199. “Intelligentization” and a Chinese Vision of Future War

[Editor’s Note: While Monday’s post explored a U.S. perspective on Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration to military operations, today’s article, excerpted from this month’s OE Watch, addresses China’s embrace of “Intelligentization.” Intelligentization is the uniquely Chinese concept of applying AI’s machine speed and processing power to military planning, operational command, and decision support. In her testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on Trade, Technology, and Military-Civil Fusion earlier this year, proclaimed Mad Scientist Elsa Kania stated that President Xi Jinping, in his report to the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, “urged the PLA to ‘Accelerate the development of military intelligentization” (军事智能化)….This authoritative exhortation has elevated the concept of ‘intelligentization’ as a guiding principle for the future of Chinese military modernization.” What is unique about the PLA’s approach to implementing AI in force modernization is that they do not seek to merely integrate AI into existing warfighting functions; rather, they are using it to shape a new, cognitive domain and thus revolutionize their entire approach to warfighting — Read on!]

In today’s world of rapidly developing concepts and technologies, many theories are emerging about what warfare will resemble in the future. Nowhere does this seem truer than in China, where scholars, researchers, and scientists are putting their thoughts to paper, such as the accompanying article, which looks at how “intelligentization” will change the structure and outcome of warfare.

The thought-provoking article (below), which was republished in various journals, such as Jiefangjun Bao, the official newspaper of the People’s Republic of China’s Central Military Commission, and Qiushi Journal, which falls under the Central Party School and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, looks at how intelligentized warfare, a term commonly used by Chinese scholars, is expected to redraw the boundaries of warfare, restructure combat forces, and reshape the rules of engagement. Some of the more salient points worth pondering are highlighted in the accompanying excerpted passages.

The article claims that the art of combat power will inevitably change because artificial intelligence is rapidly infiltrating military operations. Traditional battlefields and battlefronts will “be hard to reproduce.” The current battle domains in warfare (the physical dimensions of land, sea, air, and space and the informational dimensions of electromagnetic and cyber) will be updated to include a new dimension: the cognitive domain, which would fall under the cognitive dimension.

Intelligentized warfare will see the integration of military and non-military domains; and the boundary between peacetime and wartime will get increasingly blurred. The outcome of a war will not be determined by who destroys whom in a kinetic sense, but rather who gains maximum political benefits. Intelligentized warfare will see the integration of human and machine intelligence. It will reshape warfighting in every dimension and within every realm. Human fighters will eventually stop being the first line of fighting and intelligent systems will prevail. “Human-on-human” warfare will be replaced by “machine-on-human” or “machine-on-machine warfare.”

Combining humans and machines into brain-machine interfaces, external skeletal systems, wearable devices, and gadgets implanted into human bodies will “comprehensively enhance the inherent cognitive and physiological capacity of human fighters and will forge out superman combatants.” Intelligentized warfare will upend traditional rules of military engagement. Cross-domain unconventional and asymmetrical fighting in military engagements will become the new normal. Unmanned operations will rewrite the rules of engagement and reshape the support process. Intelligent control will become the center of gravity.

Based on the article, one might surmise that the military tactics of yesterday and today are not likely the area in which the People’s Liberation Army will place too much effort, if any at all. With artificial intelligence and other technologies rapidly gaining ground, China seems keener on leading the curve in the long term than honing tactics in the immediate future. End OE Watch Commentary (Hurst)

The cognitive domain will become another battle domain next to the land, sea, air, space, electromagnetic, and cyber domains of warfare.”

Yang Wenzhe, “在变与不变中探寻智能 化战争制胜之道 (How to Win Intelligentized Warfare by Analyzing what are Changed and What are Unchanged),” Jiefangjun Bao, 22 October 2019.

