“Army Installations are no longer sanctuaries” — Mr. Richard G. Kidd IV, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment), Strategic Integration
The Army of the future will need installations that will enable strategic support areas critical to Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) and also be capable of operating in and around and taking advantage of the capabilities inherent in a smart city. There are 156 installations that serve as the initial platform of maneuver for Army readiness. Due to increasing connectivity of military bases (and the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors, and Civilians who live and work there) to the Internet of Things (IoT), DoD and Army installations will not be the sanctuaries they once were. A myriad of emerging threat vectors from social media, cyber-attacks, information operations, and even new generation warfare change the dynamic of how these installations can and should be viewed. Suddenly, service members’ children’s social media accounts become Order of Battle material for adversaries. The readiness processes that take place at home stations are susceptible to disruption and degradation. In the eyes of the enemy, military bases in the homeland and abroad are targeted strategic support areas and a part of the battlefield. These threats are discussed further in Mr. Kidd’s AUSA article last month, entitled “Threats to Posts: Army Must Rethink Base Security“
Even today, unmanned combat systems can be controlled from home installations — a trend that only will increase in the future. Technological integration and advancement of future bases — artificial intelligence, big data, IoT, power generation — will also present tremendous opportunities in areas such as manufacturing, power grids, maintenance, expeditionary capability, and quality of life.
Dense urban areas of the future will become increasingly “smart” over the next two to three decades as they incorporate more IoT devices, functions, and competencies. Many cities, today and in the future, are implementing technologies in order to keep up with growing demand and decreasing revenue and capability; it is a “have to” scenario rather than “nice to have”.
Installations of the future will undoubtedly be influenced by the evolution of smart cities and suburbs internationally. The primary challenges of future smart military installations for planners, builders, and commanders will be:
– Incorporating emerging technologies and trends to scale
– Securing those technologies from, or at least mitigating, external cyber disruption and insider threats
– Matching military standards to a wide variety of national and international standards in software, measurement, and energy input/output.
The Mad Scientist Initiative, in collaboration with the Army Secretariat and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), will further examine the role of the smart installation at the Installations of the Future Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on 19-20 June 2018. In conjunction with this conference, the Mad Scientists are sponsoring an associated Call for Ideas writing contest. Contributors are asked to consider how installations will operate and project force in the Operational Environment (OE) of 2050, and submit either a Research Topic or A Soldier’s Letter Home from Garrison. Suspense for submissions is 15 March 2018. More information on the contest’s submission guidelines may be found on our APAN site.
For more in-depth discussions on how the IoT is transforming Smart Cities and Installations of the Future, please see the following presentations from our 2017 Georgetown Conference:
During the 2017 Mad Scientist Conference on Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy at Georgia Tech Research Institute, notable futurist Dr. James Canton challenged the audience with an interesting question, “Are your organizations future ready?” It seems this simple question drives all of our work to improve strategic foresight and anticipate challenges and opportunities. But how does this question translate into organizational culture and action?
For the United States Army, the case for being future ready is connected to our modernization processes and the speed at which we capitalize on windows of opportunity. For a business or corporation, it might be an emerging technology that will change a current business model.
This comes down to whether we want to be an organization like Netflix — embracing the digital revolution to create a new business model and transforming the way consumers obtain video content (away from legacy video box stores, initially to DVDs ordered on-line and received via the U.S. Postal Service, then to streaming original content on-demand); or like Kodak — developing a digital camera in 1975, but dropping it out of fear that it threatened their then lucrative analog film business, thereby missing the digital media wave that would forever change their business model. Netflix was future ready, while Kodak writhed in bankruptcy and suffered a slow, painful decline.
The first step in answering Dr. Canton’s question is asking a series of future-oriented questions. These questions frame a start point for building a future ready organization in hypercompetitive environments.
• How does our organization transform to face challenges or opportunities in a rapidly evolving operational environment?
• How does our organization build, retain, and regain decisive advantage in relation to our competitors?
• How does our organization develop the ability to quickly adapt to emerging trends and traditional and non-traditional competitors’ actions?
Answering these questions requires an open approach to developing understanding about future possibilities. One commonly held assumption about the future is that diverse teams and a broad range of expertise is needed to gain an understanding of the future and to see the possibilities for achieving advantage. The Mad Scientist team has identified five key attributes to these types of future oriented teams:
• Building globally connected, distributed subject matter expert networks. Knowledge is the currency of future oriented organizations and much of it exists outside of any one organization.
• Developing a network of idea creation that moves the most promising to low cost experimentation. The wisdom of the crowd is essential for broad, creative, and less constrained idea development and for quickly cutting through bureaucratic and cultural roadblocks.
• Creating networks of teams that feel supported while simultaneously supporting other parts of the organization. Successful teams of teams often are not bound by hierarchical relationships.
• Brokering ideas and then connecting them to innovation ongoing across an organization. Many future oriented organizations have a hub that connects innovation sparks to further invention and ideas, which can create exponential improvement.
• Partnering across the organization to move innovative ideas to those who can actualize concepts and deliver results. Large organizations can take some lessons from venture capitalists sponsoring and connecting partners who can quickly transform ideas into low-cost experimentation and results.
Making your organization future ready requires a deliberate approach in thinking about the future, a culture that improves idea creation, and a structure that moves ideas to action quickly. Asking future-oriented questions and building, developing, creating, brokering, and partnering takes these answers and creates purposeful action. Instilling future readiness in your organization does not equivocally divert your focus from current and near-term operations and planning; thoughtful intention and attention on the future insulates organizations from rapid obsolescence.
