42. China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potential areas for biotechnology and AI convergences include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out Ms. Kania’s Battlefield Singularity website.

36. Lessons Learned from the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist successfully facilitated the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference on 8-9 March 2018 with our co-sponsor, SRI International, at their Silicon Valley campus in Menlo Park, California. With over 400 live and virtual participants, our first West Coast conference brought together World class expertise in biology and the tech convergences that will have a significant impact on the changing character of future conflict.)

Bioengineering is becoming easier and cheaper as a suite of developments are reducing biotechnology transaction costs in gene reading, writing, and editing. The Internet of Living Things (IoLT), operating across space and time, and the integration of bioengineering tools (e.g., Genome editing tools such as CRISPR, Talon, ZFN; molecular printers; and robotic strain engineering platforms), big data, high-powered computing, and artificial intelligence are facilitating this revolution. The resultant explosion in knowledge regarding the human body and the brain offers phenomenal opportunities to improve Soldier lethality and survivability. This will be accomplished through improved cognitive and physical skills, as well as maintaining the critical role of human judgement with the ever increasing machine speed we will find on the future battlefield.

1) Prototyping: Innovation has shifted from government demand signals and funding to the incredibly fast paced innovation in the private sector. Emerging products that enhance physical (e.g., Exoskeletons) and cognitive abilities (e.g., Pharmaceuticals) are almost entirely in the commercial sector. The military must determine what is applicable to warfighting and integrate from the commercial space to the defense sector. Prototyping and experimentation will be critical.

2) Personalized Warfare: The mapping of the human genome and the ongoing Human Brain Project offer unprecedented advances in medicine and the neurosciences, but also major vulnerabilities to Soldiers and the homeland. With advanced biological technology evolution comes a host of moral challenges, security vulnerabilities, and new threat vectors. In the future, protecting one’s genomic information will require safeguards similar to how we currently protect our digital identities. We will be more vulnerable to advanced bioweapons and information warfare available to states and non-state organizations.

3) Customization: Advances in biology offer much greater customization in medicine which could improve how quickly our Soldiers learn and how they handle stress and anxiety associated with combat zones. Human 2.0 will have direct Warfighter applications, providing Soldiers with sensory enhancements, human-machine teaming, brains plugged into the Internet of Battle Things (IoBT), and uploadable / downloadable memories. Customization of battlefield medical care will be enabled by advanced diagnostics worn by Soldiers (uniforms and equipment) and eventually embedded. In other countries, we can expect to see the customization of humans with genome editing children to increase height, improve intelligence, and expand creativity.

4) Competition: The democratization of this technology cannot be understated. We will compete with states, non-state groups, and super-empowered individuals who will have access to a full range of human enhancement capabilities and genetic editing tools. China is at parity with the US in this space, but more willing to take technologies to clinical trials.

5) Ethics: The full range of bio tools will be available in the US. They will initially be approved because of their disease curing properties and the ability to improve quality of life for an aging population. They will then be normed into our population. We can expect to see a Soldier enter a recruiting station after some kind of physical enhancement in the next decade, if not sooner. In the Deep Future, the concept of personhood will be challenged.

Mad Scientist is producing a range of products to transfer what we learned from the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference out to the Army. We will have videos of the conference presentations posted online here within 10 days, as well as several podcasts posted at Modern War Institute, starting on 28 March 2018. The Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference Final Report will be posted here within 45 days.

Note that the associated SciTech Futures Bio Convergence Game remains open until 16 March 2018 — share your ideas on-line about the future, collaborate with (and challenge) other players, and bid on the most compelling concepts in this online marketplace.

Read our Mad Scientist Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas finalists’ submissions here, graciously hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

35. Auto Immune Disease Treatment in a New Age of Bio Convergence

(Editor’s Note: Following the conclusion of last week’s informative Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference, Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present Mr. Frank Prautzsch’s timely guest blog post, addressing how the future of vaccines is in nano-biology and convergence with the immune system of the body.)

Short of a nuclear exchange, the opportunities for threats of all sizes and shapes to change the complexion of war revolves around the use of biological/pathogen weapons. While our medical community searches for vaccines and various cures, current processes for vaccinations and treatments do little for drug-resistant infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases. The nano-biology community is making great strides to eradicate viruses, bacteria, or other disease-causing organisms. Some pathogens hide inside or beside cells, altering their immune cell function or changing their surface coat proteins, and even mutate to elude the immune system. We are now entering a post-antibiotic era where alternative strategies need to be adopted for disease treatment or our military will face the threat of a runaway epidemic (natural or man-made).

