[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present a post by guest blogger MAJ(P) Kelly McCoy, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), with a theme familiar to anyone who has ever debated super powers in a schoolyard during recess. Yet despite its familiarity, it remains a serious question as we seek to modernize the U.S. Army in light of our pacing threat adversaries. The question of “human-in-the-loop” versus “human-out-of-the-loop” is an extremely timely and cogent question.]
Iron Man versus Terminator — who would win? It is a debate that challenges morality, firepower, ingenuity, and pop culture prowess. But when it comes down to brass tacks, who would really win and what does that say about us?
Mad Scientist maintains that:
Today: Mano a mano, Iron Man’s human ingenuity, grit, and irrationality would carry the day; however…
In the Future: Facing the entire Skynet distributed neural net, Iron Man’s human-in-the-loop would be overwhelmed by a coordinated, swarming attack of Terminators.
Iron Man is the super-empowered human utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) — Just A Rather Very Intelligent System or JARVIS — to augment the synthesizing of data androbotics to increase strength, speed, and lethality. Iron Man utilizesautonomous systems, but maintains a human-in-the- loop for lethality decisions. Conversely, the Terminator is pure machine – with AI at the helm for all decision-making. Terminators are built for specific purposes – and for this case let’s assume these robotic soldiers are designed specifically for urban warfare. Finally, strength, lethality, cyber vulnerabilities, and modularity of capabilities between Iron Man and Terminator are assumed to be relatively equal to each other.
Up front, Iron Man is constrained by individual human bias, retention and application of training, and physical and mental fatigue. Heading into the fight, the human behind a super powered robotic enhancing suit will make decisions based on their ownbiases. How does one respond to too much information or not enough? How do they react when needing to respond while wrestling with the details of what needs to be remembered at the right time and space? Compounding this is theretention and applicationof the individual human’s training leading up to this point. Have they successfully undergone enough repetitions to mitigate their biases and arrive at the best solution and response? Finally, our most human vulnerability is physical and mental fatigue. Without adding inpsychoactive drugs, how would you respond to taking the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) while simultaneously winning a combatives match? How long would you last before you are mentally and physically exhausted?
What the human faces is a Terminator who removes bias and optimizes responses through machine learning, access to a network of knowledge, options, and capabilities, and relentless speed to process information. How much better would a Soldier be with their biases removed and the ability to apply the full library of lessons learned? To process the available information that contextualizes environment without cognitive overload. Arriving at the optimum decision, based on the outcomes of thousands of scenarios.
Iron Man arrives to this fight with irrationality and ingenuity; the ability to quickly adapt to complex problems and environments; tenacity; and morality that is uniquely human. Given this, the Terminator is faced with an adversary who can not only adapt, but also persevere with utter unpredictability. And here the Terminator’s weaknesses come to light. Their algorithms are matched to an environment – but environments can change and render algorithms obsolete. Their energy sources are finite – where humans can run on empty, Terminators power off. Finally, there are always glitches and vulnerabilities. Autonomous systems depend on the environment that it is coded for – if you know how to corrupt the environment, you can corrupt the system.
Ultimately the question of Iron Man versus Terminator is a question of time and human value and worth. In time, it is likely that the Iron Man will fall in the first fight. However, the victor is never determined in the first fight, but the last. If you believe in human ingenuity, grit, irrationality, and consideration, the last fight is the true test of what it means to be human.
Note: Nothing in this blog is intended as an implied or explicit endorsement of the “Iron Man” or “Terminator” franchises on the part of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or TRADOC.
Kelly McCoy is a U.S. Army strategist officer and a member of the Military Leadership Circle. A blessed husband and proud father, when he has time he is either brewing beer, roasting coffee, or maintaining his blog (Drink Beer; Kill War at: https://medium.com/@DrnkBrKllWr). The views expressed in this article belong to the author alone and do not represent the Department of Defense.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by guest blogger LTC Rob Taber, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2 Futures Directorate, clarifying the often confused character and nature of warfare, and addressing their respective mutability.]
No one is arguing that warfare is not changing. Where people disagree, however, is whether the nature of warfare, the character of warfare, or both are changing.
Take, for example, the National Intelligence Council’s assertion in “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress.” They state, “The nature of conflict is changing. The risk of conflict will increase due to diverging interests among major powers, an expanding terror threat, continued instability in weak states, and the spread of lethal, disruptive technologies. Disrupting societies will become more common, with long-range precision weapons, cyber, androbotic systems to target infrastructure from afar, and more accessible technology to create weapons of mass destruction.”[I]
Additionally, Brad D. Williams, in an introductionto an interview he conducted with Amir Husain, asserts, “Generals and military theorists have sought to characterize the nature of war for millennia, and for long periods of time, warfare doesn’t dramatically change. But, occasionally, new methods for conducting war cause a fundamental reconsideration of its very nature and implications.”[II] Williams then cites “cavalry, the rifled musket and Blitzkrieg as three historical examples”[III] from Husain and General John R. Allen’s (ret.) article, “On Hyperwar.”
Unfortunately, the NIC and Mr. Williams miss the reality that the nature of war is not changing, and it is unlikely to ever change. While these authors may have simply interchanged “nature” when they meant “character,” it is important to be clear on the difference between the two and the implications for the military. To put it more succinctly, words have meaning.
The nature of something is the basic make up of that thing. It is, at core, what that “thing” is. The character of something is the combination of all the different parts and pieces that make up that thing. In the context of warfare, it is useful to ask every doctrine writer’s personal hero, Carl Von Clausewitz, what his views are on the matter.
He argues that war is “subjective,”[IV] “an act of policy,”[V] and “a pulsation of violence.”[VI] Put another way, the nature of war is chaotic, inherently political, and violent. Clausewitz then states that despite war’s “colorful resemblance to a game of chance, all the vicissitudes of its passion, courage, imagination, and enthusiasm it includes are merely its special characteristics.”[VII] In other words, all changes in warfare are those smaller pieces that evolve and interact to make up the character of war.
The argument thatartificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies will enable military commanders to have “a qualitatively unsurpassed level of situational awareness and understanding heretofore unavailable to strategic commander[s]”[VIII] is a grand claim, but one that has been made many times in the past, and remains unfulfilled. The chaos of war, its fog, friction, and chance will likely never be deciphered, regardless of what technology we throw at it. While it is certain that AI-enabled technologies will be able to gather, assess, and deliver heretofore unimaginable amounts of data, these technologies will remain vulnerable to age-old practices ofdenial, deception, and camouflage.
The enemy gets a vote, and in this case, the enemy also gets to play with their AI-enabled technologies that are doing their best to provide decision advantage over us. The information sphere in war will be more cluttered and more confusing than ever.
Regardless of the tools of warfare, be they robotic,autonomous, and/or AI-enabled, they remain tools. And while they will be the primary tools of the warfighter, the decision to enable the warfighter to employ those tools will, more often than not, come from political leaders bent on achieving a certain goal with military force.
Finally, the violence of warfare will not change. Certainly robotics and autonomy will enable machines that can think and operate without humans in the loop. Imagine the future in which the unmanned bomber gets blown out of the sky by the AI-enabled directed energy integrated air defense network. That’s still violence. There are still explosions and kinetic energy with the potential for collateral damage to humans, both combatants and civilians.
