113. Connected Warfare

[Editor’s Note: As stated previously here in the Mad Scientist Laboratory, the nature of war remains inherently humanistic in the Future Operational Environment.  Today’s post by guest blogger COL James K. Greer (USA-Ret.) calls on us to stop envisioning Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a separate and distinct end state (oftentimes in competition with humanity) and to instead focus on preparing for future connected competitions and wars.]

The possibilities and challenges for future security, military operations, and warfare associated with advancements in AI are proposed and discussed with ever-increasing frequency, both within formal defense establishments and informally among national security professionals and stakeholders. One is confronted with a myriad of alternative futures, including everything from a humanity-killing variation of Terminator’s SkyNet to uncontrolled warfare ala WarGames to Deep Learning used to enhance existing military processes and operations. And of course legal and ethical issues surrounding the military use of AI abound.

Source: tmrwedition.com

Yet in most discussions of the military applications of AI and its use in warfare, we have a blind spot in our thinking about technological progress toward the future. That blind spot is that we think about AI largely as disconnected from humans and the human brain. Rather than thinking about AI-enabled systems as connected to humans, we think about them as parallel processes. We talk about human-in-the loop or human-on-the-loop largely in terms of the control over autonomous systems, rather than comprehensive connection to and interaction with those systems.

But even while significant progress is being made in the development of AI, almost no attention is paid to the military implications of advances in human connectivity. Experiments have already been conducted connecting the human brain directly to the internet, which of course connects the human mind not only to the Internet of Things (IoT), but potentially to every computer and AI device in the world. Such connections will be enabled by a chip in the brain that provides connectivity while enabling humans to perform all normal functions, including all those associated with warfare (as envisioned by John Scalzi’s BrainPal in “Old Man’s War”).

Source: Grau et al.

Moreover, experiments in connecting human brains to each other are ongoing. Brain-to-brain connectivity has occurred in a controlled setting enabled by an internet connection. And, in experiments conducted to date, the brain of one human can be used to direct the weapons firing of another human, demonstrating applicability to future warfare. While experimentation in brain-to-internet and brain-to-brain connectivity is not as advanced as the development of AI, it is easy to see that the potential benefits, desirability, and frankly, market forces are likely to accelerate the human side of connectivity development past the AI side.

Source: tapestrysolutions.com

So, when contemplating the future of human activity, of which warfare is unfortunately a central component, we cannot and must not think of AI development and human development as separate, but rather as interconnected. Future warfare will be connected warfare, with implications we must now begin to consider. How would such connected warfare be conducted? How would mission command be exercised between man and machine? What are the leadership implications of the human leader’s brain being connected to those of their subordinates? How will humans manage information for decision-making without being completely overloaded and paralyzed by overwhelming amounts of data? What are the moral, ethical, and legal implications of connected humans in combat, as well as responsibility for the actions of machines to which they are connected? These and thousands of other questions and implications related to policy and operation must be considered.

The power of AI resides not just in that of the individual computer, but in the connection of each computer to literally millions, if not billions, of sensors, servers, computers, and smart devices employing thousands, if not millions, of software programs and apps. The consensus is that at some point the computing and analytic power of AI will surpass that of the individual. And therein lies a major flaw in our thinking about the future. The power of AI may surpass that of a human being, but it won’t surpass the learning, thinking, and decision-making power of connected human beings. When a future human is connected to the internet, that human will have access to the computing power of all AI. But, when that same human is connected to several (in a platoon), or hundreds (on a ship) or thousands (in multiple headquarters) of other humans, then the power of AI will be exceeded by multiple orders of magnitude. The challenge of course is being able to think effectively under those circumstances, with your brain connected to all those sensors, computers, and other humans. This is what Ray Kurzwell terms “hybrid thinking.”   Imagine how that is going to change every facet of human life, to include every aspect of warfare, and how everyone in our future defense establishment, uniformed or not, will have to be capable of hybrid thinking.

Source: Genetic Literacy Project

So, what will the military human bring to warfare that the AI-empowered computer won’t? Certainly, one of the major challenges with AI thus far has been its inability to demonstrate human intuition. AI can replicate some derivative tasks with intuition using what is now called “Artificial Intuition.” These tasks are primarily the intuitive decisions that result from experience: AI generates this experience through some large number of iterations, which is how Goggle’s AlphaGo was able to beat the human world Go champion. Still, this is only a small part of the capacity of humans in terms not only of intuition, but of “insight,” what we call the “light bulb moment”. Humans will also bring emotional intelligence to connected warfare. Emotional intelligence, including aspects such as empathy, loyalty, and courage, are critical in the crucible of war and are not capabilities that machines can provide the Force, not today and perhaps not ever.