To hear more about being a future-oriented organization, watch Dr. James Canton’s presentation at the Georgia Tech Mad Scientist Conference.
Also, watch Boston Consulting Group’s Allison Sander’s TED talk on mega trends and inevitable futures.
(Editor’s Note: The Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present Part II of Mr. Nick Marsella’s guest blog post. To read Part I, select this link. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please select “Guest Bloggers” from the menu above and review the submission instructions)
One of the most critical questions that often gets lost in the passionate pronouncements by those thinking about the future, is why their assessment of a future technology, scenario or trend is important? Some researchers, such as those in academia or some think tanks, can pursue the “future” with a great deal of freedom in the discovery of new knowledge. However, for those “futurists” in Government [and specifically those associated with the military], they face decision makers who need to focus on the “so what?”
As the National Academy of Sciences noted: “A useful forecast provides insights that lead to effective action in the present.”1 Some decisions and actions will include what, when, and how to acquire or invest in technologies or to make organizational changes for the near or midterm [0 to 15 years], while others point to areas for investment in research and development for the far future.
Our estimates, trends analysis and forecasts, and recommended actions such as the adoption of specific technologies, are normally designed to solve one or more of these problem frames:
Our descriptions of the future or of a technology must be clear [avoiding “jargon-monoxide”], concise, and identify the implications for the force, what problem it will solve, what action(s) we recommend, and most importantly the assumptions we are making as well as the risk and confidence we have in our assessment.
For U.S. military forces, with a worldwide mission, some of the questions which often provoke a solution include:
– What capabilities2 do I need which can enhance my capabilities (across many specific functions)?
– What capabilities provide or sustain overmatch in my capabilities (e.g., lethality)?
– What capabilities produce an asymmetric advantage?
– What capabilities reduce manpower and costs?
– What capabilities will enable forces [or technology] to operate in all conditions (or maximize abilities to operate in a specific terrain (e.g., dense urban operations)?
In order to be successful in fielding capabilities to solve one of these problem frames, organizations need both a “vision of the future” in order to identify requirements and a system to constantly scan for developments and trends. As General Dempsey, former Commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, noted in 2011: “Great organizations learn by continually challenging what they are doing, questioning the assumptions and premises underlying their choices, and identifying potential vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and seeking out alternative approaches, solutions and perspectives.”3
As many experts have noted, an organization must have an effective scanning and sifting process to constantly review new developments in their environment(s) in order to discover ways to build capabilities and to prevent surprise. Our aperture to capture the future must be wide – as Day and Shoemaker (2005) noted – to the “periphery – where the biggest dangers are the ones you don’t see coming.”4 In addition to having a wide aperture looking across timeframes by tapping into all available networks and by establishing and mobilizing search parties, such as the Mad Scientist initiative [Day and Schoemaker used the analogy of a “crow’s nest”], we must be (1) open minded; (2) take a deep dive on the most worrisome findings through such techniques as red vs. blue analysis, and (3) maintain an inherent red teaming process throughout the effort to challenge the finding, insight, observation or recommendation for action.5
Surprises will happen, especially in the technology arena. The creation of new knowledge is not confined to the U.S. given the globalization of technology. As the Defense Science Board noted in 2009 – having the ability to make “really bad things happen” is no longer the sole province of a few major states. Yet, as we often focus on “game changing” or “disruptive future technologies,” Dr. Paul Bracken of Yale University reminds us that old technology used differently or a combination of old technologies combined can be just as dangerous as new technologies.
Bracken, writing in 2008, noted that while the U.S. must pay attention and even develop new disruptive technologies, we should not lose sight of what he referred to as “sidewise technologies.”6 In essence, sidewise technologies are those which combine technologies – such as missiles and Over-the-Horizon radar – to present new challenges and dangers. Even simple technologies such as those used for the IEDs of the past, current and future will challenge us, as will commercial and military unmanned systems of all types.
Thomas Shelling, a Nobel Prize winner noted: “One thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.” We must be inquisitive seeking what Peter Schwartz noted in the Art of the Long View as “imaginative leaps into the future” to discover alternative futures.7 But we must also guard against “marching to the sound of the most recent pronouncement” about the future and avoid using experience as our guide without remaining as J.P. Clark noted both “humble and conscious of the limits of experience.”8
Futures work can be frustrating and often wrong. Futures work is important for any organization in shaping its future but only if we provide decision makers clear jargon free recommendations linked to a problem or exploitation of an unseen opportunity. We must be mindful of the cognitive diseases that affect our assessments about the future by being both humble and skeptical. As Yoda, the wise Jedi master in Star Wars noted – “Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.”
The Bottom line: Assessing the future is critical to remaining competitive, whether in the boardroom or battlefield. As Yogi said – “The future isn’t what it used to be.”
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.
__________________________________ 1 National Research Council of the National Academies. (2010). Persistent Forecasting of Disruptive Technologies — quote taken from Chapter 1.
2 While increased capabilities are often associated with the acquisition of new technologies (i.e., materiel solutions), it can also be achieved via changes to one or more of the following: Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities, and Policy (i.e., DOTMLPF-P).