Not to mention the bomber carried a payload meant to destroy something in the first place. A military force, at its core, will always carry the mission to kill things and break stuff. What will be different is what tools they use to execute that mission.
To learn more about the changing character of warfare:
– Watch videos of each of the conference presentations on the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment (OE) Enterprise YouTube Channelhere.
– Review the conference presentation slides (with links to the associated videos) on the Mad Scientist All Partners Access Network (APAN) sitehere.
LTC Rob Taber is currently the Deputy Director of the Futures Directorate within the TRADOC G-2. He is an Army Strategic Intelligence Officer and holds a Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University. His operational assignments include 1st Infantry Division, United States European Command, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Note: The featured graphic at the top of this post captures U.S. cavalrymen on General John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916. Less than two years later, the United States would find itself fully engaged in Europe in a mechanized First World War. (Source: Tom Laemlein / Armor Plate Press, courtesy of Neil Grant, The Lewis Gun, Osprey Publishing, 2014, page 19)
[I] National Intelligence Council, “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress,” January 2017, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/nic/GT-Full-Report.pdf, p. 6. [II] Brad D. Williams, “Emerging ‘Hyperwar’ Signals ‘AI-Fueled, machine waged’ Future of Conflict,” Fifth Domain, August 7, 2017, https://www.fifthdomain.com/dod/2017/08/07/emerging-hyperwar-signals-ai-fueled-machine-waged-future-of-conflict/. [III] Ibid. [VI] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 85. [V] Ibid, 87. [VI] Ibid. [VII] Ibid, 86. [VIII] John Allen, Amir Hussain, “On Hyper-War,” Fortuna’s Corner, July 10, 2017, https://fortunascorner.com/2017/07/10/on-hyper-war-by-gen-ret-john-allenusmc-amir-hussain/.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the following post by guest blogger Dr. Jan Kallberg, faculty member, United States Military Academy at West Point, and Research Scientist with the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. His post serves as a cautionary tale regarding our finite intellectual resources and the associated existential threat in failing to protect them!]
Preface: Based on my experience in cybersecurity, migrating to a broader cyber field, there have always been those exceptional individuals that have an unreplicable ability to see the challenge early on, create a technical solution, and know how to play it in the right order for maximum impact. They are out there – the Einsteins, Oppenheimers, and Fermis of cyber. The arrival ofArtificial Intelligence increases our reliance on these highly capable individuals – because someone must set the rules, the boundaries, and point out the trajectory for Artificial Intelligence at initiation.
As an industrialist society, we tend to see technology and the information that feeds it as the weapons – and ignore the few humans that have a large-scale direct impact. Even if identified as a weapon, how do you make a human mind classified? Can we protect these high-ability individuals that in the digital world are weapons, not as tools but compilers of capability, or are we still focused on the tools? Why do we see only weapons that are steel and electronics and not the weaponized mind as a weapon? I believe firmly that we underestimate the importance of Applicable Intelligence – the ability to play the cyber engagement in the optimal order. Adversaries are often good observers because they are scouting for our weak spots. I set the stage for the following post in 2034, close enough to be realistic and far enough for things to happen when our adversaries are betting that we rely more on a few minds than we are willing to accept.
Post: In a not too distant future, 20th of August 2034, a peer adversary’s first strategic moves are the targeted killings of less than twenty individuals as they go about their daily lives: watching a 3-D printer making a protein sandwich at a breakfast restaurant; stepping out from the downtown Chicago monorail; or taking a taste of a poison-filled retro Jolt Cola. In thegray zone, when the geopolitical temperature increases, but we are still not at war yet, our adversary acts quickly and expedites a limited number of targeted killings within the United States of persons whom are unknown to mass media, the general public, and have only one thing in common – Applicable Intelligence (AI).
The ability to apply is a far greater asset than the technology itself. Cyber and card games have one thing in common, the order you play your cards matters. In cyber, the tools are publicly available, anyone can download them from the Internet and use them, but the weaponization of the tools occurs when used by someone who understands how to play the tools in an optimal order. These minds are different because they see an opportunity to exploit in a digital fog of war where others don’t or can’t see it. They address problems unburdened by traditional thinking, in new innovative ways, maximizing the dual-purpose of digital tools, and can create tangible cyber effects.
It is the Applicable Intelligence (AI) that creates the procedures, the application of tools, and turns simple digital software in sets or combinations as a convergence to digitally lethal weapons. This AI is the intelligence to mix, match, tweak, and arrange dual purpose software. In 2034, it is as if you had the supernatural ability to create a thermonuclear bomb from what you can find at Kroger or Albertson.
Sadly we missed it; we didn’t see it. We never left the 20th century. Our adversary saw it clearly and at the dawn of conflict killed off the weaponized minds, without discretion, and with no concern for international law or morality.
These intellects are weapons of growing strategic magnitude. In 2034, the United States missed the importance of these few intellects. This error left them unprotected.
All of our efforts were instead focusing on what they delivered, the application and the technology, which was hidden in secret vaults and only discussed in sensitive compartmented information facilities. Therefore, we classify to the highest level to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of our cyber capabilities. Meanwhile, the most critical component, the militarized intellect, we put no value to because it is a human. In a society marinated in an engineering mindset, humans are like desk space, electricity, and broadband; it is a commodity that is input in the production of the technical machinery. The marveled technical machinery is the only thing we care about today, 2018, and as it turned out in 2034 as well.
We are stuck in how we think, and we are unable to see it coming, but our adversaries see it. At a systematic level, we are unable to see humans as the weapon itself, maybe because we like to see weapons as something tangible, painted black, tan, or green, that can be stored and brought to action when needed. As the armory of the war of 1812, as the stockpile of 1943, and as the launch pad of 2034. Arms are made of steel, or fancier metals, with electronics – we failed in 2034 to see weapons made of corn, steak, and an added combative intellect.
General Nakasone stated in 2017, “Our best ones [coders] are 50 or 100 times better than their peers,” and continued “Is there a sniper or is there a pilot or is there a submarine driver or anyone else in the military 50 times their peer? I would tell you, some coders we have are 50 times their peers.” In reality, the success of cyber and cyber operations is highly dependent not on the tools or toolsets but instead upon the super-empowered individual that General Nakasone calls “the 50-x coder.”
There were clear signals that we could have noticed before General Nakasone pointed it out clearly in 2017. The United States’ Manhattan Project during World War II had at its peak 125,000 workers on the payroll, but the intellects that drove the project to success and completion were few. The difference with the Manhattan Project and the future of cyber is that we were unable to see the human as a weapon, being locked in by our path dependency as an engineering society where we hail the technology and forget the importance of the humans behind it.
America’s endless love of technical innovations and advanced machinery reflects in a nation that has celebrated mechanical wonders and engineered solutions since its creation. For America, technical wonders are a sign of prosperity, ability, self-determination, and advancement, a story that started in the early days of the colonies, followed by the intercontinental railroad, the Panama Canal, the manufacturing era, the moon landing, and all the way to the autonomous systems, drones, and robots. In a default mindset, there is always a tool, an automated process, a software, or a set of technical steps that can solve a problem or act.
The same mindset sees humans merely as an input to technology, so humans are interchangeable and can be replaced. In 2034, the era of digital conflicts and thewar between algorithms with engagements occurring at machine speed with no time for leadership or human interaction, it is the intellects that design and understand how to play it. We didn’t see it.
