198. Integrating Artificial Intelligence into Military Operations

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to excerpt today’s post from Dr. James Mancillas‘ paper entitled Integrating Artificial Intelligence into Military Operations: A Boyd Cycle Framework (a link to this complete paper may be found at the bottom of this post). As Dr. Mancillas observes, “The conceptual employment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in military affairs is rich, broad, and complex. Yet, while not fully understood, it is well accepted that AI will disrupt our current military decision cycles. Using the Boyd cycle (OODA loop) as an example, “AI” is examined as a system-of-systems; with each subsystem requiring man-in-the-loop/man-on-the-loop considerations. How these challenges are addressed will shape the future of AI enabled military operations.” Enjoy!]

Success in the battlespace is about collecting information, evaluating that information, then making quick, decisive decisions. Network Centric Warfare (NCW) demonstrated this concept during the emerging phases of information age warfare. As the information age has matured, adversaries have adopted its core tenant — winning in the decision space is winning in the battle space.1 The competitive advantage that may have once existed has eroded. Additionally, the principal feature of information age warfare — the ability to gather, and store communication data — has begun to exceed human processing capabilities.2 Maintaining a competitive advantage in the information age will require a new way of integrating an ever-increasing volume of data into a decision cycle.

Future AI systems offer the potential to continue maximizing the advantages of information superiority, while overcoming limits in human cognitive abilities. AI systems with their near endless and faultless memory, lack of emotional vestment, and potentially unbiased analyses, may continue to complement future military leaders with competitive cognitive advantages. These advantages may only emerge if AI is understood, properly utilized, and integrated into a seamless decision process.

The OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) Loop provides a methodical approach to explore: (1) how future autonomous AI systems may participate in the various elements of decision cycles; (2) what aspects of military operations may need to change to accommodate future AI systems; and (3) how implementation of AI and its varying degrees of autonomy may create a competitive decision space.3

Observe
The automation of observe can be performed using AI systems, either as a singular activity or as part of a broader integrated analysis. Systems that observe require sophisticated AI analyses and systems. Within these systems, various degrees of autonomy can be applied. Because observe is a combination of different activities, the degree of autonomy for scanning the environment may differ from the degree of autonomy for recognizing potentially significant events. Varying degrees of autonomy may be applied to very specific tasks integral to scanning and recognizing.

High autonomous AI systems may be allowed to select or alter scan patterns, times and frequencies, boundary conditions, and other parameters; potentially including the selection of the scanning platforms and their sensor packages. High autonomous AI systems, integrated into feedback systems, could also alter and potentially optimize the scanning process, allowing AI systems to independently assess the effectiveness of previous scans and explore alternative scanning processes.

Low autonomous AI systems might be precluded from altering pattern recognition parameters or thresholds for flagging an event as potentially significant. In this domain, AI systems could perform potentially complex analyses, but with limited ability to explore alternative approaches to examine additional environmental data.

When AI systems operate as autonomous observation systems, they could easily be integrated into existing doctrine, organizations, and training. Differences between AI systems and human observers must be taken into account, especially when we consider manned and unmanned mixed teams. For example: AI systems could operate with human security forces, each with potentially different endurance limitations. Sentry outpost locations and configurations described by existing Field Manuals may need to be revised to address differing considerations for AI systems, i.e., safety, degrees of autonomy, communication, physical capabilities, dimensions, and integration issues with human forces.

The potential for ubiquitous and ever-present autonomous AI observation platforms presents a new dimension to informational security. The possibility of persistent, covert, and mobile autonomous observation systems offer security challenges that we only have just begun to understand. Information security within the cyber domain is just one example of the emerging challenges that AI systems can create as they continue to influence the physical domain.

Orient
Orient is the processes and analyses that establish the relative significance and context of the signal or data observed. An observation in its original raw form is unprocessed data of potential interest. The orientation and prioritization of that observation begins when the observation is placed within the context of (among other things) previous experiences, organizational / cultural / historic frameworks, or other observations.

One of the principal challenges of today’s military leader is managing the ever-increasing flow of information available to them. The ease and low cost of collecting, storing, and communicating has resulted in a supply of data that exceeds the cognitive capacity of most humans.4 As a result, numerous approaches are being considered to maximize the capability of commanders to prioritize and develop data rich common operating pictures.5 These approaches include improved graphics displays as well as virtual reality immersion systems. Each is designed to give a commander access to larger and still larger volumes of data. When commanders are saturated with information, however, further optimizing the presentation of too much data may not significantly improve battlespace performance.

The emergence of AI systems capable of contextualizing data has already begun. The International Business Machine (IBM) Corporation has already fielded advanced cognitive systems capable of performing near human level complex analyses.6 It is expected that this trend will continue and AI systems will continue to displace humans performing many staff officer “white collar” activities.7 Much of the analyses performed by existing systems, i.e., identifying market trends or evaluating insurance payouts, have been in environments with reasonably understood rules and boundaries.

Autonomy issues associated with AI systems orientating data and developing situational awareness pictures are complex. AI systems operating with a high autonomy can: independently prioritize data; add or remove data from an operational picture; possibly de-conflict contradictory data streams; change informational lenses; and can set priorities and hierarchies. High autonomous AI systems could continuously ensure the operational picture is the best reflection of the current information. The tradeoff to this “most accurate” operational picture might be a rapidly evolving operational picture with little continuity that could possibly confound and confuse system users. This type AI might require a blind faith acceptance to the picture presented.

At the other end of the spectrum, low autonomous AI systems might not explore alternative interpretations of data. These systems may use only prescribed informational lenses, and data priorities established by system users or developers. The tradeoff for a stable and consistent operational picture might be one that is biased by the applied informational lenses and data applications. This type of AI may just show us what we want to see.

Additional considerations arise concerning future human-AI collaborations. Generic AI systems that prioritize information based on a set of standard rules may not provide the optimal human-AI paring. Instead, AI systems that are adapted to complement a specific leader’s attributes may enhance his decision-making. These man-machine interfaces could be developed over an entire career. As such, there may be a need to ensure flexibility and portability in autonomous systems, to allow leaders to transition from job to job and retain access to AI systems that are “optimized” for their specific needs.

The use of AI systems for the consolidation, prioritization, and framing of data may require a review of how military doctrine and policy guides the use of information. Similar to the development of rules of engagement, doctrine and policy present challenges to developing rules of information framing — potentially prescribing or restricting the use of informational lenses. Under a paradigm where AI systems could implement doctrine and policy without question or moderation, the consequences of a policy change might create a host of unanticipated consequences.

Additionally, AI systems capable of consolidating, prioritizing, and evaluating large streams of data may invariably displace the staff that currently performs those activities.8 This restructuring could preserve high level decision making positions, while vastly reducing personnel performing data compiling, logistics, accounting, and other decision support activities. The effect of this restructuring might be the loss of many positions that develop the judgment of future leaders. As a result, increased automation of data analytics, and subsequent decreases in the staff supporting those activities, may create a shortage of leaders with experience in these analytical skills and tested judgment.

Decide
Decide is the process used to develop and then select a course of action to achieve a desired end state. Prior to selecting a course of action, the military decision making process requires development of multiple courses of actions (COAs) and consideration of their likely outcomes, followed by the selection of the COA with the preferred outcome.

The basis for developing COA’s and choosing among them can be categorized as rules-based or values-based decisions. If an AI system is using a rules-based decision process, there is inherently a human-in-the-loop, regardless of the level of the AI autonomy. This is because human value judgments are inherently contained within the rule development process. Values-based decisions explore ends, ways, and means, through the lenses of feasibility and suitability, while also potentially addressing issues of acceptability and/or risk. Values-based decisions are generally associated with subjective value assessments, greater dimensionality, and generally contain some legal, moral, or ethical qualities. The generation of COA’s and their selection may involve substantially more nuanced judgments.

Differentiation of COAs may require evaluations of disparate value propositions. Values such as speed of an action, materiel costs, loss of life, liberty, suffering, morale, risk, and numerous other values often need to be weighed when selecting a COA for a complex issue. These subjective values, not easily quantified or universally weighted, can present significant challenges in assessing the level of autonomy to grant to AI decision activities. As automation continues to encroach into the decision space, these subjective areas may offer the best opportunities for humans to continue to contribute.

The employment of values-based or rules-based decisions tends to vary according to the operational environment and the level of operation. Tactical applications often tend towards rules-based decisions, while operational and strategic applications tend towards values-based decisions. Clarifying doctrine, training, and policies on rules-based and values-based decisions could be an essential element of ensuring that autonomous decision making AI systems are effectively understood, trusted, and utilized.

