170. “Own the Night”

[Editor’s Note:  The U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-sponsored the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Operational Environment Conference with the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin on 24-25 April 2019 in Austin, Texas.  Today’s post is excerpted from this conference’s Final Report (see link at the end of this post), addressing how the Army must embrace and rapidly incorporate autonomy, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our force modernization efforts.  In the words of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Mr. Bob Work, this is an “Own the Night Moment for the United States Army” — enjoy!].

“When you’re bogged down in war it will naturally limit your ability to think about the future.”

In the late 1970s, following the end of the Vietnam War, U.S. operational planners started to ponder how to “Fight Outnumbered and Win.” Toward this end, the Army vowed to “Own the Night” – to leverage technology and training to successfully conduct offensive night operations with a level of familiarity and comfort commensurate with daytime operations. Further, nighttime defensive capabilities of other nations were 10 percent of what they would be during the day.1

Today, the Army is facing a similar “Own the Night” moment. To ensure future battlefield overmatch, the Army has a unique opportunity to seize the initiative in an openly competitive technological space — Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics — rather than succumb to forced modernization from a point of strategic disadvantage. There are four conditions underpinning this new “Own the Night” imperative:

1. The proliferation of miniaturized guided munitions and democratization of other military technologies will make the battlefield increasingly lethal for humans, hastening the development of unmanned autonomous systems to take on the most deadly combat tasks – dull, dirty, and dangerous.

2. Humans are becoming more expensive to recruit, train, and retain, hastening the move to unmanned and robotic systems to replace them, especially for ground forces.

3. Land warfare involves fighting amongst the people, requiring the most demanding performance for autonomous systems in terms of ethics, Law of Armed Conflict – distinction and proportionality –, and trust.

4. Future combat operations may occur in dense urban settings, where combat operations will rely heavily on human-machine combat teams. The pervasive presence of the Internet of Things (IoT) provides a bevy of information to both the robotic agents as well as their human counterparts.2

Gaps in the global competition for development of AI and robotics are quickly narrowing. Strategic competitors recognize the importance of AI, particularly to match and overtake the superior military capabilities that the United States and its allies have held for the past several decades. Highlighting this importance, Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 stated that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”3   Russian military forces have already combat tested unmanned combat ground vehicles in Syria, applying lessons learned to future iterations of unmanned and autonomous combat systems.4  Within the past decade, China has invested heavily in government-funded AI initiatives. Military thinkers within the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) embrace AI’s prospects as “leapfrog technology” that would allow China to skip technological development stages and rapidly overmatch U.S. capabilities.5

U.S. success in this competition is dependent upon focus (R&D dollars and manpower concentration), adaptability (organizational flexibility and external partnerships), and innovation (creativity, integration, and cultural awareness). While the U.S. pursues its next iteration of “Owning the Night,” it will need a more defined strategy that focuses beyond developing and purchasing new generations of technology. Emerging technologies such as AI and robotics will require a continued investment by the Army and Department of Defense with clear strategic guidance for all stakeholders. As with the first “Own the Night” moment, the Army will also need to include development of new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and intense, sustained training.

The Army can gain multiple advantages by developing unmanned, optionally tele-operated systems rather than optionally manned systems, such as:

Leader Follower suite of robotic applique sensors and vehicle by-wire upgrades provide an unmanned capability to the Palletized Load System A1 Fleet of vehicles / Source: U.S. Army photo; https://asc.army.mil
      • Moving to the right side of the cost curve by avoiding investment in expensive armor and other human protection features.
      • Achieving greater performance – speed, agility, maneuverability – and energy efficiency without humans on board.
      • Creating greater warfighter effectiveness through increased man-machine teaming.

Robotic and unmanned systems are prevalent throughout the six Army modernization priorities – Long-Range Precision Fires; Next Generation Combat Vehicle; Soldier Lethality; Future Vertical Lift; Army Network; and Air and Missile Defense.6 Integration of unmanned robotic systems into all of these priorities is an opportunity for the Army to “Own the Night” and gain overmatch in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

– The entire Mad Scientist Disruption and the Operational Environment Conference Final Report, dated 25 July 2019.

– Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Bob Work‘s presentation from the aforementioned conference on AI and Future Warfare: The Rise of the Robots (and Army Futures Command), as well as his Modern War Institute podcast assessing the future battlefield.

– Our Crowdsourcing the Future of the AI Battlefield #AIBattlefield information paper.

The Guy Behind the Guy: AI as the Indispensable Marshal, by Mr. Brady Moore and Mr. Chris Sauceda.

Autonomous Robotic Systems in the Russian Ground Forces, by Mr. Samuel Bendett.


1 Adam K. Raymond “‘We Own the Night’: The Rise And Fall Of The US Military’s Night-Vision Dominance,” Task & Purpose, https://taskandpurpose.com/night-rise-fall-us-militarys-night-vision-dominance

2 Work, Robert O., Mad Scientist Conference: Disruption and the Future Operational Environment, University of Texas at Austin, 24 April 2019.

3 James Vincent, “Putin Says the Nation that Leads in AI ‘Will be the Ruler of the World,’” The Verge, https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/4/16251226/russia-ai-putin-rule-the-world

4 Kendrick Foster, “The Modern Pen and the AI Sword,” Harvard Politics Review, https://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/pen-ai-sword/

5 Gregory C. Allen “Understanding China’s AI Strategy,” Center for a New American Security, https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/understanding-chinas-ai-strategy

6 “Modernization Priorities for the United States Army,” 3 Oct. 2017, https://admin.govexec.com/media/untitled.pdf

169. Climate Change as a Threat Multiplier: Part 1

[Editor’s Note:  In the first of a two part series exploring climate change as a threat multiplier, guest blogger LTCOL Nathan Pierpoint, Australian Army, examines the climate challenges facing civil and military leaders around the world.  Exploring the geo-political implications of rising sea levels, extreme heat, desertification, and water and food shortages, LTCOL Pierpoint’s post addresses how these environmental issues will exacerbate competition, social instability, and the potential for violence and conflict.]

There is one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate.” — President Barack Obama

I was recently taken by the great piece written by Ms. Sage Miller on climate change.  I pushed hard to meet the Mad Scientist deadline for their recent crowdsourcing exercise on the Operational Environment – Today to 2035:  What Will Change and What Will Drive it, but came to the conclusion that this issue deserved more than 1000 words. Similarly, I felt it was such a pressing issue that it deserved regular, and continuous, discussion and debate. This is because climate change is one of the most significant drivers of global instability our militaries will face to 2035. This paper is part one of a two part discussion on climate change and the wars of the future.

I might have said in a recent tweet about the Mad Scientist Challenge that I would talk about climate change, violent extremism, and political warfare. However it became evident after a little more research that two of these issues quite often manifested from the adverse impacts of climate change. This is because climate change, to coin a term from the most recent  Global Peace Index report, acts as a threat multiplier.  While climate change doesn’t automatically lead to higher levels of violence, the Global Peace Index described it best as its ability to exacerbate security threats when they stated that “climate pressures adversely impact resource availability, affect population dynamics, and strain societal institutions, which directly affects security and stability.”1

It’s important to note the impact climate change is now having on national security decision making, particularly in the U.S.  On June 5, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on the National Security Implications of Climate Change. This hearing was unique in that it called witnesses Peter Kiemel from the National Intelligence Council, Rod Schoonover from the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and Jeffrey Ringhausen from the Office of Naval Intelligence. Chairman Schiff commenced the hearing by stating that climate change was the “greatest long-term national security threat to the U.S.2 and quoted the most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the Director of National Intelligence by stating, “Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”  The key point Chairman Schiff tries to make here is that national stability needs to be underpinned by the protection and trade of national resources. A pessimist’s view would also suggest he indicates that adverse impacts to these resources directly increase the chance of conflict with others to protect or secure these resources.

GEN Angus J. Campbell, AO, DSC, Chief of the Defence Force / Source:  http://www.defence.gov.au/CDF/

I think it’s worth mentioning at this point the emerging threat of political warfare. This issue was best explained by Australian Defence Force (ADF) Chief, GEN Angus Campbell’s recent speech during ASPI’s War in 2025 conference.”4  His stark comments that “democracies risk being out-manoeuvred by totalitarian powers unrestrained by rules, and willing to use information campaigns, cyber operations, theft of intellectual property, coercion and propaganda to weaken them,” are an indication that large power competition has risen to the fore once more.5  However, the desire for totalitarian powers to conduct these types of activities are usually driven by a threat to their own existence. In many cases, it is access to the resources that western democracies and their economies have thrived upon and use to exert their own power over the international trading landscape. In this respect, I felt the impacts of climate change were a more pressing issue due to its ability to act as a threat multiplier. As the latest Global Peace Index suggests, environmental risks of climate change and resource scarcity had the highest likelihood of triggering or exacerbating conflict through its effects on livelihood security and resource availability.6  I’ll attempt to highlight the most significant climate challenges our world faces to 2035.

Jakarta / Source: pxhere

Indonesia is sinking. Since the 1970’s, parts of its capital city Jakarta have seen sea levels rise more than four meters. Scientists predict that more than a quarter of the city could be swamped by the sea by 2025.7   Jakarta is home to more than 34 million people, and one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Jakarta has also seen a rise in violent extremism, with Al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliated groups conducting a number bombings in recent years, killing hundreds.

Rising sea levels was also one example two recent King’s College Podcasts highlighted as they discussed the challenges of climate change on global security. A panel of experts also highlighted the growing concerns over air pollution, rising global temperatures, and environmental degradation as significant influences on security policies over the next century. Such examples they cited were periods of drought in Sub-Saharan Africa that sparked clashes over water, and water shortages in India that were intensifying conflicts between neighboring states.8

During training, U.S. Army Soldiers immerse their arms in a cooler of ice cold water for 15 seconds  to lower their core temperatures and prevent heat casualties / Source:  Army.mil, photo by Jeff Crawley

Rising global temperatures have also meant that deadly heat conditions, and heat related injuries, are now a regular occurrence for Soldiers. As recently as late July, there was further talk about the U.S. military recognising the threat climate change and rising temperatures were having on Soldiers across both operational and training areas. A recent report from the Pentagon highlighted that rising temperatures were exacerbating challenges the military is facing in some of the world’s most destabilized regions, and endangered individual troops and, by extension, U.S. security and preparedness. Further, the report stated that health impacts from heat have already cost the military as much as nearly $1 billion from 2008 to 2018.9  The reduced presence of Soldiers on a future battlefield, operating amongst the people, shaping and influencing the human terrain, would surely impact the decisiveness of future campaigns, and inadvertently prolong wars in the future.

As a result of rising temperatures, the world faces a significant drop in food production and increasing numbers of extreme weather events. Food production is quickly approaching the point where there are inadequate supplies to feed the global population. This is a consequence of a decline in crop yields, desertification, monsoon failure, chronic water shortages, and conditions too hot for human habitation in significant food-growing regions. As a result, significant portions of some of the world’s most populous cities — including Chennai, Mumbai, Jakarta, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Lagos, Bangkok and Manila, have been abandoned.10

Desertification and water shortages have meant that the livelihoods of more than five million farmers in Mexico were impacted by the drought from 2002 to 2012. The response was both internal migration to the slums of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey and international migration to the United States.11   In the fastest growing megacity in the world according to the U.N, Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka has seen mass migration into the city’s slums. While slums have existed in Dhaka City for a long time, their growth accelerated after the liberation of the country in 1971, mainly due to mass migration by the rural poor. The first significant survey of the slums and squatter population in Dhaka was conducted by the Centre for Urban Studies (CUS) in 1974 and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees which indicated the slum population was 275,000.12   According to the latest census conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2015, 2.23 million people live in slums across the country.13  Eighty-one percent of migrants cited a climate-related cause as a main reason for their move, with most of those relocating to cities to earn their livelihood after losing their land and houses to river erosion.14  High levels of resource scarcity and strained public resources contributed to violence in these slums, with climate refugees intensifying already present social stress.15

UN refugee camp in Jordan / Source: Flickr

Bangladesh is not the only country facing mass migration due to the adverse effects of climate change. A recent New York Times article also highlighted the stark reality of population migration and displacement across the world. According to the article, the United Nations Refugee Agency stated that the global population of people displaced reached 70.8 million, up from 43 million a decade ago, 26 million fled across borders, and 3.5 million were seeking asylum in third countries.16   Evidence suggests that people living in less developed countries without the ability to mitigate these problems are those most likely to migrate, and that this migration has been a significant factor in increased violence in receiving areas.17

This is especially true in countries that are already low or declining in peacefulness. The drivers behind the Syrian civil war, according to some researchers, indicate that human-induced climate change was a contributing factor in the extreme drought experienced within Syria prior to its civil war. This drought lead to large scale migration, and this migration exacerbated the socio-economic stresses that underpinned Syria’s decent into war.18

NZ Defence Capability Plan 2019 / Source:  https://defence.govt.nz

Similar research has shown that climate change will impose significant stress on societies into the future. The recent New Zealand (NZ) Defence Capability Plan has a whole chapter dedicated to responding to the climate crisis in their region. In the plan they highlight that the “effects of climate change can be significant contributors to both low-level and more violent conflict.”19  Such is their concern, they have sought to increase the size of their Defence Force in order to contend with concurrent humanitarian assistance and stability operations in the region brought about through climate change.20

The influence of climate change has often taken a back seat to the threat of international terrorism and large power competition, but it is deeply intertwined with our security and stability. Violence and unrest brought about by terrorism and political warfare can weaken institutions, making society more vulnerable to climate shocks. This cycle suggests that political and socio-economic factors will continue to be the primary sources of internal strife and that climate change will continue to serve as a risk multiplier.21

I mentioned earlier that this is only Part 1 of this discussion. In this paper I sought only to highlight the growing security concerns exacerbated by climate change, not offer solutions. Part two of this discussion will employ story telling to imagine a future war influenced by the effects of climate change, resource competition, and unlikely adversaries.