The problem with current pathogen treatments is that they target a single common mutation of several common pathogens, and a vaccine is developed for the general population against a moment in time. This does not account for the fact that most diseases mutate. The standard treatment for disease has been to excise it from the body with surgery; bombard the disease with pharmaceuticals, chemicals, or radiation; or hope that the body can recover on its own. Many modern processes kill good cells, lower the body’s immune cycle, and introduce generalized treatments to unique problems.

To treat future soldiers on the battlefield, the medical community must adapt to the world of nano-biology… not the soldier. The strongest cure for disease prevention and disease treatment involves the autoimmune system. The future of disease treatment and prevention requires a solution that evolves and adapts with the disease. By stimulating the patient’s own immune system, one can create a personalized AntiVAX solution for treatment against a large range of illnesses within minutes.

A Stimulated Immune System Response (SISR) Three Step Process uses a series of anti-pathogen techniques to derive a personalized vaccine. In the future, soldiers subjected to disease, or preparing for deployment to likely diseased environment, will obtain a tailored vaccine. A small blood sample is exposed to a dielectrophoresis-based separation approach with micro-structured arrays. Based upon the cell orbit and size, pathogen cells are “captured” physically and electrically.

The isolated pathogens are lysed with plasma gas using a hyper-charged coulomb plasma deposition. The lysed pathogens are then “recoated” with a protein using the same process. These newly coated lysed cells are now a personalized vaccine and are reintroduced to the blood stream. These cells act as an artificial biomarker stimulation that triggers an immune response, signaling the body to go on the offensive to target the disease. No pills, no radiation, no side effects and no pain. Each pharmacological injection of an SISR vaccine is 39 times more likely to produce an immune system response that will recognize the diseased cells or pathogens. SISR vaccines will benefit from a combination of adjuvants and triggers that should be controllable with medication and secondary therapies. Most SISR processes can be performed in under 1 hour.

How do we know it works? In a trial at a Government lab, two groups of mice were infected with the weaponized Ames strain of Anthrax (i.e., Bacillus anthracis). The infected mice were given either a placebo or a serum created using ionized gas lysing or Stimulated Immune System Response (SISR) vaccine approach. 100% of the treated group survived the infection and demonstrated resistance to the Anthrax; 100% of the control group perished. The finest moment of bio convergence will be the eradication of not only cancer, but 28 other pathogens. The truth of the matter is that the capability already exists… not in 2030 or 2050… no moonshots required!

Please note that while the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference is over, you can still participate in the associated SciTech Futures Bio Convergence Game and share your ideas on-line about the future, collaborate with (and challenge) other players, and bid on the most compelling concepts in an online marketplace (through 16 March 2018).

In his current role as President of Velocity Technology Partners LLC, Mr. Frank Prautzsch (LTC, Ret. Signal Corps) is recognized as a technology and business leader supporting the government and is known for exposing or crafting innovative technology solutions for the DoD, SOF, DHS and Intelligence community. He also provides consult to the MEDSTAR Institute for Innovation. His focus is upon innovation and not invention. Mr. Prautzsch holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a distinguished graduate of the Marine Corps Signal Advanced Course, Army Airborne School, Ranger School, and Command and General Staff College. He also holds a Master of Science Degree from Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California with a degree in Systems Technology (C3) and Space.

31. Top Ten Bio Convergence Trends Impacting the Future Operational Environment

As Mad Scientist Laboratory has noted in previous blog posts, War is an intrinsically human endeavor. Rapid innovations in the biological sciences are changing how we work, live, and fight. Drawing on the past two years of Mad Scientist events, we have identified a change in the character of war driven by the exponential convergence of bio, neuro, nano, quantum, and information. This convergence is leading to revolutionary achievements in sensing, data acquisition and retrieval, and computer processing hardware; creating a new environment in which humans must co-evolve with these technologies. Mad Scientist has identified the following top ten bio convergence trends associated with this co-evolution that will directly impact the Future Operational Environment (OE).

1) 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, the Future OE will not be an internet of things but the internet of everything (including humans).

2) The next 50 years will see an evolution in human society; we will be augmented by Artificial Intelligence (AI), partner with AI in centaur chess fashion, and eventually be eclipsed by AI.

3) This augmentation and enhanced AI partnering will require hyper-connected humans with wearables and eventually embeddables to provide continuous diagnostics and human-machine interface.