Act
The last element of the OODA Loop is Act. For AI systems, this ability to manipulate the environment may take several forms. The first form may be indirect, where an AI system concludes its manipulation step by notifying an operator of its recommendations. The second form may be through direct manipulation, both in the cyber and the physical or “real world” domains.

Manipulation in the cyber domain may include the retrieval or dissemination of information, the performance of analysis, the execution of cyber warfare activities, or any number of other cyber activities. In the physical realm, AI systems can manipulate the environment through mechanized systems tied into an electronic system. These mechanized systems may be a direct extension of the AI system or may be separate systems operated remotely.

Within the OODA framework, once the decision has been made, the act is reflexive. For advanced AI systems, there is the potential for feedback to be provided and integrated as an action is taken. If the systems supporting the decision operate as expected, and events unfold as predicted, the importance of the degree of autonomy for the AI system (to act) may be trivial. However, if events unfold unexpectedly, the autonomy of an AI system to respond could be of great significance.

Consider a scenario where an observation point (OP) is being established. The decision to set up the OP was supported by many details. Among these concerns were: the path taken to set up the OP, the optimal location of the OP, the expected weather conditions, and the exact time the OP would be operational. Under a strict out-of-scope interpretation, if any of the real world details differed from those supporting the original decision, they would all be viewed as adjustments to the decision, and the decision would be voided. Under a less restrictive in-scope interpretation, if the details closely matched the expected conditions, they would be viewed as adjustments to the approved decision, and the decision would still be valid.

High autonomous AI systems could be allowed to make in-scope adjustments to the “act”. Allowing adjustments to the “act” would preclude a complete OODA cycle review. By avoiding this requirement — a new OODA cycle — an AI system might outperform low autonomous AI elements (and human oversight) and provide an advantage to the high autonomous system. Low autonomous AI systems following the out-of-scope perspective would be required to re-initiate a new decision cycle every time the real world did not exactly match expected conditions. While the extreme case may cause a perpetual initiation of OODA cycles, some adjustments could be made to the AI system to mitigate some of these concerns. The question still remains to determine the level of change that is significant enough to restart the OODA loop. Ultimately, designers of the system would need to consider how to resolve this issue.

This is not a comprehensive examination of autonomous AI systems performing the act step of the OODA loop. Yet in the area of doctrine, training, and leadership, an issue rises for quick discussion. Humans often employ assumptions when assigning/performing an action. There is a natural assumption that real world conditions will differ from those used in the planning and authorization process. When those differences appear large, a decision is re-evaluated. When the differences appear small, a new decision is not sought, and some risk is accepted. The amount of risk is often intuitively assessed and depending on personal preferences, the action continues or is stopped. Due to the more literal nature of computational systems, autonomous systems may not have the ability to assess and accept “personal” risks. Military doctrine addressing command and leadership philosophies, i.e., Mission Command and decentralized operations, should be reviewed and updated, as necessary, to determine their applicability to operations in the information age.9

The integration of future AI systems has the potential to permeate the entirety of military operations, from acquisition philosophies to human-AI team collaborations. This will require the development of clear categories of AI systems and applications, aligned along axes of trust, with rules-based and values-based decision processes clearly demarcated. Because of the nature of machines to abide to literal interpretations of policy, rules, and guidance, a review of their development should be performed to minimize unforeseen consequences.

If you enjoyed this post, please review Dr. Mancillas’ complete report here;

… see the following MadSci blog posts:

… read the Crowdsourcing the Future of the AI Battlefield information paper;

… and peruse the Final Report from the Mad Scientist Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Autonomy Conference, facilitated at Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), 7-8 March 2017.

Dr. Mancillas received a PhD in Quantum Physics from the University of Tennessee. He has extensive experience performing numerical modeling of complex engineered systems. Prior to working for the U.S. Army, Dr. Mancillas worked for the Center For Nuclear Waste and Regulatory Analyses, an FFRDC established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine the deep future of nuclear materials and their storage.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Army Futures Command (AFC), Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


1 Roger N. McDermott, Russian Perspectives on Network-Centric Warfare: The Key Aim of Serdyukov’s Reform (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Foreign Military Studies Office (Army), 2011).

2 Ang Yang, Abbass Hussein, and Sarker Ruhul. “Evolving Agents for Network Centric Warfare,” Proceedings of the 7th Annual Workshop on Genetic and Evolutionary Computation, 2005, 193-195.

3 Decision space is the range of options that military leaders explore in response to adversarial activities. Competitiveness in the decision space is based on abilities to develop more options, more effective options and to develop and execute them more quickly. Numerous approaches to managing decision space exist. NCW is an approach that emphasizes information rich communications and a high degree of decentralized decisions to generate options and “self synchronized” activities.

4 Yang, Hussein, and Ruhul. “Evolving Agents for Network Centric Warfare,” 193-195.

5 Alessandro Zocco, and Lucio Tommaso De Paolis. “Augmented Command and Control Table to Support Network-centric Operations,” Defence Science Journal 65, no. 1 (2015): 39-45.

6 The IBM Corporation, specifically IBM Watson Analytics, has been employing “cognitive analytics” and natural language dialogue to perform “big data” analyses. IBM Watson Analytics has been employed in the medical, financial and insurance fields to perform human level analytics. These activities include reading medical journals to develop medical diagnosis and treatment plans; performing actuary reviews for insurance claims; and recommending financial customer engagement and personalized investment strategies.

7 Smith and Anderson. “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs”; Executive Office of the President, “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy,” December 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/Artificial-Intelligence-Automation-Economy.PDF, (accessed online 5 March 2017).

8 Smith and Anderson. “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs”; Executive Office of the President, “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy,” December 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/Artificial-Intelligence-Automation-Economy.PDF, (accessed online 5 March 2017).

9 Jim Storr, “A Command Philosophy for the Information Age: The Continuing Relevance of Mission Command,” Defence Studies 3, no. 3 (2003): 119-129.

131. Omega

[Editor’s Note:  Story Telling is a powerful tool that allows us to envision how innovative and potentially disruptive technologies could be employed and operationalized in the Future Operational Environment. In today’s guest blog post, proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. August Cole and Mr. Amir Husain use story telling to effectively:

  • Describe what the future might look like if our adversaries out-innovate us using Artificial Intelligence and cheap robotics;
  • Address how the U.S. might miss a strategic breakthrough due to backward-looking analytical mindsets; and
  • Imagine an unconventional Allied response in Europe to an emboldened near-peer conflict.

Enjoy reading how the NATO Alliance could react to Omega — “a Russian autonomous joint force in a … ready-to-deploy box… [with an] area-denial bubble projected by their new S-600s extend[ing] all the way to the exo-sphere, … cover[ing] the entirety of the ground, sea and cyber domains” — on the cusp of a fictional not-so-distant future near-peer conflict!]

Omega

22 KILOMETERS NORTH OF KYIV / UKRAINE

“Incoming!” shouted Piotr Nowak, a master sergeant in Poland’s Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosów special operations unit. Dropping to the ground, he clawed aside a veil of brittle green moss to wedge himself into a gap beneath a downed tree. He hoped the five other members of his military advisory team, crouched around the fist-shaped rock formation behind him, heard his shouts. To further reinforce Ukraine’s armed forces against increasingly brazen Russian military support for separatists in the eastern part of the country, Poland’s government had been quietly supplying military trainers. A pro-Russian military coup in Belarus two weeks earlier only served to raise tensions in the region – and the stakes for the JWK on the ground.

An instant later incoming Russian Grad rocket artillery announced itself with a shrill shriek. Then a rapid succession of sharp explosive pops as the dozen rockets burst overhead. Nowak quickly realized these weren’t ordinary fires.

Russian 9a52-4 MLRS conducting a fire mission / Source: The National Interest

There was no spray of airburst shrapnel or the lung-busting concussion of a thermobaric munition. Instead, it sounded like summer fireworks – the explosive separation of the 122mm rocket artillery shell’s casing. Once split open, each weapon’s payload deployed an air brake to slow its approach.

During that momentary silence, Nowak edged out slightly from under the log to look up at the sky. He saw the drifting circular payload extend four arms and then, suddenly, it came to life as it sprang free of its parachute harness. With a whine from its electric motors, the quadcopter darted out of sight.

That sound built and built over the next minute as eleven more of these Russian autonomous drones darted menacingly in a loose formation through the forest above the Polish special operations commandos. Nowak cursed the low-profile nature of their mission: The Polish soldiers had not yet received the latest compact American counter-UAS electronic-warfare systems that could actually fit in their civilian Skoda Kodiaq SUVs.

