49. “The Queue”

(Editor’s Note: Beginning today, the Mad Science Laboratory will publish a monthly post listing the most compelling articles, books, podcasts, videos, and/or movies that the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Mad Scientist Initiative has come across during the previous month. In this anthology, we will address how each of these works either informs or challenges our understanding of the Future Operational Environment. We hope that you will add “The Queue” to your essential reading, listening, or watching each month!)

1. Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, by Paul Scharre, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program, Center for a New American Security.

One of our favorite Mad Scientists, Paul Scharre, has authored a must read for all military Leaders. This book will help Leaders understand the definitions of robotic and autonomous weapons, how they are proliferating across states, non-states, and super-empowered individuals (his chapter on Garage Bots makes it clear this is not state proliferation analogous), and lastly the ethical considerations that come up at every Mad Scientist Conference. During these Conferences, we have discussed the idea of algorithm vs algorithm warfare and what role human judgement plays in this version of future combat. Paul’s chapters on flash war really challenge our ideas of how a human operates in the loop and his analogies using the financial markets are helpful for developing the questions needed to explore future possibilities and develop policies for dealing with warfare at machine speed.

Source: Rosoboronexport via YouTube
2. “Convergence on retaining human control of weapons systems,” in Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, 13 April 2018.

April 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Earlier this month, 82 countries and numerous NGOs also convened at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, Switzerland, where many stressed the need to retain human control over weapons systems and the use of force. While the majority in attendance proposed moving forward this November to start negotiations towards a legally binding protocol addressing fully autonomous weapons, five key states rejected moving forward in negotiating new international law – France, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Mad Scientist notes that the convergence of a number of emerging technologies (synthetic prototyping, additive manufacturing, advanced modeling and simulations, software-defined everything, advanced materials) are advancing both the feasibility and democratization of prototype warfare, enabling and improving the engineering of autonomous weapons by non-state actors and super-empowered individuals alike. The genie is out of the bottle – with the advent of the Hyperactive Battlefield, advanced engagements will collapse the decision-action cycle to mere milliseconds, granting a decisive edge to the side with more autonomous decision-action.

Source: The Stack
3. “China’s Strategic Ambiguity and Shifting Approach to Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems,” by Elsa Kania, Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program, Center for a New American Security, in Lawfare, 17 Apr 18.

Mad Scientist Elsa Kania addresses the People’s Republic of China’s apparent juxtaposition between their diplomatic commitment to limit the use of fully autonomous lethal weapons systems and the PLA’s active pursuit of AI dominance on the battlefield. The PRC’s decision on lethal autonomy and how it defines the role of human judgement in lethal operations will have tactical, operational, and strategic implications. In TRADOC’s Changing Character of Warfare assessment, we addressed the idea of an asymmetry in ethics where the differing ethical choices non-state and state adversaries make on the integration of emerging technologies could have real battlefield overmatch implications. This is a clear pink flamingo where we know the risks but struggle with addressing the threat. It is also an area where technological surprise is likely, as systems could have the ability to move from human in the loop mode to fully autonomous with a flip of a switch.

Source: HBO.com
4. “Maeve’s Dilemma in Westworld: What Does It Mean to be Free?,” by Marco Antonio Azevedo and Ana Azevedo, in Institute of Art and Ideas, 12 Apr 18. [Note: Best viewed on your personal device as access to this site may be limited by Government networks]

While this article focuses primarily on a higher-level philosophical interpretation of human vs. machine (or artificial intelligence, being, etc.), the core arguments and discussion remain relevant to an Army that is looking to increase its reliance on artificial intelligence and robotics. Technological advancements in these areas continue to trend toward modeling humans (both in form and the brain). However, the closer we get to making this a reality, the closer we get to confronting questions about consciousness and artificial humanity. Are we prepared to face these questions earnestly? Do we want an artificial entity that is, essentially, human? What do we do when that breakthrough occurs? Does biological vs. synthetic matter if the being “achieves” personhood? For additional insights on this topic, watch Linda MacDonald Glenn‘s Ethics and Law around the Co-Evolution of Humans and AI presentation from the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle in 2030-2050 Conference at Georgetown University, 25-26 Jul 17.