3 General Dempsey made this quote in a memorandum endorsing the idea of red teaming.
5 One of the challenges for those working futures is rediscovering or what some might view as re-plowing old ground. For example, numerous reports have been published on known knows and known unknowns. For example, see Defense Science Board, Capability Surprise Summer Study 2008, Volume I: Main Report, September 2009 and Volume II: Supporting Papers, January 2010; Freier, N. (2008). Known Unknowns: Unconventional “Strategic Shocks” in Defense Strategy Development, Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute; Leed, M., Price, H., & Murphy, T. (2010). Surprise is Inevitable; Vulnerability is Not: Improving the Defense Department’s Readiness to Address Key Areas of Potential Surprise. Washington D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies; and official publications such as National Intelligence Council. (2017) Global Trends: Paradox of Progress.
6 Bracken, P. (2008). Technological Innovation and National Security. Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) E-Notes.
7 Schwartz, P. (2006). The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World. New York: Doubleday.
All things in the future OE will be smart, connected, and self-organizing. The commercial Internet of Things (IoT) will turn into a militarized Internet of Battle Things (IoBT).
Narrow Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here today and is beginning to show up on the battlefield. Near peer competitors and non-state actors will have access to these technologies on pace with the United States due to commercial and open source availability of algorithms.
AI and humans must co-evolve. It is not clear that the singularity (i.e., AI leading to a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, ultimately resulting in a super intelligence far surpassing human intelligence) will be realized in the period leading up to 2050. Human teaming with AI enablers will be the best instantiation of general intelligence supporting Commanders on the future battlefield. Next steps towards singularity are systems that can reflect, have curiosity, and demonstrate teamwork.
The physical and virtual spaces will merge. Augmented and virtual reality will become more than a gaming platform focused on entertainment but a global communication platform delivering unique expertise to the battlefield to include medical and language skills.
Convergence is a key attribute in all aspects of the future battlefield. Expect convergence of capability, sensors, power onto systems, uniforms, and in the far term humanity itself.
Our Enemy after Next Conference, facilitated with NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on 11-12 April 2017 led to the following conclusions:
The next fight will be characterized by electrons vs electrons. All belligerents will seek to hide themselves and blind their enemies. The fight after next will be characterized by AI vs AI (algorithm vs algorithm). How AI is structured and integrated will be the strategic advantage.
Information Warfare is taking on new meaning. Humans now have a personal relationship with their information and virtual reality and holograms in your living room will create new opportunities for swaying populations.
Major competitions in the war after next include – cyber-attack vs AI, stealth vs detection, directed energy vs hardening, space vs counter-space, strikers vs shielders.
We are in a 10 year window of a change in how we think about space. Space is now competitive as Super-Empowered Individuals, non-state actors, and near peer competitors have near equal access. One major game changer is the commercial move towards a Low Earth Orbit space constellation consisting of thousands of small satellites.
There is a real tension between the idea that ubiquitous sensors and real time upload of data onto the cloud will make it impossible to hide and that the near equal access of capabilities across all parties will make war constant.
The definition of maneuver should be expanded to include maneuvering ideas as well as forces to a position of advantage. A globally connected world and social media platforms have amplified the importance of ideas and the information dimension.
Bio convergence with advanced computing is happening at the edge. Humans will become part of the network connected through their embedded and worn devices. From transhumanism to theorizing about uploading the brain, it will not be the IoT but the internet of everything (including humans).
Smart cities are leaving the edge and early adopters and becoming mainstream. The data collected by billions of sensors will be a treasure trove for the country and Armed forces that learn to exploit. Passive collection of this information might be a significant advantage in winning the hiders v finders competition.
Cognitive enhancement and attacking the brains (neurological system) of humans is not science fiction. The U.S. Army should establish a PEO for Soldier Enhancement to bring unity of purpose to a range of capabilities from physical/mental enhancement with wearables, embeddables, stimulants, brain gyms, and exoskeletons.
Human enhancement, the unlocking of the genome, and improving artificial intelligence will stress the Army’s policies and ethics. In any case, our 4 + 1 potential adversaries are exploring using all three of these capabilities as a way to gain advantage over U.S. Forces. This is not a 2050 problem but more than likely a 2030 reality.
The Mad Scientist Initiative employs Crowdsourcing and Story Telling as two innovative tools to help us envision future possibilities and inform the OE through 2050. In our FY17 Science Fiction Writing Contest, we asked our community of action to describe Warfare in 2030-2050. We received an overwhelming response of 150 submissions from Mad Scientists around the globe. From them, we discerned the following key themes:
Virtually every new technology is connected and intersecting to other new technologies and advances. Convergence frequently occurred across numerous technologies. Advances in materials, AI, drones, communications, and human enhancement amplified and drove one another across multiple domains.
A major cultural divide and gulf in understanding still existed between different populations even with developments in technology (including real-time language translators).
The fully enmeshed communications and sensing residing in future systems made the hiders vs. finders competition ever more important in future conflict settings.
Due to the exponential speed of interaction on the battlefield (during and in between high-intensity conflict), a number of the military units required smaller formations, with large effects capabilities and more authority, and operated under flat and dispersed command and control structures.
The constant battle for and over information often meant victory or failure for each side.
2018 is shaping up to be even more enlightening, with Mad Scientist conferences addressing Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 and Learning in 2050. We will also support a Smart and Resilient Installations franchise event, hosted by the Army Secretariat. Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for more information on the year ahead!