Nowak held his airplane-mode mobile phone out from under the log to film the drones, using his arm like a selfie-stick. Nowak needed to report in what he was seeing – this was proof Russian forces had turned their new AI battle management system online inside Ukraine. But he also knew that doing so would be a death sentence, whether he texted the video on the country’s abominably slow mobile networks or used his secure NATO comms. These Russian drones could detect either type of transmission in an instant. Once the drones cued to his transmission he would be targeted either by their own onboard anti-personnel munitions or a follow-on strike by conventional artillery.

This was no mere variation on the practice of using Leer-3 drones  for electronic warfare and to spot for Russian artillery. It marked the first-ever deployment of an entirely new Russian AI battle system complex, Omega. Nowak had only heard about the Russians firing entire drone swarms from inexpensive Grad rocket-artillery rounds once before in Syria while deployed with a US task force. But they had never done so in Ukraine, at least not that he knew about.  Most observers chalked up Russia’s Syrian experimentations with battlefield robots and drone swarms to clumsy failures. Clearly something had changed.

With his phone, Nowak recorded how the drones appeared to be coordinating their search activities as if they were a single hive intelligence. They divided the dense forest into cells they searched cooperatively. Within seconds, they climbed and dove from treetop height looking for anyone or anything hiding below.

At that very instant, the drone’s computer vision algorithms detected Novak’s team. Each and every one of them. Within seconds, six of the aggressively maneuvering drones revealed themselves in a disjointed dive down from the treetops and zoomed in on the JWK fighters’ positions.

Nobody needed to be told what to do. The team raised their weapons and fired short bursts at the Russian drones. One shattered like a clay pigeon. But two more buzzed into view to take its place. Another drone went down to a shotgun-fired SkyNet round. Then the entire drone formation shifted its flight patterns, dodging and maneuvering even more erratically, making it nearly impossible to shoot the rest down. The machines learned from their own losses, Nowak realized. Would his superiors do the same for him?

Nowak emptied his magazine with a series of quick bursts, but rather than reload he put his weapon aside and rolled out from under the log. Fully exposed and clutching the phone with shaking hands, he hastily removed one of his gloves with his teeth. Then he switched the device on. Network connected. He scrolled to the video of the drones. Send! Send! Send!

Eleven seconds later, Novak’s entire Polish JWK special forces team lay dead on the forest floor.

Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosow (JWK) / Source: Wikimedia Commons

________________________________

Omega is not any one specific weapon, rather it is made up of a menagerie of Russian weapons, large and small. It’s as if you fused information warfare, SAMs, fires, drones, tactical autonomous bots… There’s everything from S-600 batteries to cheap Katyusha-style rocket artillery to Uran-9 and -13 tanks. But it is what controls the hardware that makes Omega truly unique: AI. At its core, it’s an artificial intelligence system fusing data from thousands of sensors, processed information, and found patterns that human eyes and minds cannot fathom. The system’s AI is not only developing a comprehensive real-time picture, it’s also developing probabilities and possible courses of enemy action. It can coordinate thousands of “shooters”, from surface-to-air missiles, to specialized rocket artillery deploying autonomous tactical drones like the ones that killed the JWK team, to UGVs like the latest Uran-13 autonomous tracked units.

The developers of the Omega system incorporated technologies such as software-defined radio, which uses universal receivers that could listen in to a broad array of frequencies. Thousands of these bands are monitored with machine learning algorithms to spot insurgent radio stations, spy on the locations of Ukrainian military and police, and even determine if a certain frequency is being used to remotely control explosives or other military equipment. When a threat is discovered, the system will dispatch drones to observe the triangulated location of the source. If the threat needs to be neutralized a variety of kinetic systems – from guided artillery shells to loitering munitions and autonomous drones – can be dispatched for the kill.

________________________________

If you enjoyed this excerpt, please:

Read the complete Omega short story, hosted by our colleagues at the Atlantic Council NATOSource blog,

Learn how the U.S. Joint Force and our partners are preparing to prevail in competition with our strategic adversaries and, when necessary, penetrate and dis-integrate their anti-access and area denial systems and exploit the resultant freedom of maneuver to achieve strategic objectives (win) and force a return to competition on favorable terms in The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 Executive Summary, and

See one prescription for precluding the strategic surprise that is the fictional Omega in The Importance of Integrative Science/Technology Intelligence (InS/TINT) to the Prediction of Future Vistas of Emerging Threats, by Dr. James Giordano,  CAPT (USN – Ret.) L. R. Bremseth, and Mr. Joseph DeFranco.

Reminder: You only have 1 week left to enter your submissions for the Mad Scientist Science Fiction Writing Contest 2019.  Click here for more information about the contest and how to submit your short story(ies) for consideration by our 1 April 2019 deadline!

Mr. August Cole is a proclaimed Mad Scientist, author, and futurist focusing on national security issues. He is a non-resident senior fellow at the Art of the Future Project at the Atlantic Council. He also works on creative foresight at SparkCognition, an artificial intelligence company, and is a senior advisor at Avascent, a consulting firm. His novel with fellow proclaimed Mad Scientist P.W. Singer, entitled Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, explores the future of great power conflict and disruptive technologies in wartime.

Mr. Amir Husain is the founder and CEO of SparkCognition, a company envisioned to be at the forefront of the “AI 3.0” revolution. He serves as advisor and board member to several major institutions, including IBM Watson, University of Texas Department of Computer Science, Makerarm, ClearCube Technology, uStudio and others; and his work has been published in leading tech journals, including Network World, IT Today, and Computer World. In 2015, Amir was named Austin’s Top Technology Entrepreneur of the Year.

Disclaimer: This publication is a work of fiction by Messrs. August Cole and Amir Husain, neither of whom have any affiliation with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army, or the U.S. Government. This piece is meant to be thought-provoking and entertaining, and does not reflect the current position of the U.S. Army.

86. Alternet: What Happens When the Internet is No Longer Trusted?

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present a post by Mad Scientist and guest blogger Lt Col Jennifer “JJ” Snow, addressing the emergence of a post-internet world.]

The Internet of the 1990s was about choosing your own adventure. The Internet of right now, over the last 10 years, is about somebody else choosing your adventure for you.” – Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

The internet was designed in its earliest iteration to provide a new form of communication, a way for people to connect, to share information in real-time, to provide a positive tool for collaboration and learning. Looking back at those early ideas, many of the founding fathers of the internet express disappointment in what it has become: a place where privacy and people are abused, information is wielded like a weapon, nations and corporations alike battle each other and other nefarious actors in the digital shadows, and fake news dominates the taglines in hopes of grabbing the most dollars per click. In light of what technologists, ethical hackers, and the public view as a potentially irrecoverable situation, many are suggesting starting over and abandoning the internet as we know it in favor of alternative internet options or “Alternet.” [1]

These initiatives are nascent but are increasingly gaining traction as they offer users the option to manage their own identity and information online; choose what they do and don’t want to share digitally; provide transparency as a currency, meaning users can view rules, policies, and protocols openly at any time and see when changes are made real-time; and allow users to be their own data authority. While progress in this space will be slow but steady over the next two years, expect that “Alternets” will become a publicly recognized substitute to the big internet companies in five years and a commonplace feature of the web in 10 years as users become more disenchanted, distrustful, and decide they want greater control, attribution, or anonymity as needed, and desire an internet that meets their norms, cultural, and community preferences.

There are several interesting challenges that come with the fracturing of the internet in this manner.

First, Alternets will be more insular, require individual verification to join, and users will need to buy special equipment like a community specific encrypted router or use a particular variant of the blockchain to access the web.

Secondly, Alternets may serve to fracture the internet itself in interesting ways that could impact how data and users are able to digitally traverse the globe.

Third, Alternets will provide both the attribution many desire in social media to stop cyber bullying, scammers, and fake news, and the anonymity features that allow both dissident and terror groups to operate safely in virtual spaces. As with all technologies, there will always be opportunities for both positive and malicious use.

Fourth, the development and spread of Alternets may serve to further polarize various interests, organizations, and nations as like-minded communities will group together rather than strive to engage in constructive discourse, further reducing the opportunity for bridging entities to be effective negotiators.

Fifth, such online fracturing may also manifest physically in real life leading to conflict, both digital and physical, and may enhance the weaponization of cyber in new ways to include citizen cyber militia actively operating in defense of their communities and/or their nation or offensive attacks by nations operating from their own “Alternet” separate from the existing DNS system and not regulated and not easily targetable by competitor nations, thus limiting their ability to counterstrike and creating an overmatch situation. [2]

Current examples of “Alternets” that exist today include the private citizen efforts of the Metacurrency Project called Holo; the Russian independent internet for the BRICS block of nations; the PRC alternative which has also been installed in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Vietnam; BitDust, a decentralized, encrypted, anonymous storage and communication solution; Mastodon a decentralized, personally hosted, microblogging solution used in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia; and Hyperboria which was born out of the DarkNet and is an encrypted, distributed, peer-to-peer IPv6 network with Distributed Hash Table (DHT)-based source routing.