In 2034, with fewer than twenty bodies piled up after targeted killings, resides the Cyber Pearl Harbor. It was not imploding critical infrastructure, a tsunami of cyber attacks, nor hackers flooding our financial systems, but instead traditional lead and gunpowder. The super-empowered individuals are gone, and we are stuck in a digital war at speeds we don’t understand, unable to play it in the right order, and with limited intellectual torque to see through the fog of war provided by an exploding kaleidoscope of nodes and digital engagements.
Dr. Jan Kallberg is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science with the Department of Social Sciences, United States Military Academy at West Point, and a Research Scientist with the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. He was earlier a researcher with the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute, The University of Texas at Dallas, and is a part-time faculty member at George Washington University. Dr. Kallberg earned his Ph.D. and MA from the University of Texas at Dallas and earned a JD/LL.M. from Juridicum Law School, Stockholm University. Dr. Kallberg is a certified CISSP, ISACA CISM, and serves as the Managing Editor for the Cyber Defense Review. He has authored papers in the Strategic Studies Quarterly, Joint Forces Quarterly, IEEE IT Professional, IEEE Access, IEEE Security and Privacy, and IEEE Technology and Society.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the second in our series of “The Tenth Man” posts (read the first onehere). This Devil’s Advocate or contrarian approach serves as a form of alternative analysis and is a check against group think and mirror imaging. The Mad Scientist Laboratory offers it as a platform for the contrarians in our network to share their alternative perspectives and analyses regarding the Future Operational Environment.
Today’s post is by guest blogger Mr. Ray Finch addressing Russia’s on-going efforts to develop a military innovation center — Era Military Innovation Technopark — near the city of Anapa (Krasnodar Region) on the northern coast of the Black Sea. Per The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, “Russiacan be considered our ‘pacing threat,’ and will be our most capable potential foe for at least the first half of the Era of Accelerated Human Progress [now through 2035]. It will remain a key adversary through the Era of Contested Equality [2035-2050].” So any Russian attempts at innovation to create “A Militarized Silicon Valley in Russia” should be sounding alarms throughout the NATO Alliance, right? Well, maybe not….]
(Please note that several of Mr. Finch’s embedded links in the post below are best accessed using non-DoD networks.)
Only a Mad Russian Scientist could write the paragraph below:
While this certainly echoes the current Kremlin propaganda, a more sober analysis regarding the outcomes of the Era Military Innovation Technopark in Anapa (Krasnodar Region) ought to consider those systemic factors which will likely retard its future development. Below are five reasons why Putin and Russia will likely have less to celebrate in 2035.
You can’t have milk without a cow
The primary reason that the Kremlin’s attempt to create breakthrough innovations at the Era Technopark will result in disappointment stems from the lack of a robust social structure to support such innovations. And it’s not simply the absence of good roads or adequate healthcare. As the renowned MIT scientist, Dr. Loren R. Graham recentlypointed out, the Kremlin leadership wants to enjoy the “milk” of technology, without worrying about supporting the system needed to support a “cow.” Graham elaborates on his observation by pointing out that even though Russian scientists have often been at the forefront of technological innovations, the country’s poor legal system prevents these discoveries from ever bearing fruit. Stifling bureaucracy and a broken legal system prevent Russian scientists and innovators from profiting from their discoveries. This dilemma leads to the second factor.
Despite all of the Kremlin’s patriotic hype over the past several years, many young and talented Russians are voting with their feet and pursuing careers abroad. As the senior Russian analyst, Dr. Gordon M. Hahnnoted, “instead of voting for pro-democratic forces and/or fomenting unrest, Russia’s discontented, highly educated, highly skilled university graduates tend to move abroad to find suitable work.” And even though the US is maligned on a daily basis in the Kremlin-supported Russian media, many of these smart, young Russians are moving to America. Indeed, according to a recent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)report, “the number of asylum applications by Russian citizens in the United States hit a 24-year high in 2017, jumping nearly 40 percent from the previous year and continuing an upward march that began after Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.” These smart, young Russians believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction and are looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Everything turns out to be a Kalashnikov
There’s no doubt that Russian scientists and technicians are capable of creating effective weapon systems.President Putin’s recent display of military muscle-power was not a mere campaign stratagem, but rather a reminder to his Western “partners” that since Russia remains armed to the teeth, his country deserves respect. And there’s little question that the new Era Technopark will help to create advanced weapon systems of “which there is no analogous version in the world.” But that’s just the point. While Russia is famous for its tanks, artillery, and rocket systems, it has struggled to create anything which might be qualified as a technological marvel in the civilian sector. As someRussian observers have put it, “no matter what the state tries to develop, it ends up being a Kalashnikov.”
The Boss knows what’s best
The current Kremlin leadership now parades itself as being at the forefront of aglobal conservative and traditional movement. In their favorite narrative, the conniving US is forever trying to weaken Russia (and other autocratic countries) by infecting them with a liberal bacillus, often referred to as a “color revolution.” In their rendition, Russia was contaminated by this democratic disease during the 1990s, only to find itself weakened and taken advantage of by America.
Since then, the Kremlin leadership has retained the formof democracy, but has removed itsessence. Elections are held, ballots are cast, but the winner is pre-determined from above. So far, the Russian population has played along with this charade, but at some point, perhaps in an economic crisis, the increasingly plugged-in Russian population might demand a more representative form of government. Regardless, while this top-down, conservative model is ideal for maintaining control and staging major events, it lacks the essential freedom inherent within innovation. Moreover, such a quasi-autocratic system tends to promote Russia’s most serious challenge.
The cancer of corruption
Despite the façade of a uniformed, law-governed state,Russiacontinues to rank near the bottom on the global corruption index. According to a recent Russianreport, “90 percent of entrepreneurs have encountered corruption at least once.” Private Russian companies will likely think twice before deciding to invest in the Era Technopark, unless of course, the Kremlin makes them an offer they cannot refuse. Moreover, as suggested earlier, the young Era scientists may not be fully committed, understanding that the “milk” of their technological discoveries will likely by expropriated by their uniformed bosses.
Technopark Era is not scheduled to be fully operational until 2020, and the elevated rhetoric over its innovative mandate will likely prompt concern among some US defense officials. While the center could advance Russian military technology over the next 15-25 years, it is doubtful that Era will usher in a new era for Russia.
If you enjoyed this edition of the “Tenth Man”:
– Learn more about Russia’s Era Military Innovation Technopark in the April 2018 edition of the TRADOC G-2’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO)OE Watch, Volume 8, Issue 4, pages 10-11.
On 8-9 August 2018, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC. Leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and the government gathered to address future learning techniques and technologies that are critical in preparing for Army operations in the mid-21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces. The new and innovative learning capabilities addressed at this conference will enable our Soldiers and Leaders to act quickly and decisively in a changing Operational Environment (OE) with fleeting windows of opportunity and more advanced and lethal technologies.