5. Do You Trust This Computer?, directed by Chris Paine, Papercut Films, 2018.

The Army, and society as a whole, is continuing to offload certain tasks and receive pieces of information from artificial intelligence sources. Future Army Leaders will be heavily influenced by AI processing and distributing information used for decision making. But how much trust should we put in the information we get? Is it safe to be so reliant? What should the correct ratio be of human/machine contribution to decision-making? Army Leaders need to be prepared to make AI one tool of many, understand its value, and know how to interpret its information, when to question its output, and apply appropriate context. Elon Musk has shown his support for this documentary and tweeted about its importance.

6. Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg, Amblin Entertainment, 2018.

Adapted from the novel of the same name, this film visualizes a future world where most of society is consumed by a massive online virtual reality “game” known as the OASIS. As society transitions from the physical to the virtual (texting, email, skype, MMORPG, Amazon, etc.), large groups of people will become less reliant on the physical world’s governmental and economic systems that have been established for centuries. As virtual money begins to have real value, physical money will begin to lose value. If people can get many of their goods and services through a virtual world, they will become less reliant on the physical world. Correspondingly, physical world social constructs will have less control of the people who still inhabit it, but spend increasing amounts of time interacting in the virtual world. This has huge implications for the future geo-political landscape as many varied and geographically diverse groups of people will begin congregating and forming virtual allegiances across all of the pre-established, but increasingly irrelevant physical world geographic borders. This will dilute the effectiveness, necessity, and control of the nation-state and transfer that power to the company(ies) facilitating the virtual environment.

Source: XO, “SoftEcologies,” suckerPUNCH
7. “US Army could enlist robots inspired by invertebrates,” by Bonnie Burton, in c/net, 22 Apr 18.

As if Boston Dynamic’s SpotMini isn’t creepy enough, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the University of Minnesota are developing a flexible, soft robot inspired by squid and other invertebrates that Soldiers can create on-demand using 3-D printers on the battlefield. Too often, media visualizations have conditioned us to think of robots in anthropomorphic terms (with corresponding limitations). This and other breakthroughs in “soft,” polymorphic, printable robotics may grant Soldiers in the Future Operational Environment with hitherto unimagined on-demand, tailorable autonomous systems that will assist operations in the tight confines of complex, congested, and non-permissive environments (e.g., dense urban and subterranean). Soft robotics may also prove to be more resilient in arduous conditions. This development changes the paradigm for how robotics are imagined in both design and application.

If you read, watch, or listen to something this month that you think has the potential to inform or challenge our understanding of the Future Operational Environment, please forward it (along with a brief description of why its potential ramifications are noteworthy to the greater Mad Scientist Community of Action) to our attention at: usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil — we may select it for inclusion in our next edition of “The Queue”!

For additional insights into the Mad Scientist Initiative and how we continually explore the future through collaborative partnerships and continuous dialogue with academia, industry, and government, check out this Spy Museum’s SPYCAST podcast.

48. Warfare at the Speed of Thought

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the second guest blog post by Dr. Richard Nabors, Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Deputy Director, Operations Division, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), addressing how Augmented and Mixed Reality are the critical elements required for integrated sensor systems to become truly operational and support Soldiers’ needs in complex environments.

Dr. Nabors’ previous guest post addressed how the proliferation of sensors, integrated via the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT], will provide Future Soldiers with the requisite situational awareness to fight and win in increasingly complex and advanced battlespaces.)

Speed has always been and will be a critical component in assuring military dominance. Historically, the military has sought to increase the speed of its jets, ships, tanks, and missiles. However, one of the greatest leaps that has yet to come and is coming is the ability to significantly increase the speed of the decision-making process of the individual at the small unit level.

Source: University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
To maximize individual and small unit initiative to think and act flexibly, Soldiers must receive as much relevant information as possible, as quickly as possible. Integrated sensor technologies can provide situational awareness by collecting and sorting real-time data and sending a fusion of information to the point of need, but that information must be processed quickly in order to be operationally effective. Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are two of the most promising solutions to this challenge facing the military and will eventually make it possible for Soldiers to instantaneously respond to an actively changing environment.

AR and MR function in real-time, bringing the elements of the digital world into a Soldier’s perceived real world, resulting in optimal, timely, and relevant decisions and actions. AR and MR allow for the overlay of information and sensor data into the physical space in a way that is intuitive, serves the point of need, and requires minimal training to interpret. AR and MR will enable the U.S. military to survive in complex environments by decentralizing decision-making from mission command and placing substantial capabilities in Soldiers’ hands in a manner that does not overwhelm them with information.