(Editor’s Note: The Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Mr. Jeff Becker. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please select “Guest Bloggers” from the menu above and review the submission instructions)
“Future conflicts will increasingly emphasize the disruption of critical infrastructure, societal cohesion, and basic government functions in order to secure psychological and geopolitical advantages, rather than the defeat of enemy forces on the battlefield through traditional military means.” National Intelligence Council, Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (January 2017), p. 7
Chairman Dunford frequently describes the future operating environment as presenting military challenges that are increasingly transregional, multidomain, and multifunctional in nature. These changes are driving the need for a Joint Force capable of conducting Globally Integrated Operations – that is, the ability to purposefully bring together the full panoply of joint capabilities in time and space to achieve military tasks under a broad range of strategic goals. The Joint Staff’s Joint Operating Environment 2035 describes these tasks as ranging from shaping and containing military challenges, to deterring and denying adversary initiatives, to disrupting and degrading adversary campaigns, to compellingadversaries or destroying their ability to resist U.S. goals and objectives.
This view is intended to drive us to think beyond the design of Army and Joint Forces as simply optimized for speedy and decisive battle. Although this happy result is always desired, as Lawrence Freedman noted in his recent book, The Future of War: A History, warfare in the future will likely be marked by adversaries that do not accept battle on our terms and societies that necessarily accept the results of battles when they do in fact occur. This disconnect between of “decisive” military engagements and sustainable political settlement suggests yet another attribute of future conflict that goes even further than the “transregional, multidomain, multifunctional” attributes of warfare – one that is critical to account for as we adapt our land and broader joint forces for the future.
This attribute – multidimensionality – was set out in the latest NIC Global Trends study, which notes that: The 2035 Joint Force will confront adversaries that employ integrated, whole-of-government efforts to nullify current U.S. and Joint Force advantages and employ new capabilities, often in surprising ways.
(NIC) “Warring will be less and less confined to the battlefield, and more aimed at disrupting societies.”
National Intelligence Council, Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (January 2017), p. 7
This theme was further explored in The Operational Environment 2035-2050: The Emerging Character of Warfare, which goes on to note that the ability to engage in cognitive, moral, and physical attacks directly against what the Multidomain Battle Concept terms “the strategic support area,” may in fact be the primary means of great power competition going forward.
Helpfully, the new National Security Strategy highlights the multidimensional nature of warfare. For example, it describes the critical need to protect key economic assets, and defend U.S. sovereignty and national integrity in and through cyberspace “…cyberspace offers state and non-state actors the ability to wage campaigns against American political, economic, and security interests without ever physically crossing our borders.” National Security Strategy, p. 12.
Forces keyed only to geography and the physical attributes of a military force will fail. A wide range of capabilities allow adversaries to avoid the military forces of a nation to disrupt the efficient function of complicated, tightly connected advanced economies, societies, infrastructure, and the trust and common purpose on which they are based. A multidimensional character of future warfare is a Janus-faced reminder that warfare has physical and moral components, and impacts the people and government as much as the Army itself.
Jeff Becker is the Chief Futurist supporting the Joint Concepts Division at the Joint Staff J-7 and their deep futures study, Joint Operating Environment 2035. The views here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Joint Staff or the Department of Defense.
“… in calling Moriarty a criminal you are uttering libel in the eyes of the law, and there lies the glory and the wonder of it! The greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every devilry, the controlling brain of the underworld — a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations. That’s the man!” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, describing his arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, in The Valley of Fear, published in 1914.
In Professor Moriarty, Conan Doyle created the prototypical Super-Empowered Individual (SEI). Today’s SEIs — far from being fictional characters crafted to entertain readers from a gentler era — are real world, non-state actors that have been empowered by the on-going digital revolution, and are able to target and adversely affect the lives of millions around the globe. Mad Scientists addressed the threat posed by SEIs at the Visualizing Multi Domain Battle 2030-2050 Conference, Georgetown University, 25-26 July 2017.
Characteristics of SEIs include:
• Highly connected and able to reach far beyond their geographic location.
• Access to powerful, low-cost commercial technology.
• Often more difficult to trace or attribute responsibility to actions.
• Not beholden to nation-state policies, ethics, or international law.
• Varying motivations (political, ideological, economic, and monetary).
• Often unpredictable, may not operate or execute like a traditional rational actor.
SEI-driven attacks will become increasingly common due to the proliferation of disruptive technologies — smart phones as multi-spectral sensors and jammers; commercial UAVs as precision-guided munitions; and high-powered computers with malware / infoware “weapons” — available to them.
This has been evidenced by the rise in global malware attacks, hacking of vehicles that operate with computers, and information operation campaigns through social media that have influenced policy, disrupted everyday life, and increased global security costs and concerns.
Wired recently reported on several Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, launched by SEIs. This article reports that three college students have plead guilty to creating and launching Mirai, “… an unprecedented botnet—powered by unsecured internet-of-things devices like security cameras and wireless routers—that unleashed sweeping attacks on key internet services around the globe,” slowing or stopping the internet for most of the eastern United States. Their motive – “trying to gain an advantage in the computer game Minecraft.”
According to FBI Special Agent Elliott Peterson, “DDoS at a certain scale poses an existential threat to the internet…. Mirai was the first botnet I’ve seen that hit that existential level.”
Cyber capabilities such as this, coupled with the widespread proliferation of deadly technologies and associated tactics, techniques, and procedures, provide SEIs with the capability to disrupt, degrade, and deny Army forces across multiple domains and the reach to interdict them at home station, as well as while deployed.
These attacks, however, need not necessarily be broad DDoS operations; SEIs can leverage these disruptive technologies to craft and execute personalized warfare attacks against key leaders, Soldiers, and their families’ via pressure points (e.g., social media, commerce, work, and financial transactions).