4) The Army will need to measure cognitive potential and baseline neural activity of its recruits and Soldiers.

5) The Army needs new training tools to take advantage of neuralplasticity and realize the full cognitive potential of Soldiers. Brain gyms and the promise of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) training sets could accelerate learning and, in some cases, challenge the tyranny of “the 10,000 hour rule.”

6) Human enhancement, the unlocking of the genome, and improving AI will stress the Army’s policies and ethics. In any case, 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.

7) Asymmetric Ethics, where adversaries make choices we will not (e.g., manipulating the DNA of pathogens to target specific genome populations or to breed “super” soldiers) will play a bigger part in the future. This is not new, but will be amplified by future technologies. Bio enhancements will be one of the areas and experimentation is required to determine our vulnerabilities.

8) Cognitive enhancement and attacking the human brain (neurological system) is not science fiction. The U.S. Army should establish a Program Executive Office (PEO) for Soldier Enhancement to bring unity of purpose to a range of possibilities from physical/mental enhancement with wearables, embeddables, stimulants, brain gyms, and exoskeletons.

9) Chemical and bio defense will need to be much more sophisticated on the next battlefield. The twin challenges of democratization and proliferation have resulted in a world where the capability of engineering potentially grave bio-weapons, once only the purview of nation states and advance research institutes and universities, is now available to Super-Empowered Individuals, Violent Non-State Actors (VNSA), and criminal organizations.

10) We are missing the full impact of bio on all emerging trends. We must focus beyond human enhancement and address how bio is impacting materials, computing, and garage level, down scaled innovation.

Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. Click here to learn more about the conference and then watch the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018.

Also note that our friends at Small Wars Journal have published the first paper from our series of Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas finalists — enjoy!

29. Engaging Human-Machine Networks for Cross-domain Effects

(Editor’s Note: While war will remain an enduring human endeavor for the foreseeable future, engaging human networks will require a greater understanding of robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, and the Internet of Everything. Future battlefield networks at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels will leverage these aforementioned technologies to radically change the character of war, increasing the reach, speed, and lethality of conflict. Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Mr. Victor R. Morris, addressing the global implications of human-machine teaming.)

The character of war, strategy development, and operational level challenges are changing; therefore operational approaches must do the same. Joint Publication 3-25 Countering Threat Networks includes versatile lines of effort to identify, neutralize, disrupt, or destroy threat networks. These efforts correspond with engaging diverse networks to reach mission objectives within the overall Network Engagement strategy. Network Engagement consists of three components: partnering with friendly networks, engaging neutral networks, and Countering Threat Networks (CTN).

To successfully engage networks and achieve the desired effects, more advanced human-machine collaborative networks need to be understood and evaluated. Human-machine networks are defined by the integration of autonomy and narrow artificial intelligence to accelerate processes, collective understanding, and effects. These networks exist in military operational systems and within interrelated diplomatic, information, and economic systems.

Photo Credit: RAND Monitoring Social Media Lessons for Future Department of Defense Social Media Analysis in Support of Information Operations

This post analyzes collaborative networks using Network Engagement’s Partnering, Engaging and Countering (PEC) model. The intent is to outline a requirement for enhanced Network Engagement involving human-machine collaboration. An enhanced approach accelerates Joint and multinational engagement capabilities to achieve cross-domain effects in a convergent operational environment. Cross-domain effects are achieved through synchronized capabilities and overmatch in the interconnected physical domains, information environment, and cyberspace.

PEC Model: Partnering with friendly networks, engaging neutral networks, and countering threat networks

The Multi-Domain Battle concept addresses the extended battlefield and large-scale combat through Joint reconnaissance, offensive, and defensive operations to reach positions of relative advantage.

Collective defense treaties and Joint security cooperation consist of both foreign internal defense and security force assistance to deter conflict. Foreign internal defense, when approved, involves combat operations during a state of war.

First, Joint Forces may be required to partner with host nation forces and engage hostile elements with offensive operations to return the situation to a level controllable by the host nation. Additionally, defensive tasks may be required to counter the enemy’s offense and engage the population and interconnected “internet of things.” Protection determines which threats disrupt operations and the rule of law, and then counters or mitigates those threats. Examples of specific collaborative and networked threats include cyber attacks, electronic attack, explosive hazards, improvised weapons, unmanned aerial and ground systems, and weapons of mass destruction. Battle networks are technologically enhanced Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) human-machine combat capabilities that integrate defense systems for territorial defense and/or protected coercive activities.