Source: Tom Rooney III
On a Soldier’s display, AR can render useful battlefield data in the form of camera imaging and virtual maps, aiding a Soldier’s navigation and battlefield perspective. Special indicators can mark people and various objects to warn of potential dangers.
Source: MicroVision
Soldier-borne, palm-size reconnaissance copters with sensors and video can be directed and tasked instantaneously on the battlefield. Information can be gathered by unattended ground sensors and transmitted to a command center, with AR and MR serving as a networked communication system between military leaders and the individual Soldier. Used in this way, AR and MR increase Soldier safety and lethality.

In the near-term, the Army Research and Development (R&D) community is investing in the following areas:


Reliable position tracking devices that self-calibrate for head orientation of head-worn sensors.


• Ultralight, ultrabright, ultra-transparent display eyewear with wide field of view.

Source: CIO Australia

• Three-dimensional viewers with battlefield terrain visualization, incorporating real-time data from unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.




In the mid-term, R&D activities are focusing on:

• Manned vehicles with sensors and processing capabilities for moving autonomously, tasked for Soldier protection.

Robotic assets, tele-operated, semi-autonomous, or autonomous and imbued with intelligence, with limbs that can keep pace with Soldiers and act as teammates.

Source: BAE
• Robotic systems that contain multiple sensors that respond to environmental factors affecting the mission, or have self-deploying camouflage capabilities that stay deployed while executing maneuvers.

• Enhanced reconnaissance through deep-penetration mapping of building layouts, cyber activity, and subterranean infrastructure.

Once AR and MR prototypes and systems have seen widespread use, the far term focus will be on automation that could track and react to a Soldier’s changing situation by tailoring the augmentation the Soldier receives and by coordinating across the unit.

In addition, AR and MR will revolutionize training, empowering Soldiers to train as they fight. Soldiers will be able to use real-time sensor data from unmanned aerial vehicles to visualize battlefield terrain with geographic awareness of roads, buildings, and other structures before conducting their missions. They will be able to rehearse courses of action and analyze them before execution to improve situational awareness. AR and MR are increasingly valuable aids to tactical training in preparation for combat in complex and congested environments.

AR and MR are the critical elements required for integrated sensor systems to become truly operational and support Soldiers’ needs in complex environments. Solving the challenge of how and where to use AR and MR will enable the military to get full value from its investments in complex integrated sensor systems.

For more information on how the convergence of technologies will enhance Soldiers on future battlefields, see:

– The discussion on advanced decision-making in An Advanced Engagement Battlespace: Tactical, Operational and Strategic Implications for the Future Operational Environment, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

– Dr. James Canton’s presentation from the Mad Scientist Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, & Autonomy Conference at Georgia Tech Research Institute last March.

– Dr. Rob Smith’s Mad Scientist Speaker Series presentation on Operationalizing Big Data, where he addresses the applicability of AR to sports and games training as an analogy to combat training (noting “Serious sport is war minus the shooting” — George Orwell).

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

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

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

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

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

The Moral and Cognitive Dimensions are Ascendant.

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

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

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

Limitations of Military Force.

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

The Primacy of Information.

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

Expansion of the Battle Area.

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

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


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

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

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

– What is the threshold for WMD use?

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

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

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

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

39. “Maddest” Guest Blogger!

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

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

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

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

And now, please enjoy Pat’s post…)


8. “Why do I have to go first?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This approach is achieved through multiple technological implementations:

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


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


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




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






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


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




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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

(Editor’s Note: Originally published under the same title in Small Wars Journal, Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to have COL(R) Stefan J. Banach distill his compelling article into several guest blog posts. The article is a crystal clear clarion call for the need to design a lasting national technology-based policy, strategy, and doctrine in the face of increasingly agile adversaries.)

War, of any kind, is the ultimate failure of mankind. Yet, in the course of human endeavors, we have found another way in which to wage global war – in this case, Virtual War in Virtual Battle Space. The “Technology Singularity” espoused by Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, is the fundamental source and accelerant for Virtual War. The Vinge and Kruzweil articulation of the “Singularity” of biological and machine intelligence is much closer than most of us understand. The majority of the people in the world are caught up in the inertia of everyday activities, and the emergence of Virtual War is opaque to most of us. To that end and for clarity, the world is experiencing Virtual War – A Revolution in Human Affairs.

Virtual War transcends the “normal” revolutions in military affairs or traditional security rubrics that are discussed in Pentagon forums, within the defense industrial base, and among law enforcement agencies. Virtual War is drastically transforming global human affairs as we know them, and in ways that we do not yet understand. Eric Schmidt got it right when he opined that,

“the Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, it is the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”

Virtual War is a global systems approach to achieve social control. Virtual War heuristics include: offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, social media, information operations (e.g., “Fake News”), artificial intelligence, stealth technologies, and cloaking techniques. The end game is to control and influence the will of a person, group, or larger population to achieve ideological objectives over time in support of a cause or a specific sponsor.