If you enjoyed this post, please see:

Future Threats: Climate Change and Islamic Terror by Mr. Matthew Ader.

Climate Change Laid Bare: Why We Need To Act Now by Ms. Sage Miller, as well as her “The Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Military” Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) Speaker Session presentation

Our Arctic—The World’s Pink Flamingo and Black Swan Bird Sanctuary by Mr. Frank Prautzsch

LTCOL Nathan Pierpoint is a career Military Police Officer, having recently completed Battalion Command prior to his appointment as the Australian Army Liaison Officer to HQ TRADOC in 2019. He has also spent time as an instructor, served regularly as a staff officer in the Australian Army Headquarters, and has completed tours of Timor Leste, Iraq, and Afghanistan. LTCOL Pierpoint has a BA in Politics through the University of New South Wales, and a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies through the Australian National University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).


1 Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Peace Index 2019: Measuring Peace in a Complex World, Sydney, June 2019. http://visionofhumanity.org/reports (20 Jul 2019). p.49

2 Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, Intelligence Officials Highlight Security Risks of Climate Change in Important House Hearing, The Centre for Climate and Security, 06 June 2019, https://climateandsecurity.org/2019/06/06/intelligence-officials-highlight-security-risks-of-climate-change-in-important-house-hearing/

3 Ibid

4 Brendan Nicholson, ADF Chief: West Faces a New Threat from ‘Political Warfare’, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra, 14 June 2019, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/adf-chief-west-faces-a-new-threat-from-political-warfare/

5 Ibid

6 Global Peace Index p.43

7 Mark Doman, David Lipson and Ari Wu, Jakarta is Running Out of Time to Stop Itself Sinking, ABC News Australia, June 23 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-24/jakarta-is-running-out-of-time-to-stop-itself-sinking/11190928?pfmredir=sm

8 Ian Dunlop, David Spratt, Existential Climate Related Security Risk. Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, May 2019, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_a1406e0143ac4c469196d3003bc1e687.pdf, p.9

9 David Hasemyer, Military Fights a Deadly Enemy: Heat, InsideClimate News, NBC News, 23 Jul 19 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/military-s-climate-change-problem-blistering-heat-killing-soldiers-during-n1032546

10 Ibid.

11 Existential Climate Related Security Risk p.54

12 Professor Nazrul Islam, Dr. AQM Mahbub, Dr. Nurul Islam Nazem, Urban Slums of Bangladesh, The Daily Star Bangladesh, 20 June 2009, https://www.thedailystar.net/news-detail-93293

13 Staff Correspondent, The Number of slum dwellers in Bangladesh increases by 60.43 percent in 17 years https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2015/06/29/number-of-slum-dwellers-in-bangladesh-increases-by-60.43-percent-in-17-years, 29 Jun 2015

14 Ibid.

15 Existential Climate Related Security Risk p.54

16 Nick Cumming-Bruce, Number of People Fleeing Conflict Is Highest Since World War II, U.N. Says, June 19 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/world/refugees-record-un.html

17 Global Peace Index p.54

18 Jan Selby, Omar Dahi, Christiane Frolich, Mike Holme, Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War Revisited, Elsevier: Political Geography. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629813000188

19 NZ Ministry of Defence, NZ Capability Plan 2019, Ministry of Defence June 2019, https://defence.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Defence-Capability-Plan-2019.pdf , p.17

20 Ibid

21 Global Peace Index p.49

Bibliography

1. Ms. Sage Miller, Climate Change Laid Bare: Why We Need to Act Now, US Army Mad Science Laboratory Blog Post, 8 Jul 19, https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/159-climate-change-laid-bare-why-we-need-to-act-now/

2. Jurgen Scheffran, Michael Brzoska, Hans Gunter Brauch, Peter Michael Link, Janpeter Schilling, Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict: Challenges for Societal Stability, Springer, 2012.

3. Jan Selby, Omar Dahi, Christiane Frolich, Mike Holme, Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War Revisited, Elsevier: Political Geography, 2016, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629813000188

4. NZ Ministry of Defence, NZ Capability Plan 2019, Ministry of Defence June 2019, https://defence.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Defence-Capability-Plan-2019.pdf

5. Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Peace Index 2019: Measuring Peace in a Complex World, Sydney, June 2019, http://visionofhumanity.org/reports, 20 Jul 2019.

6. Nick Cumming-Bruce, Number of People Fleeing Conflict Is Highest Since World War II, U.N. Says, June 19 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/world/refugees-record-un.html

7. Ian Dunlop, David Spratt, Existential Climate Related Security Risk. Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, May 2019, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_a1406e0143ac4c469196d3003bc1e687.pdf

8. Mark Doman, David Lipson and Ari Wu, Jakarta is Running Out of Time to Stop Itself Sinking, ABC News Australia, June 23 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-24/jakarta-is-running-out-of-time-to-stop-itself-sinking/11190928?pfmredir=sm

9. Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, Intelligence Officials Highlight Security Risks of Climate Change in Important House Hearing, The Centre for Climate and Security, 06 June 2019, https://climateandsecurity.org/2019/06/06/intelligence-officials-highlight-security-risks-of-climate-change-in-important-house-hearing/

10. Global Challenges Foundation, Global Catastrophic Risk 2018: Global Challenges Annual Report 2018, https://api.globalchallenges.org/static/files/GCF-Annual-report-2018.pdf

11. King, D. et al., 2015. Climate Change–a Risk Assessment, Centre for Science and Policy, Cambridge University UK, June 2019, http://www.csap.cam.ac.uk/media/uploads/files/1/climate-change–a-risk-assessment-v11.pdf

12. King’s College War Studies Podcast https://soundcloud.com/warstudies/event-pathways-to-climate-security-i and https://soundcloud.com/warstudies/is-nuclear-energy-the-answer-to-the-climate-crisis

13. Professor Nazrul IslamDr. AQM MahbubDr. Nurul Islam Nazem, Urban Slums of Bangladesh, The Daily Star Bangladesh, 20 June 2009, https://www.thedailystar.net/news-detail-93293

14. Staff Correspondent, The Number of Slum Dwellers in Bangladesh increases by 60.43 percent in 17 years, BD News Bangladesh 29 Jun 2015, https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2015/06/29/number-of-slum-dwellers-in-bangladesh-increases-by-60.43-percent-in-17-years

15. David Hasemyer, Military Fights a Deadly Enemy: Heat, Inside Climate News, NBC News, 23 Jul 19 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/military-s-climate-change-problem-blistering-heat-killing-soldiers-during-n1032546

16. Brendan Nicholson, ADF Chief: West Faces a New Threat from ‘Political Warfare’, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra, 14 June 2019, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/adf-chief-west-faces-a-new-threat-from-political-warfare/

168. Linking Brains to Machines, and Use of Neurotechnology to the Cultural and Ethical Perspectives of the Current Global Stage

[Editor’s Note:  In today’s post, returning guest bloggers Mr. Joseph DeFranco and Dr. James Giordano examine the ramifications of Neuralink moving forward with Brain-Machine Interfaces, posing five tough questions on what the crossing of this neuroscience frontier means from medical, ethical, legal, and geo-political perspectives.  Read their compelling post — will “neuro-modified human actors be considered weaponized biological agents?”]

On July 16th, Elon Musk announced that his company Neuralink will move to advance clinical translation of a novel brain-machine interface (BMI) that he claims holds “…promise for the restoration of sensory and motor function and the treatment of neurological disorders.” 1  Although the company’s efforts to develop such a BMI has only been underway for 28 months,2  it has already created an innovative, functioning application in an in vivo rat model. Musk seeks to begin clinical trials in 2020 for treatment of particular neurological disorders. Musk also asserts that this technology could and should be available to any individual who wishes to achieve “better access” and “better connections” to “the world, each other, and ourselves.”3

The BMI involves implantation of microelectrodes (as many as 3,072 per array) to record neurological activity in the brain. These electrodes convey signals to sensors that can be detected by an external device (e.g., a smart phone).4  The intricacies and complex nature of the brain’s neural architecture and vasculature demand precision of the implantation procedure, and to this end Neuralink will employ a newly developed robotic system for inserting the electrodes. This system will be monitored and managed by a neurosurgeon who can manually adjust the robotic system as needed during the procedure.

Indubitably, this emerging technology is noteworthy and could foster understanding and treatments of a number of neuro-psychiatric conditions. Yet, there are several questions that we believe must be addressed and answered before Neuralink – or any related technology – is offered and made available to the public.

First, who will receive this BMI? Presentations by Musk assert that a main goal is to make the procedure “… as simple and automated as LASIK”.5  We also advocate the importance of, and need for safe and reliable procedures; in this light, it should be borne in mind that the methods described require neurosurgical intervention to insert the electrodes. And although the level of invasiveness may be reduced, and perhaps increasingly minimized with iterative developments of technology and protocols, inherent neurosurgical risks (e.g., intracranial bleeding; infection) must be recognized. It may well be that the relative benefit-to-burden / risk calculus may support the use of a novel procedure if and when other, extant, and prior interventions are ineffective. Still, we advocate that any such consideration should appreciate and engage questions and contingencies relative to mitigating risks (see Table 1). To wit, what conditions will be treated using this approach; or perhaps more specifically, which patients will receive such treatments?

Table 1: Preparatory Neuroethics Paradigms 6, 7


Second, who will perform this procedure and where will it take place? And, if Musk’s invitation to any individual who seeks “better access” and “better connections” to “the world, each other, and ourselves” is indicative of a broader interest in, and market for receiving this BMI technology, the question of “who will receive the interventions” becomes even more pressing. Given current attitudes (in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Australia) regarding medical interventions intended for “non-therapeutic” (i.e., optimization / enhancement) purposes,8 will surgeons in these countries be amenable to implanting the Neuralink BMI for such ends? If not, then we query where these procedures might be provided. Further, we ask how (and to what extent) these procedures will be funded.

Third, if, as Musk has stated this technology is to remain implanted and function for “years to decades” (and possibly a “lifetime”), will – and where will – ongoing research be performed to prospectively assess the benefit, burdens and/or harms incurred?9

Fourth, given this proposed durability, it is likely that:  (1) newer versions of the technology will be developed; and (2) older versions of the technology will require maintenance and updating. Therefore, we ask if and how issues and problems of obsolescence will be addressed and resolved?10  Will (and how will) device maintenance and upgrades be covered under some remunerative plan (e.g., insurance; corporate sponsorship)?

Fifth; as this technology becomes available to the public, will there be a time when the majority of a society has a BMI? If this were to occur, what about the minority who don’t? Or, if only a select few can acquire a BMI, how will society regard and treat these individuals? Here, scenarios such as that posed in Daniel Wilson’s novel, Amped, come to the fore.11  And what of the gap between the neuro-capabilized “haves” and those who “have not”? Such questions should not be limited to concerns about intranational distributive justice:  What does the use of this technology portend for the schism between developed, developing, and un-developed nations?

We applaud Neuralink’s strivings to develop cutting-edged therapeutics and respect their view toward neurological optimization. These developments prompt – if not mandate – recognition and acknowledgment of varying cultural needs, values, philosophies, and ethics, as each and all influence receptivity to this and other forms of BMI research and uses-in-practice.12 Some nations, based upon their views, ethos, and ethics, may be more willing, if not eager to provide this technology to their citizens, and possibly to Warfare, Intelligence, and National Security (WINS) personnel.13

At present, BMIs are not addressed by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. However, if Neuralink-type BMIs, and other neurotechnologies14 are used to augment WINS operators, it begs the question of whether neuro-modified human actors should be considered “weaponized biological agents?”15  And if so, how should they be regarded and treated (both during their tenure in service, and afterward)?

To be sure, neurotechnology is rapidly advancing toward ever greater capabilities. Will global civic (and WINS) institutions remain apace?16  Given the distinctions in the socio-cultural and political values, aims, and ethics that shape research and its applications, what discourses and dialectic will be needed – or accepted – to guide, govern, and constrain acting with such haste, so as to avoid repenting in leisure? As we are fond of saying – and as every neurosurgeon knows well – it is wisest to “measure twice; cut once” whether opening a skull, a vista of new capabilities and possibilities, or a can of worms.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

China’s Brain Trust: Will the U.S. Have the Nerve to Compete? by Mr. Joseph DeFranco, CAPT (USN – Ret.) L. R. Bremseth , and Dr. James Giordano

Neuroscience and the Weapons of War podcast, with Dr. Giordano

Connected Warfare by COL James K. Greer (USA-Ret.)

Sine Pari by Mr. Howard R. Simkin

Author Biographies:
Joseph DeFranco is J5 Donovan Group Fellow in Biowarfare and Biosecurity, at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). He is currently studying neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences, and biodefense at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University, VA, and formerly served on the staff of Congressman Donald S. Beyer (VA-08). His current research focuses upon the possible use of novel microbiological agents and big data as force-multiplying elements in non-kinetic, hybrid, and kinetic engagements, and the role of global agencies in biosecurity.