An individual armed with a high-powered computer and proficient coding, programming, and/or hacking capabilities could induce as much damage as an entire battalion of conventionally-armed belligerent forces.
These national and global security concerns are only worsened when future SEIs are able to obtain technologies and techniques that today are primarily limited to intelligence agencies. Meanwhile, states’ ability to counter (or even deter) the malicious use of available technologies remains unclear.
SEI’s ability to deliver effects previously limited to state actors raises the following questions regarding what constitutes an act of war:
• What are the boundaries associated with conflict between states and SEIs?
• How does the Army address surveilling, targeting, and engaging SEIs outside of current counterterrorism policy, regulations, and doctrine?
SEIs will impact the Future OE. The Army must address how it will address and counter this growing threat.
In George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, O’Brien states, “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
Advances in Neuroscience and technology (NeuroS/T) are bringing this capability to the brink of reality. The Future Operational Environment (OE) will not be limited to conflict in the land, sea, air, cyber, and space domains. Direct attacks upon, and the manipulation of, Soldiers’ and noncombatants’ brains represent a significant threat, challenge, and opportunity in neurotechnology. The human brain will be a specific target of Multi Domain Battle.
At the Visualizing Multi Domain Battle 2030-2050 Conference, Georgetown University, 25-26 July 2017, Dr. James Giordano, Chief of the Neuroethics Program at Georgetown University, explained how neuroscience has made huge leaps by using technology to study and understand how the nervous system is structured and functions. NeuroS/T puts the brain at our fingertips, enabling us to better understand it.
This knowledge provides the potential for new and exciting ways to improve our memories, expand our cognitive abilities, and even repair damaged brains; conversely, it also presents new vulnerabilities that technologies can target and exploit.
For operators/warfighters, these include a number of “weapons” of choice that facilitate neuro-enablement:
• Advanced neuro-psychopharmacologics
• Computational brain-machine interfaces
• Closed-loop brain stimulation approaches
• Neuro-sensory augmentation devices
While they are not traditional weapons like guns, missiles, or blades, these technologies will make warfighters more lethal, aware, resilient, and integrated with their combat systems.
On a darker note, novel neuroweapons will grant adversaries (and perhaps the United States) the ability to kill, disrupt, degrade, damage, and even “hack” human brains to influence populations, bring about confusion and panic, and disrupt an enemy’s government and society, often without mass casualties. As such, they constitute avenues of attack against the human brain, facilitating personalized warfare. Neuroweapons are “Weapons of Mass Disruption” that may characterize major segments of warfare in the future.
NeuroS/T provides a number of novel neuroweapons, including:
• Pharmaceuticals and organic neurotoxins (i.e., ultra-low dose/high specify agents for use in targeting diplomatic/local culture “hearts and minds” scenarios)
• High morbidity neuro-microbiologic agents (i.e., neuro-microbials with high neuro-psychiatric symptom clusters for public panic/public health disintegrative effects)
• Gene-edited microbiologicals with novel morbidity/mortality profiles
• Nano-neuroparticulate agents: high central nervous system (CNS) aggregation lead/carbon-silicate nanofibers (network disrupters); neurovascular hemorrhagic agents (for in-close and population use as “stroke epidemic” induction agents).
These capabilities afforded by neuroweapons and NeuroS/T bring with them a host of ethical and moral considerations and conundrums. We must address whether affecting someone’s brain purposely, even temporarily, violates ethical codes, treaties, conventions, and international norms followed by the United States military.
• Does current policy adequately address the roles and responsibilities of commanders and individual soldiers in their employment of such weapons?
• If you influence or impact human brains without causing death or physical pain, is this still an act of war or belligerence?
• How do we ensure our warfighters maintain a robust defense against and remain resilient in the face of neuro threats?
What is clear is that the United States must explore not only what is possible, but what is justified, appropriate, and legally possible in the Battle of the Brain.
For more information on this topic, please see the following presentations by Dr. Giordano:
Karel Čapek, an early Twentieth Century Czech playwright, coined the expression “Robot” in his 1921 play entitled, “R.U.R” (i.e., “Rossum’s Universal Robots”). According to Professor Howard Markel, University of Michigan:
The word Robot “… comes from an Old Church Slavonic word, rabota, which means servitude of forced labor…. it’s really a product of [the] Central European system of serfdom, where a tenants’ rent was paid for in forced labor or service.” – from Professor Markel’s radio interview with Mr. Ira Flatow, Science Friday, on National Public Radio, 22 April 2011.
This popular play (penned three years following the Armistice ending The Great War and four years after the Bolshevik Revolution birthed the Soviet Union), ignited our collective, dystopian view of robots with a tale of rebellion and the subsequent extinction of mankind.
Flash forward a century to the Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Autonomy Conference, facilitated at Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), 7-8 March 2017, where Mad Scientists shed a more optimistic light on the role of Robotics in the future – our findings are captured in the following paragraphs:
Robotics Definition. The Joint Staff Concept for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (JCRAS) defines robotics as …
“… powered machines capable of executing a set of actions by direct human control, computer control, or a combination of both. They are comprised minimally of a platform, software, and a power source.”
The JCRAS goes on to note that “Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) is an accepted term in academia and the science and technology (S&T) community; it highlights the physical (robotic) and cognitive (autonomous) aspects of these systems. For purposes of the JCRAS concept, RAS is a framework to describe systems with a robotic element, an autonomous element, or more commonly, both. As technology advances, there will be more robotic systems with autonomous capabilities as well as non-robotic autonomous systems.”