We have identified the following “Top 10” takeaways related to Learning in 2050:
1. Many learning technologies built around commercial products are available today (Amazon Alexa, Smart Phones, Immersion tech, Avatar experts) for introduction into our training and educational institutions. Many of these technologies are part of the Army’s concept for aSynthetic Training Environment (STE)and there are nascent manifestations already. For these technologies to be widely available to the future Army, the Army of today must be prepared to address:
– The cultural challenges associated with changing the dynamicbetween learners and instructors, teachers, and coaches; and
– The adequate funding to produce capabilities at scale so that digital tutors or other technologies (Augmented Reality [AR] / Virtual Reality [VR], etc.) and skills required in a dynamic future, like critical thinking/group think mitigation, are widely available or perhaps ubiquitous.
2. Personalization and individualization of learning in the future will be paramount, and some training that today takes place in physical schools will be more the exception, with learning occurring at the point of need. This transformation will not be limited to lesson plans or even just learning styles:
– Project-oriented learning; when today’s high school students are building apps, they are asked “What positive change do you want to have?” One example is an open table for Bully Free Tables. In the future, learners will learn through working on projects;
– Project-oriented learning will lead to a convergence of learning and operations, creating a chicken (learning) or the egg (mission/project) relationship; and
– Learning must be adapted to consciously address the desired, or extant, culture.
3. Some jobs and skill sets have not even been articulated yet. Hobbies and recreational activities engaged in by kids and enthusiasts today could become occupations or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’s) of the future (e.g., drone creator/maintainer, 3-D printing specialist, digital and cyber fortification construction engineer — think Minecraft and Fortnite with real-world physical implications). Some emerging trends inpersonalized warfare, big data, and virtual nations could bring about the necessity for more specialists that don’t currently exist (e.g., data protection and/or data erasure specialists).
4. The New Human (who will be born in 2032 and is the recruit of 2050) will be fundamentally different from the Old Human. The Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) in 2050 is currently a young Captain in our Army today. While we are arguably cyborgs today (with integrated electronics in our pockets and on our wrists), the New Humans will likely be cyborgs in the truest sense of the word, with some havingembedded sensors. How will those New Humans learn? What will they need to learn? Why would they want to learn something? These are all critical questions the Army will continue to ask over the next several decades.
5. Learning is continuous and self-initiated, while education is a point in time and is “done to you” by someone else. Learning may result in a certificate or degree – similar to education – or can lead to the foundations of a skill or a deeper understanding of operations and activity. How will organizations quantify learning in the future? Will degrees or even certifications still be the benchmark for talent and capability?
6. Learning isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up. More and more things are becoming instantaneous and humans have no concept of extreme speed. Tesla cars have the ability to update software, with owners getting into a veritably different car each day. What happens to our Soldiers when military vehicles change much more iteratively? This may force a paradigm shift wherein learning means tightening local and global connections (tough to do considering government/military network securities, firewalls, vulnerabilities, and constraints); viewing technology as extended brains all networked together (similar to Dr. Alexander Kott’s look at the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT]); and leveraging these capabilities to enable Soldier learning at extremely high speeds.
7. While there are a number of emerging concepts and technologies to improve and accelerate learning (TNT, extended reality, personalized learning models, and intelligent tutors), the focus, training stimuli, data sets, and desired outcomes all have to be properly tuned and aligned or the Learner could end up losing correct behavior habits (developing maladaptive plasticity), developing incorrect or skewed behaviors (per the desired capability), or assuming inert cognitive biases.
8. Geolocation may become increasingly less important when it comes to learning in the future. If Apple required users to go to Silicon Valley to get trained on an iPhone, they would be exponentially less successful. But this is how the Army currently trains. The ubiquity of connectivity, the growth of the Internet of Things (and eventually Internet of Everything), the introduction of universal interfaces (think one XBOX controller capable of controlling 10 different types of vehicles), major advances in modeling and simulations, and social media innovation all converge to minimize the importance of teachers, students, mentors, and learners being collocated at the same physical location.
9. Significant questions have to be asked regarding the specificity of training in children at a young age to the point that we may be overemphasizing STEM from an early age and not helping them learn across a wider spectrum. We need Transdisciplinarity in the coming generations.
10. 3-D reconstructions of bases, training areas, cities, and military objectives coupled with mixed reality, haptic sensing, and intuitive controls have the potential to dramatically change how Soldiers train and learn when it comes to not only single performance tasks (e.g., marksmanship, vehicle driving, reconnaissance, etc.) but also in dense urban operations, multi-unit maneuver, and command and control.
During the next two weeks, we will be posting the videos from each of the Learning in 2050 Conference presentations on the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment (OE) EnterpriseYouTube Channel and the associated slides on our Mad Scientist APAN site — stay connected here at the Mad Scientist Laboratory.
One of the main thrusts in the Mad Scientist lines of effort is harnessing and cultivating the Intellect of the Nation. In this vein, we are asking Learning in 2050 Conference participants (both in person and online) to share their ideas on the presentations and topic. Please consider:
– What topics were most important to you personally and professionally?
– What were your main takeaways from the event?
– What topics did you want the speakers to extrapolate more on?
– What were the implications for your given occupation/career field from the findings of the event?
Your input will be of critical importance to our analysis and products that will have significant impact on the future of the force in design, structuring, planning, and training! Please submit your input to Mad Scientist at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to announce that Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies this week (Wednesday and Thursday, 8-9 August 2018) in Washington, DC.
Future learning techniques and technologies are critical to the Army’s operations in the 21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces. The ability to effectively respond to a changing Operational Environment (OE) with fleeting windows of opportunity is paramount, and Leaders must act quickly to adjust to different OEs and more advanced and lethal technologies. Learning technologies must enable Soldiers to learn, think, and adapt using innovative synthetic environments to accelerate learning and attain expertise more quickly. Looking to 2050, learning enablers will become far more mobile and on-demand.
Looking at Learning in 2050, topics of interest include, but are not limited to: Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Realities (VR/AR/MR); interactive, autonomous, accelerated, and augmented learning technologies; gamification; skills needed for Soldiers and Leaders in 2050;synthetic training environments; virtual mentors; and intelligent artificial tutors. Advanced learning capabilities present the opportunity for Soldiers and Leaders to prepare for operations and operate in multiple domains while improving current cognitive load limitations.
Plan to join us virtually at the conference as leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and government gather to discuss:
1) How will emerging technologies improve learning or augment intelligence in professional military education, at home station, while deployed, and on the battlefield?
2) How can the Army accelerate learning to improve Soldier and unit agility in rapidly changing OEs?
3) What new skills will Soldiers and Leaders require to fight and win in 2050?
– Read our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas finalists’ submissionshere, graciously hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.
– Starting Tuesday, 7 August 2018, see the conference agenda’s list of presentations and the associated world-class speakers’ biographieshere.
Join us at the conference on-linehere via live-streaming audio and video, beginning at 0840 EDT on Wednesday, 08 Aug 2018; submit your questions to each of the presenters via the moderated interactive chat room; and tag your comments @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. Howard R. Simkin, hypothesizing the activities of an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) deployed on a security assistance operation in the 2050 timeframe. Mr. Simkin addresses how advanced learning capabilities can improve what were once cognitive load limitations. This is a one of the themes we will explore at next week’s Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference; more information on this conference can be found at the bottom of this post.]
This is the ODAs third deployment to the country, although it is Captain Clark Weston’s first deployment as a team leader. The rest of his ODA have long experience in the region and country. They all have the 2050 standard milspec augmentation of every Special Operations (SO) Operator: corneal and audial implants, subdural brain-computer interfaces, and medical nano-enhancement.