Warfare in the future is not going to be conducted by machines, no matter how far AI advances. Warfare will instead be connected human to human, human to internet, and internet to machine in complex, global networks. We cannot know today how such warfare will be conducted or what characteristics and capabilities of future forces will be necessary for victory. What we can do is cease developing AI as if it were something separate and distinct from, and often envisioned in competition with, humanity and instead focus our endeavors and investments in preparing for future connected competitions and wars.

If you enjoyed this post, please read the following Mad Scientist Laboratory blog posts:

… and watch Dr. Alexander Kott‘s presentation The Network is the Robot, presented at the Mad Scientist Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, & Autonomy: Visioning Multi Domain Battle in 2030-2050 Conference, at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, 8-9 March 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia.

COL James K. Greer (USA-Ret.) is the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) Integrator at the Combined Arms Command. A former cavalry officer, he served thirty years in the US Army, commanding at all levels from platoon through Brigade. Jim served in operational units in CONUS, Germany, the Balkans and the Middle East. He served in US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), primarily focused on leader, capabilities and doctrine development. He has significant concept development experience, co-writing concepts for Force XXI, Army After Next and Army Transformation. Jim was the Army representative to OSD-Net assessment 20XX Wargame Series developing concepts OSD and the Joint Staff. He is a former Director of the Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) and instructor in tactics at West Point. Jim is a veteran of six combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans, including serving as Chief of Staff of the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq (MNSTC-I). Since leaving active duty, Jim has led the conduct of research for the Army Research Institute (ARI) and designed, developed and delivered instruction in leadership, strategic foresight, design, and strategic and operational planning. Dr. Greer holds a Doctorate in Education, with his dissertation subject as US Army leader self-development. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, he has a Master’s Degree in Education, with a concentration in Psychological Counseling: as well as Masters Degrees in National Security from the National War College and Operational Planning from the School of Advanced Military Studies.

83. A Primer on Humanity: Iron Man versus Terminator

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present a post by guest blogger MAJ(P) Kelly McCoy, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), with a theme familiar to anyone who has ever debated super powers in a schoolyard during recess. Yet despite its familiarity, it remains a serious question as we seek to modernize the U.S. Army in light of our pacing threat adversaries. The question of “human-in-the-loop” versus “human-out-of-the-loop” is an extremely timely and cogent question.]

Iron Man versus Terminator — who would win? It is a debate that challenges morality, firepower, ingenuity, and pop culture prowess. But when it comes down to brass tacks, who would really win and what does that say about us?

Mad Scientist maintains that:

  • Today: Mano a mano, Iron Man’s human ingenuity, grit, and irrationality would carry the day; however…
  • In the Future: Facing the entire Skynet distributed neural net, Iron Man’s human-in-the-loop would be overwhelmed by a coordinated, swarming attack of Terminators.
Soldier in Iron Man-like exoskeleton prototype suit

Iron Man is the super-empowered human utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) — Just A Rather Very Intelligent System or JARVIS — to augment the synthesizing of data and robotics to increase strength, speed, and lethality. Iron Man utilizes autonomous systems, but maintains a human-in-the- loop for lethality decisions. Conversely, the Terminator is pure machine – with AI at the helm for all decision-making. Terminators are built for specific purposes – and for this case let’s assume these robotic soldiers are designed specifically for urban warfare. Finally, strength, lethality, cyber vulnerabilities, and modularity of capabilities between Iron Man and Terminator are assumed to be relatively equal to each other.

Up front, Iron Man is constrained by individual human bias, retention and application of training, and physical and mental fatigue. Heading into the fight, the human behind a super powered robotic enhancing suit will make decisions based on their own biases. How does one respond to too much information or not enough? How do they react when needing to respond while wrestling with the details of what needs to be remembered at the right time and space? Compounding this is the retention and application of the individual human’s training leading up to this point. Have they successfully undergone enough repetitions to mitigate their biases and arrive at the best solution and response? Finally, our most human vulnerability is physical and mental fatigue. Without adding in psychoactive drugs, how would you respond to taking the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) while simultaneously winning a combatives match? How long would you last before you are mentally and physically exhausted?

Terminator / Source: http://pngimg.com/download/29789

What the human faces is a Terminator who removes bias and optimizes responses through machine learning, access to a network of knowledge, options, and capabilities, and relentless speed to process information. How much better would a Soldier be with their biases removed and the ability to apply the full library of lessons learned? To process the available information that contextualizes environment without cognitive overload. Arriving at the optimum decision, based on the outcomes of thousands of scenarios.

Iron Man arrives to this fight with irrationality and ingenuity; the ability to quickly adapt to complex problems and environments; tenacity; and morality that is uniquely human. Given this, the Terminator is faced with an adversary who can not only adapt, but also persevere with utter unpredictability. And here the Terminator’s weaknesses come to light. Their algorithms are matched to an environment – but environments can change and render algorithms obsolete. Their energy sources are finite – where humans can run on empty, Terminators power off. Finally, there are always glitches and vulnerabilities. Autonomous systems depend on the environment that it is coded for – if you know how to corrupt the environment, you can corrupt the system.

