-like units with operational and strategic level capabilities. At the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, General Milley stated, “I suspect that the organizations and weapons and doctrines of land armies, between 2025 and 2050, in that quarter-century period of time, will be fundamentally different than what we see today.” There is a need to change, perhaps radically, some of our organizational unit designs that will allow the Army to operate on the battlefield of the future, which will be dispersed and dangerous across all domains.

To mitigate and disrupt the threat from state and non-state actors with drastically improved reconnaissance – persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), electronic detection capabilities, and a saturation of sensors – and extremely lethal strike capabilities – thermobarics, penetrators, dual warheads, hypersonic weapons, long-range artillery, strike and interdiction aircraft – the U.S. Army must consider how to assemble and combine advanced capabilities into technologically-superior land units able to attack and destroy larger enemy units, maneuver over the land domain, and seize and hold terrain in support of these missions. Additionally, these forces must have organic, or at least more readily available, cyber, space, and information warfare capabilities.

The need for these land forces to operate in and across multiple domains prompted General Milley to order the creation of an experimental combat unit known as the Multi-Domain Task Force. The Army recognizes that future combat units will have to be moderately self-sustaining, highly lethal, very fast, and very difficult to pin down on a battlefield; current Army force structure does not provide units that can maneuver and operate in this vein. The Multi-Domain Task Force will be the test bed for a concept of operations and force structure that moves beyond just countering adversarial anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities and will incorporate larger Joint efforts for maneuver and combat operations in the future.

Beyond the challenges and opportunities for operational forces more equivalent to today’s brigade combat teams, there is growing concern over the loss of technological and mobility overmatches the Army has possessed for the last 15 years at the tactical level. To explore this problem, Mr. Jeff Becker, President and Principal Analyst of Context LLC (and Mad Scientist Laboratory guest blogger), spoke at the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle Conference at Georgetown University, 25-26 July 2017, about what the tactical system of the Army might look like in the 2035-2050 timeframe. In his video presentation from this conference, Mr. Becker addressed just how lethal, how mobile, how protected, and how aware a very small – 12-15 person – unit on the future battlefield might be. He presented the concept for a Multi-Domain “Dragoon” Squad (MDS), a hyper-enabled combat system composed of numerous future technologies allowing the tactical unit to have multi-domain effects.

The MDS provides the Army with a small unit capable of tactical surprise and an enormous capability for close-in lethality. The crux of the MDS is a system-of-systems approach to enabling a small tactical unit with the capability to survive, thrive, and bring about effects across domains throughout the tactical environment in a terrain-agnostic way.

This approach is achieved through multiple technological implementations:

– Equipping of soldiers with soft exosuits to increase their strength and endurance, allowing for heavier and more capable individual weaponry and the ability to sustain peak performance


– Lightweight helmet-mounted displays providing augmented and virtual reality images based on feeds from sensors – including cyber and electromagnetic environments to reach new levels of close-in situational awareness


Metamaterials allowing lower profile, higher bandwidth antennas integral to the soldier suit as well as the vehicles and robots




Modernized assault weapons including guided rounds, increasing the probability of a hit






– Lightweight (4500 lbs.) Infantry Mobility Vehicles (IMVs) capable of semi-autonomy, autonomy, or remote-control as well as the ability to provide covering fire with a robotic turret and precision indirect fires weapons


Sensor system and associated AI capable of detecting, locating, classifying and prioritizing multiple targets, while providing early warning to fire team




– Eight armed reconnaissance robots able to move over ground at speeds in excess of 40-50 miles per hour; capable of traversing complex terrain quickly and closing with areas of interest at high speed; potential for lethal capability


– Short range, low altitude quadcopter drones providing optical and electronic sensing to the unit, providing constant updates to the AR/VR backbone; potential for lethal capability


Squad Indirect Fires Support Vehicle (SIF-V) providing a range of indirect fires directly to each team


The MDS is not the all-encompassing zenith of the MDB concept but rather is a machination of it at the tactical level that could have a ground-up cumulative change effect. It is impossible for the Army, nor any of its sister services, to completely transform within a decade; however, sweeping organizational experimentation and reconfiguration of existing formations through initiatives such as the Multi-Domain Task Force can lead to such a transformation.

Mr. Jeff Becker’s vision for the MDS was originally submitted in response to a Mad Scientist Call for Ideas that was subsequently published here by Small Wars Journal.

Mr. Becker and MG David Fastabend (USA-Ret.) co-authored a paper that was the baseline and inspiration for The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare on behalf of the TRADOC G-2.

Mr. Becker and MG Fastabend were also key analytical contributors to the Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Autonomy: Visioning Multi-Domain Warfare in 2030-2050 Final Report that documented the results of the associated Mad Scientist Conference, co-hosted by Georgia Tech Research Institute, on 7-8 March 2017.