A full listing of “Alternet” projects and tools can be found in the footnotes. [3]

To learn more about the security ramifications associated with the rise of Alternets, read the following blog posts:

The Future of the Cyber Domain

Virtual Nations: An Emerging Supranational Cyber Trend, by Marie Murphy

JJ Snow is an Air Force Lt Colonel assigned as the U.S. Special Operations Command Innovation Officer and the J5 Donovan Group Future Plans and Strategy Deputy Director. In her current role, JJ serves as the government representative for technology outreach and engagement on behalf of the command and 756 interagency action officers spanning 40 different government agencies.

She is responsible for maintaining a network of non-traditional experts across industry, academia and ethical hackers/technologists to provide government with critical access, expertise and capacity across a broad spectrum of technologies to rapidly identify best of breed while also proactively responding to potential threat aspects of concern to Special Operations and national security. She supports senior government leadership in process innovation, innovation planning in big government, and the development of smart technology policy and advises senior government representatives on emerging disruptive technologies.

She holds a MS Degree in Defense Analysis with distinction from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and a MA from American Military University in Strategic Intelligence with honors.


[1] Saldana et al., “Alternative Networks: Toward Global Access to the Internet for All.” IEEE Communications Magazine, vol. 55, no. 9, pp. 187-193, 2017.
Lafrance, Adrienne; “The Promise of a New Internet.” The Atlantic (10 JUN 2014)
Finley, Klint; “The Pied Piper’s New Internet Isn’t Just Possible – It’s Almost Here.” Wired (1 JUN 2017)

[2] Eric Harris-Braun, Nicolas Luck, Arthur Brock; “Holochain: Scalable Agent-Centric Distributed Computing.” Holo (15 FEB 2018)
Degurin, Mack; “Russia’s Alternate Internet.” NY Magazine (13 JUL 2018)
Sacks, Sam; “Beijing Wants to Rewrite the Rules of the Internet.” The Atlantic (18 JUN 2018)

[3] The following links are included to provide the reader with the options of exploring some additional alternative internet options that exist and are in use today. A big thank you to Ross Jones in recognition for his detailed GitHub Wiki on this subject which is captured in the last link concerning alternative-internet solutions and tools:  https://hyperboria.net/, https://github.com/redecentralize/alternative-internet

80. “The Queue”

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

Gartner Hype Cycle / Source:  Nicole Saraco Loddo, Gartner

1.5 Trends Emerge in the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies,” by Kasey Panetta, Gartner, 16 August 2018.

Gartner’s annual hype cycle highlights many of the technologies and trends explored by the Mad Scientist program over the last two years. This year’s cycle added 17 new technologies and organized them into five emerging trends: 1) Democratized Artificial Intelligence (AI), 2) Digitalized Eco-Systems, 3) Do-It-Yourself Bio-Hacking, 4) Transparently Immersive Experiences, and 5) Ubiquitous Infrastructure. Of note, many of these technologies have a 5–10 year horizon until the Plateau of Productivity. If this time horizon is accurate, we believe these emerging technologies and five trends will have a significant role in defining the Character of Future War in 2035 and should have modernization implications for the Army of 2028. For additional information on the disruptive technologies identified between now and 2035, see the Era of Accelerated Human Progress portion of our Potential Game Changers broadsheet.

[Gartner disclaimer:  Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.]

Artificial Intelligence by GLAS-8 / Source: Flickr

2.Should Evil AI Research Be Published? Five Experts Weigh In,” by Dan Robitzski, Futurism, 27 August 2018.

The following rhetorical (for now) question was posed to the “AI Race and Societal Impacts” panel during last month’s The Joint Multi-Conference on Human-Level Artificial Intelligence in Prague, The Czech Republic:

“Let’s say you’re an AI scientist, and you’ve found the holy grail of your field — you figured out how to build an artificial general intelligence (AGI). That’s a truly intelligent computer that could pass as human in terms of cognitive ability or emotional intelligence. AGI would be creative and find links between disparate ideas — things no computer can do today.

That’s great, right? Except for one big catch: your AGI system is evil or could only be used for malicious purposes.

So, now a conundrum. Do you publish your white paper and tell the world exactly how to create this unrelenting force of evil? Do you file a patent so that no one else (except for you) could bring such an algorithm into existence? Or do you sit on your research, protecting the world from your creation but also passing up on the astronomical paycheck that would surely arrive in the wake of such a discovery?”

The panel’s responses ranged from controlling — “Don’t publish it!” and treat it like a grenade, “one would not hand it to a small child, but maybe a trained soldier could be trusted with it”; to the altruistic — “publish [it]… immediately” and “there is no evil technology, but there are people who would misuse it. If that AGI algorithm was shared with the world, people might be able to find ways to use it for good”; to the entrepreneurial – “sell the evil AGI to [me]. That way, they wouldn’t have to hold onto the ethical burden of such a powerful and scary AI — instead, you could just pass it to [me and I will] take it from there.

While no consensus of opinion was arrived at, the panel discussion served a useful exercise in illustrating how AI differs from previous eras’ game changing technologies. Unlike Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical weapons, no internationally agreed to and implemented control protocols can be applied to AI, as there are no analogous gas centrifuges, fissile materials, or triggering mechanisms; no restricted access pathogens; no proscribed precursor chemicals to control. Rather, when AGI is ultimately achieved, it is likely to be composed of nothing more than diffuse code; a digital will’o wisp that can permeate across the global net to other nations, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals, with the potential to facilitate unprecedentedly disruptive Information Operation (IO) campaigns and Virtual Warfare, revolutionizing human affairs. The West would be best served in emulating the PRC with its Military-Civil Fusion Centers and integrate the resources of the State with the innovation of industry to achieve their own AGI solutions soonest. The decisive edge will “accrue to the side with more autonomous decision-action concurrency on the Hyperactive Battlefield” — the best defense against a nefarious AGI is a friendly AGI!

Scales Sword Of Justice / Source: https://www.maxpixel.net/

3.Can Justice be blind when it comes to machine learning? Researchers present findings at ICML 2018,” The Alan Turing Institute, 11 July 2018.

Can justice really be blind? The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in July 2018. This conference explored the notion of machine learning fairness and proposed new methods to help regulators provide better oversight and practitioners to develop fair and privacy-preserving data analyses. Like ethical discussions taking place within the DoD, there are rising legal concerns that commercial machine learning systems (e.g., those associated with car insurance pricing) might illegally or unfairly discriminate against certain subgroups of the population. Machine learning will play an important role in assisting battlefield decisions (e.g., the targeting cycle and commander’s decisions) – especially lethal decisions. There is a common misperception that machines will make unbiased and fair decisions, divorced from human bias. Yet the issue of machine learning bias is significant because humans, with their host of cognitive biases, code the very programming that will enable machines to learn and make decisions. Making the best, unbiased decisions will become critical in AI-assisted warfighting. We must ensure that machine-based learning outputs are verified and understood to preclude the inadvertent introduction of human biases.  Read the full report here.

Robot PNG / Source: pngimg.com

4.Uptight robots that suddenly beg to stay alive are less likely to be switched off by humans,” by Katyanna Quach, The Register, 3 August 2018.

In a study published by PLOS ONE, researchers found that a robot’s personality affected a human’s decision-making. In the study, participants were asked to dialogue with a robot that was either sociable (chatty) or functional (focused). At the end of the study, the researchers let the participants know that they could switch the robot off if they wanted to. At that moment, the robot would make an impassioned plea to the participant to resist shutting them down. The participants’ actions were then recorded. Unexpectedly, there were  a large number of participants who resisted shutting down the functional robots after they made their plea, as opposed to the sociable ones. This is significant. It shows, beyond the unexpected result, that decision-making is affected by robotic personality. Humans will form an emotional connection to artificial entities despite knowing they are robotic if they mimic and emulate human behavior. If the Army believes its Soldiers will be accompanied and augmented heavily by robots in the near future, it must also understand that human-robot interaction will not be the same as human-computer interaction. The U.S. Army must explore how attain the appropriate level of trust between Soldiers and their robotic teammates on the future battlefield. Robots must be treated more like partners than tools, with trust, cooperation, and even empathy displayed.

IoT / Source: Pixabay

5.Spending on Internet of Things May More Than Double to Over Half a Trillion Dollars,” by Aaron Pressman, Fortune, 8 August 2018.