Mad Scientist James Giordano, PhD, is Professor of Neurology and Biochemistry, Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program, and Co-Director of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Law and Policy at Georgetown University Medical Center. He currently serves as J5 Donovan Group Senior Fellow, Biowarfare and Biosecurity, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and as an appointed member of the Neuroethics, Legal, and Social Issues (NELSI) Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Previously, Dr. Giordano served as Senior Science Advisory Fellow of the Strategic Multilayer Assessment Group of the Joint Staff of the Pentagon; and was Senior Research Fellow and Task Leader for the EU Human Brain Project Subproject on Dual Use Brain Science.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Acknowledgments:  This blog was adapted from the authors’ forthcoming work appearing in the Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine. JG is supported by funding from CSCI and Leadership Initiatives.


References:
1 Musk E. An integrated brain-machine interface platform with thousands of channels. bioRxiv, 703801 (2019).

2 Winkler R. Elon Musk Launches Neuralink to Connect Brains with Computers. (2017, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-launches-neuralink-to-connect-brains-with-computers-1490642652

3 CNET. (2019, July 17). Watch Elon Musk’s Neuralink presentation. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA77zsJ31nA; accessed 24. July, 2019.

4 Ibid. ref. 2.

5 Ibid. ref. 3.

6 Giordano J. Toward an operational neuroethical risk analysis and mitigation paradigm for emerging neuroscience and technology (neuroS/T). Exp Neurol 287 (4): 492-495 (2017).

7 Giordano J. A preparatory neuroethical approach to assessing developments in neurotechnology. AMA J Ethics 17(1): 56-61 (2015).

8 For overviews, see:
Jotterand F, Dubljevic V. (eds.) Cognitive Enhancement: Ethical and Policy Implications in International Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Berger TW, Glanzman DL. (eds.) Toward Replacement Parts for the Brain: Implantable Biomimetic Electronics as Neural Prostheses. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2005.

9 Giordano J. Conditions for consent to the use of neurotechnology: A preparatory neuroethical approach to risk assessment and reduction. AJOB-Neuroscience 6(4): 12-14 (2015).

10 Shook JR, Giordano J. Neuroethics beyond normal: Performance enablement and self-transformative technologies. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 25.1 (2016): 121-140 (2016).

11 Wilson DH. Amped. NY: Doubleday, 2012.

12 For more information, see:
Shook JR, Giordano J. A principled, cosmopolitan neuroethics: Considerations for international relevance. Phil Ethics Humanities in Med 9 (1); (2014).
Lanzilao E, Shook, J, Benedikter R, Giordano J. Advancing neuroscience on the 21st century world stage: The need for – and proposed structure of – an internationally relevant neuroethics. Ethics Biol Engineer Med 4(3): 211-229 (2013).

13 Palchik G, Chen C, Giordano J. Monkey business? Development, influence and ethics of potentially dual-use brain science on the world stage. Neuroethics, 10:1-4 (2017).

14 Giordano J, Wurzman, R. Neurotechnology as weapons in national intelligence and defense. Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics and Policy, 2, 138-151 (2011).

15 Liivoja R, Chircop, L. Are enhanced warfighters weapons, means, or methods of warfare? International Law Studies, 94(1), 7 (2018).

16 Shook JR, Giordano J. Moral bioenhancement for social welfare: Are civic institutions ready? Front Sociol 2(21): 1-5 (2017).

167. China’s Brain Trust: Will the U.S. Have the Nerve to Compete?

[Editor’s Note:  In today’s post, returning guest bloggers Mr. Joseph DeFranco, CAPT (USN – Ret.) L. R. Bremseth , and Dr. James Giordano examine how China is leveraging neuroscience and technology (neuroS/T) as a soft weapon to assume hegemonic advantage in their ascendancy to superpower status.  The stage is set — the U.S. and the West must decide if and how they will compete with China in the overall S/T arena!]

Brain trust (n): Group of official or unofficial advisers concerned especially with planning and strategy. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Significant developments in neuroscience and technology (neuroS/T) are employable in warfare, intelligence, and national security (WINS) operations.1  As has been shown, these tools and methods are certainly viable for use in kinetic warfare;2  however, we believe that it is far more feasible, facile – and therefore of greater value – to consider and pursue the brain sciences for producing “mass disruption” effects in non-kinetic engagements.3  Weaponry (i.e., means of contending against others) can be generally categorized as “Hard” and “Soft.” “Hard” weaponized applications of neuroS/T include pharmacological agents, microbes, organic toxins, and devices (i.e., “drugs, bugs, toxins, and tech”). Research, development, and use of these weapons are regulated by current international conventions and treaties, at least to some extent;4  and the scope and limitations of these treaties remain a focus of international discussion, contention, and debate. But it is equally important to acknowledge the capability that can be leveraged by employing forms of neuroS/T as “soft” weapons, to influence multinational, if not global economic, social, and political stability as well as balances of power.

Moreover, with the growth of non-western countries’ (e.g., China’s) interests, investments, and activities in neuroS/T, it is important to note that differing cultural (and political) needs, values, philosophies, norms, and mores can and often do affect the ethical codes that guide and govern the conduct of scientific research. In some cases, these differing ethical standards may create opportunistic windows to expedite neuroS/T research, and advance outcomes and products to ultimately effect global markets. China has recognized the technical, social, medical, military, and political value of neuroS/T, prompting the fortification of current programs, and initiation of new programs in brain sciences that are aimed at broad translational use(s).5  Toward such ends, China has both stated intent and capability to use precision disruptive methods to target competitors’ vulnerabilities to incur multi-dimensional ripple effects to influence various spheres of economic, social and geo-political power.6

China’s triple helix — cooperative engagement between government, academia, and commercial sectors

As we have stated in a previous blog and elsewhere,7  China operates (1) on longer, more protracted timetables (i.e., Five-Year Plans [FYPs]), and (2) with adept synergy via cooperative engagement of government, academia, and commercial sectors (i.e., the “triple helix”) that allows for the centralization and coordination of resources and personnel on agenda, and projects of prime national interest. These aspects of their regime enable coordination and productivity of politically motivated intent, research, and outcomes for a range of applications (including WINS operations).8  In essence, China has established a reciprocally supportive brain trust focusing upon advancing enterprises in brain science. We have identified three ways that China looks to non-kinetically leverage neuroS/T as a soft weapon on the world stage:  (1) research tourism; (2) control of intellectual property; and (3) medical tourism. In these ways, China seeks to advance neuroS/T, as constituent to broader S/T, and economic initiatives to assume a hegemonic advantage and become a (if not the) global superpower.

Research Tourism

Research tourism is a strategy to attract both distinguished, experienced scientists (in most cases from Western countries) and younger scientists to contribute to and advance productivity, innovation, and prestige of China’s S/T (and other academic) enterprises. These efforts are evidenced in initiatives such as the Thousand Talents Program (launched in 2008) and other programs (e.g., Hundred Person Program, Spring Light Program, Youth Thousand Talents Program, etc.) that aim draw foreign researchers, incubate domestic talent, and incentivize the return and retention of Chinese scientists who have studied and/or worked abroad.9, 10  Such programs are supported and enthused by broad intramural cooperation of leading neurobiological research universities, and initiatives to formally (and financially) conjoin Chinese institutes to leading programs worldwide. For example, the IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Tsinghua University in Beijing works closely with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s brain research institute.11  Additionally, in 2019, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology joined with Harvard Medical School, Stanford University School of Medicine, and University College London to engage in cooperative and collective neurodegenerative research and intend to open an institute in Hong Kong.12  These partnerships foster international collaboration to further therapeutics and other neuroS/T advances; however, it also augments China’s ability to even the proverbial “playing field” of the brain sciences for WINS applications.

China is evening the neuroS/T playing field through multi-lateral collaborative partnerships with western centers of brain science excellence

Intellectual Property Control

China has also leveraged intellectual property (IP) policy and law to advance (and veil) neuroS/T and other biotechnologies through: (1) exploiting their own patent process; (2) enabling compulsory licensing under their IP and patent laws; and (3) internationally enforcing their patent and IP rights.  China’s system creates a “patent thicket” which, unlike the United States, emphasizes the end-utility of a concept rather than innovation in ideas. This in turn produces an abundance of patents, which are based on parts of other concepts or previous, completed patents. These IP laws allow China’s commercial entities to copy, or in some case, usurp foreign patent information, applications, and products. Furthermore, Chinese patent laws allow for complete seizure of international research and development (R&D) under certain conditions, which often remain vague (e.g., “for the benefit of public health”, “a major technological advancement”, etc.).13  A 2017 report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property stated that China accounts for 87% of counterfeit goods stolen from United States companies.14  Taken together, such practices allow the Chinese government to acquire S/T for any political, economic, or WINS application.

The recent global expansion of China’s commercial, academic, and economic institutions has established significant stakes in myriad international enterprises that are capable of realizing rapid and broad advances in China’s S/T R&D. Such use of law (i.e., what is referred to as “lawfare”) empowers Chinese academic and corporate endeavors via economic and legal support provided by the PRC to align S/T R&D with explicit national directives and agendas to exercise international effect and dominance.15, 16 This can create market saturation of key products that are essential to multiple functions and domains of other countries’ infrastructure, economy, stability, and standing. As well, such products can be used for intelligence purposes to track particular domains and activities of individuals, groups, and communities. The proliferate infiltration of such products also establishes dependence upon China’s supply and maintenance of resources and renders these technologies (and the activities they serve) vulnerable to manipulation and control.

Medical Tourism

Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero — proposing the first body to head transplant with Harbin Medical University / Source:  Flickr; https://www.flickr.com/photos/140796687@N03/26944038890

The capacity to advance and/or develop areas of biomedicine / biotechnology in ways that are not feasible elsewhere synergizes both a strong translational (“bench to bedside”) capability, and explicit as well as tacit attraction and solicitation of international individuals seeking interventions that are only available in China. These, at present, could range from the relatively sublime (e.g., using deep brain stimulation to treat drug addiction17) to the seemingly science fictional (e.g., the proposed body to head transplant to be conducted at Harbin Medical University in collaboration with Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero18). Such enterprise may be fortified by research efforts that seek to expedite development of treatments for diseases for high global import and effect. More provocatively, research could also be directed toward producing agents that incur global effect, which could only be ameliorated through the use of specific interventions that are “made in China.”19  Initiatives to foster medical tourism are synergized by programs to promulgate China’s S/T in world markets, thereby strengthening multinational dependence on Chinese market influence. This enables reliance on products and services “made/delivered in China” in addition for those “made by China” for ubiquitous use elsewhere.20

Prompting the Questions…

Due to these tactics of economic infiltration and saturation, China can create power hierarchies that induce ‘bio-political’ strategically latent effects that influence real and perceived positional dominance and affect world order. Hence, the United States and its allies must:

(1) Recognize the reality – and gain insight to processes/mechanisms – of China’s ascendant S/T capability;

(2) Evaluate what current and near-term trends in S/T portend for global position, influence, and power; and

(3) Decide which option – and paths-to-effect – to accept and assume.

In sum, it prompts the questions:

– Should the U.S. and its allies be content to let China continue to rise in S/T capability, and become a co-superpower, thereby rivaling if not surpassing the global influence of the U.S. and the West?

Or…

– Should China’s current and planned activities in S/T prompt the U.S. and its allies to adopt renewed, new – or perhaps China’s own – strategies to increase investment, innovation, and enterprise to maintain sole superpower status?

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

BrAIn Gain > BrAIn Drain: Strategic Competition for Intellect

Designer Genes: Made in China? by Mr. Joseph DeFranco and Dr. James Giordano

The Importance of Integrative Science/Technology Intelligence (InS/TINT) to the Prediction of Future Vistas of Emerging Threats by Dr. James GiordanoCAPT (USN – Ret.) L. R. Bremseth, and Joseph DeFranco

China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance

Authors:

Joseph DeFranco is J5 Donovan Group Fellow in Biowarfare and Biosecurity, at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). He is currently studying neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences, and biodefense at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University, VA, and formerly served on the staff of Congressman Donald S. Beyer (VA-08). His current research focuses upon the possible use of novel microbiological agents and big data as force-multiplying elements in non-kinetic, hybrid, and kinetic engagements, and the role of global agencies in biosecurity.

L.R. Bremseth (CAPT, USN SEAL [Ret]) serves as the Senior Special Operations Advisor for CSCI, a strategic support organization in Springfield, VA. He previously served as the Deputy Senior Director of the Integration Support Directorate (ISD) for the Department of the Navy (DON). As such, he was a key advisor to the Secretary, Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy for sensitive activities. CAPT Bremseth was appointed to the Defense Intelligence Senior Level, and Director, Operations and Executive Director prior to his appointment as Deputy Senior Director, ISD. He retired from the Navy in 2006 with 29 years of service, during which he commanded SEAL Team EIGHT (1996-1998) and served a major command tour at Naval Special Warfare Group THREE (2003-2005).