Seeking the Way to Win Intelligentized Warfare by Analyzing what are Changed and What are Unchanged

…With AI technology rapidly infiltrating into the military domain, it will inevitably lead to a thorough change in the way combat power manifests itself. … The cognitive domain will become another battle domain next to the land, sea, air, space, electromagnetic, and cyber domains of warfare. …the three major warfighting dimensions, that is, the physical dimension, the informational dimension, and the cognitive dimension. The boundaries of war will extend into the deep land, deep sea, deep air, deep cyber, and deep brain domains… Intelligentized warfare will be generalized to all military conflicts and rivalries, giving rise to a more striking feature of integration between military and non-military domains. The scope of warfighting will expand to the extremes. The boundary between peacetime and wartime will get increasingly blurred.

Gaining political benefits is an invariable standard for measuring winning in war.… Military victories must guarantee political predominance.

Human fighters will fade away from the first line of fighting. Intelligent equipment will be brought onto the battlefield in large quantities and as whole units. “Human-on-human” warfare in the traditional sense will be superseded by “machine-on-human” or “machine-on-machine” warfare.

Such means of human-machine combination as brain-machine interfaces, external skeletal systems, wearable devices, gadgets implanted into human bodies will comprehensively enhance the inherent cognitive and physiological capacity of human fighters, and will forge out “superman combatants”…

…operations”. Cross-domain unconventional and asymmetrical fighting will become a new normal in military engagements…Unmanned operations, as a prominent hallmark of the new warfighting pattern, will rewrite the rules of engagements and reshape the support processes. Intelligence control will replace spaces control as the center of gravity in war.”

The race is on between the U.S. and its near-peer competitors, China and Russia, to develop and incorporate AI into their respective defense modernization efforts.  As Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in 2017, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”  China understands this, has embraced it at the national level, and is forging ahead with the intent to dominate the cognitive domain through intelligentization. Per Ms. Kania, the resultant “system of systems consisting of people, weapons equipment, and ways of combat… involve[s] not only intelligent weaponry but also concepts of human-machine integration (人机一体) and intelligence leading (智能主导). In practice, the PLA’s agenda for intelligentization may prove quite expansive, extending across all concepts in which AI might have military relevance in enabling and enhancing war-fighting capabilities, from logistics to early warning and intelligence, military wargaming, and command decision-making.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

The AI Titan’s Security Dilemmas, by Ms. Elsa Kania.

China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance, derived from Ms. Kania’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Human-Machine Integration briefing, presented at the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference on 9 March 2018 at SRI International‘s Silicon Valley campus in Menlo Park, California.

A Closer Look at China’s Strategies for Innovation: Questioning True Intent, by Ms. Cindy Hurst.

Integrating Artificial Intelligence into Military Operations, by Dr. James Mancillas, exploring AI implementation through an OODA lens.

The OE Watch, December issue, by the TRADOC G-2’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), featuring this piece and other articles of interest.

71. Shaping Perceptions with Information Operations: Lessons for the Future

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present today’s guest post by Ms. Taylor Galanides, TRADOC G-2 Summer Intern, exploring how the increasing momentum of human interaction, events, and actions, driven by the convergence of innovative technologies, is enabling adversaries to exploit susceptibilities and vulnerabilities to manipulate populations and undermine national interests.  Ms. Galanides examines contemporary Information Operations as a harbinger of virtual warfare in the future Operational Environment.]

More information is available than ever before. Recent and extensive developments in technology, media, communication, and culture – such as the advent of social media, 24-hour news coverage, and smart devices – allow people to closely monitor domestic and foreign affairs. In the coming decades, the increased speed of engagements, as well as the precise and pervasive targeting of both civilian and military populations, means that these populations and their respective nations will be even more vulnerable to influence and manipulation attempts, misinformation, and cyber-attacks from foreign adversaries.

The value of influencing and shaping the perceptions of foreign and domestic populations in order to pursue national and military interests has long been recognized. This can be achieved through the employment of information operations, which seek to affect the decision-making process of adversaries. The U.S. Army views information operations as an instrumental part of the broader effort to maintain an operational advantage over adversaries. Information operations is specifically defined by the U.S. Army as “The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare further emphasizes this increased attention to the information and cognitive domains in the future – in the Era of Contested Equality (2035 through 2050). As a result, it has been predicted that no single nation will hold hegemony over its adversaries, and major powers and non-state actors alike “… will engage in a fight for information on a global scale.” Winning preemptively in the competitive dimension before escalation into armed conflict through the use of information and psychological warfare will become key.