The United States, and indeed the world, is experiencing the birth pains of the coming exponential technological change that Vinge and Kurzweil predicted in the 1990’s, and in 2005. Let the drastically reduced lifespans of commercial companies be a guide in this regard. The average age of an S&P 500 company is currently under 20 years, decreased from 60 years in the 1950s, according to Credit Suisse. The Wall Street firm says the trend is accelerating and blames the disruption on unprecedented technological advancements. In that vein, Andy Serwer, Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance, asked this important question at the 2018 Davos World Economic Forum,

If robots, AI, nanotechnology, machine learning, and 3D printing are going to be doing all the work, what the heck will human beings do nine to five?

This question portends more challenges than simply the re-training and the re-education of a pending massive unemployed work force. The world has seen, since the events on 9/11, that large populations of unemployed or under-employed people are not helpful in terms of maintaining global security and stability.

Tangentially, sixteen years of attrition warfare and the banality associated with fighting predominantly in Physical Battle Space are financially unsustainable. The National Security Act of 1947, which is the basis of U.S. National Security, is seventy-one years old and is collapsing under the weight of Virtual War exigencies. As Peter Drucker noted,

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

The new normal, inherent in Virtual War, is the unprecedented kinetic maneuvering of one civilian population against another, which has produced hundreds of mass casualty events around the world since 9/11. The civilian vs. civilian terror attacks on 9/11 were planned using the Internet of Things (IoTs) – in Virtual Space – prior to the execution of the physical attacks on the respective civilian targets in the United States. Hundreds of other terror attacks have taken place around the world since 9/11, and were planned and coordinated in Virtual Space before the horrific attacks took place in Physical Space. What will the world’s security paradigm for warfare and law enforcement look like when the Internet of Things (IoTs) evolves to the Internet of Everything (IoET), that includes much more powerful Nano-Biologically enhanced human beings?

Non-lethal Virtual Space activities also occur continuously around the world in social and political domains that target domestic and foreign matters, with the aim to gain and maintain control of a particular narrative to influence an audience to act in a certain ideological manner. The growing liminality which exists today, by way of virtual space activity, is causing a truth crisis, as the velocity of human interaction and the velocity of information is at an all-time high. The average person does not know what to believe given the ubiquity of information and the obvious bias in government and within traditional and non-traditional media sources.

On the socio-economic front, there is a growing divide between the rich and poor, as the middle class struggles with sustainability. There is also a widening chasm between globalist and nationalist. The 1648 Westphalian nation-state model is at odds with a growing number of emergent empowered actors who do not rely on monolithic state entities to govern their behavior in virtual or physical space. Each of these aforementioned variables are all interdependently joined and, to varying degrees, are technologically driven fissures in the world today.

Per Kurzweil’s prose, future changes will be tantamount to a technological tsunami – which is now at our doorstep, in the context of the evolutionary timeline. Given the accelerating pace of technological advancements, we should expect significant social change. An unprecedented rupture of all the classic learning, leadership, management, strategy development, planning, and governance archetypes that are in existence today is absolutely possible. This externality will move the world from its current state of complexity to chaos. The end result will be the first of many instances where biological and machine intelligence forever transforms warfare and our existence as we know it.

The pending exponential technological advancements will move civilization to a completely new era. This will be an era where humans will not be able to survive without machine intelligence, augmented synthetic strength, and artificial stealth capabilities on the web or in physical space. Subterranean and extra-terrestrial options will be sought to support life and will be made possible by new technological advancements that were previously unimaginable. The nation-state or actors who can learn the fastest, and optimally frame and reframe their strategies the best, will rule the day in a world that fights predominantly in Virtual Space, and only as necessary in Physical Space, as it is too costly on multiple fronts.

Additional Mad Scientist items interest include:

A New National Security Innovation Base — New America is hosting a live and on-line event today, Monday, 26 Feb 18, that will address what America’s National Security Innovation Base looks like in the 21st century and how to protect and channel its power. For more information regarding this event, click here.

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.