Robotics, particularly advanced robotics, typically leverage both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and autonomy and are the physical manifestation by which we experience these trends in our daily lives.
There is a taxonomy for Robotic Systems that includes the following ranges of control:
• Remote Control. A mode of operation wherein the human operator, without benefit of video or other sensory feedback, directly controls the actuators of an Un-Manned System (UMS) on a continuous basis, from off the vehicle and via a tethered or radio linked control device using visual line of sight cues. In this mode, the UMS takes no initiative and relies on continuous or nearly continuous input from the user.
• Augmented Teleoperation. A mode of operation wherein the human operator leverages video or other sensory feedback to directly control the actuators of a UMS on a continuous basis.
• Semi-Autonomy. The condition or quality of being partially self-governing to achieve an assigned mission based on the system’s pre-planned situational awareness (integrated sensing, perceiving, analyzing) planning and decision-making. This independence is a point on a spectrum that can be tailored to the specific mission, level of acceptable risk, and degree of human-machine teaming.
• Full Autonomy. Full independence that humans grant a system to execute a given task in a given environment.
Robotics Baseline. DOD has already experienced an “Accidental Robot Evolution,” with thousands of air and ground robots developed, deployed, and employed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Up to now, the default perception has been robots as caged “stupid machines” to do routine and dangerous work. Increasingly, however, robots are coming “out of the cages” and migrating into our daily lives.
Robotics Projection. Mad Scientists project a future that features ever more advanced human-robot collaboration, a collaboration that in turn will accelerate the development of improved robotics through rapid machine learning, adaptive controls, rapid algorithm development, and custom motion control systems.
Novel mechanisms and high performance actuators will emerge as new construction paradigms merge component design to generate compact multi-function systems that are both highly capable and energy efficient. Human-robotic system interaction will include conversational assistants, intent and emotion recognition, augmented reality, self-aware explainable systems, and multi-modal communications.
Robotics are already beginning to transform production capabilities; this process will accelerate as collaborative robotic autonomy enables robotic learning and adaptation by simple demonstration. Although a typical current production line today features only 1 product per line, changeover cycles of 2 weeks, and a part cycle time of 6 seconds; future robotics-enabled production will be a flexible configuration of 10+ products per line, nearly zero time required for changeover, 6 second cycle times and sub-millimeter precision.
One Mad Scientist asserted a future for “Self-Organizing Matter” in the 2030-2050 timeframe, a future where almost every object will have some degree of self-assembly and self-configuring capability, as the migration of robotics into our everyday experiences advances, robotic appearances may change. It is not likely that they will evolve to be ever more human in appearance, because humanoid shapes are sub-optimal for many jobs or tasks. Robotic forms can be tailored to the task rather than the other way around. Future robotics will be less immediately recognizable as “robots” and our human terrain will morph to accommodate optimal robotic physical configurations.
One such promising field of research is “soft” robotics – replicating living organic musculature’s ability to reach out and grasp objects delicately, using a folding origami structure.
“I started working with origami many years ago because I was interested in making modular robots that have programmable properties; I wanted to create programmable matter…. We’ve shown a combination of four muscles that forms an arm with a gripper that can pick up a tire…. If we put a joint there and added another arm, which is quite easily done, we would be able to not just lift up the tire, but move it and place it anywhere.” – excerpt from interview with Professor Daniela Rus, Director, MIT CSAIL, posted in The Verge, 27 November 2017.
• One to Many Control. Current robotic controls must extend from singular entities to control of multi-robot systems: formations vice individual interaction. How do we address individual control of truly large robotic teams?
• Additive Metallic Manufacturing. To date the application of robotic 3D additive manufacturing has focused on the use of resins and polymers to inexpensively generate shapes and applications amenable to those materials. 3D printing of metal parts requires relatively large and expensive machines, very high-powered lasers and expensive technicians, although there are efforts underway to extend the desktop 3D printing approach to metal manufacturing. Solving the 3D metallic manufacturing problem would truly revolutionize manufacturing.
• High Expectations. Humans will expect high reliability performance from robotic systems: ‘death by robotic accident’ will be unacceptable, even for instances where more frequent death by human accident is already tolerated for non-robotic systems.
• Cognitive Trades. Robotics generate risk reduction and performance enhancements, but trade the best cognitive computer available: the human brain. This trade can be mitigated by “Centaur Warfighting”: human-machine teaming that is not only possible but in many cases preferable. Hybrid human-machine cognitive architectures may be able to leverage the precision and reliability of automation without sacrificing the robustness and flexibility of human intelligence.
• Destructive Disruption. One should also note the potential disruptive impact of the robotics revolution, not only with respect to warfare but across the entire global economy, particularly through the displacement of a substantial portion of the labor force. The debate on the extent of that disruption – and whether this disruption is beneficial or detrimental – remains undecided. Some have argued that technology has always created more jobs than it has destroyed. They claim “Robots Will Save the Economy” and cite robotics as necessary for further improvements in productivity across a wide range of labor-intensive tasks.
Others believe that the extent of the robotics revolution is so fast and so radical that it will exceed the capacity of the labor force to adapt. It is safe to assert that the robotics revolution will challenge even the most adaptive societies and that those less adaptive may experience significant destabilization.
Relevance of Robotic Systems. Robotic systems mitigate the risk of combat while providing significant performance advantages such as speed, efficiency, and resilience. Robotic sensor applications, for example, might include precision sensor positioning, sensor placement in adverse environments, and multiple, distributed sensors and platforms. Just as robotics may advance manufacturing to the next “industrial renaissance,” they may also enable transformative efficiencies in the transportation and sustainment of land forces.