Unlike earlier generations of SO Operators aided by advanced technology, they can see into the near-infra red, understand sixty spoken languages, acquire new skill sets rapidly, interface directly with computers and see that information in a heads up display without a device, and survive any injury short of dismemberment. However, they continue to rely on their cultural and human skills to provide those critical puzzle pieces from the human domain which technology and data science alone cannot.
No matter what technologies are at play, thehuman elementwill still be paramount. As the noted futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku observed in his discussions of the ‘Cave Man Principle’, “whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time.”[I]
The sound of an onrushing thunderstorm briefly distracted CPT[II] Weston from the report he was compiling. His eyes scanned the equipment hung on wooden pegs protruding from the white plastered walls or scattered on the small wooden desk adorned by a single switch operated lamp. He couldn’t help smiling. The wooden pegs, plastered walls, and primitive lamp were a good metaphor for the region. His apartment back home sported the latest in technology, adaptive video capable walls, a customized AI virtual assistant, and lighting and HVAC[III] that operated without human intervention. Here, it was back to basics.
His concentration broken, he stood up and stretched. Dark of hair and eyes, of medium height and slender build, he could easily pass for a native of the region. As for fluency in the local language, it had been baked into his neural circuitry through rigorous training, cognitive enhancements, and experience. A student of history, Weston had been surprised during his attendance at the SOF[IV] Captains Career Course when he read articles and papers that had heralded the death of language training.
He wondered. Didn’t the people who wrote those articles pause to consider that no technology works all the time? Either as a result of adversary action or the arrival of mean time between failures, a glitch in a technology-dependent language capability could be at best embarrassing and at worst catastrophic. Didn’t they realize that learning a new language alters the learner’s neural networks, allowing a nuanced understanding of a culture that software had not been able to achieve? Besides, around 65 percent of human communication is non-verbal, he reasoned. Language occurs in a shifting cultural context, something even the best AIs still couldn’t always tackle.
He paced around the room, reflecting on the past few months. Things had definitely taken a turn for the better. With very few exceptions, the Joint security assistance efforts he was aware of were going well. He was very proud of what his ODA had accomplished, training the Ministry of the Interior’s capitol region paramilitary force (CRPF) to what Minerva[V] had deemed a sufficient level of competence in a wide range of tactical skills.
More importantly, as his Team Sergeant Abdel Jamaal had observed, “We got them to believe in themselves as protectors and to stop acting like bullies.” This had led to the development of an increasing number of information sources which in turn had led to the arrest of a number of senior narco-terrorists. He and Sergeant Jamaal had advised and assisted in those arrests in a virtual mode. To the local population, it looked like the CRPF was doing all of the work.
The team medical/civil affairs specialist, Sergeant First Class Belinda Tompkins and the team cyber/additive manufacturing authority, Sergeant DeWayne Jones had achieved quite a lot on their own. After consulting with the Nimble Griffin[VI] team, they had employed their expertise to upgrade the antiquated in-country hospital 3D Printers to produce the latestgene editingdrugs and fight the diseases still endemic to the region. They had done this in the background, having the CRPF collect the machines quietly and then return them to the hospitals with great fanfare. The resulting media coverage was a public relations bonanza. The only US presence was virtual and invisible to the media or public.
A loud peal of thunder shook Weston from his thoughts. The lights flickered in his room, then steadied up. He sat back down at the table to finish his report. All in all, things were going very well.
[Note that any resemblance to any current events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]
If you enjoyed this post, please read Mr. Simkin’s articleTechnological Fluency 2035-2050, submitted in response to our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas and hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.
Other Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas submissions include the following:
Please also plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference. This event will be live streamed on both days (08-09 August 2018). You can watch and interact with all of the speakers at the conference watch page or tag @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050. Note that the live streaming event is best viewed via a commercial internet connection (i.e., non-NIPRNet).
Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He has over 40 years of combined military, law enforcement, defense contractor, and government experience. He is a retired Special Forces officer with a wide variety of special operations experience.
________________________________________________________ [I] Kaku, M. (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Random House (Kindle Edition), 13. [II] Captain. [III] Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. [IV]Special Operations Forces. [V]Department of Defense AI virtual assistant. [VI]A Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force.
[Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2 is co-hosting the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies on 8-9 August 2018 in Washington, DC. In advance of this conference, Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present today’s post addressing what is necessary to truly transform Learning in 2050 by returning guest blogger Mr. Nick Marsella. Read Mr. Marsella’s previous two posts addressing Futures Work atPart I and Part II]
Only a handful of years ago, a conference on the topic of learning in 2050 would spur discussions on needed changes in the way we formally educate and train people to live successful lives and be productive citizens.[I] Advocates in K-12 would probably argue for increasing investment in schools, better technology, and increased STEM education. Higher educators would raise many of the same concerns, pointing to the value of the “the academy” and its universities as integral to the nation’s economic, security, and social well-being by preparing the nation’s future leaders, innovators, and scientists.
Yet, times have changed. “Learning in 2050” could easily address how education and training must meet the required immediate learning needs of the individual and for supporting “lifelong learning” in a very changing and competitive world.[II] The conference could also address how new discoveries in learning and the cognitive sciences will inform the education and training fields, and potentially enhance individual abilities to learn and think.[III] “Learning in 2050” could also focus on how organizational learning will be even more important than today – spelling the difference between bankruptcy and irrelevancy – or for military forces – victory or defeat. We must also address how to teach people to learn and organize themselves for learning.[IV]
Lastly, a “Learning in 2050” conference could also focus onmachine learning and howartificial intelligence will transform not only the workplace, but have a major impact on national security.[V] Aside from understanding the potential and limitations of this transformative technology, increasingly we must train and educate people on how to use it to their advantage and understand its limitations for effective “human – machine teaming.” We must also provide opportunities to use fielded new technologies and for individuals to learn when and how totrust it.[VI]
All of these areas would provide rich discussions and perhaps new insights. But just as LTG (ret) H.R. McMaster warned us about thinking about the challenges in future warfare, we must first acknowledge the continuities for this broad topic of “Learning in 2050” and its implications for the U.S. Army.[VII] Until the Army is replaced by robots or knowledge and skills are uploaded directly into the brain as shown in the “Matrix” — learning involves humans and the learning process and the Army’s Soldiers and its civilian workforce [not discounting organizational or machine learning].
While much may change in the way the individual will learn, we must recognize that the focus of “Learning in 2050” is on the learner and the systems, programs/schools, or technologies adopted in the future must support the learner. As Herbert Simon, one of the founders of cognitive science and a Nobel laureate noted: “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.”[VIII] To the Army’s credit, the U.S. Army Learning Concept for Training and Education 2020-2040 vision supports this approach by immersing “Soldiers and Army civilians in a progressive, continuous, learner-centric, competency-based learning environment,” but the danger is we will be captured by technology, procedures, and discussions about the utility and need for “brick and mortar schools.”[IX]
Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks.
Learning is a process that involves changing knowledge, belief, behavior, and attitudes and is entirely dependent on the learner as he/she interprets and responds to the learning experience – in and out of the classroom.[X] Our ideas, concepts, or recommendations to improve the future of learning in 2050 must either: improve student learning outcomes, improve student learning efficiency by accelerating learning, or improve the student’s motivation and engagement to learn.