 Mad Scientist James Giordano, PhD, is Professor of Neurology and Biochemistry, Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program, and Co-Director of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Law and Policy at Georgetown University Medical Center. He currently serves as J5 Donovan Group Senior Fellow, Biowarfare and Biosecurity, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and as an appointed member of the Neuroethics, Legal, and Social Issues (NELSI) Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Previously, Dr. Giordano served as Senior Science Advisory Fellow of the Strategic Multilayer Assessment Group of the Joint Staff of the Pentagon; and was Senior Research Fellow and Task Leader for the EU Human Brain Project Subproject on Dual Use Brain Science.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Acknowledgments:
This blog was adapted from the authors’ forthcoming work appearing in the Health Security journal, Strategic Studies Quarterly, and the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. JG’s work is supported in part by funding from CSCI and Leadership Initiatives.

References:


1 For additional resources, please see:

Moreno J.D. (2006). Mind wars: Brain research and national defense.

Flower, R., Dando, M., Hay, A., Iverson, S., Robbins, T., Robinson, J. P., Rose, S., Stirling, A., Tracey, I., & Wessely, S. (2012). Brain Waves Module 3: Neuroscience, conflict and security.

Giordano J, Forsythe C, Olds J. Neuroscience, neurotechnology and national security: The need for preparedness and an ethics of responsible action. AJOB-Neuroscience 1(2): 1-3 (2010).

Forsythe C, Giordano J. On the need for neurotechnology in the national intelligence and defense agenda: Scope and trajectory. Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics and Policy 2(1): T5-8 (2011).

2 Giordano J. (ed.) Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations Neuroethical Concerns. Boca Raton: CRC Press (2015).

3 DeFranco J, DiEuliis D, Bremseth LR, Snow JJ, Giordano J (2019). Emerging Technologies for Disruptive Effects in Non-Kinetic Engagements. Journal of the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center, 6(2).

4 Gerstein, D., & Giordano, J. (2017). Rethinking the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention?. Health security15(6), 638-641.

5 DeFranco J, Bremseth LR, Giordano J. The Importance of Integrative Science/Technology Intelligence (InS/TINT) to the Prediction of Future Vistas of Emerging Threats. Mad Scientist Laboratory Post #125, 13. March 2019. Available online at: https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/125-the-importance-of-integrative-science-technology-intelligence-ins-tint-to-the-prediction-of-future-vistas-of-emerging-threats/

6 For example, please see: Bremseth L.R. & Giordano, J. (2019, July 4). The undeclared war America is losing. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/jul/4/why-fentanyl-must-be-designated-a-weapon-of-mass-d/

7 Chen C, Andriola J, Giordano J. (2018). Biotechnology, commercial veiling and implications for strategic latency: The exemplar of neuroscience and neurotechnology research and development in China. In: Davis ZD, Nacht M. (eds.) Strategic Latency Red, White and Blue: Managing the National and International Security Consequences of Disruptive Technologies. Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore Press, pp. 12-32.

8 DeFranco, J, Bremseth LR, Giordano J (2019). Dual- and Non-kinetic Use of Chinese Brain Science: Current Activities and Future Implications. In: Peterson N (ed.) The Future of Global Competition and Conflict. A Strategic Multi-Layer (SMA) Periodic Publication. Washington, DC: Strategic Multilayer Assessment Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

9 Engel, R. & Werner, K. (2019, July 14). China’s rising tech scene threatens U.S. brain drain as ‘sea turtles’ return home. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/china-s-rising-tech-scene-threatens-u-s-brain-drain-n1029256

10 Ibid, ref. 7.

11 For information on the IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Tsinghua University, please see: http://mcgovern.med.tsinghua.edu.cn/

12 Yan. (2019, January 16). HK to set up neuroscience research center with world’s top universities to tackle aging population. Retrieved from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-01/16/c_137749495.htm

13 Ibid, ref. 7.

14 For the complete 2017 update of the IP Commission report on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, please see: http://ipcommission.org/report/IP_Commission_Report_Update_2017.pdf

15 Ibid, ref. 8.

16 McFate S. (2019). The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder. NY: Harper-Collins.

17 ABC News. (2019, May 8). China conducting world-first trial of brain implants to treat drug addiction. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-08/china-trials-brain-implants-to-treat-drug-addiction/11090936

18 Jacobson, R. (2018, May 15). Two surgeons in China developing a method to transplant a human head. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/15/two-surgeons-in-china-developing-a-method-to-transplant-a-human-head.html

19 DeFranco J, Snow JJ, Giordano J. Dead Deer, and Mad Cows, and Humans (?) … Oh My! U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Mad Scientist Laboratory Post #143, 13. May 2019. Available online at: https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/143-dead-deer-and-mad-cows-and-humans-oh-my/

20 For the United States Chamber of Commerce report on Made in China 2025, please see: https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/final_made_in_china_2025_report_full.pdf

166. Designer Genes: Made in China?

[Editor’s Note:  Returning guest bloggers Mr. Joseph DeFranco and Dr. James Giordano explore the emerging geo-political ramifications and associated ethical implications of recent advances in genetic engineering.  Read on to learn how China is currently positioned to drive the evolution of this brave new world!]

Gene editing (i.e., directly modifying an organism’s genetic material to achieve a desired effect and outcome) has been used as a viable technique for several decades. It has been intended and employed for treating a variety of conditions, including immunodeficiency and blood disorders, and certain types of cancers. Recently, gene editing methods were augmented by the discovery of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and its associated Cas9 nuclease. CRISPR techniques enable a more simplified and rapid approach to altering cellular DNA, and thus modifying genetic information. Despite the relative ease afforded by CRISPR/Cas9, the method is not without problems, including the production of mutations by incurring “off-target” genetic edits. Yet, such issues and limitations appear to be little more than proverbial “speed bumps” in the paths to broadening capabilities afforded by what is likely a game-changing tool in and for molecular biology – and perhaps the production of bioweapons and instruments of non-kinetic disruption, as well.1

In November 2018, Chinese Scientist Dr. He Jiankui claimed to have used CRISPR/Cas9 to edit the CCR5 gene of human embryos to generate an inherited resistance to HIV, smallpox, and cholera.2  Although it appears that this genetic modification will create a resistance to certain types of infections, altering CCR5 expression may have other phenotypic effects, as well. For example, studies by Joy and colleagues showed that the deletion of the CCR5 gene may affect memory; and therefore this specific gene edit may have modified the cognitive functions of these “CRISPR babies.”3  Whether this mutation was intended or not, off-target mutations should be expected until certain extant gaps in knowledge of genomics, proteomics, and neuroscience are understood and bridged. A report published in Nature Medicine suggests that this gene edit could detrimentally affect the normal lifespan of the gene edited babies,4  in part by making individuals more susceptible to other viral infections (e.g., influenza virus5  and West Nile virus6 ).

Of course, a number of questions arise from He’s work. First is whether embryos should be edited, and if so, is enough known about the novel CRISPR-Cas9 method to employ it in approaches to modifying human genetics. A complete discussion of these ethico-legal questions is beyond the scope of this blog but are addressed elsewhere in some detail.7  Second, what opportunistic circumstances led to, or allowed for, the practice of what many are deeming to be “ethically fuzzy” science? To be sure, international standards for research (e.g., The Nuremberg Code8 ; etc.9 ) have been recognized by the scientific community. But the needs, values, and precepts that contribute to and/or constitute ethical principles are not necessarily homogeneous across cultures. Thus, as cutting-edged bioscientific research becomes an ever-more international enterprise, distinctions in cultural norms, mores, and practices can – and increasingly will – be placed in stark relief.

There may have been some attempt to gauge the international reaction to the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technologies to modify human embryos. After the initial pushback from several nations, the Chinese government declared that Dr. He was a “rogue” scientist. This we find difficult to believe. China’s seamless triple helix of government, academia, and industry enable purposive synchronization and synergy of initiatives,10  which allows rapid resource and personnel deployment for national directives. The confirmation of a second Chinese CRISPR pregnancy in early 201911  only adds to our disbelief – and non-acceptance – that such efforts are the work of rogue scientists who are operating without the full knowledge and endorsement of the Chinese government.

Given that CRISPR/Cas9, along with other gene editing tools, can be used for disruptive purposes (e.g., development of “designer pathogens” not currently listed/governed by international bioweapon treaties and conventions; alteration of human structure and functions; modification of agricultural systems, etc.), we posit that such advancements can pose defined risks and threats to global security.12  In March 2019, the World Health Organization’s newly formed advisory committee for international governance on human genome editing determined that such modifications to human germlines are “irresponsible”.13  The committee proposed the need for a central registry of human genome editing research in order to facilitate more detailed insight to – and stringent and oversight of – risks and hazards.

The recognition and acknowledgment that CRISPR methods could be used to generate novel biological weapons have prompted studies of reversing CRISPR-induced effects. A recent article in the MIT Technology Review identified laboratories that are working to find “anti-CRISPR” molecules: proteins in nature that can “turn off” CRISPR-induced gene edits.14  Such efforts reflect steps to control open source research and counter the potential use of gene-editing to produce biological weapons and/or affect global health, and this is noteworthy. However, such regulation may not be encompassing or sufficient. Of growing concern in this light are clandestine enterprises (i.e., biohacking) and research activities of nation-states and/or non-state actors that blatantly disregard international standards and guidelines. In June 2019, a Russian scientist declared plans to implant gene-edited embryos into women.15  Clearly, this announcement comes after numerous appeals for an international moratorium on germline editing;16  thereby reinforcing the reality that CRISPR-based methods are relatively easy to develop and use, but not necessarily easy to regulate, govern, and control.

While the use of gene editing techniques to create lethal and/or destructive agents is certainly possible, we believe that it is far more feasible – and perhaps more effective and efficient – to pursue the use of gene-edited agents in “mass disruptive” non-kinetic engagements. Such precision disruption can exploit a society’s vulnerabilities, and generate ripple effects to unsettle various domains and dimensions of geo-political stability and power. For example, allowing human use of gene editing techniques could foster attraction of both researchers seeking to advance potential translational applications of genetic methods (i.e., “research tourism”), and patients seeking newly developed gene-editing interventions (i.e., “medical tourism”) for the treatment of certain diseases as well as genetic modification for “wellness” and/or enhancement. Moreover, the use of gene editing techniques to modify crops, livestock, and to change environmental flora and fauna can incur equally disruptive effects on global ecologies, markets, and economics.

Without doubt, the economic aspects and advantages of global hegemony of bioscience, biotechnology, and biomedicine are focal to China’s ongoing strategic plan.17  The Wall Street Journal reported that China spent the equivalent of approximately $410 billion (USD) in research and development (R&D) in 2016.18  This is in contrast to the United States’ R&D investment, which allocated only 1.7% ($66.5 billion USD) of the federal budget in 2017. Additionally, China has increased educational programs in order to realize the intent to become the global leader in science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM) graduates by 2030. According to the World Economic Forum, China graduated almost five million STEM students from universities in 2016, which dwarfs the United States graduates in that year (around 1.8 million).19  As China takes more of an interest, and makes increasingly greater investments in the life sciences, it is apparent that this will be one of the new frontiers of economic and diplomatic engagement.20

Given China’s stated intent to become a – if not the – global superpower within the next 30 years, a vital question is what kind(s) of engagement(s) will this prompt or demand. Any meaningful answer must appreciate the hegemonic views and objectives of China (and other strategically competitive nations) as well as those of the United States and its allies. Will the U.S. be content to become “a superpower among superpowers,” and if so, what does this portend for activities of preparation, cooperation, and collaboration? Or, will there be a durable struggle for global power supremacy (in and among the many domains), and what does this infer or establish for competition, combativeness, or (some sort of) capitulation? These decisions are crucial as we determine and articulate programs and policies of scientific, technological, and socio-political investment and activity for the decade(s) to come. Quoting the late Lee Iacocca, we ask:  who will “…lead, follow, or get out of the way21  and what will such postures entail and obtain?

If you enjoyed reading today’s post, please also see the following blog posts:

Dead Deer, and Mad Cows, and Humans (?) … Oh My! by LtCol Jennifer Snow, Dr. James Giordano, and Joseph DeFranco

The Importance of Integrative Science/Technology Intelligence (InS/TINT) to the Prediction of Future Vistas of Emerging Threats by Dr. James GiordanoCAPT (USN – Ret.) L. R. Bremseth, and Joseph DeFranco

Benefits, Vulnerabilities, and the Ethics of Soldier Enhancement

China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance

… as well as Hank Greely‘s presentation on Future Legal and Ethical Implications of Bio Technology from the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference, 8-9 March 2019 in Menlo Park, CA

Authors:

Joseph DeFranco was J5 Donovan Group Fellow in Biowarfare and Biosecurity, at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). He is currently studying neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences, and biodefense at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University, VA, and formerly served on the staff of Congressman Donald S. Beyer (VA-08). His current research focuses upon the possible use of novel microbiological agents and big data as force-multiplying elements in non-kinetic, hybrid, and kinetic engagements, and the role of global agencies in biosecurity.

Mad Scientist James Giordano, PhD, is Professor of Neurology and Biochemistry, Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program, and Co-Director of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Law and Policy at Georgetown University Medical Center. He currently serves as an appointed member of the Neuroethics, Legal, and Social Issues (NELSI) Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dr. Giordano previously served as J5 Donovan Group Senior Fellow, Biowarfare and Biosecurity, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM); Senior Science Advisory Fellow of the Strategic Multilayer Assessment Group of the Joint Staff of the Pentagon; and Senior Research Fellow and Task Leader for the EU Human Brain Project Subproject on Dual Use Brain Science.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Acknowledgments:  This blog was adapted from the authors’ forthcoming work appearing in the PRISM journal and an interview (of JG) conducted by Stew Magnussen for National Defense Magazine (https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2019/3/26/editors-notes-national-security-implications-of-gene-editing). JG’s work is supported in part by funding from CSCI, Leadership Initiatives, and federal funds UL1TR001409 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health, through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program (CTSA), a trademark of the Department of Health and Human Services, part of the Roadmap Initiative, “Re-Engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise.”