For more on Robotics, see Remarks by Dr. Robert Sadowski, U.S. Army Chief Roboticist, and The Network is the Robot by Dr. Alexander Kott, Chief, Network Science Division, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, both of which were presented at the GTRI conference this past spring.
(Editor’s Note: The Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Mr. Nick Marsella. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, please select “Guest Bloggers” from the menu above and review the submission instructions)
For more than a decade, I have been both an observer and participant in various efforts to examine the future [to include Mad Scientist events]. I have often been struck by how different people approach the task; describe their work [using such terms as “predicting, assessing, speculating, or forecasting” – pick your favorite]; and the varying degrees of rigor in their analysis. Secondly, I have been astounded by the volume and amount of research and publications devoted to the future from across the public and private sector – and how often we seem to “rediscover” the same insights (e.g., the world is increasingly becoming urban).1
I suspect most people would agree with the statement that organizations must plan for the “near, mid, and far,” and the further the “far” is in the future increases the degree of uncertainty. As the chart below illustrates, “futures work” informs senior leader’s decisions on the design of strategies, organizations, and in the acquisition of technologies for the near and mid-term. While the “far future” increases uncertainty (and is often speculative), it informs leaders on where to invest resources for research and development of ideas and technologies – which in turn – helps shape the exploitation of future opportunities.
Unfortunately, futures work is not immune to three deadly sins, namely: estimates or forecasts of future developments can fall prey to cognitive bias; our work sometimes lacks clarity or sufficient specificity for the decision maker; and the work is not tied to solving a problem or to help shape the future of an organization.
While there are many cognitive challenges to futures work, a brief survey of the literature would indicate perhaps the most challenging are: hubris, lack of imagination/ paradigm blindness, trends faith, and mirror imaging.2
Hubris or overconfidence often translates into “this is the sole best solution or idea.” Hubris is also evident in overconfidence that the estimate or technology development will occur along a predictable time frame. One only needs to reflect on the cancellation of major programs, such as the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS), or to the catastrophic failures of two Space Shuttles, as illustrations that we sometimes place too much confidence in our ability to predict the rate of technology development or resilience of that technology. Among the solutions to hubris are: remain open-minded; maintain a healthy skeptical attitude; consult a friend or a devil’s advocate to help red team the idea; rigorously challenge assumptions; and look for disconfirming information. Keep in mind the old adage – “every new technology begets a new vulnerability.”
Paradigm blindness forces us to accept what we know as the answer at the expense of considering or exploring other options. We must continually re-examine our answers and options, which for some is as often as the historian Barbara Tuchman noted was “as rare as rubies in the backyard.” The oft cited quote from the New York Times editorial of 8 December 1903 illustrates this cognitive error: “A man carrying airplane will eventually be built, but only if mathematicians and engineers work steadily for the next ten million years.” Nine days later the Wright Brothers completed their first flight.
While the study of trends has many useful purposes and is a methodology often used by futurists, trends can be deceiving. As many have noted, the future is unknowable, and history – while valuable – is an imperfect guide.3 For example, it was a trend that the Chicago Cubs would never win the World Series – until they did. Similarly any “technology” is useful and will continue to develop until it is replaced by something better. The doubling of computer power every two years, known as Moore’s Law, is a trend that some think will conclude in the near future.
Mirror imaging occurs when we subscribe our beliefs or ideas to other competitors. A corollary to this mirror imaging idea is the concept of railroading where we assume that other competitors, for example, are developing technology at similar pace and along the same track that we are. Mirror imaging places a premium on the notion that our way is the only way – discounting history and organizational, strategic, geographic and cultural differences – as well as dismissing ideas that others might have.
Thinking about the future is hard work, requiring us to continually examine the rigor associated with these efforts and avoiding the cognitive biases inherent in our future’s work.
We must balance imagination with realism. We must avoid the “sunk cost syndrome” – where we become afraid of killing off less productive research, projects, or investments, resulting in what one author noted, becoming “zombies” – absorbing resources – difficult to kill – taking on a life of their own.
As many senior leaders have noted, our prediction or assessment of the future will never be precise and totally accurate. We can only aspire not to be too wrong. While this is true and given that the future is always uncertain – our processes, mindsets, assumptions and actions should not add to the uncertainty.
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.
Part II of this blog post will examine the purposes and why futures work and efforts [like Mad Scientists] are important and help to inform senior leaders about the future and to help drive informed decisions.
__________________________________ 1 Duplication is not necessarily bad, since the work may provide insights from different vantage points or perspectives and repetition of findings over time may add creditability to them and their conclusions. Yet, all too often, efforts within an organization continue to rediscover the same insights over multiple years – resulting in continual admiration of a problem. In my view, “rediscovery” often results from a failure from doing a comprehensive literature review, which includes identification of insights or lessons already identified.
2 This is not to dismiss other challenges such as confirmation bias, poor qualitative or quantitative methodologies – among many others – resulting in invalid conclusions. See the National Research Council of the National Academies report, Persistent Forecasting of Disruptive Technologies(2010), or the many Defense Science Board reports on future technology development and red teaming.
3 Grey, C.S. (2015). Executive Summary. Thucydides was Right: Defining the Future Threat. Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press. Summary can be found here.
The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, or Training and Doctrine Command.