“Learning in 2050” must identify external environmental factors which will affect what the student may need to learn to respond to the future, and also recognize that the generation of 2050 will be different from today’s student in values, beliefs, attitudes, and acceptance of technology.[XI] Changes in the learning system must be ethical, affordable, and feasible. To support effective student learning, learning outcomes must be clearly defined – whether a student is participating in a yearlong professional education program or a five-day field training exercise – and must be understood by the learner.[XII]
We must think big. For example, Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Howard Gardner postulated that to be successful in the 21st Century requires the development of the “disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creative mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind.”[XIII]
Approaches, processes, and organization, along with the use of technology and other cognitive science tools, must focus on the learning process. Illustrated below is the typical officer career timeline with formal educational opportunities sprinkled throughout the years.[XIV] While some form of formal education in “brick and mortar” schools will continue, one wonders if we will turn this model on its head – with more upfront education; shorter focused professional education; more blended programs combining resident/non-resident instruction; and continual access to experts, courses, and knowledge selected by the individual for “on demand” learning. Today, we often use education as a reward for performance (i.e., resident PME); in the future, education must be a “right of the Profession,” equally provided to all (to include Army civilians) – necessary for performance as a member of the profession of arms.
The role of the teacher will change. Instructors will become “learning coaches” to help the learner identify gaps and needs in meaningful and dynamic individual learning plans. Like the Army’s Master Fitness Trainer whom advises and monitors a unit’s physical readiness, we must create in our units “Master Learning Coaches,” not simply a training specialist who manages the schedule and records. One can imagine technology evolving to do some of this as the Alexa’s and Siri’s of today become the AI tutors and mentors of the future. We must also remember that any system or process for learning in 2050 must fit the needs of multiple communities: Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve forces, as well as Army civilians.
Just as the delivery of instruction will change, the assessment of learning will change as well. Simulations and gaming should aim to provide an “Enders’ Game” experience, where reality and simulation are indistinguishable. Training systems should enable individuals to practice repeatedly and as Vince Lombardi noted – “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Experiential learning will reinforce classroom, on-line instruction, or short intensive courses/seminars through the linkage of “classroom seat time” and “field time” at the Combat Training Centers, Warfighter, or other exercises or experiences.
Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin[XV]
Of course, much will have to change in terms of policies and the way we think about education, training, and learning. If one moves back in time the same number of years that we are looking to the future – it is the year 1984. How much has changed since then?
While in some ways technology has transformed the learning process – e.g., typewriters to laptops; card catalogues to instant on-line access to the world’s literature from anywhere; and classes at brick and mortar schools to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and blended and on-line learning with Blackboard. Yet, as Mark Twain reportedly noted – “if history doesn’t repeat itself – it rhymes” and some things look the same as they did in 1984, with lectures and passive learning in large lecture halls – just as PowerPoint lectures are ongoing today for some passively undergoing PME.
If “Learning in 2050” is to be truly transformative – we must think differently. We must move beyond the industrial age approach of mass education with its caste systems and allocation of seats. To be successful in the future, we must recognize that our efforts must center on the learner to provide immediate access to knowledge to learn in time to be of value.
Nick Marsella is a retired Army Colonel and is currently a Department of the Army civilian serving as the Devil’s Advocate/Red Team for Training and Doctrine Command. ___________________________________________________________________
[I] While the terms “education” and “training” are often used interchangeably, I will use the oft quoted rule – training is about skills in order to do a job or perform a task, while education is broader in terms of instilling general competencies and to deal with the unexpected.
[II] The noted futurist Alvin Toffler is often quoted noting: “The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
[III] Sheftick, G. (2018, May 18). Army researchers look to neurostimulation to enhance, accelerate Soldier’s abilities. Retrieved from: https://www.army.mil/article/206197/army_researchers_looking_to_neurostimulation_to_enhance_accelerate_soldiers_abilities
[IV] This will become increasing important as the useful shelf life of knowledge is shortening. See Zao-Sanders, M. (2017). A 2×2 matrix to help you prioritize the skills to learn right now. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2017/09/a-2×2-matrix-to-help-you-prioritize-the-skills-to-learn-right-now — so much to learn, so little time.
[V] Much has been written on AI and its implications. One of the most recent and interesting papers was recently released by the Center for New American Security in June 2018. See: Scharre, P. & Horowitz, M.C. (2018). Artificial Intelligence: What every policymaker needs to know. Retrieved from: https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/artificial-intelligence-what-every-policymaker-needs-to-know
For those wanting further details and potential insights see: Executive Office of the President, National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology Report, Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, October 2016.
[VI] Based on my anecdotal experiences, complicated systems, such as those found in command and control, have been fielded to units without sufficient training. Even when fielded with training, unless in combat, proficiency using the systems quickly lapses. See: Mission Command Digital Master Gunner, May 17, 2016, retrieved from https://www.army.mil/standto/archive_2016-05-17. See Freedberg, S. Jr. Artificial Stupidity: Fumbling the Handoff from AI to Human Control. Breaking Defense. Retrieved from: https://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/artificial-stupidity-fumbling-the-handoff/
[VII] McMaster, H.R. (LTG) (2015). Continuity and Change: The Army Operating Concept and Clear Thinking about Future War. Military Review.
[VIII] Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C. & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 1.
[IX] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-8-2. The U.S. Army Learning Concept for Training and Education 2020-2040.
[XI] For example, should machine language be learned as a foreign language in lieu of a traditional foreign language (e.g., Spanish) – given the development of automated machine language translators (AKA = the Universal Translator)?
[XII] The point here is we must clearly understand what we want the learner to learn and adequately define it and insure the learner knows what the outcomes are. For example, we continually espouse that we want leaders to be critical thinkers, but I challenge the reader to find the definitive definition and expected attributes from being a critical thinker given ADRP 6-22, Army Leadership, FM 6-22 Army Leadership, and ADRP 5 and 6 describe it differently. At a recent higher education conference of leaders, administrators and selected faculty, one member succinctly put it this way to highlight the importance of student’s understanding expected learning outcomes: “Teaching students without providing them with learning outcomes is like giving a 500 piece puzzle without an image of what they’re assembling.”
[XIII] Gardner, H. (2008). Five Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press. For application of Gardner’s premise see Marsella, N.R. (2017). Reframing the Human Dimension: Gardner’s “Five Minds for the Future.” Journal of Military Learning. Retrieved from: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Journal-of-Military-Learning/Journal-of-Military-Learning-Archives/April-2017-Edition/Reframing-the-Human-Dimension/
[XIV] Officer education may differ due to a variety of factors but the normal progression for Professional Military Education includes: Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC B, to include ROTC/USMA/OCS which is BOLC A); Captains Career Course; Intermediate Level Education (ILE) and Senior Service College as well as specialty training (e.g., language school), graduate school, and Joint schools. Extracted from previous edition of DA Pam 600-3, Commissioned Office Professional Development and Career Management, December 2014, p.27 which is now obsolete. Graphic is as an example. For current policy, see DA PAM 600-3, dated 26 June 2017. .
[XV] See https://blogs.darden.virginia.edu/brunerblog/
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present today’s guest post by Ms. Taylor Galanides, TRADOC G-2 Summer Intern, exploring how the increasing momentum of human interaction, events, and actions, driven by the convergence of innovative technologies, is enabling adversaries to exploit susceptibilities and vulnerabilities to manipulate populations and undermine national interests. Ms. Galanides examines contemporary Information Operations as a harbinger of virtual warfare in the future Operational Environment.]