While the advent of the Internet brought home computing and communication even deeper into global households, the revolution of smart phones brought about the concept of constant personal interconnectivity. Today and into the future, not only are humans being connected to the global commons via their smart devices, but a multitude of devices, vehicles, and various accessories are being integrated into the Internet of Things (IoT). Previously, the IoT was addressed as a game changing technology. The IoT is composed of trillions of internet-linked items, creating opportunities and vulnerabilities. There has been explosive growth in low Size Weight and Power (SWaP) and connected devices (Internet of Battlefield Things), especially for sensor applications (situational awareness).

Large companies are expected to quickly grow their spending on Internet-connected devices (i.e., appliances, home devices [such as Google Home, Alexa, etc.], various sensors) to approximately $520 billion. This is a massive investment into what will likely become the Internet of Everything (IoE). While growth is focused on known devices, it is likely that it will expand to embedded and wearable sensors – think clothing, accessories, and even sensors and communication devices embedded within the human body. This has two major implications for the Future Operational Environment (FOE):

– The U.S. military is already struggling with the balance between collecting, organizing, and using critical data, allowing service members to use personal devices, and maintaining operations and network security and integrity (see banning of personal fitness trackers recently). A segment of the IoT sensors and devices may be necessary or critical to the function and operation of many U.S. Armed Forces platforms and weapons systems, inciting some critical questions about supply chain security, system vulnerabilities, and reliance on micro sensors and microelectronics

– The U.S. Army of the future will likely have to operate in and around dense urban environments, where IoT devices and sensors will be abundant, degrading blue force’s ability to sense the battlefield and “see” the enemy, thereby creating a veritable needle in a stack of needles.

6.Battlefield Internet: A Plan for Securing Cyberspace,” by Michèle Flournoy and Michael Sulmeyer, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2018. Review submitted by Ms. Marie Murphy.

With the possibility of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” becoming increasingly imminent, intelligence officials warn of the rising danger of cyber attacks. Effects of these attacks have already been felt around the world. They have the power to break the trust people have in institutions, companies, and governments as they act in the undefined gray zone between peace and all-out war. The military implications are quite clear: cyber attacks can cripple the military’s ability to function from a command and control aspect to intelligence communications and materiel and personnel networks. Besides the military and government, private companies’ use of the internet must be accounted for when discussing cyber security. Some companies have felt the effects of cyber attacks, while others are reluctant to invest in cyber protection measures. In this way, civilians become affected by acts of cyber warfare, and attacks on a country may not be directed at the opposing military, but the civilian population of a state, as in the case of power and utility outages seen in eastern Europe. Any actor with access to the internet can inflict damage, and anyone connected to the internet is vulnerable to attack, so public-private cooperation is necessary to most effectively combat cyber threats.

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

79. Character vs. Nature of Warfare: What We Can Learn (Again) from Clausewitz

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by guest blogger LTC Rob Taber, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2 Futures Directorate, clarifying the often confused character and nature of warfare, and addressing their respective mutability.]

No one is arguing that warfare is not changing. Where people disagree, however, is whether the nature of warfare, the character of warfare, or both are changing.

Source:  Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Take, for example, the National Intelligence Council’s assertion in “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress.” They state, “The nature of conflict is changing. The risk of conflict will increase due to diverging interests among major powers, an expanding terror threat, continued instability in weak states, and the spread of lethal, disruptive technologies. Disrupting societies will become more common, with long-range precision weapons, cyber, and robotic systems to target infrastructure from afar, and more accessible technology to create weapons of mass destruction.”[I]

Additionally, Brad D. Williams, in an introduction to an interview he conducted with Amir Husain, asserts, “Generals and military theorists have sought to characterize the nature of war for millennia, and for long periods of time, warfare doesn’t dramatically change. But, occasionally, new methods for conducting war cause a fundamental reconsideration of its very nature and implications.”[II] Williams then cites “cavalry, the rifled musket and Blitzkrieg as three historical examples”[III] from Husain and General John R. Allen’s (ret.) article, “On Hyperwar.”

Unfortunately, the NIC and Mr. Williams miss the reality that the nature of war is not changing, and it is unlikely to ever change. While these authors may have simply interchanged “nature” when they meant “character,” it is important to be clear on the difference between the two and the implications for the military. To put it more succinctly, words have meaning.

The nature of something is the basic make up of that thing. It is, at core, what that “thing” is. The character of something is the combination of all the different parts and pieces that make up that thing. In the context of warfare, it is useful to ask every doctrine writer’s personal hero, Carl Von Clausewitz, what his views are on the matter.

Source: Tetsell’s Blog. https://tetsell.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/clausewitz/

He argues that war is “subjective,”[IV]an act of policy,”[V] and “a pulsation of violence.”[VI] Put another way, the nature of war is chaotic, inherently political, and violent. Clausewitz then states that despite war’s “colorful resemblance to a game of chance, all the vicissitudes of its passion, courage, imagination, and enthusiasm it includes are merely its special characteristics.”[VII] In other words, all changes in warfare are those smaller pieces that evolve and interact to make up the character of war.

The argument that artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies will enable military commanders to have “a qualitatively unsurpassed level of situational awareness and understanding heretofore unavailable to strategic commander[s][VIII] is a grand claim, but one that has been made many times in the past, and remains unfulfilled. The chaos of war, its fog, friction, and chance will likely never be deciphered, regardless of what technology we throw at it. While it is certain that AI-enabled technologies will be able to gather, assess, and deliver heretofore unimaginable amounts of data, these technologies will remain vulnerable to age-old practices of denial, deception, and camouflage.

 

The enemy gets a vote, and in this case, the enemy also gets to play with their AI-enabled technologies that are doing their best to provide decision advantage over us. The information sphere in war will be more cluttered and more confusing than ever.

Regardless of the tools of warfare, be they robotic, autonomous, and/or AI-enabled, they remain tools. And while they will be the primary tools of the warfighter, the decision to enable the warfighter to employ those tools will, more often than not, come from political leaders bent on achieving a certain goal with military force.

Drone Wars are Coming / Source: USNI Proceedings, July 2017, Vol. 143 / 7 /  1,373

Finally, the violence of warfare will not change. Certainly robotics and autonomy will enable machines that can think and operate without humans in the loop. Imagine the future in which the unmanned bomber gets blown out of the sky by the AI-enabled directed energy integrated air defense network. That’s still violence. There are still explosions and kinetic energy with the potential for collateral damage to humans, both combatants and civilians.

Source: Lockheed Martin

Not to mention the bomber carried a payload meant to destroy something in the first place. A military force, at its core, will always carry the mission to kill things and break stuff. What will be different is what tools they use to execute that mission.

To learn more about the changing character of warfare:

– Read the TRADOC G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Warfare paper.

– Watch The Changing Character of Future Warfare video.

Additionally, please note that the content from the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference at Georgetown University, 8-9 August 2018, is now posted and available for your review:

– Read the Top Ten” Takeaways from the Learning in 2050 Conference.

– Watch videos of each of the conference presentations on the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment (OE) Enterprise YouTube Channel here.

– Review the conference presentation slides (with links to the associated videos) on the Mad Scientist All Partners Access Network (APAN) site here.

LTC Rob Taber is currently the Deputy Director of the Futures Directorate within the TRADOC G-2. He is an Army Strategic Intelligence Officer and holds a Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University. His operational assignments include 1st Infantry Division, United States European Command, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Note:  The featured graphic at the top of this post captures U.S. cavalrymen on General John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916.  Less than two years later, the United States would find itself fully engaged in Europe in a mechanized First World War.  (Source:  Tom Laemlein / Armor Plate Press, courtesy of Neil Grant, The Lewis Gun, Osprey Publishing, 2014, page 19)

_______________________________________________________

[I] National Intelligence Council, “Global Trends: Paradox of Progress,” January 2017, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/nic/GT-Full-Report.pdf, p. 6.
[II] Brad D. Williams, “Emerging ‘Hyperwar’ Signals ‘AI-Fueled, machine waged’ Future of Conflict,” Fifth Domain, August 7, 2017, https://www.fifthdomain.com/dod/2017/08/07/emerging-hyperwar-signals-ai-fueled-machine-waged-future-of-conflict/.
[III] Ibid.
[VI] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 85.
[V] Ibid, 87.
[VI] Ibid.
[VII] Ibid, 86.
[VIII] John Allen, Amir Hussain, “On Hyper-War,” Fortuna’s Corner, July 10, 2017, https://fortunascorner.com/2017/07/10/on-hyper-war-by-gen-ret-john-allenusmc-amir-hussain/.

78. The Classified Mind – The Cyber Pearl Harbor of 2034

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the following post by guest blogger Dr. Jan Kallberg, faculty member, United States Military Academy at West Point, and Research Scientist with the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. His post serves as a cautionary tale regarding our finite intellectual resources and the associated existential threat in failing to protect them!]