References:


1 DeFranco J, DiEuliis D, Bremseth LR, Snow JJ, Giordano J (2019). Emerging Technologies for Disruptive Effects in Non-Kinetic Engagements. Journal of the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center, 6(2).

2 Regalado, A. (2018, November 26). Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612458/exclusive-chinese-scientists-are-creating-crispr-babies/
Kolata, G., Wee, S. L., & Belluck, P. (2018, November 26). Chinese Scientist Claims to Use Crispr to Make First Genetically Edited Babies. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/26/health/gene-editing-babies-china.html

3 Joy, M. T., Assayag, E. B., Shabashov-Stone, D., Liraz-Zaltsman, S., Mazzitelli, J., Arenas, M., Abduljawad, N., Kliper, E., Korczyn, A. D., Thareja, N. S., Kesner, E. L., Zhou, M., Huang, S., Silva, T. K., Katz, N., Bornstein, N. M., Silva, A. J., Shohami, E., & Carmichael, S. T. (2019). CCR5 is a therapeutic target for recovery after stroke and traumatic brain injury. Cell176(5), 1143-1157.
Regalado, A. (2019, February 21). China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brain inadvertently enhanced. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612997/the-crispr-twins-had-their-brains-altered/

4 Wei, X., & Nielsen, R. (2019). CCR5-∆ 32 is deleterious in the homozygous state in humans. Nature medicine, 1.

5 Falcon, A., Cuevas, M. T., Rodriguez-Frandsen, A., Reyes, N., Pozo, F., Moreno, S., Ledesma, J., Martínez-Alarcón, J., Nieto, A., & Casas, I. (2015). CCR5 deficiency predisposes to fatal outcome in influenza virus infection. Journal of General Virology96(8), 2074-2078.

6 Glass, W. G., McDermott, D. H., Lim, J. K., Lekhong, S., Yu, S. F., Frank, W. A., Pape, J., Cheshier, R. C., & Murphy, P. M. (2006). CCR5 deficiency increases risk of symptomatic West Nile virus infection. Journal of Experimental Medicine203(1), 35-40.

7 For sources which discuss the ethico-legal questions of CRISPR and gene editing, please see: Brokowski, C., & Adli, M. (2019). CRISPR ethics: moral considerations for applications of a powerful tool. Journal of molecular biology431(1), 88-101.
Reyes, A. P., & Lanner, F. (2017). Towards a CRISPR view of early human development: applications, limitations and ethical concerns of genome editing in human embryos. Development144(1), 3-7.
Caplan, A. L., Parent, B., Shen, M., & Plunkett, C. (2015). No time to waste—the ethical challenges created by CRISPR. EMBO reports16(11), 1421-1426.

8 For more information on the Nuremberg Code, please see: https://history.nih.gov/research/downloads/nuremberg.pdf
& https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/NT_war-criminals_Vol-II.pdf

9 For more examples of international standards for research, please see:
The Belmont Report: https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/index.html
United States Department of Health & Human Services, Responsible Conduct of Research: https://ori.hhs.gov/ori-introduction-responsible-conduct-research
World Health Organization, Ethical standards and procedures for research with human beings: https://www.who.int/ethics/research/en/

10 Ibid. ref. 1.

11 O’Callaghan, J. (2019, January 24). Chinese officials circle as a second CRISPR pregnancy is confirmed. Retrieved from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/second-crispr-baby

12 DeFranco J, Bremseth LR, Giordano J. The Importance of Integrative Science/Technology Intelligence (InS/TINT) to the Prediction of Future Vistas of Emerging Threats. Mad Scientist Laboratory Post #125, 13. March 2019. Available online at: https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/125-the-importance-of-integrative-science-technology-intelligence-ins-tint-to-the-prediction-of-future-vistas-of-emerging-threats/

13 WHO expert panel paves way for strong international governance on human genome editing (2019, March 19). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/19-03-2019-who-expert-panel-paves-way-for-strong-international-governance-on-human-genome-editing

14 Regalado, A. (2019, May 2). The search for the kryptonite that can stop CRISPR. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613309/the-search-for-the-kryptonite-that-can-stop-crispr/

15 Cyranoski, D. (2019). Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies. Nature570(7760), 145.

16 Wolinetz, C. D., & Collins, F. S. (2019). NIH supports call for moratorium on clinical uses of germline gene editing.

17 Chen C, Andriola J, Giordano J. (2018). Biotechnology, commercial veiling and implications for strategic latency: The exemplar of neuroscience and neurotechnology research and development in China. In: Davis ZD, Nacht M. (eds.) Strategic Latency Red, White and Blue: Managing the National and International Security Consequences of Disruptive Technologies. Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore Press, pp. 12-32.

18 Emanuel, E., Gadsden, A., & Moore, S. (2019, April 19) How the U.S. Surrendered to China on Scientific Research. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/how-the-u-s-surrendered-to-china-on-scientific-research-11555666200

19 The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Human Capital Report: http://reports.weforum.org/human-capital-report-2016/measuring-human-capital/?doing_wp_cron=1486038808.8636078834533691406250

20 Gehrke, J. (2019, July 2). Genetic information is the newest front in US-China great power competition. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/genetic-information-is-the-newest-front-in-u-s-china-great-power-competition

21 Woodruff, D. (1992, August 24). Mr. Iacocca, Please Go Graciously. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/1992-08-23/mr-dot-iacocca-please-go-graciously

165. Damnatio Memoriae through AI

[Editor’s Note: In today’s post, proclaimed Mad Scientist and returning guest blogger Ms. Marie Murphy addresses the implications of weaponized Artificial Intelligence (AI) when employed in information operations.  Truth and trust are the first causalities of this perception-altering capability!]

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a tool that effectively enables machine-speed actions, posing new threats never before seen over the course of history. This disruptive capability can both erase existing data and create entirely false realities. If nefarious actors are able to effectively harness AI, the Army may potentially operate in a manufactured information environment with altered data guiding its decision-making. Using AI in this way is a competition-phase tactic that affects the will of people and deteriorates their trust, both within and about the Army.

Historical Precedence

Portrait of the family of Septimius Severus. Julia Domna, Septimius Severus and their sons Geta (erased by damnatio memoriae) and Caracalla. Inv. 31329. Altes Museum, Berlin.

The concept of altering or removing information from public memory has been around since the time of Ancient Rome. Damnatio memoriae is the contemporary term for the condemning of the memory of an emperor by the Senate posthumously.1  The idea is “to erase a person as if he (or she) never existed.”2  The practice died out with the emerging prominence of the Catholic Church but resurfaced in Northern Italy during the Renaissance.3  A “damnation of memory” was ordered when a new government took power in Florence, purging the powerful citizens and families of the old regime from societal recollection.4  In the 20th century, at the height of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin worked to remove any mention or figure of his political enemies from public view, to the point where they were edited out of textbooks and pictures.5

“Tank Man” photograph, erased from the collective national Chinese memory

Today, history is repeating itself. China is attempting to remove all reference to the events that occurred in Tiananmen Square on 3-4 June 1989, and they have an advantage those in the past did not: AI. The absence of any public information about the events surrounding Tiananmen Square in contemporary China stems from the Chinese government’s efforts to censor any mention or insinuation of the incident online and in reality. AI works at machine-speed to filter internet search results and social media posts to assist human censors. 6 A recent study proved the effectiveness of this campaign, showing that a meager 15% of Beijing University students could accurately identify the “tank man” photograph, one of the internationally recognized symbols of the protest.7 While most people appear to be aware of the incident by the time they’re well into their 20s, there is a general apathy toward, or even sympathy with the government amongst the current generation regarding the 1989 protests. 8

Future Threat

AI can be weaponized in information and cyber warfare, which characterize the interactions between strategic competitors in the competition phase. However, it’s often discussed in the context of lethal autonomy, man-machine teaming, or practical battlefield applications. But what happens when AI begins to psychologically alter the operational environment by changing the perceptions of both military and civilian personnel alike? Through the deletion or alteration of the past or the creation of a fabricated present, AI is a tool which aids in and speeds up the process of identifying, changing, and generating information. False narratives based on AI-manipulated or -generated information and media can originate from anyone, anywhere; developing and spreading rapidly with a detrimental effect on trust. This deterioration of trust moves in two directions: The Soldier not trusting the information they are given which is crucial for decision-making and combat performance, and civilians and other militaries not trusting the actions of the U.S. Army because their perceptions have been affected by AI-influenced content.

If AI, employed by a nefarious actor, is able to manipulate the information available about the past and deliver false information about the present, there is likely to be a strong impact on Soldier and Commander trust of any information received. Altering history to the point that it is impossible to discern what the truth is, and potentially basing decisions on inaccurate information about the past, could have unintended and devastating consequences. AI manipulations can also affect trust because of their applicability in enabling small-scale, personalized warfare. A particular Soldier could be targeted with a computer-generated fake message from home that someone is very ill. This false information could cause a breakdown of trust and a rise in skepticism in the individual Soldier to the point that they begin to question every piece of information they’re given, wasting valuable time and energy.

The Army is also facing the challenge of AI manipulating the perceptions of military and civilian personnel support elements.  AI and those who program it can accomplish this by doctoring or deleting the records or social perceptions of prior Army actions. To create a false reality that corrupts the information environment, AI could be used to spread malicious rumors influencing international will and public opinion. One such rumor might be a manufactured atrocity. It would be incredibly hard to deny the alleged incident if there are audio and video recordings depicting it (even though that evidence is fabricated with the help of AI); the programmer could even use AI to create computer-generated people “on camera” giving false eye-witness accounts. If the public and other militaries whom the U.S. aligns with do not trust the Army, then operations will become strategically and tactically more challenging.

While AI may present the Army with many strategic and tactical benefits by providing machine-speed analysis and decision-making, it can also work counter to the Army’s goals and initiatives. With other entities such as China developing AI at a rapid pace and willing to deploy it against its own citizens, the time of AI-enabled damnatio memoriae has arrived. Whether it be altering the past or creating a false present, AI-generated information may greatly impact future operability and trust of warfighters.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

 Influence at Machine Speed: The Coming of AI-Powered Propaganda by MAJ Chris Telley

The Death of Authenticity: A New Era of Information Warfare

China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance

Proclaimed Mad Scientist Marie Murphy is a rising senior at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, studying International Relations and Arabic. She is a regular contributor to the Mad Scientist Laboratory, interned at Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the Mad Scientist Initiative last summer, and has returned as a consultant this summer.  She was a Research Fellow for William and Mary’s Project on International Peace and Security.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article do not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Army Futures Command, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  This piece is meant to be thought-provoking and does not reflect the current position of the U.S. Army.


1 “Damnatio Memoriae.” Livius.org, updated June 23, 2019. https://www.livius.org/articles/concept/damnatio-memoriae/

2 Petersen, Lauren Hackworth. “The Presence of ‘Damnatio Memoriae in Roman Art.” Notes in the History of Art, vol. 30, no. 2, 2011, p.1. JSTOR. www.jstor.org/stable/23208566

3 “Damnatio Memoriae.” Livius.org, updated June 23, 2019. https://www.livius.org/articles/concept/damnatio-memoriae/

4 Petersen, Lauren Hackworth. “The Presence of ‘Damnatio Memoriae in Roman Art.” Notes in the History of Art, vol. 30, no. 2, 2011, p.1. JSTOR. www.jstor.org/stable/23208566

5 Bond, Sarah. “How Do You Purge The Memory Of An Emperor.” Forbes.com, April 11, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2017/04/11/how-do-you-damn-the-memory-of-a-roman-emperor/#49228baf49b2

6 Gilbert, David. “How China Is Wiping Memories of Tiananmen Square Off The Internet.” Vice News, June 4, 2019. https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/7xge3b/chinese-dissidents-are-running-out-of-ways-to-remember-tiananmen-square

7 Keng Kuek Ser, Kuang. “How China has censored words relating to the Tiananmen Square anniversary.” Pri.org, Hune 4, 2016. https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-06-03/how-china-has-censored-words-relating-tiananmen-square-anniversary

8 Fish, Eric. “Tiananmen Shaped China’s History. But Chinese Millennials Have Mixed Views About Its Legacy.” Time, June 3, 2019. https://time.com/5599060/china-millennials-tiananmen-anniversary/

164. The Myth of Agincourt and Lessons on Army Modernization

[Editor’s Note: Today’s post by returning guest blogger Mr. Ian Sullivan examines the Battle of Agincourt and turns the heretofore orthodoxy of thought regarding its implications on its head.  Agincourt is traditionally viewed as an historical milestone in the democratization of warfare, with English and Welsh longbowmen triumphing over France’s numerically superior force of heavily armored mounted nobility.  Mr. Sullivan re-examines the battle across the arc of history and identifies three important lessons for the U.S. Army to consider as it seeks to modernize to prevail in Competition and win decisively in armed Conflict against peers or near peers.]