COL(R) Stefan J. Banach concluded his military service as the U.S. Army’s 11th Director of the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). As the SAMS Director, he led the development of the initial Design Methodology concepts and doctrine for the U.S. Army from 2007-2010. He is a Distinguished Member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and served in that organization for nine years, culminating with command of the 3rd Ranger Battalion from 2001-2003.

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.

Source:
http://globalbalita.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/A2AD-offensive-against-Japan.jpg

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.

Source:
https://www.hackread.com/darpa-squad-x-help-troops-pinpoint-enemy-in-warfare/

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.

25. Lessons Learned in Assessing the Operational Environment

(Editor’s Note: The Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post from Mr. Ian Sullivan.)

During the past year, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2 has learned a great deal more about the Future Operational Environment (OE). While the underlying assessment of the OE’s trajectory has not changed, as reported in last year’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, we have learned a number of critical lessons and insights that affect Army doctrine, training, and modernization efforts. These findings have been captured in Assessing the Operational Environment: What We Learned Over the Past Year, published in Small Wars Journal last week. This post extracts and highlights key themes from this article.

General Lessons Learned:

We have confirmed our previous analysis of trends and factors that are intensifying and accelerating the transformation of the OE. The rapid innovation, development, and fielding of new technologies promises to radically enhance our abilities to live, create, think, and prosper. The accelerated pace of human interaction and widespread connectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT), and the concept of convergence are also factors affecting these trends. Convergence of societal trends and technologies will create new capabilities or societal implications that are greater than the sum of their individual parts, and at times are unexpected.

This convergence will embolden global actors to challenge US interests. The perceived waning of US military power in conjunction with the increase in capabilities resulting from our adversaries’ rapid proliferation of technology and increased investment in research and development has set the stage for challengers to pursue interests contrary to America’s.

We will face peer, near-peer, and regional hegemons as adversaries, as well as non-state actors motivated by identity, ideology, or interest, and individuals super-empowered by technologies and capabilities once found only among nations. They will directly attack our national will with cyber and sophisticated information operations.

Technologies in the future OE will be disruptive, smart, connected, and self-organizing. Key technologies, once thought to be science fiction, present new opportunities for military operations ranging from human operated / machine-assisted, to human-machine hybrid operations, to human-directed / machine-conducted operations; all facilitated by autonomy, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, enhanced human performance, and advanced computing.

Tactical Lessons Learned:

The tactical lessons we have learned reveal tangible realities found on battlefields around the globe today and our assessments about the future rooted in our understanding of the current OE. Our adversaries already are using weapons and systems that in some cases are superior to our own, providing selective overmatch of some US capabilities, such as long-range fires, air-defense, and electronic warfare. Commercial-off-the shelf (COTS) technologies are being used to rapidly create new and novel methods of warfare (the most ubiquitous are drones and robotics that have been particularly successful in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine). Our adversaries will often combine technologies or operating principles to create innovative methods of attack, deploying complex combinations of capabilities that create unique challenges to the Army and Joint Forces.

Adversaries, regardless of their resources, are finding ways to present us with multiple tactical dilemmas. They are combining capabilities with new concepts and doctrine, as evidenced by Russia’s New Generation Warfare; China’s active defensive and local wars under “informationized” conditions; Iran’s focus on information operations, asymmetric warfare and anti-access/area denial; North Korea’s combination of conventional, information operations, asymmetric, and strategic capabilities; ISIS’s often improvised yet complex capabilities employed during the Battle of Mosul, in Syria, and elsewhere; and the proliferation of anti-armor capabilities seen in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, as well as the use of ballistic missiles by state and non-state actors.

Our adversaries have excelled at Prototype Warfare, using new improvised capabilities that converge technologies and COTS systems—in some cases for specific attacks—to great effect. ISIS, for example, has used commercial drones fitted with 40mm grenades to attack US and allied forces near Mosul, Iraq and Raqaa, Syria. While these attacks caused little damage, a Russian drone dropping a thermite grenade caused the destruction of a Ukrainian arms depot at Balakleya, which resulted in massive explosions and fires, the evacuation of 23,000 citizens, and $1 billion worth of damage and lost ordnance.

Additionally, our adversaries continue to make strides in developing Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) capabilities. We must, at a tactical level, be prepared to operate in a CBRN environment.