Preface: Based on my experience in cybersecurity, migrating to a broader cyber field, there have always been those exceptional individuals that have an unreplicable ability to see the challenge early on, create a technical solution, and know how to play it in the right order for maximum impact. They are out there – the Einsteins, Oppenheimers, and Fermis of cyber. The arrival of Artificial Intelligence increases our reliance on these highly capable individuals – because someone must set the rules, the boundaries, and point out the trajectory for Artificial Intelligence at initiation.

Source: https://thebulletin.org/2017/10/neuroscience-and-the-new-weapons-of-the-mind/

As an industrialist society, we tend to see technology and the information that feeds it as the weapons – and ignore the few humans that have a large-scale direct impact. Even if identified as a weapon, how do you make a human mind classified? Can we protect these high-ability individuals that in the digital world are weapons, not as tools but compilers of capability, or are we still focused on the tools? Why do we see only weapons that are steel and electronics and not the weaponized mind as a weapon?  I believe firmly that we underestimate the importance of Applicable Intelligence – the ability to play the cyber engagement in the optimal order.  Adversaries are often good observers because they are scouting for our weak spots. I set the stage for the following post in 2034, close enough to be realistic and far enough for things to happen when our adversaries are betting that we rely more on a few minds than we are willing to accept.

Post:  In a not too distant future, 20th of August 2034, a peer adversary’s first strategic moves are the targeted killings of less than twenty individuals as they go about their daily lives:  watching a 3-D printer making a protein sandwich at a breakfast restaurant; stepping out from the downtown Chicago monorail; or taking a taste of a poison-filled retro Jolt Cola. In the gray zone, when the geopolitical temperature increases, but we are still not at war yet, our adversary acts quickly and expedites a limited number of targeted killings within the United States of persons whom are unknown to mass media, the general public, and have only one thing in common – Applicable Intelligence (AI).

The ability to apply is a far greater asset than the technology itself. Cyber and card games have one thing in common, the order you play your cards matters. In cyber, the tools are publicly available, anyone can download them from the Internet and use them, but the weaponization of the tools occurs when used by someone who understands how to play the tools in an optimal order. These minds are different because they see an opportunity to exploit in a digital fog of war where others don’t or can’t see it. They address problems unburdened by traditional thinking, in new innovative ways, maximizing the dual-purpose of digital tools, and can create tangible cyber effects.

It is the Applicable Intelligence (AI) that creates the procedures, the application of tools, and turns simple digital software in sets or combinations as a convergence to digitally lethal weapons. This AI is the intelligence to mix, match, tweak, and arrange dual purpose software. In 2034, it is as if you had the supernatural ability to create a thermonuclear bomb from what you can find at Kroger or Albertson.

Sadly we missed it; we didn’t see it. We never left the 20th century. Our adversary saw it clearly and at the dawn of conflict killed off the weaponized minds, without discretion, and with no concern for international law or morality.

These intellects are weapons of growing strategic magnitude. In 2034, the United States missed the importance of these few intellects. This error left them unprotected.

All of our efforts were instead focusing on what they delivered, the application and the technology, which was hidden in secret vaults and only discussed in sensitive compartmented information facilities. Therefore, we classify to the highest level to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of our cyber capabilities. Meanwhile, the most critical component, the militarized intellect, we put no value to because it is a human. In a society marinated in an engineering mindset, humans are like desk space, electricity, and broadband; it is a commodity that is input in the production of the technical machinery. The marveled technical machinery is the only thing we care about today, 2018, and as it turned out in 2034 as well.

We are stuck in how we think, and we are unable to see it coming, but our adversaries see it. At a systematic level, we are unable to see humans as the weapon itself, maybe because we like to see weapons as something tangible, painted black, tan, or green, that can be stored and brought to action when needed. As the armory of the war of 1812, as the stockpile of 1943, and as the launch pad of 2034. Arms are made of steel, or fancier metals, with electronics – we failed in 2034 to see weapons made of corn, steak, and an added combative intellect.

General Nakasone stated in 2017, “Our best ones [coders] are 50 or 100 times better than their peers,” and continued “Is there a sniper or is there a pilot or is there a submarine driver or anyone else in the military 50 times their peer? I would tell you, some coders we have are 50 times their peers.” In reality, the success of cyber and cyber operations is highly dependent not on the tools or toolsets but instead upon the super-empowered individual that General Nakasone calls “the 50-x coder.”

Manhattan Project K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Process Building, Oak Ridge, TN / Source: atomicarchive.com

There were clear signals that we could have noticed before General Nakasone pointed it out clearly in 2017. The United States’ Manhattan Project during World War II had at its peak 125,000 workers on the payroll, but the intellects that drove the project to success and completion were few. The difference with the Manhattan Project and the future of cyber is that we were unable to see the human as a weapon, being locked in by our path dependency as an engineering society where we hail the technology and forget the importance of the humans behind it.

J. Robert Oppenheimer – the militarized intellect behind the  Manhattan Project / Source: Life Magazine

America’s endless love of technical innovations and advanced machinery reflects in a nation that has celebrated mechanical wonders and engineered solutions since its creation. For America, technical wonders are a sign of prosperity, ability, self-determination, and advancement, a story that started in the early days of the colonies, followed by the intercontinental railroad, the Panama Canal, the manufacturing era, the moon landing, and all the way to the autonomous systems, drones, and robots. In a default mindset, there is always a tool, an automated process, a software, or a set of technical steps that can solve a problem or act.

The same mindset sees humans merely as an input to technology, so humans are interchangeable and can be replaced. In 2034, the era of digital conflicts and the war between algorithms with engagements occurring at machine speed with no time for leadership or human interaction, it is the intellects that design and understand how to play it. We didn’t see it.

In 2034, with fewer than twenty bodies piled up after targeted killings, resides the Cyber Pearl Harbor. It was not imploding critical infrastructure, a tsunami of cyber attacks, nor hackers flooding our financial systems, but instead traditional lead and gunpowder. The super-empowered individuals are gone, and we are stuck in a digital war at speeds we don’t understand, unable to play it in the right order, and with limited intellectual torque to see through the fog of war provided by an exploding kaleidoscope of nodes and digital engagements.

Source: Shutterstock

If you enjoyed this post, read our Personalized Warfare post.

Dr. Jan Kallberg is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science with the Department of Social Sciences, United States Military Academy at West Point, and a Research Scientist with the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. He was earlier a researcher with the Cyber Security Research and Education Institute, The University of Texas at Dallas, and is a part-time faculty member at George Washington University. Dr. Kallberg earned his Ph.D. and MA from the University of Texas at Dallas and earned a JD/LL.M. from Juridicum Law School, Stockholm University. Dr. Kallberg is a certified CISSP, ISACA CISM, and serves as the Managing Editor for the Cyber Defense Review. He has authored papers in the Strategic Studies Quarterly, Joint Forces Quarterly, IEEE IT Professional, IEEE Access, IEEE Security and Privacy, and IEEE Technology and Society.

59. Fundamental Questions Affecting Army Modernization

[Editor’s Note:  The Operational Environment (OE) is the start point for Army Readiness – now and in the Future. The OE answers the question, “What is the Army ready for?”  Without the OE in training and Leader development, Soldiers and Leaders are “practicing” in a benign condition, without the requisite rigor to forge those things essential for winning in a complex, multi-domain battlefield.  Building the Army’s future capabilities, a critical component of future readiness, requires this same start point.  The assumptions the Army makes about the Future OE are the sine qua non start point for developing battlefield systems — these assumptions must be at the forefront of decision-making for all future investments.]

There are no facts about the future. Leaders interested in building future ready organizations must develop assumptions about possible futures and these assumptions require constant scrutiny. Leaders must also make decisions based on these assumptions to posture organizations to take advantage of opportunities and to mitigate risks. Making these decisions is fundamental to building future readiness.

Source: Evan Jensen, ARL

The TRADOC G-2 has made the following foundational assumptions about the future that can serve as launch points for important questions about capability requirements and capabilities under development. These assumptions are further described in An Advanced Engagement Battlespace: Tactical, Operational and Strategic Implications for the Future Operational Environment, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

1. Contested in all domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyber). Increased lethality, by virtue of ubiquitous sensors, proliferated precision, high kinetic energy weapons and advanced area munitions, further enabled by autonomy, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with an increasing potential for overmatch. Adversaries will restrict us to temporary windows of advantage with periods of physical and electronic isolation.