There is nothing more powerful than words that are well-written or well-uttered. They seep into our very consciousness, forming emotions, thoughts, and even images and concepts that are difficult to dispel. But sometimes, words mislead. Take William Shakespeare’s epic work on the famous Battle of Agincourt, found in Henry V. His language was masterful. Who has not felt lump in their throat and their eyes well up during the St. Crispin’s Day speech? “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” resonates to this day as a motivational speech that neither George Patton nor Vince Lombardi could surpass. Who cannot fail to imagine the grizzled line of English longbowmen moving “once more unto the breach?” The Bard’s words have taken the story of Agincourt, where an outnumbered and desperate English force stood against the armed might of France and won, and immortalized their epic victory.

The popular understanding of Agincourt holds that a revolution in military affairs occurred that wet October day in 1415, when well-trained English yeomen archers armed with their formidable longbows—capable of ranging some 250 yards with rates of fire between 10-20 shots a minute—decimated the heavily armored mounted French knights who heretofore had dominated medieval battlefields. After a day of brutal fighting, the English force, estimated to be around 6,000-8,000 strong, outfought and essentially slaughtered the much larger French force, which was estimated around 25,000-35,000 men, including a large contingent of armored, mounted knights. The losses that day were astounding; the French suffered 7,000-10,000 dead, with another 1,500 nobles taken captive. The English suffered between 100 and 500 dead. The yeomen archer and his deadly longbow won a decisive victory.

Military theorists and historians point to Agincourt as a decisive moment in history that forever ended the dominance of the mounted knight on the battlefield. The poor yeomen archers proved ascendant, and the day of the armored knight was over. Agincourt, or an Agincourt moment, is held to this day as a symbol of the failure to adapt, for a failure to perceive change, and as a failure to accept that technology can quickly surpass the status quo. As recently as this April, writing for the New York Times, Bret Stephens published an opinion piece entitled “The US Military: Like the French at Agincourt?” making this claim.

In demonstrating the relevance of Agincourt today, the subtitle of his piece notes “America risks a catastrophic defeat if it doesn’t radically change the way it thinks about war,” and proclaims “the logic here is the same one that decided the Battle of Agincourt, where the humble and effective English longbow made short work of the expensive and vulnerable French cavalry.” His logic holds that the tragedy of Agincourt is compounded because the French should have known better.

And he is correct in that assessment. The longbow was not a new revelation at Agincourt, but instead was the ultimate pink flamingo; indeed, a previous generation of French knights were similarly tormented by English longbowmen in the first part of the Hundred Years’ War at the Battles of Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). Stephens argues that the contemporary U.S. military, like the French before them, is pouring money into exquisite systems that will soon be made obsolete by other low-tech, simpler systems. He references $13 billion aircraft carriers and $90 million fighter aircraft—the French knights of our day—as vulnerable to disposable swarms of intelligent machines, today’s longbow.

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) / Source:  U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Dusty Howell

This is a powerful image when linked to Agincourt and definitely is a train of thought that needs to be accounted for in terms of defense planning and in terms of designing a future joint force. However, this logic, which is widespread among many futurists, should have an asterisk by it, as it misses a key point, which is perhaps understandable in light of the powerful mythology of Agincourt fostered by the transcendent words of Shakespeare; that in spite of what happened at Agincourt, the FRENCH WON THE WAR.

The English victory at Agincourt, it turns out, was not really much of a victory. Henry V’s army was so weakened—by poor logistics and disease—that it actually was forced to withdraw from the field after winning such a major victory. By the end of the month, Henry had withdrawn to Calais, his invasion of Normandy halted. He was able to turn his success at Agincourt into the Treaty of Troyes, which named him as the heir to the French throne, but this proved to be nothing more than a temporary truce. The English failed to capitalize on the advantage the longbow gave them and instead squandered an opportunity to conclude the war successfully.

So how did the French prevail? I think there are three important lessons here that should be considered, particularly as the United States ponders the implications of a return to great power competition and conflict against peers or near peers.

The first is that there is a continuum between competition, conflict, and return to competition that is an essential aspect of great power competition. Few great power conflicts end in the total defeat of one or the other. The Hundred Years’ War is likely more emblematic of the types of conflicts that will be waged in the near future, in the Era of Accelerated Human Progress and the Era of Contested Equality. The Hundred Years War was really a combination of several separate wars linked together by the inability of either side to compel a decisive victory; a period of competition, conflict, and return to competition that lasted for 116 years.

Although the English won many battles in the first phase of the war, their most important achievement was not the tactical success of the longbow, but instead was their ability to use other elements of national power in the competition phase to surround the French with enemies on three sides (England, Aquitaine, and Burgundy). For its part, the French had cultivated Scotland as an ally, posing a real and imagined threat to the English, but to secure final victory, the French would need to split England’s allies on the continent.

This was only made possible through a series of military victories. The Treaty of Troyes only remained in effect for six years, when the French again resumed the fight. The English responded with a renewed invasion, and in 1428 they besieged the French city of Orleans.

At this point, the second essential element of the French victory revealed itself; better leadership. Although the English possessed a number of fine battle captains, it was the emergence of the most dynamic leader of the war, Joan of Arc, who made a significant difference. Her greatest feat did not lie in military organization, strategy, or tactics, but instead in an ability to inspire and unite the French. She arrived at Orleans just as the city was about to fall to the English and broke the siege. She then led a highly effective campaign in the Loire Valley which beat the English in several key fights, including at Patay, in June 1429.

Patay, an often forgotten battle, is relevant because it was the antithesis to Agincourt. At Patay, a force of armored French knights, not hampered by rain and mud as they were at Agincourt, charged into the ranks of the helpless English bowmen. They relied on better battlefield awareness, better intelligence, and well concealed movement to maneuver to a point where their knights could effectively charge. Some 2,500 English—mostly longbowmen—were killed for the loss of only 100 French. With this victory, the French demonstrated that strong leadership and an appreciation of their enemy’s capabilities could in fact overcome the tactical strengths wrought by the longbow.

Battle of Patay — a triumph of French battlefield awareness, intelligence, and concealed movement to maneuver / Source: Wikipedia Commons

The French successes in the Loire Valley led to the strengthening of the overall French position. In spite of Joan’s capture and execution, Charles VII was crowned king in 1429, and he was able to completely reverse the diplomatic situation. His most important success arguably came not on the battlefield, but with the 1435 Treaty of Arras, where he was able to cut a diplomatic deal with Burgundy, who accepted Charles’ claim to the throne and abandoned the English. This allowed the French to embark on a final campaign, which in turn revealed the third and final factor in France’s victory; an effective military modernization.

The French innovation of les Compagnies d’Ordonnance integrated the shock, penetration, and exploitation capabilities of heavy cavalry, the indirect fire of archers, and mass of men-at-arms infantry into effective combined arms formations / Source:  Picryl.com

The French appeared to understand that the character of the war they were fighting was changing. It would be neither armed knights nor the English longbowmen that would determine final victory, but instead it would be a more professional, sophisticated, combined arms force equipped with effective artillery, that would finally prevail. The French reorganized their forces into Compagnies d’Ordonnance, combined arms units of heavy cavalry, archers, men-at-arms, and supporting units that consisted of about 600 men. By 1445, the French Army had 15 of these new formations, which gave them a more professional, well-organized force. Additionally, the French also quickly mastered and integrated the production of new and more sophisticated artillery into their force and were able to mass hundreds of guns to undertake sieges, the type of fight that would dominate the final phase of the war.

Battle of Castillon / Source: Wikimedia Commons

These organizational and technological innovations, matched by sound leadership and effective diplomacy, led to the final French victory. First, they captured Rouen in 1449, and then Formigny. By 1451, the French added Bordeaux and Bayonne to their victories, and finally, in the last great battle of the war, utterly defeated the English at Castillon in 1453. In this fight, it was the English, who launched an all-out assault against a French fortified camp equipped with cannon and archers, who suffered slaughter, losing 4,000 in the process.

The English hold over France was forever broken and by 1453 its only possession on the continent was the port of Calais. To protect its hard-earned victories, the French again mastered the return to the competition phase by using its diplomatic and economic power to help foster instability in England, which quickly descended into its own dynastic troubles with the Wars of the Roses. Although it suffered dramatically, the Hundred Years’ War solidified French rule and in many ways, was the springboard that launched France as a nation.

So what does this all mean for the U.S. Army of today? The most important lesson of Agincourt is that nothing is as simple as it seems. Yes, the English longbow was transcendent that day, as it was at Crecy and Poitiers 70 years prior. However, the era of the knight did not end that day. Armored knights remained relevant—if not at times dominant—for the rest of the war. In fact, armored cavalrymen would be part of a combined arms force that remained relevant throughout the Wars of the Roses, and really for another 100 years.

Agincourt, on its face, seems to offer an important lesson; the idea the expensive, exquisite force can be highly vulnerable to cheaper systems, particularly at range. We clearly do not wish to be the French at Agincourt; a force that ignored a brazen pink flamingo in its midst and was so stubborn and set in its ways that it underestimated its enemy and smashed its exquisite force against ranks of English archers on multiple occasions. They ignored their enemy’s stand-off capability, which is in some ways akin to the dilemma posed by the anti-access/area denial challenge to the U.S. Joint force today and in the future. The first step is accepting and understanding the problem, so that we do not ignore the pink flamingo in our midst; adversaries who can challenge us in multiple domains and along multiple axes at stand-off ranges.

However, the more subtle lesson of Agincourt is that while we must try to avoid the arrogance and stubbornness of the French, we equally do not wish to emulate the English, who failed to parley their tactical advantage into any kind of real success, namely because they failed to understand the character of the war they were fighting or to effectively shape the transition between conflict and return to competition. This too is an important lesson, particularly as the U.S. Army is on the precipice of adding a variety of new high-tech systems to its ranks in the near future. The English teach us that technology and tactical advantage can create challenges for an adversary, but they do not, unto themselves, guarantee victory.

As the French finally demonstrated—although belatedly and after much suffering—tactical and technological advantages can be overcome. The French improved and modernized their own force with smart innovation in terms of technology (artillery) and organizational structures, and benefited from capable and inspired leadership. Finally, and arguably most importantly, they recognized that great power conflict requires more than a military solution. I agree with Bret Stephens that the true risk the U.S. military faces is that we do not wish to recognize that our exquisite force is vulnerable to cheaper technology. So our task is to understand that key point and in turn make the Joint force capable of not only protecting itself against today’s longbows but also to effectively and creatively think about how to use our unique—and at times exquisite—capabilities to present dilemmas to our adversaries that translate into success.

In a future where capabilities between peer and near-peers will be roughly equivalent, with specific advantages and characteristics held by each of the main competitors, but an overall rough equivalency balancing at the macro level, the weapons, equipment, and technology possessed by a nation will be important, but likely will not confer a war-winning advantage. Instead, leadership, innovation of ideas, sophisticated training, and a whole-of-government approach to competition and conflict matched by the smart and effective introduction of technology and organizational change will, as they did in 15th Century France, remain essential elements of success in a future conflict.

If you enjoyed this post, please see the following previous posts by Ian Sullivan:

Making the Future More Personal: The Oft-Forgotten Human Driver in Future’s Analysis

Lessons Learned in Assessing the Operational Environment

… as well as:

The Changing Dynamics of Innovation

– Setting the Army for the Future (Parts I, II, and III)

Winning Future Wars through Developing the Intellectual Component of Fighting Power: The Australian Army’s Approach to Professional Military Education by LTCOL Greg Colton, Australian Army

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

163. “Second/Third Order, and Evil Effects” – The Dark Side of Technology (Part II)

[Editor’s Note:  In Part I of this series, Dr. Nick Marsella addressed the duty we have to examine our assumptions about emergent warfighting technologies / capabilities and their associated implications to identify potential second / third order and “evil” effects.  In today’s post, he prescribes five actions we can embrace both individually and as organizations to avoid confirmation bias and falling into cognitive thinking traps when confronting the ramifications of emergent technologies — Enjoy!]

In part I of my blog post, I advised those advocating for the development and/or fielding of technology to be mindful of the second/third order and possible “evil” effects. I defined “evil” as an unexpected and profound negative implication(s) of the adoption/adaption of a technology and related policy. I also recommended heeding the admonition of Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, to take responsibility for our technological creations and have the courage to think things through their potential implications – both for the good and the bad.

But even if we as individuals are willing to challenge our assumptions and think broadly and imaginatively, we can still come up short.  Why?  The answer is due in part to the challenges of prediction and the fact we are human with both great cognitive abilities, but also weaknesses.1

THE CHALLENGES

First, common sense and many theorists remind us that the future is unknowable.2  The futurist Arthur C. Clark noted in 1962, “It is impossible to predict the future, and all attempts to do in any detail appear ludicrous within a very few years.”3  Within this fixed condition of unknowing, the U.S. Departments of Defense and the Army must make choices to determine:

– what capabilities we desire and its related technology;

– where to invest in research and development; and

– what to purchase and field.

Source: Penguin Random House

As Michael E. Raynor pointed out in his book, The Strategy Paradox, making choices and developing strategies, which include adopting new technology, where the future is unknowable and “deeply unpredictable” either produces monumental successes or monumental failures.4  For a company this can spell financial ruin, while for the Army, it can spell disaster and the loss of Soldiers’ lives and national treasure.  Yet, we must also choose a “way ahead” – often by considering “boundaries” – in a sense the left and right limits – of potential implications.