Operational Lessons Learned:

Operational lessons learned are teaching us that our traditional—and heretofore very successful—ways of waging warfare will not be enough to ensure victory on future battlefields. Commanders must now sequence battles and engagements beyond the traditional land, sea, and air domains, and seamlessly, and often simultaneously, orchestrate combat effects across multi-domains, to include space and cyberspace. The multiple tactical dilemmas that our adversaries present us with create operational level challenges. Adversaries are building increasingly sophisticated anti-access/area denial “bubbles” we have to break; extending the scope of operations through the use of cyber, space, and asymmetric activities; and are utilizing sophisticated, and often deniable, methods of using information operations, often enabled by cyber capabilities, to directly target the Homeland and impact our individual and national will to fight. This simultaneous targeting of individuals and segments of populations has been addressed in our Personalized Warfare post.

We will have to operationalize Multi-Domain Battle to achieve victory over peer or near-peer competitors. Additionally, we must plan and be prepared to integrate other government entities and allies into our operations. The dynamism of the future OE is driven by the ever increasing volumes of information; when coupled with sophisticated whole-of-government approaches, information operations — backed by new capabilities with increasing ranges — challenge our national approach to warfare. The importance of information operations will continue, and may become the primary focus of warfare/competition in the future.

When adversaries have a centralized leadership that can send a unified message and more readily adopt a whole-of-government approach, the US needs mechanisms to more effectively coordinate and collaborate among whole-of-government partners. Operations short of war may require the Department of Defense to subordinate itself to other Agencies, depending on the objective. Our adversaries’ asymmetric strategies blur the lines between war and competition, and operate in a gray zone between war and peace below the perceived threshold of US military reaction.

Strategic Lessons Learned:

Strategic lessons learned demonstrate the OE will be more challenging and dynamic then in the past. A robust Homeland defense strategy will be imperative for competition from now to 2050. North Korea’s strategic nuclear capability, if able to range beyond the Pacific theater to CONUS, places a renewed focus on weapons of mass destruction and missile defense. A broader array of nuclear and weapons of mass destruction-armed adversaries will compel us to re-imagine operations in a CBRN environment, and to devise and consider new approaches to deterrence and collective security. Our understanding of deterrence and coercion theory will be different from the lessons of the Cold War.

The Homeland will be an active theater in any future conflict and adversaries will have a host of kinetic and non-kinetic attack options from our home stations all the way to the combat zone. The battlefield of the future will become far more lethal and destructive, and be contested from home station to the Joint Operational Area, requiring ways to sustain operations, and also to rapidly reconstitute combat losses of personnel and equipment. The Army requires resilient smart installations capable of not only training, equipping, preparing, and caring for Soldiers, civilians, and families, but also efficiently and capably serving as the first point of power projection and to provide reach back capabilities.

Trends in demographics and climate change mean we will have to operate in areas we might have avoided in the past. These areas include cities and megacities, or whole new theaters, such as the Arctic.

Personalized warfare will increase over time, specifically targeting the brain, genomes, cultural and societal groups, individuals’ personal interests/lives, and familial ties.




Future conflicts will be characterized by AI vs AI (i.e., algorithm vs algorithm). How AI is structured and integrated will be the strategic advantage, with the decisive edge accruing to the side with more autonomous decision-action concurrency on the “Hyperactive Battlefield.” Due to the increasingly interconnected Internet of Everything and the proliferation of weapons with highly destructive capabilities to lower echelons, tactical actions will have strategic implications, putting even more strain and time-truncation on decision-making at all levels. Cognitive biases can shape our actions despite unprecedented access to information.

The future OE presents us with a combination of new technologies and societal changes that will intensify long-standing international rivalries, create new security dynamics, and foster instability as well as opportunities. The Army recognizes the importance of this moment and is engaged in a modernization effort that rivals the intellectual momentum following the 1973 Starry Report and the resultant changes the “big five” (i.e., M1 Abrams Tank, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter, UH-60 Black Hawk Utility Helicopter, and Patriot Air Defense System) wrought across leadership development and education, concept, and doctrine development that provided the U.S. Army overmatch into the new millennium.

Based on the future OE, the Army’s leadership is asking the following important questions:

• What type of force do we need?

• What capabilities will it require?

• How will we prepare our Soldiers, civilians, and leaders to operate within this future?

Clearly the OE is the starting point for this entire process.

For additional information regarding the Future OE, please see the following:

Technology and the Future of War podcast, hosted by the Modern War Institute at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

An Advanced Engagement Battlespace: Tactical, Operational and Strategic Implications for the Future Operational Environment, posted on Small Wars Journal.

OEWatch, an monthly on-line, open source journal, published by the TRADOC G-2’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO).

Ian Sullivan is the Assistant G-2, ISR and Futures, at Headquarters, TRADOC.