Ultimately the question of Iron Man versus Terminator is a question of time and human value and worth. In time, it is likely that the Iron Man will fall in the first fight. However, the victor is never determined in the first fight, but the last. If you believe in human ingenuity, grit, irrationality, and consideration, the last fight is the true test of what it means to be human.

Note:  Nothing in this blog is intended as an implied or explicit endorsement of the “Iron Man” or “Terminator” franchises on the part of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or TRADOC.

Kelly McCoy is a U.S. Army strategist officer and a member of the Military Leadership Circle. A blessed husband and proud father, when he has time he is either brewing beer, roasting coffee, or maintaining his blog (Drink Beer; Kill War at: https://medium.com/@DrnkBrKllWr). The views expressed in this article belong to the author alone and do not represent the Department of Defense.

46. Integrated Sensors: The Critical Element in Future Complex Environment Warfare

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Dr. Richard Nabors, Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Deputy Director, Operations Division, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), addressing how the proliferation of sensors, integrated via the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT], will provide Future Soldiers with the requisite situational awareness to fight and win in increasingly complex and advanced battlespaces.)

As in preceding decades, that which can be found, if unprotected, can still be hit. By mid-Century, it will prove increasingly difficult to stay hidden. Most competitors can access space-based surveillance, networked multi-static radars, drones and swarms of drones in a wide variety, and a vast of array of passive and active sensors that are far cheaper to produce than to create technology to defeat them. Quantum computing and quantum sensing will open new levels of situational awareness. Passive sensing, especially when combined with artificial intelligence and big-data techniques may routinely outperform active sensors. These capabilities will be augmented by increasingly sophisticated civilian capabilities, where commercial imagery services, a robust and mature Internet of Things, and near unlimited processing power generate a battlespace that is more transparent than ever before.The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare

The complex operational environment of the next conflict cannot be predicted accurately. It has become a battlespace — jungle, forest, city, desert, arctic and cyber — where the enemy is already entrenched and knows the operational environment. Complex and congested environments level the field between the United States and its adversaries. The availability of integrated sensor networks and technologies will be a critical factor in piercing the complexity of these environments and determining what level of military superiority is enjoyed by any one side.

As Soldiers in complex operational situations are presented with significantly more information than in the past and in a broader variety; they have the need to quickly and decisively adapt to the changing situation, but often do not have the time to sort and judge the value of the information received.

Integrated sensor technologies will provide situational awareness by:

• Collecting and sorting real-time data and sending a fusion of information to the point of need by enhancing human vision,




Integrating with computers to detect and identify items of interest in real-time,

• Using augmented reality to overlay computer vision with human vision, and

Fusing data together from multiple sensor sources.

Networks of sensors integrated with autonomous systems will work autonomously to support local operations as well as converge and diverge as needed, accelerating human decision-making to the fastest rates possible and maximizing the U.S. military’s advantage.

Expected advances in Army sensing capabilities will directly address operational vulnerabilities in future environments, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) by a concealed enemy, and poor visibility and short lines of sight in urban environments. These sensors will provide local ISR by collecting, sorting, and fusing real-time data and sending it to the point of need, expanding the small units’ ability to sense the adversary, and providing an understanding of the operational environment that the adversary lacks.

There are several technical challenges that are being addressed in order to maintain and secure overmatch capabilities. These include:

Fusion of disparate sensors into a combined capability.

Tactical computing resources.

• Network connectivity and bandwidth.

• Sensor suitability for environmental observation.

• Reduced power requirements.

• Tailored, individual mechanisms through “sensored” Soldiers.

• Disguised unmanned systems to gather and communicate intelligence.

Future research will focus on automation that could track and react to a Soldier’s changing situation by tailoring the augmentation the Soldier receives and by coordinating across the unit. In long-term development, sensors on Soldiers and vehicles will provide real-time status and updates, optimizing individually tailored performance levels. Sensors will provide adaptive camouflage for the individual Soldier or platform in addition to reactive self-healing armor. The Army will be able to monitor the health of each Soldier in real-time and deploy portable autonomous medical treatment centers using sensor-equipped robots to treat injuries. Sensors will enhance detection through air-dispersible microsensors, as well as microdrones with image-processing capabilities.

Image credit: Alexander Kott

In complex environments, the gathering and fusion of information will lead to greater understanding. Integrated sensors, remote and near, manned and unmanned, can both save Soldiers’ lives and make them more lethal.

Read about how Russia is trying to increase its number of electro-optical satellites in the OE Watch November 2017 issue (page 17).

Listen to Modern War Institute‘s podcast where Retired Maj. Gen. David Fastabend and Mr. Ian Sullivan address Technology and the Future of Warfare.

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