Source: Army Technology

2. Concealment is difficult on the future battlefield. Hiding from advanced sensors — where practicable — will require dramatic reduction of heat, electromagnetic, and optical signatures. Traditional hider techniques such as camouflage, deception, and concealment will have to extend to “cross-domain obscuration” in the cyber domain and the electromagnetic spectrum. Canny competitors will monitor their own emissions in real-time to understand and mitigate their vulnerabilities in the “battle of signatures.” Alternately, “hiding in the open” within complex terrain clutter and near-constant relocation might be feasible, provided such relocation could outpace future recon / strike targeting cycles.   Adversaries will operate among populations in complex terrain, including dense urban areas.

3. Trans-regional, gray zone, and hybrid strategies with both regular and irregular forces, criminal elements, and terrorists attacking our weaknesses and mitigating our advantages. The ensuing spectrum of competition will range from peaceful, legal activities through violent, mass upheavals and civil wars to traditional state-on-state, unlimited warfare.

Source: Science Photo Library / Van Parys Media

4. Adversaries include states, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals, with non-state actors and super empowered individuals now having access to Weapons of Mass Effect (WME), cyber, space, and Nuclear/Biological/ Chemical (NBC) capabilities. Their operational reach will range from tactical to global, and the application of their impact from one domain into another will be routine. These advanced engagements will also be interactive across the multiple dimensions of conflict, not only across every domain in the physical dimension, but also the cognitive dimension of information operations, and even the moral dimension of belief and values.

Source: Northrop Grumman

5. Increased speed of human interaction, events and action with democratized and rapidly proliferating capabilities means constant co-evolution between competitors. Recon / Strike effectiveness is a function of its sensors, shooters, their connections, and the targeting process driving decisions. Therefore, in a contest between peer competitors with comparable capabilities, advantage will fall to the one that is better integrated and makes better and faster decisions.

These assumptions become useful when they translate to potential decision criteria for Leaders to rely on when evaluating systems being developed for the future battlefield. Each of the following questions are fundamental to ensuring the Army is prepared to operate in the future.

Source: Lockheed Martin

1. How will this system operate when disconnected from a network? Units will be disconnected from their networks on future battlefields. Capabilities that require constant timing and precision geo-locational data will be prioritized for disruption by adversaries with capable EW systems.

2. What signature does this system present to an adversary? It is difficult to hide on the future battlefield and temporary windows of advantage will require formations to reduce their battlefield signatures. Capabilities that require constant multi-directional broadcast and units with large mission command centers will quickly be targeted and neutralized.

Image credit: Alexander Kott

3. How does this system operate in dense urban areas? The physical terrain in dense urban areas and megacities creates concrete canyons isolating units electronically and physically. Automated capabilities operating in dense population areas might also increase the rate of false signatures, confusing, rather than improving, Commander decision-making. New capabilities must be able to operate disconnected in this terrain. Weapons systems must be able to slew and elevate rapidly to engage vertical targets. Automated systems and sensors will require significant training sets to reduce the rate of false signatures.

Source: Military Embedded Systems

4. How does this system take advantage of open and modular architectures? The rapid rate of technological innovations will offer great opportunities to militaries capable of rapidly integrating prototypes into formations.  Capabilities developed with open and modular architectures can be upgraded with autonomous and AI enablers as they mature. Early investment in closed-system capabilities will freeze Armies in a period of rapid co-evolution and lead to overmatch.

5. How does this capability help win in competition short of conflict with a near peer competitor? Near peer competitors will seek to achieve limited objectives short of direct conflict with the U.S. Army. Capabilities will need to be effective at operating in the gray zone as well as serving as deterrence. They will need to be capable of strategic employment from CONUS-based installations.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the following items of interest:

    • Join SciTech Futures‘ community of experts, analysts, and creatives on 11-18 June 2018 as they discuss the logistical challenges of urban campaigns, both today and on into 2035. What disruptive technologies and doctrines will blue (and red) forces have available in 2035? Are unconventional forces the future of urban combat? Their next ideation exercise goes live 11 June 2018 — click here to learn more!

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

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by MAJ Chris Telley, U.S. Army, assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School, addressing how Artificial Intelligence (AI) must be understood as an Information Operations (IO) tool if U.S. defense professionals are to develop effective countermeasures and ensure our resilience to its employment by potential adversaries.]

AI-enabled IO present a more pressing strategic threat than the physical hazards of slaughter-bots or even algorithmically-escalated nuclear war. IO are efforts to “influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries;” here, we’re talking about using AI to do so. AI-guided IO tools can empathize with an audience to say anything, in any way needed, to change the perceptions that drive those physical weapons. Future IO systems will be able to individually monitor and affect tens of thousands of people at once. Defense professionals must understand the fundamental influence potential of these technologies if they are to drive security institutions to counter malign AI use in the information environment.

Source: Peter Adamis / Abalinx.com

Programmatic marketing, using consumer’s data habits to drive real time automated bidding on personalized advertising, has been used for a few years now. Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook targeting made international headlines using similar techniques, but digital electioneering is just the tip of the iceberg. An AI trained with data from users’ social media accounts, economic media interactions (Uber, Applepay, etc.), and their devices’ positional data can infer predictive knowledge of its targets. With that knowledge, emerging tools — like Replika — can truly befriend a person, allowing it to train that individual, for good or ill.

Source: Getty Creative

Substantive feedback is required to train an individual’s response; humans tend to respond best to content and feedback with which they agree. That content can be algorithmically mass produced. For years, Narrative Science tools have helped writers create sports stories and stock summaries, but it’s just as easy to use them to create disinformation. That’s just text, though; today, the AI can create fake video. A recent warning, ostensibly from former President Obama, provides an entertaining yet frightening demonstration of how Deepfakes will challenge our presumptions about truth in the coming years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a project this summer to determine whether AI-generated Deepfakes will become impossible to distinguish from the real thing, even using other AI systems.

Given that malign actors can now employ AI to lieat machine speed,” they still have to get the story to an audience. Russian bot armies continue to make headlines doing this very thing. The New York Times maintains about a dozen Twitter feeds and produces around 300 tweets a day, but Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) regularly puts out 25,000 tweets in the same twenty-four hours. The IRA’s bots are really just low-tech curators; they collect, interpret, and display desired information to promote the Kremlin’s narratives.

Source: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Next-generation bot armies will employ far faster computing techniques and profit from an order of magnitude greater network speed when 5G services are fielded. If “Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution,” then this machine gun-like ability to fire information at an audience will, with empathetic precision and custom content, provide the means to change a decisive audience’s very reality. No breakthrough science is needed, no bureaucratic project office required. These pieces are already there, waiting for an adversary to put them together.

The DoD is looking at AI but remains focused on image classification and swarming quadcopters while ignoring the convergent possibilities of predictive audience understanding, tailored content production, and massive scale dissemination. What little digital IO we’ve done, sometimes called social media “WebOps,” has been contractor heavy and prone to naïve missteps. However, groups like USSOCOM’s SOFWERX and the students at the Naval Postgraduate School are advancing the state of our art. At NPS, future senior leaders are working on AI, now. A half-dozen of the school’s departments have stood up classes and events specifically aimed at operationalizing advanced computing. The young defense professionals currently working on AI should grapple with emerging influence tools and form the foundation of the DoD’s future institutional capabilities.

MAJ Chris Telley is an Army information operations officer assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School. His assignments have included theater engagement at U.S. Army Japan and advanced technology integration with the U.S. Air Force. Chris commanded in Afghanistan and served in Iraq as a United States Marine. He tweets at @chris_telley.

This blog post represents the opinions of the author and do not reflect the position of the Army or the United States Government.

54. A View of the Future: 2035-2050

[Editor’s Note: The following post addresses the Era of Contested Equality (2035-2050) and is extracted from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, published last summer. This seminal document provides the U.S. Army with a holistic and heuristic approach to projecting and anticipating both transformational and enduring trends that will lend themselves to the depiction of the future.]

Changes encountered during the Future Operational Environment’s Era of Accelerated Human Progress (the present through 2035) begin a process that will re-shape the global security situation and fundamentally alter the character of warfare. While its nature remains constant, the speed, automation, ranges, both broad and narrow effects, its increasingly integrated multi-domain conduct, and the complexity of the terrain and social structures in which it occurs will make mid-century warfare both familiar and utterly alien.

During the Era of Contested Equality (2035-2050), great powers and rising challengers have converted hybrid combinations of economic power, technological prowess, and virulent, cyber-enabled ideologies into effective strategic strength. They apply this strength to disrupt or defend the economic, social, and cultural foundations of the old Post-World War II liberal order and assert or dispute regional alternatives to established global norms. State and non-state actors compete for power and control, often below the threshold of traditional armed conflict – or shield and protect their activities under the aegis of escalatory WMD, cyber, or long-range conventional options and doctrines.