22. Speed, Scope, and Convergence Trends

“Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.” — Sun Tzu

This timeless observation from The Art of War resonates through the millennia and is of particular significance to the Future Operational Environment
Mad Scientist Laboratory has addressed the impact of Autonomy, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Robotic Trends in previous posts. Consequential in their own right, particularly in the hands of our adversaries, the impact of these technology trends is exacerbated by their collective speed, scope, and convergence, leading ultimately to man-machine co-evolution.

Speed. Some Mad Scientists posit that the rate of progress in these technologies will be “faster than Moore’s law.” As our adversaries close the technology gap and potentially overtake us in select areas, there is clearly a “need for speed” as cited in the Defense Science Board (DSB) Report on Autonomy. The speed of actions and decisions will need to increase at a much higher pace over time.

“… the study concluded that autonomy will deliver substantial operational value across an increasingly diverse array of DoD missions, but the DoD must move more rapidly to realize this value. Allies and adversaries alike also have access to rapid technological advances occurring globally. In short, speed matters—in two distinct dimensions. First, autonomy can increase decision speed, enabling the U.S. to act inside an adversary’s operations cycle. Secondly, ongoing rapid transition of autonomy into warfighting capabilities is vital if the U.S. is to sustain military advantage.” — DSB Summer Study on Autonomy, June 2016 (p. 3)

Scope. It may be necessary to increase not only the pace but also the scope of these decisions if these technologies generate the “extreme future” characterized by Mad Scientist Dr. James Canton as “hacking life” / “hacking matter” / “hacking the planet.” In short, no aspect of our current existence will remain untouched. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomy – far from narrow topics – are closely linked to a broad range of enabling / adjunct technologies identified by Mad Scientists, to include:

• Computer Science, particularly algorithm design and software engineering
• Man-Machine Interface, to include Language / Speech and Vision
• Sensing Technologies
• Power and Energy
• Mobility and Manipulation
• Material Science to include revolutionary new materials
• Quantum Science
• Communications
• 3D (Additive) Manufacturing
• Positioning, Navigation and Timing beyond GPS
• Cyber

Science and Technological Convergence. Although 90% of the technology development will occur in the very fragmented, uncontrolled private sector, there is still a need to view robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy as a holistic, seamless system. Technology convergence is a recurring theme among Mad Scientists. They project that we will alter our fundamental thinking about science because of the “exponential convergence” of key technologies, including:

• Nanoscience and nanotechnology
• Biotechnology and Biomedicine
• Information Technology
• Cognitive Science and Neuroscience
• Quantum Science




This convergence of technologies is already leading to revolutionary achievements with respect to sensing, data acquisition and retrieval, and computer processing hardware. These advances in turn enable machine learning to include reinforcement learning and artificial intelligence. They also facilitate advances in hardware and materials, 3D printing, robotics and autonomy, and open-sourced and reproducible computer code. Exponential convergence will generate “extremely complex futures” that include capability “building blocks” that afford strategic advantage to those who recognize and leverage them.

Co-Evolution. Clearly humans and these technologies are destined to co-evolve. Humans will be augmented in many ways: physically, via exoskeletons; perceptionally, via direct sensor inputs; genetically, via AI-enabled gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR; and cognitively via AI “COGs” and “Cogni-ceuticals.” Human reality will be a “blended” one in which physical and digital environments, media and interactions are woven together in a seamless integration of the virtual and the physical. As daunting – and worrisome – as these technological developments might seem, there will be an equally daunting challenge in the co-evolution between man and machine: the co-evolution of trust.

Trusted man-machine collaboration will require validation of system competence, a process that will take our legacy test and verification procedures far beyond their current limitations. Humans will expect autonomy to be nonetheless “directable,” and will expect autonomous systems to be able to explain the logic for their behavior, regardless of the complexity of the deep neural networks that motivate it. These technologies in turn must be able to adapt to user abilities and preferences, and attain some level of human awareness (e.g., cognitive, physiological, emotional state, situational knowledge, intent recognition).

For additional information on The Convergence of Future Technology, see Dr. Canton’s presentation from the Mad Scientist Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, & Autonomy Conference at Georgia Tech Research Institute last March.

18. Mad Scientist FY17: A Retrospective

With the Holiday celebrations behind us, Mad Scientist Laboratory believes a retrospective of FY17 is in order to recap the key points learned about the Future Operational Environment (OE).