Source: Becoming Human – Artificial Intelligence Magazine

Part of the driving force that is changing the character of warfare includes the rise of innovative technologies such as computer bots, artificial intelligence, and smart devices. Such emerging and advancing technologies have facilitated the convergence of new susceptibilities to individual and international security; as such, it will become increasingly more important to employ defensive and counter information operations to avoid forming misperceptions or being deceived.

Harbinger of the Future:  Information Operations in Crimea

Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 effectively serve as cautionary examples of Russia’s evolving information operations and their perception-shaping capabilities. In Crimea, Russia sought to create a “hallucinating fog of war” in an attempt to alter the analytical judgments and perceptions of its adversaries. With the additional help of computer hackers, bots, trolls, and television broadcasts, the Russian government was able to create a manipulated version of reality that claimed Russian intervention in Crimea was not only necessary, but humanitarian, in order to protect Russian speakers. Additionally, Russian cyberespionage efforts included the jamming or shutting down of telecommunication infrastructures, important Ukrainian websites, and cell phones of key officials prior to the invasion. Through the use of large demonstrations called “snap exercises,” the Russians were able to mask military buildups along the border, as well as its political and military intentions. Russia further disguised their intentions and objectives by claiming adherence to international law, while also claiming victimization from the West’s attempts to destabilize, subvert, and undermine their nation.

By denying any involvement in Crimea until after the annexation was complete, distorting the facts surrounding the situation, and refraining from any declaration of war, Russia effectively infiltrated the international information domain and shaped the decision-making process of NATO countries to keep them out of the conflict.  NATO nations ultimately chose minimal intervention despite specific evidence of Russia’s deliberate intervention in order to keep the conflict de-escalated. Despite the West’s refusal to acknowledge the annexation of Crimea, it could be argued that Russia achieved their objective of expanding its sphere of influence.

Vulnerabilities and Considerations

Russia is the U.S.’ current pacing threat, and China is projected to overtake Russia as the Nation’s primary threat as early as 2035. It is important to continue to evaluate the way that the U.S. and its Army respond to adversaries’ increasingly technological attempts to influence, in order to maintain the information and geopolitical superiority of the Nation. For example, the U.S. possesses different moral and ethical standards that restrict the use of information operations. However, because adversarial nations like Russia and China pervasively employ influence and deceptive measures in peacetime, the U.S. and its Army could benefit from developing alternative methods for maintaining an operational advantage against its adversaries.


Adversarial nations can also take advantage of “the [Western] media’s willingness to seek hard evidence and listen to both sides of an argument before coming to a conclusion” by “inserting fabricated or prejudicial information into Western analysis and blocking access to evidence.” The West’s free press will continue to be the primary counter to constructed narratives. Additionally, extensive training of U.S. military and Government personnel, in conjunction with educating its civilian population about Russia and China’s deceitful narratives may decrease the likelihood of perceptions being manipulated:  “If the nation can teach the media to scrutinize the obvious, understand the military, and appreciate the nuances of deception, it may become less vulnerable to deception.” Other ways to exploit Russian and Chinese vulnerabilities could include taking advantage of poor operations security, as well as the use and analysis of geotags to refute and discredit Russian and Chinese propaganda narratives.

A final consideration involves the formation of an interagency committee, similar to the Active Measures Working Group from the 1980s, for the identification and countering of adversarial disinformation and propaganda. The coordination of the disinformation efforts by manipulative countries like Russia is pervasive and exhaustive. Thus, coordination of information operations and counter-propaganda efforts is likewise important between the U.S. Government, the Army, and the rest of the branches of the military. The passing of the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, was an important first step in the continuing fight to counter foreign information and influence operations that seek to manipulate the U.S. and its decision-makers and undermine its national interests.

For more information on how adversaries will seek to shape perception in the Future Operational Environment, read the following related blog posts:

Influence at Machine Speed: The Coming of AI-Powered Propaganda

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

Personalized Warfare

Taylor Galanides is a Junior at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, studying Psychology. She is currently interning at Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the G-2 Futures team.