It is not clear whether the threats faced in the preceding Era of Accelerated Human Progress persist, although it is likely that China and Russia will remain key competitors, and that some form of non-state ideologically motivated extremist groups will exist. Other threats may have fundamentally changed their worldviews, or may not even exist by mid-Century, while other states, and combinations of states will rise and fall as challengers during the 2035-2050 timeframe. The security environment in this period will be characterized by conditions that will facilitate competition and conflict among rivals, and lead to endemic strife and warfare, and will have several defining features.

The nation-state perseveres. The nation-state will remain the primary actor in the international system, but it will be weaker both domestically and globally than it was at the start of the century. Trends of fragmentation, competition, and identity politics will challenge global governance and broader globalization, with both collective security and globalism in decline. States share their strategic environments with networked societies which increasingly circumvent governments unresponsive to their citizens’ needs. Many states will face challenges from insurgents and global identity networks – ethnic, religious, regional, social, or economic – which either resist state authority or ignore it altogether.

Super-Power Diminishes. Early-century great powers will lose their dominance in command and control, surveillance, and precision-strike technologies as even non-state actors will acquire and refine their own application of these technologies in conflict and war. Rising competitors will be able to acquire capabilities through a broad knowledge diffusion, cyber intellectual property theft, and their own targeted investments without having to invest into massive “sunken” research costs. This diffusion of knowledge and capability and the aforementioned erosion of long-term collective security will lead to the formation of ad hoc communities of interest. The costs of maintaining global hegemony at the mid-point of the century will be too great for any single power, meaning that the world will be multi-polar and dominated by complex combinations of short-term alliances, relations, and interests.

This era will be marked by contested norms and persistent disorder, where multiple state and non-state actors assert alternative rules and norms, which when contested, will use military force, often in a dimension short of traditional armed conflict.

For additional information on the Future Operational Environment and the Era of Contested Equality:

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

•  Watch the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise’s The Changing Character of Future Warfare video.

51. Black Swans and Pink Flamingos

The Mad Scientist Initiative recently facilitated a workshop with thought leaders from across the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, other Government agencies, industry, and academia to address the unknown, unknowns (i.e., Black Swans) and the known, knowns (i.e., Pink Flamingos) to synthesize cross-agency thinking about possible disruptions to the Future Operational Environment.

Black Swans: In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s original context, a black swan (unknown, unknowns) is an event or situation which is unpredictable, but has a major effect. For this conference, we used a looser definition, identifying possibilities that are not likely, but might have significant impacts on how we think about warfighting and security.

Pink Flamingos: Defined by Frank Hoffman, Pink Flamingos are the known, knowns that are often discussed, but ignored by Leaders trapped by organizational cultures and rigid bureaucratic decision-making structures. Peter Schwartz further describes Pink Flamingos as the “inevitable surprise.” Digital photography was a pink flamingo to Kodak.

At the workshop, attendees identified the following Black Swans:

Naturally Occurring Disaster: These events (i.e., Carrington Event — solar flare frying solid state electronics, super volcano eruptions, earthquake swarms, etc.) would have an enormous impact on the Army and its ability to continue to operate and defend the nation and support national recovery operations. While warning times have increased for many of these events, there are limited measures that can be implemented to mitigate the devastating effects of these events.


Virtual Nations: While the primacy of Westphalian borders has been challenged and the power of traditional nation-states has been waning over the last decade, some political scientists have assumed that supranational organizations and non-state actors would take their place. One potential black swan is the emergence of virtual nations due to the convergence of blockchain technologies, crypto-currency, and the ability to project power and legitimacy through the virtual world. Virtual nations could be organized based on ideologies, business models, or single interests. Virtual nations could supersede, supplement, or compete with traditional, physical nations. The Army of the future may not be prepared to interact and compete with virtual nations.


Competition in Venues Other than Warfare (Economic, Technological, Demographic, etc.) Achieving Primacy: In the near future, war in the traditional sense may be less prevalent, while competitions in other areas may be the driving forces behind national oppositions. How does the Army need to prepare for an eventuality where armed conflict is not as important as it once was?


Alternate Internet — “Alternet”: A distinct entity, separate from the general commercial internet, only accessible with specific corresponding hardware. This technology would allow for unregulated and unmonitored communication and commerce, potentially granting safe haven to criminal and terrorist activities.

At the workshop, attendees identified the following Pink Flamingos:

Safe at Home: Army installations are no longer the sanctuaries they once were, as adversaries will be able to attack Soldiers and families through social media and other cyberspace means. Additionally, installations no longer merely house, train, and deploy Soldiers — unmanned combat systems are controlled from home installations -— a trend in virtual power that will increase in the future. The Army needs a plan to harden our installations and train Soldiers and families to be resilient for this eventuality.


Hypersonics: High speed (Mach 5 or higher) and highly maneuverable missiles or glide vehicles that can defeat our air defense systems. The speed of these weapons is unmatched and their maneuverability allows them to keep their targets unknown until only seconds before impact, negating current countermeasures.


Generalized, Operationalized Artificial Intelligence (AI): Artificial intelligence is one of the most prominent pink flamingos throughout global media and governments. Narrow artificial intelligence is being addressed as rapidly as possible through ventures such as Project MAVEN. However, generalized and operationalized artificial intelligence – that can think, contextualize, and operate like a human – has the potential to disrupt not only operations, but also the military at its very core and foundation.


Space/Counterspace: Space is becoming increasingly congested, commercialized, and democratized. Disruption, degradation, and denial in space threatens to cripple multi-domain warfare operations. States and non-state actors alike are exploring options to counter one another, compete, and potentially even fight in space.


Quantum Sciences: Quantum science – communication, computing, and sensing – has the potential to solve some intractable but very specific problem sets. Quantum technology remains in its infancy. However, as the growth of qubits in quantum computing continues to expand, so does the potentiality of traditional encryption being utterly broken. Quantum sensing can allow for much more precise atomic clocks surpassing the precision timing of GPS, as well as quantum imaging that provides better results than classical imaging in a variety of wavelengths.


Bioweapons/Biohacking: The democratization of bio technology will mean that super-empowered individuals as well as nation states will have the ability to engineer weapons and hacks that can augment friendly human forces or target and degrade enemy human forces (e.g., targeted disease or genetic modifications).


Personalized Warfare: Warfare is now waged on a personal level, where adversaries can attack the bank accounts of Soldiers’ families, infiltrate their social media, or even target them specifically by their genetics. The Army needs to understand that the individual Soldier can be exploited in many different ways, often through information publicly provided or stolen.

Source: ommbeu / Fotolia
Deep Fakes/Information Warfare: Information warfare and “fake news” have played a prominent role in global politics over the last several years and could dominate the relationship between societies, governments, politicians, and militaries in the future operational environment. Information operations, thanks to big data and humanity’s ever-growing digital presence, are targeted at an extremely personal and specific level. One of the more concerning aspects of this is an artificial intelligence-based human image/voice synthesis technique known as deep fakes. Deep fakes can essentially put words in the mouths of prominent or trusted politicians and celebrities.


Multi-Domain Swarming: Swarming is often thought about in terms of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but one significant pink flamingo is swarming taking place across multiple domains with self-organizing, autonomous aerial, ground, maritime (sub and surface), and even subterranean unmanned systems. U.S. defense systems on a linear modernization and development model will not be capable of dealing with the saturation and complexity issues arising from these multi-domain swarms.


Lethal Autonomy: An autonomous system with the ability to track, target, and fire without the supervision or authority of a human in/on the loop. The U.S. Army will have to examine its own policy regarding these issues as well as our adversaries, who may be less deterred by ethical/policy issues.


Tactical Nuclear Exchange: While strategic nuclear war and mutually assured destruction have been discussed and addressed ad nauseam, not enough attention has been given to the potential of a tactical nuclear exchange between state actors. One tactical nuclear attack, while not guaranteeing a nuclear holocaust, would bring about a myriad of problems for U.S. forces worldwide (e.g., the potential for escalation, fallout, contamination of water and air, and disaster response). Additionally, a high altitude nuclear burst’s electromagnetic pulse has the potential to fry solid state electronics across a wide-area, with devastating results to the affected nation’s electrical grid, essential government services, and food distribution networks.

Leaders must anticipate these future possibilities in determining the character of future conflicts and in force design and equipping decisions. Using a mental model of black swans and pink flamingos provides a helpful framework for assessing the risks associated with these decisions.

For additional information on projected black swans for the next 20+ years, see the RAND Corporation’s Discontinuities and Distractions — Rethinking Security for the Year 2040.