Furthermore, countering networks requires an understanding of great powers competition and political ends. Geopolitical competitors develop strategies across the continuum of conflict relative to rival advantages and national interests. These strategies emphasize both direct and indirect approaches across all domains to reach political ends. A mixed approach facilitates statecraft and unbounded policy to offset perceived disadvantages, deliver key narratives, and shape international norms.

Intergovernmental Military Alliances
Photo credit: Wikimedia

The collaborative networks that possess distinctive ways to achieve political objectives include:

1) Conventional Joint and irregular proxy forces with integrated air, ground, and sea defense capabilities

2) Emergent and disruptive technological networks

3) Super-empowered individuals and asymmetric proxy networks

Examples of emergent and disruptive technologies are artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, internet of things consisting of low-cost sensors, and additive manufacturing (3D printing).

Client states and proxy networks present significant challenges for Joint and multinational alliances when used as a key component of a competitor’s grand strategy. Proxy networks, however, are not limited to non-state paramilitary or insurgent networks. These un-attributable organizations also include convergent terrorist, transnational organized crime, and international hacker organizations.

Here the Syrian rebels are a proxy for the United States, and the Syrian government a proxy for Russia.
Image Credit: Thomas Leger

Multinational companies, political parties, and civic groups also act as proxy networks with access to high-end technologies and geo-economic capabilities. Geo-economics refers to the use of economic instruments to manipulate geopolitical objectives. These networks then either blend and cooperate or compete with other proxy actors, based on various motivations and incentives.

Adversaries will also use artificial intelligence networks as proxies to deliver more deniable and innovative attacks. The efficacy of multi-domain networks with human-machine teaming correlates to partnering, engaging, and countering activities designed to shape, deter, and win.


Finally, operational approaches designed to force critical factors analysis, decision-making, and assessments are critical to understanding human and technologically-enabled 21st century competition and conflict. The Joint Operational Area must be assessed as one extended domain with resilient strategic network configurations designed to partner with, engage, and counter diverse systems.

Mission command through human-machine teaming, networks, and systems integration is inevitable and will leverage human adaptability, automated speed, and precision as future capabilities. The global competition for machine intelligence dominance is becoming a key element of both the changing character of war and technical threat to strategic stability.

Modifying doctrine to account for advances in autonomy, narrow artificial intelligence, and quantum computing is inevitable, and human-machine teaming has global implications.

If you enjoyed this post, please note:

  • U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s Red Diamond Threats Newsletter, Volume 8, Issue 10 October 2017 addresses Russian “Snow Dome” A2/AD human-machine combat capabilities on pages 7-12.

  • The transformative impact of AI, robotics, and autonomy on our Soldiers and networks in future conflicts is further addressed in Redefining the Role of Soldiers on the Future Battlefield.

  • Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. This conference will be live-streamed; click here to watch the proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018. Ms. Elsa Kania, Adjunct Fellow, Center for New American Security (CNAS), will address “People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Human-Machine Integration” on Day 2 (09 March 2018) of the Conference.

Victor R. Morris is a civilian irregular warfare and threat mitigation instructor at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Germany.

27. Sine Pari

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Mr. Howard R. Simkin, envisioning Army recruiting, Mid-Twenty First Century. The Army must anticipate how (or if) it will recruit augmented humans into the Future Force. This post was originally submitted in response to our Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas, addressing how humanity’s next evolutionary leap, its co-evolution with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and becoming part of the network, will change the character of war. This is the theme for our Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference — learn more about this event at the bottom of this post.)

///////////Personal Blog, Master Sergeant Grant Robertson, Recruiting District Seven…

This morning I had an in-person interview with a prospective recruit – Roberto Preciado. For the benefit of those of you who haven’t had one yet, I offer the following.

Roberto arrived punctually, a good sign. Before he entered I said, “RECOM, activate full spectrum recording and analysis.”

The disembodied voice of the Recruiting Command AI replied, “Roger.”

“Let him in.” I stood up to better assess him as he stepped through the doorway. He had dark hair and eyes, and was of slender build and medium height. My corneal implants allowed me to assess his general medical condition. He was in surprisingly good shape for his age.

We went through the usual formalities before getting down to business.

Roberto sat down gingerly, “I..um..I wanted to check out becoming part of Special Operations.”

“You came to the right place,” I replied. “So why Special Operations?”