Second, our ability to predict when technology will become available is often in error nor can we accurately determine its implications. For example, in a New York Times editorial on December 8, 1903, it noted:  “A man carrying airplane will eventually be built, but only if mathematicians and engineers work steadily for the next ten million years.”5  The Wright Brothers first flight took place the following week, but it took decades for commercial and military aviation to evolve.

The stillborn Future Combat Systems (FCS) was the U.S. Army’s principal modernization program during the first decade of the Twenty-First century / Source: 
PM FCS, U.S. Army

Each of the services has faced force modernization challenges due to the adoption of technologies that weren’t mature enough; whose capabilities were over-promised; or did not support operations in the envisioned Operational Environment.  For the U.S. Army, Future Combat Systems (FCS) was the most obvious and recent example of this challenge – costing billions of dollars and, just as importantly, lost time and confidence.6

Third, in terms of future technology, predictions vary widely. For example, predictions by MIT’s Rodney Brooks and futurist/inventor Ray Kurzweil vary widely to the question – “What year do you think human-level Artificial Intelligence [AI, i.e., a true thinking machine] might be achieved with a 50% probability?” Kurzweil predicts AI (as defined) will be available in 2029, while Brooks is a bit more conservative – the year 2200 – a difference of over 170 years.7

While one can understand the difficulty of predicting when “general AI” will be available, other technologies offer similar difficulties. The vision of the “self-driving” autonomous vehicle was first written about and experimented with in the 1920s, yet technological limitations, legal concerns, customer fears, and other barriers make implementing this capability challenging.

Gartner Hype Cycle / Source: Nicole Saraco Loddo, Gartner

Lastly, as Rodney Brooks has highlighted, Amara’s Law maintains:

we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”8

 

 

SECOND, THIRD ORDER AND EVIL EFFECTS

I contend that we either:

intentionally focus on the positive effects of adopting a technology;

ignore the experts and those who identify the potential downside of technology; and

fail to think thorough the short, long, and potentially dangerous effects or dependencies – imaginatively.

We do this because we are human, and more often because we fall into the confirmation bias or other cognitive thinking traps that might affect our program or pet technology. As noted by RAND in Truth Decay:

Source: Pixabay

Cognitive biases and the ways in which human beings process information and make decisions cause people to look for information, opinion, and analyses that confirm preexisting beliefs, to weigh experience more heavily than data and facts, and then to rely on mental shortcuts and the beliefs of those in the same social networks when forming opinions and making decisions.”9

Yet, the warning signs or signals for many unanticipated effects can be found simply by conducting a literature review of government, think tank, academic, and popular reports (to perhaps include science fiction). This may deter some, given the sheer volume of literature is often overwhelming, but contained within these reports are many of the challenges associated with future technology, such as:  the potential for deep fakes, loss of privacy, hacking, accidents, deception, and loss of industries/jobs.

At the national level, both the current and previous administrations published reports on AI, as has the Department of Defense – some more balanced in addressing of issues of fairness, safety, governance, and ethics.10

Source: Pixabay

For example, using photo recognition to help law enforcement and others seems like a great idea, yet its use is increasingly being questioned. This past May, San Francisco became the first city to ban its use, and others may follow suit.11  While some question this decision to ban vice impose a moratorium until the technology produces less errors, the question remains – did the developers and policy makers consider if there would be push back to its introduction given its current performance? What sources did they consult?

Another challenge is language. You’ve seen the commercials – “there is much we can do with AI” – in farming, business, and even beer making.  While “AI” is a clever tag line, it may invoke unnecessary fear and misunderstanding.  For example, I believe for most people equate “robotics” and “AI” with the “Terminator” franchise, raising the fear of uncontrolled autonomous military force overwhelming humanity.  Even worse – under the moniker of “AI,” we will buy into “snake-oil” propositions.

We are at least decades away from “general AI” where a “system exhibits apparently intelligence behavior at least as advanced as a person” across the “full range of cognitive tasks,” but we continue to flaunt the use of “AI” without elaboration.12

SOME ACTIONS TO TAKE

Embrace a learning organization. Popularized by Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990), a learning organization is a place “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.”13  While some question whether we can truly make a learning organization, Senge’s thinking may help solve our problem of identifying 2nd/3rd order and evil effects.

First, we must embrace new and expansive patterns of thinking.  Force developers use the acronym – “DOTMPLF-P” as shorthand for Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Personnel, Leadership, Facilities, and Policy implications – yet other factors might be as important.

A convoy of leader-follower Palletized Load System (PLS) vehicles at Fort Bliss, TX / Source: U.S. Army photo by Jerome Aliotta

For example, trust in automated or robotics systems must be instilled and measured.  In one poll, 73% of respondents noted they would be afraid of riding in a fully autonomous vehicle – up 10% points from the previous year.14  What if we develop a military autonomous vehicle or a leader-follower system and one or more of our host nation allies prohibits its use? What happens if an accident occurs and the host population protests, arguing that the Americans don’t care for their safety?

Technologists and concept developers must move from being stove-piped in labs and single-focused to consider the broader view of technological implications across functions.

Embrace Humility. Given that we cannot predict the future and its potential consequences, developers must seek out diversified opinions, and more importantly, recognize divergent opinions.

U.S. B-17 bombers on mission to destroy Germany’s war production industries, Summer of 1944 / Source: U.S. Air Force photo

Embrace the Data.  In New York City during World War II, a small organization of some of the most brilliant minds in America worked in the office of the “Applied Mathematics Panel.”  In Europe, the 8th U.S. Air Force suffered from devastating bomber losses.  Leaders wondered where best to reinforce the bombers with additional armor without significantly increasing their weight to improve survivability. Reports indicated returning bombers suffered gunfire hits over the wings and fuselage, but not in the tail or cockpits, so to the casual observer it made sense to reinforce the wings and fuselage where the damage was clearly visible.

Abraham Wald, a mathematician, worked on the problem. He noted that reinforcing the spots where damage was evident in returning aircraft wasn’t necessarily the best course of action, given that hits to the cockpit and tail were probably causing aircraft (and aircrew) losses during the mission.  In a series of memorandums, he developed a “method of estimating plane vulnerability based on damage of survivors.”15  As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes noted more than 100 years ago,  “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”16

Additionally, we need to reinforce our practice of performing quality literature reviews to aid in our identification of these issues.

The office of Devil’s Advocate was established by Pope Sixtus V in 1587 / Source: Wikimedia Commons, Artist unknown

Employ Skepticism and a Devil’s Advocate Approach.  In 1587, the Roman Catholic Church created the position of Promoter of the Faith – commonly referred to as the Devil’s Advocate. To insure a candidate for sainthood met the qualification of being canonized, the role of the Devil’s Advocate was to be the skeptic (loyal to the institution), looking for reasons why not to canonize the individual.  Similarly, Leaders must embrace the concept of employing a devil’s advocate approach to identifying 2nd/3rd order and evil effects of technology – if not designating a devil’s advocate with the right expertise to identify assumptions, risks, and effects. But creating any devil’s advocate or “risk identification” positions is only useful if their input is seriously considered.

Embrace the Suck.  Lastly, if we are serious in identifying the 2nd/3rd order and evil effects, to include identifying new dependencies, ethical issues, or other issues which challenge the adaption or development of a new technology or policy – then we must be honest, resilient, and tough. There will be setbacks, delays, and frustration.

FINAL THOUGHT

Technology holds the power to improve and change our personal and professional lives.  For the military, technology changes the ways wars are fought (i.e., the character of war), but it may also change the nature of war by potentially reducing the “human dimension” in war.  If robotics, AI, and other technological developments eliminate “danger, physical exertion, intelligence and friction,”17 is war easier to wage?  Will technology increase its potential frequency?  Will technology create a further separation between the military and the population by decreasing the number of personnel needed? These may be some of the 2nd/3rd order and “evil” effects we need to consider.

If you enjoyed this post, please see Dr. Marsella’s previous post “Second/Third Order, and Evil Effects” – The Dark Side of Technology (Part I)

… as well as the following posts:

Man-Machine Rules, by Dr. Nir Buras

An Appropriate Level of Trust

Dr. Nick Marsella is a retired Army Colonel and is currently a Department of the Army civilian serving as the Devil’s Advocate/Red Team for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article do not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  This piece is meant to be thought-provoking and does not reflect the current position of the U.S. Army.


1 Some readers will object to the use of predicting which implies a certain degree of fidelity, but I use the word as defined more loosely as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “to declare or indicate in advance” with synonyms including to foretell, forecast, prognosticate. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/predict#synonyms

2 See: Williamson, Murray. (2017). America and the Future of War: The Past as Prologue.   Stanford, CA: Hoover Institute Press, p. 177; Gray, Colin S. (2005, April). Transformation and Strategic Surprise. Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute; Gray, Colin S. (2017). What Should the U.S. Army Learn from History? Recovery from a Strategy Deficit. Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute

3 Clark, Arthur C. (1962). Profiles of the Future. London, England: Pan Books., p.13

4 Raynor, Michael E. (2007). The Strategy Paradox. New York, New York: Doubleday.

5 Eppler, Mark. (2004). The Wright Way: 7 Problem-Solving Principles from the Wright Brother. New York, New York: American Management Association, 2004. Quote extracted from insert.

6 Department of the Army. (2011). Final Report of the 2010 Army Acquisition Review. Retrieved from: https://www.army.mil/article/62019/army_acquisition_review. See also RAND Report, Lessons from the Army’s Future Combat Systems Program (2012).

7 Rodney Brooks Post – AGI Has Been Delayed, May 17, 2019. Retrieved from https://rodneybrooks.com/agi-has-been-delayed/

8 Brooks, Rodney. (2017, Nov/Dec). The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Prediction. MIT Technology Review, 120(6), p. 79

9 Kavanagh, Jennifer & Rich, Michael D. (2018). Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation (RR 2314).

10 A sample of reports and studies just on AI include: Allen, Greg and Chan, Taniel. (July 2017) Artificial Intelligence and National Security.   Harvard Kennedy School – Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (2018). Summary of the 2018 White House Summit on Artificial Intelligence for American Industry; Executive Office of the President National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology. (October 2016). Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence; Department of Defense. (2018). Summary of the 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy: Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity; GAO. (2018, June 26). AI: Emerging Opportunities Challenges and Implications for Policy and Research: Statement of Timothy M. Persons, Chief Scientist Applied Research and Methods; Scharre, Paul & Horowitz, Michael C. (June 2018). Artificial Intelligence: What Every Policymaker Needs to Know. Center for New American Security. A simple Google search today using the term “artificial intelligence” produces 55 million results – many of dubious quality.

11 Van Sant, Shannon and Gonzales, Richard. *2019, May 14). San Francisco Approves Ban on Government’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology. NPR. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2019/05/14/723193785/san-francisco-considers-ban-on-governments-use-of-facial-recognition-technology

12 Executive Office of the President National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology. (October 2016). Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, p. 7.

13 Garvin, David A. (1993, July August). Building a Learning Organization. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/1993/07/building-a-learning-organization

14 Garner, Greg. (2018, May 22). “Even Millennials are losing confidence in autonomous cars, surveys reveal. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/greggardner/2018/05/22/millennials-self-driving-cars/#62b5aedd2628

15 Syed, M. (2015). Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from their Mistakes – But Some Do. New York, New York: Penguin, p. 35-36. Some sources state Wald’s story is embellished. See Bill Casselman’s post the conflict in Wald’s often told story on the American Mathematical Society website. Retrieved from http://www.ams.org/publicoutreach/feature-column/fc-2016-06. Wald’s paper can be retrieved from: https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA091073

16 Doyle, Sir. Arthur. (1891). A Scandal in Bohemia.

17 Von Clausewitz, Carl. On War. Translated Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, p. 88. See https://www.benning.army.mil/MSSP/Nature%20and%20Character/

162. Winning Future Wars through Developing the Intellectual Component of Fighting Power: The Australian Army’s Approach to Professional Military Education

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish today’s post by guest blogger LTCOL Greg Colton, Australian Army, addressing the intellectual component of military power.  In our current drive to modernize the U.S. Army into a Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)-Capable Force by 2028 and set the conditions for fielding an MDO-Ready Force in 2035, we must not forget the lessons learned from our last major transformation in the 1980s.  The tactical and operational excellence that enabled us to completely rout Iraqi ground forces in 100 hours was not only the result of effective doctrine and the acquisition of the “Big 5” weapon systems, but also due to the development of our Combat Training Centers (CTCs) and Leader Development platforms like the Non-Commissioned Officer Education System and the School of Advanced Military Studies. Read on to learn how one of our key allies is approaching their Army’s Professional Military Education.]

LTGEN Rick Burr, Australian Chief of Army

We must push ourselves to think in creative and unconstrained ways to ensure our warfighting philosophy is appropriate and informs our future capabilities” — LTGEN Rick Burr, Australian Chief of Army, in Accelerated Warfare

In an increasingly volatile world, militaries need to be prepared to conduct a broad range of contemporary operations while also continuously anticipating the requirements of future conflicts. As the Australian Chief of Army so succinctly puts it, “Preparedness is dynamic. It requires us to be ready now, while concurrently becoming future ready.” Key to this is the development of the intellectual component of fighting power, both of individuals and of the Army as an organisation, so that the Army is able to adapt to changes in circumstances quickly enough to win future conflicts.

Yet, as the Institute for Defense Analyses points out, “military institutions recognize the need for leaders who can adapt, but struggle with exactly how to teach or train them to do so.” Within the Australian Army, Professional Military Education (PME) is an important component of a wider approach that blends training, education, and experience to develop a workforce able to cope with the demands of war in an ever-changing environment.