More information is available than ever before. Recent and extensive developments in technology, media, communication, and culture – such as the advent of social media, 24-hour news coverage, and smart devices – allow people to closely monitor domestic and foreign affairs. In the coming decades, the increased speed of engagements, as well as the precise and pervasive targeting of both civilian and military populations, means that these populations and their respective nations will be even more vulnerable to influence and manipulation attempts, misinformation, and cyber-attacks from foreign adversaries.
The value of influencing and shaping the perceptions of foreign and domestic populations in order to pursue national and military interests has long been recognized. This can be achieved through the employment of information operations, which seek to affect the decision-making process of adversaries. The U.S. Army views information operations as an instrumental part of the broader effort to maintain an operational advantage over adversaries. Information operations is specifically defined by the U.S. Army as “The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare further emphasizes this increased attention to the information and cognitive domains in the future – in the Era of Contested Equality (2035 through 2050). As a result, it has been predicted that no single nation will hold hegemony over its adversaries, and major powers and non-state actors alike “… will engage in a fight for information on a global scale.” Winning preemptively in the competitive dimension before escalation into armed conflict through the use of information and psychological warfare will become key.
Part of the driving force that is changing the character of warfare includes the rise ofinnovative technologiessuch as computer bots, artificial intelligence, and smart devices. Such emerging and advancing technologies have facilitated the convergence of new susceptibilities to individual and international security; as such, it will become increasingly more important to employ defensive and counter information operations to avoid forming misperceptions or being deceived.
Harbinger of the Future: Information Operations in Crimea
Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 effectively serve as cautionary examples of Russia’s evolving information operations and their perception-shaping capabilities. In Crimea, Russia sought to create a “hallucinating fog of war” in an attempt to alter the analytical judgments and perceptions of its adversaries. With the additional help of computer hackers, bots, trolls, and television broadcasts, the Russian government was able to create a manipulated version of reality that claimed Russian intervention in Crimea was not only necessary, but humanitarian, in order to protect Russian speakers. Additionally, Russian cyberespionage efforts included the jamming or shutting down of telecommunication infrastructures, important Ukrainian websites, and cell phones of key officials prior to the invasion. Through the use of large demonstrations called “snap exercises,” the Russians were able to mask military buildups along the border, as well as its political and military intentions. Russia further disguised their intentions and objectives by claiming adherence to international law, while also claiming victimization from the West’s attempts to destabilize, subvert, and undermine their nation.
By denying any involvement in Crimea until after the annexation was complete, distorting the facts surrounding the situation, and refraining from any declaration of war, Russia effectively infiltrated the international information domain and shaped the decision-making process of NATO countries to keep them out of the conflict. NATO nations ultimately chose minimal intervention despite specific evidence of Russia’s deliberate intervention in order to keep the conflict de-escalated. Despite the West’s refusal to acknowledge the annexation of Crimea, it could be argued that Russia achieved their objective of expanding its sphere of influence.
Vulnerabilities and Considerations
Russia is the U.S.’ current pacing threat, and China is projected to overtake Russia as the Nation’s primary threat as early as 2035. It is important to continue to evaluate the way that the U.S. and its Army respond to adversaries’ increasingly technological attempts to influence, in order to maintain the information and geopolitical superiority of the Nation. For example, the U.S. possesses different moral and ethical standards that restrict the use of information operations. However, because adversarial nations like Russia and China pervasively employ influence and deceptive measures in peacetime, the U.S. and its Army could benefit from developing alternative methods for maintaining an operational advantage against its adversaries.
Adversarial nations can also take advantage of “the[Western] media’swillingness to seek hard evidence and listen to both sides of an argument before coming to a conclusion” by “inserting fabricated or prejudicial information into Western analysis and blocking access to evidence.” The West’s free press will continue to be the primary counter to constructed narratives. Additionally,extensive training of U.S. military and Government personnel, in conjunction with educating its civilian population about Russia and China’s deceitful narratives may decrease the likelihood of perceptions being manipulated: “If the nation can teach the media to scrutinize the obvious, understand the military, and appreciate the nuances of deception, it may become less vulnerable to deception.” Other ways to exploit Russian and Chinese vulnerabilities could include taking advantage of poor operations security, as well as the use and analysis ofgeotags to refute and discredit Russian and Chinese propaganda narratives.
A final consideration involves the formation of an interagency committee, similar to theActive Measures Working Group from the 1980s, for the identification and countering of adversarial disinformation and propaganda. The coordination of the disinformation efforts by manipulative countries like Russia is pervasive and exhaustive. Thus, coordination of information operations and counter-propaganda efforts is likewise important between the U.S. Government, the Army, and the rest of the branches of the military. The passing of theCountering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, was an important first step in the continuing fight to counter foreign information and influence operations that seek to manipulate the U.S. and its decision-makers and undermine its national interests.
For more information on how adversaries will seek to shape perception in the Future Operational Environment, read the following related blog posts:
Taylor Galanides is a Junior at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, studying Psychology. She is currently interning at Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the G-2 Futures team.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist is pleased to present Mr. Mike Matson‘s guest blog post set in 2037 — pitting the defending Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade with Russian advisors and mercenaries against a Namibian Special Forces incursion supported by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Special Operators. Both sides employ autonomous combat systems, albeit very differently — Enjoy!]
Preface: This story was inspired by two events. First, Boston Dynamics over the last year had released a series of short videos of theirhumanoid and animal-inspired robots which had generated a strong visceral Internet reaction. Elon Musk had commented about one video that they would “in a few years… move so fast you’ll need a strobe light to see it.” That visual stuck with me and I was looking for an opportunity to expand on that image.
The second event was a recent trip to the Grand Tetons. I had a black bear rise up out of an otherwise empty meadow less than 50 meters away. A 200-kilo predator which can run at 60kph and yet remain invisible in high grass left a strong impression. And while I didn’t see any gray wolves, a guide discussed how some of the packs, composed of groups of 45-kilogram sized animals, had learned how to take down 700-kilogram bison. I visualized packs of speeding robotic wolves with bear-sized robots following behind.
I used these events as the genesis to explore a completely different approach to designing and employing unmanned ground combat vehicles (GCVs). Instead of the Russian crewless, traditional-styled armored vehicles, I approached GCVs from the standpoint of South Africa, which may not have the same resources as Russia, but has an innovative defense industry. If starting from scratch, how might their designs diverge? What could they do with less resources? And how would these designs match up to “traditional” GCVs?
To find out what would happen, I pitted an Angolan mechanize brigade outfitted with Russian GCVs against South African special forces armed with a top secret indigenous GCV program. The setting is southern Angola in 2037, and there are Demons in the Tall Grass. As Mr. Musk said in his Tweet, sweet dreams! Mike Matson
(2230Z 25 May 2037) Savate, Angola
Paulo crouched in his slit trench with his squad mates. He knew this was something other than an exercise. The entire Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade had road marched south to Savate, about 60 kilometers from the Namibian border. There, they were ordered to dig fighting positions and issued live ammunition.