Our first event in 2017 was the Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Autonomy Conference, facilitated with Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in Atlanta, Georgia, 7-8 March 2017. Key findings that emerged from this event include:

All things in the future OE will be smart, connected, and self-organizing. The commercial Internet of Things (IoT) will turn into a militarized Internet of Battle Things (IoBT).



Narrow Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here today and is beginning to show up on the battlefield. Near peer competitors and non-state actors will have access to these technologies on pace with the United States due to commercial and open source availability of algorithms.

AI and humans must co-evolve. It is not clear that the singularity (i.e., AI leading to a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, ultimately resulting in a super intelligence far surpassing human intelligence) will be realized in the period leading up to 2050. Human teaming with AI enablers will be the best instantiation of general intelligence supporting Commanders on the future battlefield. Next steps towards singularity are systems that can reflect, have curiosity, and demonstrate teamwork.

The physical and virtual spaces will merge. Augmented and virtual reality will become more than a gaming platform focused on entertainment but a global communication platform delivering unique expertise to the battlefield to include medical and language skills.

Convergence is a key attribute in all aspects of the future battlefield. Expect convergence of capability, sensors, power onto systems, uniforms, and in the far term humanity itself.

Our Enemy after Next Conference, facilitated with NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on 11-12 April 2017 led to the following conclusions:

The next fight will be characterized by electrons vs electrons. All belligerents will seek to hide themselves and blind their enemies. The fight after next will be characterized by AI vs AI (algorithm vs algorithm). How AI is structured and integrated will be the strategic advantage.

Information Warfare is taking on new meaning. Humans now have a personal relationship with their information and virtual reality and holograms in your living room will create new opportunities for swaying populations.

Major competitions in the war after next include – cyber-attack vs AI, stealth vs detection, directed energy vs hardening, space vs counter-space, strikers vs shielders.



We are in a 10 year window of a change in how we think about space. Space is now competitive as Super-Empowered Individuals, non-state actors, and near peer competitors have near equal access. One major game changer is the commercial move towards a Low Earth Orbit space constellation consisting of thousands of small satellites.

There is a real tension between the idea that ubiquitous sensors and real time upload of data onto the cloud will make it impossible to hide and that the near equal access of capabilities across all parties will make war constant.

At the Visualizing Multi-Domain Battle 2030 – 2050 Conference, facilitated with Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on 25-26 July 2017, Mad Scientists determined:

The definition of maneuver should be expanded to include maneuvering ideas as well as forces to a position of advantage. A globally connected world and social media platforms have amplified the importance of ideas and the information dimension.

Bio convergence with advanced computing is happening at the edge. Humans will become part of the network connected through their embedded and worn devices. From transhumanism to theorizing about uploading the brain, it will not be the IoT but the internet of everything (including humans).

Smart cities are leaving the edge and early adopters and becoming mainstream. The data collected by billions of sensors will be a treasure trove for the country and Armed forces that learn to exploit. Passive collection of this information might be a significant advantage in winning the hiders v finders competition.

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

Human enhancement, the unlocking of the genome, and improving artificial intelligence will stress the Army’s policies and ethics. In any case, our 4 + 1 potential adversaries are exploring using all three of these capabilities as a way to gain advantage over U.S. Forces. This is not a 2050 problem but more than likely a 2030 reality.

The Mad Scientist Initiative employs Crowdsourcing and Story Telling as two innovative tools to help us envision future possibilities and inform the OE through 2050. In our FY17 Science Fiction Writing Contest, we asked our community of action to describe Warfare in 2030-2050. We received an overwhelming response of 150 submissions from Mad Scientists around the globe. From them, we discerned the following key themes:

Virtually every new technology is connected and intersecting to other new technologies and advances. Convergence frequently occurred across numerous technologies. Advances in materials, AI, drones, communications, and human enhancement amplified and drove one another across multiple domains.

A major cultural divide and gulf in understanding still existed between different populations even with developments in technology (including real-time language translators).



The fully enmeshed communications and sensing residing in future systems made the hiders vs. finders competition ever more important in future conflict settings.

Due to the exponential speed of interaction on the battlefield (during and in between high-intensity conflict), a number of the military units required smaller formations, with large effects capabilities and more authority, and operated under flat and dispersed command and control structures.

The constant battle for and over information often meant victory or failure for each side.





2018 is shaping up to be even more enlightening, with Mad Scientist conferences addressing Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 and Learning in 2050. We will also support a Smart and Resilient Installations franchise event, hosted by the Army Secretariat. Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for more information on the year ahead!