“My uncle was in Special Operations during ‘the Big One.’ Next to my dad, he is the coolest person I ever met, so…” He searched for words, “So I decided to come and check it out.”

“Okay.” I began. “This isn’t your uncle’s Special Operations. Since the Big One, we’ve made quite a few” – I caught myself before saying changes – “upgrades.” I paused, “Roberto, before we take the enhanced reality tour, I’d like to know what augments you have had – if any.”

“Sure.” Roberto paused for a moment,“ Let’s see… I’ve got Daystrom Model 40B ER corneal implants, a Neuralink BCI jack, and a Samsung cognitive enhancement implant. That’s about it.”

“That’s fine. So you have no problems with augmentation then?”

“No, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. I work for a living. Call me Sergeant.” I replied.

“Yes sir…I mean Sergeant.” Roberto replied somewhat nervously.

I smiled reassuringly, “Let’s continue with the most important question…do you like working with people?”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

My corneal implants registered a quick flash of green light. RECOM had monitored Roberto’s metabio signature for signs of deception and found none.

“In spite of all the gadgets we work with, we still believe that people are more important than hardware. If you don’t like working with people, then you are not who we want.” I said in a matter-of-fact tone. “So,” I continued, “What are your interests?”

“I like solving problems.” Roberto shifted in his chair slightly, “I’m pretty good in a hackathon, I can handle a 4D Printer, I like to tinker with bots, and I got all A’s in machine learning.”

“So you like working with AI?”

“Yeah,” Roberto grinned, “It is way cool.”

Reassured by another green flash, I asked, “How about sports?”

“Virtual or physical?”


“I like virtual rock climbing and…do MMORPGs count as a sport?”
[i.e., Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games]

“Depends on the MMORPG.” I replied stifling a smile.

Roberto paused before answering, ‘Call of Duty – The Big One, Special Operations Edition’ and ‘Zombie Apocalypse’.”

I was beginning to like this kid. Apparently, so was RECOM who flashed another green light. “I’d say they count.” I nodded. “So how about physical sports?”

“I was on the track team and I still like distance running.” He smiled self-consciously, “Got a letter in track.” He thought for a moment, “I played a lot of soccer when I was a kid but never got really good at it. I think it was because when I was younger, I was really small.”

I nodded politely. “So Roberto, besides hackathons have you ever hacked devices?”

He looked a bit startled, then uncomfortable. “Well…I…yes…I have.”

“Don’t worry, this isn’t an interrogation.” I leaned forward a bit, “Son, we want people who can think, who can adapt commercial off-the-shelf technology for use in the field. We need innovative thinkers.”


“So what devices did you hack?”

“I think the first one I hacked was a service bot when I was ten. You know, the house cleaning types?”

I nodded slightly.

“Well,” Roberto continued, “my parents wanted me to clean my room every day. They said it built character.” He smiled, “I guess they were right but I didn’t see it that way. So I hacked our service bot to clean my room whenever my parents were out of the house.”

“Did it work?”

“For a while. But you know smart houses…our AI realized that something wasn’t right and blabbed.” He shook his head, “Boy, did I get in trouble.”

“Was that the end of it?” I asked.

“For a while, then I figured out how to hack the whole house…AI and all. Machine learning is a nice skill to have.” He reflected for a moment, “It taught me a lesson – before you hack, you have to know the whole system.”

“Yes.” I nodded in agreement, “That’s a good point.”

My corneal implants flashed, “Probability of successful training completion – 95%.”

“So are you ready to jack into our training simulation? It’s not quite as good as what you are used to at home, but it will give you an idea of what your training will be like.”

“Yes sir…I mean Sergeant.”

For the next ten minutes, I guided him through a compressed experience of special operations training.

When we finished I asked, “So what do you think? Can you handle it?”

Roberto replied without hesitation, “Where do I sign?”

I smiled at the idea of signing a document. “Just read through the enlistment contract. If you agree, just place your right hand on the bio-scanner and look into the retinal scanner.”

Roberto slowly scrolled through the document while I sat quietly by. A few minutes later, the enlistment was complete.

That done, we set the date for his swearing in, as well as who would attend the ceremony. He departed, smiling. As for me, it was the beginning of a day without equal…but more of that in my next blog. ///////////End Personal Blog, Master Sergeant Grant Robertson, Recruiting District Seven

If you enjoyed this post, please note that Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. This conference will be live-streamed; click here to watch the proceedings, starting at 0845 PST / 1145 EST on 08 March 2018. Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for more information regarding this conference.

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.