Everyone was nervous. Thirty minutes before, one of their patrols a kilometer south of them had made contact. A company had gone out in support and a massive firefight had ensued. A panicked officer could be heard on the net calling in artillery on their own position because they were being attacked by demons in the tall grass. Nobody had yet returned.
Behind Paulo, the battalion commander came forward. With him were three Russian mercenaries. Paulo knew the Russians had brought along two companies of robot tanks. The robot tanks sported an impressively large number of guns, missiles and lasers. Two of them had deployed with the quick reaction force. Explosions suggested that they had been destroyed.
Paulo watched the Angolan officer carefully. Suddenly there was a screamed warning from down the trenches. He whipped around and saw forms in the tall grass moving towards the trenches at a high rate of speed, spread out across his entire front. A dozen or more speeding lines headed directly towards the trenches like fish swimming just under the water.
“Fire!” Paulo ordered and started shooting, properly squeezing off three round bursts. The lines kept coming. Paulo had strobe light-like glimpses of bounding animals. Just before they burst from cover, piercingly loud hyena cries filled the night. Paulo slammed his hand on the nearby clacker to detonate the directional mines to his front. The world exploded in noise and dust.
(Earlier That Morning) 25 Kilometers south of Savate
Captain Verlin Ellis, Bravo Group, SANDF, crouched with his NCO, his soldiers, and his Namibian SF counterpart at dawn under a tree surrounded by thick green bush.
“Listen up everyone, the operation is a go. Intelligence shows the brigade in a holding position south of Savate. We are to conduct a recon north until we can fix their position. Alpha and Charlie groups will be working their way up the left side. Charlie will hit their right flank with their predator package at the same time we attack from the south and Alpha will be the stopper group with the third group north of town. Once we have them located, we are to hold until nightfall, then attack.”
The tarps came off Bravo Group’s trucks and the men got to work unloading.
First off were Bravo Group’s attack force of forty hyenas. Standing just under two feet high on their articulated legs, and weighing roughly 40 kilos, the small robots were off-loaded and their integrated solar panels were unfolded to top off their battery charges.
The hyenas operated in pack formations via an encrypted mesh network. While they could be directed by human operators if needed and could send and receive data via satellite or drone relay, they were designed to operate in total autonomy at ranges up to 40 kilometers from their handlers.
Each hyena had a swiveling front section like a head with four sensors and a small speaker. The sensors were a camera and separate thermal camera, a range finder, and a laser designator/pointer. Built into the hump of the hyena’s back was a fixed rifle barrel in a bullpup configuration, chambered in 5.56mm, which fired in three round bursts.
On each side there was a pre-loaded 40mm double tube grenade launcher. The guided, low velocity grenades could be launched forward between 25-150 meters. The hyenas were loaded with a mix of HE, CS gas, HEAT, and thermite grenades. They could select targets themselves or have another hyena or human operator designate a target, in which case they were also capable of non-line-of-sight attacks. The attack dogs contained a five-kilo shaped charge limpet mine for attaching to vehicles. There were 24 attack hyenas.
Second off came the buffalos, the heavy weapons support element. There were six of the 350 kilo beasts. They were roughly the same size as a water buffalo, hence their name. They retained the same basic head sensor suite as the hyenas, and a larger, sturdier version of the hyena’s legs.
Three of them mounted an 81mm auto-loading mortar and on their backs were 10 concave docking stations each holding a three ounce helicopter drone called a sparrow. The drone had a ten-minute flight radius with its tiny motor. One ounce of the drone was plastic explosive. They had a simple optical sensor and were designed to land and detonate on anything matching their picture recognition algorithms, such as ammo crates, fuel cans, or engine hoods.
The fourth buffalo sported a small, sleek turret on a flat back, with a 12.7mm machine gun, and the buffalo held 500 rounds of armor-piercing tracer.
The fifth buffalo held an automatic grenade launcher with 200 smart rounds in a similar turret to the 12.7mm gun. The grenades were programmed as they fired and could detonate over trenches or beyond obstacles to hit men behind cover.
The sixth carried three anti-tank missiles in a telescoping turret. Like the mortars, their fire could be directed by hyenas, human operators, or self-directed.
Once the hyenas and buffalos were charging, the last truck was carefully unloaded. Off came the boars — suicide bombs on legs. Each of the 15 machines was short, with stubbier legs for stability. Their outer shells were composed of pre-scarred metal and were overlaid with a layer of small steel balls for enhanced shrapnel. Inside they packed 75 kilos of high explosive. For tonight’s mission each boar was downloaded with different sounds to blare from their speakers, with choices ranging from Zulu war cries, to lion roars, to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Chaos was their primary mission.
Between the three Recce groups, nine machines failed warmup. That left 180 fully autonomous and cooperative war machines to hunt the 1,200 strong Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade.
(One Hour after Attack Began) Savate
Paulo and his team advanced, following spoor through the bush. The anti-tank team begged to go back but Paulo refused.
Suddenly there was a slight gap in the tall grass just as something in front of them on the far side of a clearing fired. It looked like a giant metal rhino, and it had an automatic grenade launcher on top of it. It fired a burst, then sat down on its haunches to hide.
So that’s why I can’t see them after they fire. Very clever, thought Paulo. He tried calling in fire support but all channels were jammed.
Paulo signaled with his hands for both gunners to shoot. The range was almost too close. Both gunners fired at the same time, striking the beast. It exploded with a surprising fury, blowing them all off their feet and lighting up the sky. They laid there stunned as debris pitter-pattered in the dirt around them.
That was enough for Paulo and the men. They headed back to the safety of the trenches.
As they returned, eight armored vehicles appeared. On the left was an Angolan T-72 tank and three Russian robot tanks. On the right there was a BMP-4 and three more Russian robot tanks.
An animal-machine was trotting close to the vegetation outside the trenches and one of the Russian tank’s lasers swiveled and fired, emitting a loud hum, hitting it. The animal-machine was cut in two. The tanks stopped near the trench to shoot at unseen targets in the dark as Paulo entered the trenches.
The hyena yipping increased in volume as predators began to swarm around the armored force. Five or six were circling their perimeter yipping and shooting grenades. Two others crept under some bushes 70 meters to Paulo’s right and laid down like dogs. A long, thin antenna rose out of the back of one dog with some small device on top. The tanks furiously fired at the fleeting targets which circled them.
Mortar rounds burst around the armor, striking a Russian tank on the thin turret top, destroying it.
From a new direction, the ghost machine gun struck a Russian robot tank with a dozen exploding armor-piercing rounds. The turret was pounded and the externally mounted rockets were hit, bouncing the tank in place from the explosions. A robot tank popped smoke, instantly covering the entire armored force in a blinding white cloud which only added to the chaos. Suddenly the Russian turrets all stopped firing just as a third robot tank was hit by armor-piercing rounds in the treads and disabled.
If you enjoyed this blog post, read “Demons in the Grass” in its entiretyhere, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.
Mike Matson is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky, with a deep interest in national security and cyber matters. His writing focuses on military and intelligence-oriented science fiction. He has two previous articles published by Mad Scientist: the non-fiction “Complex Cyber Terrain in Hyper-Connected Urban Areas,” and the fictional story, “Gods of Olympus.” In addition to Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington, DC, he has lived, studied, and worked in Brussels, Belgium, and Tallinn, Estonia. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from The American University and an M.S. in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University, both in Washington, DC. He can be found on Twitter at @Mike40245.