The Army’s approach to PME

Source: https://www.army.gov.au/our-work/publications/key-publications/professional-military-education-strategy

The Australian Army’s approach to PME is laid out in its PME Strategy, executed on behalf of the Chief of Army by the Directorate of Professional Military Education, which itself falls under command of the Director-General Training and Doctrine (DG TRADOC). The Directorate uses two broad approaches to enhance the intellectual component of fighting power. First, using the principle of connectivism it seeks to connect those who can impart specialist knowledge to the workforce. Secondly, it seeks to develop organisational adaptability through promoting a contest of ideas. It delivers these approaches through a number of different mechanisms which allows content to be tailored to the target audience. These mechanisms include its online portal, The Cove, unit PME packages, webinars, and conferences.

Connectivism

Trialing a UGV during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 with the U.S. / Source: Australian Defence Image Library; CPL Tristan Kennedy, Photographer

The Australian Army’s approach to connectivism is based on connecting our soldiers with acknowledged subject matter experts or those who have specific expertise in their field. A good example of the former is TX Hammes who gave a CoveTalk on the development of artificial intelligence in unmanned platforms, while an example of the latter is this article by a military workshop manager on improving the efficiency of his workshop’s layout and processes. Regardless of the source, connectivism enables the Army to link both experts and expertise with the wider workforce to develop the intellectual component of fighting power within our individual soldiers and officers. In doing so, it promotes the dissemination of best practice across the force.

Australian Army soldiers during Exercise Night Naip 2014 with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force / Source: Australian Defence Image Library; Leading Seaman Justin Brown, Photographer

However, this approach only provides half of the solution. For argument’s sake, let’s take as a given that warfare is an ever-evolving phenomenon. As such, best practice in and of itself cannot be enough, as the very term indicates the pre-determination of an optimal solution derived within a static set of variables. The uniqueness of each theatre, campaign, battlefield, or individual soldier’s field of fire will mean that the variables on which best practice has been developed will never exactly replicate. Consequently, tactical solutions to complex problems will rarely (if ever) be found using a cookie cutter template. Instead, we need an Army that is institutionally flexible enough to recognise and incorporate emerging practice to solve unique problem sets. In other words, if best practice provides the theoretical foundations required to understand the tactical problem, emerging practice provides the intellectual adaptability to actually solve it.

A contest of ideas

This leads us to the second approach we use to enhance the intellectual component of fighting power:  promoting a contest of ideas.  Fostering a culture of contesting ideas has two benefits. Firstly, it gives our people the confidence to analyse the unique problem set they are faced with and recommend bespoke solutions to a hierarchy that is often one or two steps removed from the ground truth. Secondly, and just as importantly, it inculcates an organisational culture within the Army that is willing to recognise, and accept, emerging practice (i.e., the recommendations from those trying to solve the current problem) rather than always insisting on best practice (i.e., what we have always done in similar circumstances). This is essential if we are to win future wars.

Australian Army Boxer 8×8 Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) with 30mm automatic cannon / Source:  Multiple Australian media sites

A good example of how the Australian Army promotes a contest of ideas is The Cove’s recent Army 2030 Competition, in which readers were invited to submit a ‘script’ of no more than 100 words on what they thought the Army of 2030 should look like. Run over the period of a calendar month, it generated 48 entries from a broad range of authors, from front-line practitioners to life-long academics. Collectively, these scripts were viewed over 93,000 times in 31 days and were the genesis for numerous comments on our website, within units and messes across the country, and on social media. At the end of the competition, the entries and online discussion were captured and passed on to the Australian Army’s Directorate of Future Land Warfare to inform its work.

This ‘crowd sourcing’ of ideas doesn’t just support the work of those tasked with thinking about the future structures and capabilities of the Army. It also encourages the Army’s people to think about the future of warfare, encourages debate on how the organisation can best meet the challenges of the future, and gives our people the confidence to contribute to that debate.

A complementary approach

The Australian Army’s Combat Training Centre – Jungle Training Wing (CTC-JTW) in Tully, Queensland / Source:  www.army.gov.au

Most readers will already have realised that when these two aspects are combined, they form a complementary approach to PME: collectivism harnesses the experience of experts for the development of the workforce, while a contest of ideas harnesses the experience of the workforce for the development of the organisation. If the Army is to be truly adaptive, one cannot exist without the other. An organisation which always insists on best practice, rather than emerging practice, is risking ruin through imposing dogmatic solutions to complex problems, while an army that automatically reacts to instantaneous suggestions from the workforce, ungrounded in theoretical understanding, risks repeating the mistakes of the past.

Thus, contributions need to be sought from a broad range of viewpoints if the Army is to be ready for future conflict. As Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank is at pains to point out:  “Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.” This is particularly important to remember within hierarchical organisations such as the military. It can be all too easy for generals, staff officers, or senior public servants to fall into the trap of believing that experience alone is the foundation of hard-earned knowledge, and that new ideas from juniors that challenge doctrine, the status quo, or the strategic narrative are unnecessarily subversive.

Soldiers from the 7th Combat Signal Regiment (7 CSR) / Source:  www.army.gov.au

Yet, when the next war comes it will not be the desk officers or policy experts that do the fighting, or the dying, in foreign fields. It is the young military practitioner who, regardless of rank, will find themselves trying to solve a unique problem set in the most testing of circumstances. In the words of Nassim Taleb, it is they who have ‘skin in the game.’ As such, we owe that young soldier or officer not only the very best foundational professional military education we can give them, but also an organisation willing and able to adapt to bespoke solutions based on ground truth. As an Army, we must set the conditions such that our people challenging the status quo and contesting ideas is our organisation’s comfort zone.

This requires a complementary approach to PME, developed and delivered now, so that we may enhance the intellectual component of fighting power in time for the Army to fight, and win, the next war. It is an approach that the team at The Cove is dedicated to delivering for the Australian Army.

If you enjoyed this post, please read:

TRADOC 2028

– Setting the Army for the Future (Parts I, II, and III)

Mad Scientist also invites you to mark your calendars and plan on joining the TRADOC G-2’s Distinguished Speaker Series on-line next Tuesday, 23 July 2019, from 1430-1600 EDT, to participate virtually in Dr. Tuomas Sandholm‘s presentation on Superhuman AI for Strategic (=Game – Theoretic) Reasoning for the DoD –  Beyond Machine Learning.  To whet your appetite, please see Army game-theory research better allocates military resources, fight cancerIt’s Hard To Win At Poker Against An Opponent With No Tell; and A Poker-Playing Robot Goes to Work for the Pentagon.

LTCOL Greg Colton is an infantry officer with 18 years’ experience in both the British and Australian armies, including operational service in Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Pacific. Greg has had a range of regimental, instructional, and staff postings and recently took a years’ sabbatical to accept a Research Fellowship at the Lowy Institute, Australia’s leading international policy think-tank. While at the Lowy Institute, he ran a Defence funded project examining drivers of instability in the Pacific. On his return to the Army, Greg assumed his current position as SO1 Professional Military Education at Forces Command. He is also Director of The Cove.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  This piece is meant to be thought-provoking and does not reflect the current position of the U.S. Army.  Readers should also note that this article does not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Australian Department of Defence, or the Australian Government.

161. “Second/Third Order, and Evil Effects” – The Dark Side of Technology (Part I)

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the first of a two-part series by returning guest blogger, Dr. Nick Marsella, addressing the duty we have to examine our assumptions about emergent warfighting technologies / capabilities and their associated implications to identify potential second / third order and evil effects.  This critical, yet too frequently neglected responsibility enables us to identify and mitigate any associated vulnerabilities or undesirable effects, precluding them from being exploited by our competitors and adversaries — Enjoy!]

As the resident red teamer for a large military organization, I have long advocated for military planners and those involved in modernization to examine their assumptions and to identify the potential second/third order and “evil” effects in their plans, programs, and efforts. While the common use of the word “evil” means “profoundly immoral and wicked,” I use the term more broadly.  “Evil,” in my usage for this essay, implies the unexpected and profound implications of a policy or adaptation of a technology – often with negative (but not necessarily always immoral) significant consequences.

While many professionals in and out of the military would agree that we should examine our assumptions and potentially harmful implications – specifically in developing or adopting technologies or capabilities – I am frequently disappointed in how often we actually do it and the extent to which we drill down and examine the details associated with technology implications.  Like doctors, staffs have a responsibility to do no harm; they should identify assumptions and the 2nd/3rd/evil order effects, inform decision-makers, and incorporate these considerations into their estimates of the costs/benefits and risk estimates.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

I am comforted however by the increasing recognition of the importance of challenging our thinking and moving from solely focusing on the “perceived” benefits of a technology to considering the dark or evil potential effects.

In his commencement address to the Class of 2019 at Stanford University last June, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, offered the following thoughts:

– “Technology magnifies who we are, the good and the bad.

– “If you want credit for the good, take responsibility for the bad” – highlighting the fact that Silicon Valley’s revolutionary inventions connecting people around the world have also enabled data breaches, privacy violations, hate speech, and fake news.

– “Too many seem to think that good intentions excuse harmful outcomes.”

Succinctly, Mr. Cook offered, “Taking responsibility means having the courage to think things through.”1  His remarks are worthy of our consideration.

IDENTIFY EFFECTS

While I am sure that Mr. Cook wouldn’t have us throw out our iPhones and Macs, neither am I recommending disregarding the advantages of modernity by returning to manual typewriters in lieu of laptops or returning to less sophisticated medical procedures (e.g., refuting the benefits of applying machine learning to CT scans, X-rays, and other procedures).2

However, as we incorporate automation, machine learning, elements of artificial intelligence, data analytics, the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics into society and military operations, we should do it with our eyes wide open and with a sense of humility in our ability to foresee future implications.

Two examples amplify this point.

Many of us remember the first fielding of GPS devices in the 1990s, which enabled leaders to accurately and instantly determine their location. The advantages of this capability are many, but some of the costs included a dependency on technology to navigate from point to point; reduction in Soldiers’ proficiency in map reading; and perhaps the loss of an appreciation and understanding of terrain.  Now expand this increased dependency on technology and the network across the Army and Joint force – have we truly fully identified their implications and do we have workarounds in place?3

Even simple uses of technology, such as student computer usage in the college classroom, have implications. Increasingly, faculty banish the use of personal laptops and other electronic devices in their classrooms due to their distractive nature. Rather than listening to a lecture or participating fully in a discussion or workshop, students are distracted by their laptops – connecting to friends via social media or engaging in other on-line activities. Secondly, recent studies would indicate that “pen and paper” notetaking enhances learning.

In one formal study of the use of technology in the classroom and its effects on learning, researchers examined a sophomore introductory economics class at the United States Military Academy. The researchers divided the course sections into three random groups:  in some sections, electronics were banned; in others, the use of laptops and other devices were allowed; while the remaining sections were only allowed to use tablets, provided that they were laid flat so professors could observe their use. All sections underwent the same instruction and testing; however, the students in those sections where electronics were allowed scored significantly lower on tests.4   Other studies and commentary backup this study.5

In summary, while we should pursue and field technology that helps us accomplish our mission and improve lives, we must recognize the 2nd/3rd order effects. As I’ve highlighted before in this blog – “every new capability begets a new vulnerability.” As a caveat to this rule and as noted historian Murray Williamson observed, “capabilities create dependencies, and dependencies create vulnerabilities.”6  We need to find and identify these effects and vulnerabilities before others do, while insuring we are keeping an open mind to the potential “evil” effects.

If you enjoyed this post, please see Dr. Marsella’s other posts:

– Some Thoughts on Futures Work for the Military Professional (Parts I and II)

First Salvo on “Learning in 2050” – Continuity and Change

Dr. Nick Marsella is a retired Army Colonel and is currently a Department of the Army civilian serving as the Devil’s Advocate/Red Team for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article do not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  This piece is meant to be thought-provoking and does not reflect the current position of the U.S. Army.


1 Cook, Tim. (2019 June 16). 2019 Commencement Address by Apple CEO Tim Cook to Stanford’s 128th Commencement. Retrieved from: https://news.stanford.edu/2019/-6/16/remarks-tim-cook-2019-stanford-commencement.

2 Retrieved from: cs231n.stanford.edu/reports/2017/pdfs/527.pdf

3 TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-8. U.S. Army Concept: Multi-Domain Combined Arms Operations at Echelons Above Brigade 2025-2045, pgs. 73-74. The Army concept lists four major general risks to the implementation of the 100 page concept in a page and a half – namely: the future Army communications network may not fully support the EABC; overreliance on technological capabilities; semi–fixed formations provide a false illusion of permanency; and imprudent application of the mission command philosophy.

4 Dynarski, Susan M. (2017, August 10). For better learning in college lectures, lay down the laptop and pick up a pen. Brookings Report.   Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/research/for-better-learning-in-college-lectures-lay-down-the-laptop-and-pick-up-a-pen/

5 Lombrozo T. (2016, July 11). Is it time to ban computers from classrooms? NPR.  Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/07/11/485490818/is-it-time-to-ban-computers-from-classrooms. Also see: May, C. (2017, July 11). Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom. Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/students-are-better-off-without-a-laptop-in-the-classroom/

6 Williamson, Murray. (2017). America and the Future of War: The Past as Prologue.  Stanford, CA: Hoover Institute Press, p. 177.