“But in the future, mass production of the implements of war will not work. Technological advancements happen too fast in the Information Age.… Instead, the future of materiel acquisition will be the rapid development and fielding of prototypes.” – Robert R. Leonhard, The Principles of War for the Information Age, Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 1998, pp. 122-123.
The character of warfare is largely reflective of the character and changes within society and technology. The pace of changes and advancements in technology is accelerating quickly due to the convergence of a multitude of technologies. This ever-quickening pace of technological evolution means the Army must adapt and change at a speed that cannot currently be applied across the entire force. This conundrum brings about the possible efficacy of prototype warfare.
Prototype warfare is the concept of quickly developing and fielding technologies to rapidly adapt to a changing Operational Environment (OE) and emerging Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), as well as overcoming shortcomings or challenges in manpower, capability, and reach. One hurdle to prototype warfare is a byzantine acquisition process that limits the rapid acquisition and fielding of new technologies to the force until the associated documentation has completed its circuitous trek through a multi-tiered approval process and its funding has been programmed.
But every brigade in the Army may not need that particular technology or kit. Modularity is essential in prototype warfare. For instance, when one considers the emerging discussion and heavy investment into researching exoskeletons, there are modular pieces of future exoskeletons that may be ready now and can be fielded to Army units that need it. If the heavy-lift support or burden-lessening legs portion of an exoskeleton are practically functional at this time, a unit like 10th Mountain Division could use such a technology to lessen the likelihood of muscular-skeletal injuries from heavy loads being carried during training and operations.
Furthermore, as described in An Advanced Engagement Battlespace: Tactical, Operational and Strategic Implications for the Future Operational Environment, the future OE will be characterized by tactical pulsing (i.e., “sudden extreme pulses of violent offensive action”). Unlike the great conflicts of the previous century, those in the 21st Century will not afford belligerents the relative luxury of ramping up their production capacities from a consumer to a war economy. Our Arsenal of Democracy, churning out long-range bombers, tanks, and ships by the thousands, has no contemporary relevancy. As Mr. Leonhard eloquently points out in his book, The Principles of War for the Information Age:
“We must declare with finality that we have overcome the limitations and inefficiencies of mass warfare, and that we are determined to leave it behind. Mass is dead.”
“Deploying many varieties of prototypes… create[s] a significant dilemma for a defender, thus presenting an advantage for an attacker…. These prototypes may be produced at a lower cost and may only need to be operational for a short time period.”
Prototype warfare will provide the requisite agility in delivering the required capabilities to execute tactical pulsing in the future OE, enabling us to inflict “paroxysms of intense, hyperactive violence” upon our adversaries.
The convergence of a number of emerging technologies – synthetic prototyping, additive manufacturing, advanced modeling and simulations, software-defined everything, advanced materials – are advancing the feasibility of prototype warfare. Simultaneously, however, it is also democratizing this approach, enabling and improving the engineering of prototype weapons by non-state actors and super-empowered individuals. In his article posted in Wired this week, Mr. Brian Castner reports that ISIS is already “design[ing] their own munitions and mass-produc[ing] them using advanced manufacturing techniques. Iraq’s oil fields provided the industrial base—tool-and-die sets, high-end saws, injection-molding machines—and skilled workers who knew how to quickly fashion intricate parts to spec. Raw materials came from cannibalizing steel pipe and melting down scrap. ISIS engineers forged new fuzes, new rockets and launchers, and new bomblets to be dropped by drones, all assembled using instruction plans drawn up by ISIS officials.”
The following are examples of recent U.S. prototype warfare successes:
Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, activated to swiftly research and develop countermeasures to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), is a great example of prototype warfare. Extrapolating this generality of rapid acquisition would be beneficial to U.S. forces and could provide overmatch in niche areas.
The United States Special Operations Command’s SOFWERX was created in 2015 in a joint effort with the Doolittle Institute to be an open-door technological incubator where academics, techies, tinkerers, and researchers work together to get emerging tech out and into the hands of special operators. Due to its success and unique innovation, SOFWERX is the shining beacon for rapid acquisition within the DoD.
DoD is venturing into prototype warfare with Project Maven (also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross Functional Team), an effort launched by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, to accelerate the department’s integration of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The primary focus of the program is to overcome the tyranny of man-hours and effort required to analyze an enormous volume of full motion video with AI/ML. The existing process is human-driven, tedious, and susceptible to errors in perception and monotony. LTG John “Jack” Shanahan (USAF) spoke about prototype warfare in a keynote speech at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference in November, highlighting the importance of having big goals, winning small victories early, and keeping focus. Project Maven is currently expecting to deliver the first algorithms to warfighting systems by the end of the year. The team is already looking to the next set of “sprints” to tackle more intelligence analytics challenges and opportunities.
“[Project Maven] is about moving from the hardware industrial age to a software data-driven information environment and doing it fast and at scale across the Department.” — LTG Shanahan.
Prototype warfare is often dismissed as something relegated to the smaller, more narrowly focused special operations forces and not applicable to conventional forces. However, if the Army is to maintain its competitive advantage and win in an increasingly contested operational environment with continually evolving technologies, it must explore the potential of prototype warfare.
In doing so, the following questions must be considered:
1) How can the Army embrace prototype warfare without disrupting current acquisition processes that are in place to ensure security, reliability, and compliance in fielding required capabilities?
2) Should prototype warfare be spread across the Services or should it be centralized within a single organization?
3) What are the potential drawbacks and limitations in prototype warfare? What are the unforeseen second and third order effects of such a process?
For further reading on this subject, see the following recent articles: