117. Old Human vs. New Human

[Editor’s Note: On 8-9 August 2018, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC. Leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and the government gathered to address future learning techniques and technologies that are critical in preparing for Army operations in the mid-21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces. One finding from this conference is that tomorrow’s Soldiers will learn differently from earlier generations, given the technological innovations that will have surrounded them from birth through their high school graduation.  To effectively engage these “New Humans” and prepare them for combat on future battlefields, the Army must discard old paradigms of learning that no longer resonate (e.g., those desiccated lectures delivered via interminable PowerPoint presentations) and embrace more effective means of instruction.]

The recruit of 2050 will be born in 2032 and will be fundamentally different from the generations born before them. Marc Prensky, educational writer and speaker who coined the term digital native, asserts this “New Human” will stand in stark contrast to the “Old Human” in the ways they assimilate information and approach learning.1 Where humans today are born into a world with ubiquitous internet, hyper-connectivity, and the Internet of Things, each of these elements are generally external to the human. By 2032, these technologies likely will have converged and will be embedded or integrated into the individual with connectivity literally on the tips of their fingers. The challenge for the Army will be to recognize the implications of this momentous shift and alter its learning methodologies, approach to training, and educational paradigm to account for these digital natives.

These New Humans will be accustomed to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to augment and supplement decision-making in their everyday lives. AI will be responsible for keeping them on schedule, suggesting options for what and when to eat, delivering relevant news and information, and serving as an on-demand embedded expert. The Old Human learned to use these technologies and adapted their learning style to accommodate them, while the New Human will be born into them and their learning style will be a result of them. In 2018, 94% of Americans aged 18-29 owned some kind of smartphone.2 Compare that to 73% ownership for ages 50-64 and 46% for age 65 and above and it becomes clear that there is a strong disconnect between the age groups in terms of employing technology. Both of the leading software developers for smartphones include a built-in artificially intelligent digital assistant, and at the end of 2017, nearly half of all U.S. adults used a digital voice assistant in some way.3 Based on these trends, there likely will be in the future an even greater technological wedge between New Humans and Old Humans.

http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

New Humans will be information assimilators, where Old Humans were information gatherers. The techniques to acquire and gather information have evolved swiftly since the advent of the printing press, from user-intensive methods such as manual research, to a reduction in user involvement through Internet search engines. Now, narrow AI using natural language processing is transitioning to AI-enabled predictive learning. Through these AI-enabled virtual entities, New Humans will carry targeted, predictive, and continuous learning assistants with them. These assistants will observe, listen, and process everything of relevance to the learner and then deliver them information as necessary.

There is an abundance of research on the stark contrast between the three generations currently in the workforce: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.4, 5 There will be similar fundamental differences between Old Humans and New Humans and their learning styles. The New Human likely will value experiential learning over traditional classroom learning.6 The convergence of mixed reality and advanced, high fidelity modeling and simulation will provide New Humans with immersive, experiential learning. For example, Soldiers learning military history and battlefield tactics will be able to experience it ubiquitously, observing how each facet of the battlefield affects the whole in real-time as opposed to reading about it sequentially. Soldiers in training could stand next to an avatar of General Patton and experience him explaining his command decisions firsthand.

There is an opportunity for the Army to adapt its education and training to these growing differences. The Army could—and eventually will need—to recruit, train, and develop New Humans by altering its current structure and recruitment programs. It will become imperative to conduct training with new tools, materials, and technologies that will allow Soldiers to become information assimilators. Additionally, the incorporation of experiential learning techniques will entice Soldiers’ learning. There is an opportunity for the Army to pave the way and train its Soldiers with cutting edge technology rather than trying to belatedly catch up to what is publicly available.

Evolution in Learning Technologies

If you enjoyed this post, please also watch Elliott Masie‘s video presentation on Dynamic Readiness and  Mark Prensky‘s presentation on The Future of Learning from of the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference

… see the following related blog posts:

… and read The Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Final Report.


1 Prensky, Mark, Mad Scientist Conference: Learning in 2050, Georgetown University, 9 August 2018

2 http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

3 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/12/nearly-half-of-americans-use-digital-voice-assistants-mostly-on-their-smartphones/

4 https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Generational-issues-in-the-workplace.aspx

5 https://blogs.uco.edu/customizededucation/2018/01/16/generational-differences-in-the-workplace/

6 https://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/03/undergraduates.aspx

49. “The Queue”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

45. Envisioning Future Operational Environment Possibilities through Story Telling

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them, into the impossible.” — Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 20th Century British science fiction writer, futurist, and inventor








In envisioning Future Operational Environment possibilities, the Mad Scientist Initiative employs the following techniques:

Crowdsourcing: Gathering ideas, thoughts, and concepts from a wide variety of interested individuals assists us in diversifying thoughts and challenging conventional assumptions

Edge Cases: Examining what is at the extreme possible regarding new and emerging technologies allows us to contextualize the future

Historical Analogy: Comparing past events to current and future possibilities allows us to imagine the transformational and sometimes radical changes the Army of the Future may experience

Story Telling: Creative fictional writing and narrative building that helps us explore how technologies are employed and operationalized

While each of these techniques have their own unique merits, Mad Scientist has found that Story Telling serves us especially well in facilitating the exploration of future possibilities. As Mr. Peter David addresses in his Small Wars Journal article entitled “Science Fiction vs. Science Funding: Comparing What We Imagine to What We Invent,” well-written science fiction provides us with more than just a litany of speculative scientific and technological advances. It takes these advances and wickers them seamlessly within an engaging plot. Characters actually employ these advances, enabling us to visualize their effects on both the individual and society as a whole.

In November 2016, Mad Scientist launched its first Science Fiction Writing Competition with the topic “Warfare in 2030 to 2050.” We sought out unconventional thinkers and solicited their unique perspectives — we were not disappointed! With over 150 submissions from authors in 10 different countries around the globe, the diversity of input provided us with a wide variety of thoughts and ideas about warfare and the Future Operational Environment. Through the art of Story Telling, the Army was able to visualize the known, probable, and possible challenges and opportunities that the future holds.

Mad Scientist singled out Mr. Mathison Hall‘s short story entitled “Patrolling the Infosphere” for recognition at our Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle 2030-2050 Conference, co-sponsored by Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on 25-26 July 2017. The following is an excerpt from his winning submission:

I step into my exoskeleton, my link-suit hooking into the inside of the exoskel. “All systems charged and functional. Left knee joint operating at partial strength, but combat ready,” the exoskel’s voice calmly reports. They hit my knee hard three patrols ago. The contractor jury-rigged it to function…partially. I can still run up to forty-miles-an-hour and jump to the third floor windows, but the outside of the joint started vibrating and pulling oddly to the right on patrol this morning. It’ll be fun trying to hoof it in a one-hundred and fifty-five pound exoskel plus another sixty pounds of gear, weapons, and ammo with my own knee power on the left side if that thing gives out.

Angels, let’s go, I think to myself. My two synched drones lift off the charging shelf and lock into my exoskel’s shoulders. The suit hums softly and each step clinks lightly as I line up with the rest of the squad for our final pre-combat checks.

Staff Sergeant Nguyen’s exoskel head turns and looks over us. I can see her face through the clear polymer face shield. She has a sly smile. I’ve got to hand it to her, she loves patrolling.

“Second squad online and ready,” her voice projects over our intercoms.

“Copy second squad. We have a good synch here in the company operations center. Information operations and intel are both online and monitoring. Your Cyber Force bubbas are up and running ready to save your hides. Air Force drones are airborne and you’ve got priority of fires from one Navy railgun. No news feeds right now. There’s at least one Russian cube-sat up there watching our sector, but it’s not projecting over any social media yet. We’ve let Fort Meade know, and they should have it down soon. Tell us when you’re ready to step and we’ll start chatting.”

That’s my drinking buddy, Coder Second Class Hawkins, for you. He never passes up a chance to say in fifty words what can be said in ten. Makes him a good drinking buddy, especially when he gets going. I like to give him crap for being the only Cyber Force hacker deployed in our sector. His whole service spends most of their careers stateside. But no one doubts that they’re the main effort.

Chatting…damn. He and his reach-back squad in Maryland are going to start lighting up the news feeds and social media soon. Lucia’s going to be pissed. I bet she’s watching right now from Fayetteville. Let’s see, how many hours ahead of the East Coast are we? Five? She probably hasn’t left for work at the intel fusion cell on base yet. Probably at home getting Cindy ready for school and watching #DCo3dBCT82ndAirborne right now, monitoring the Russian cube-sat feed and our chatter at the same time. I bet Fort Meade gets the cube-sat down right about the time we’re wrapping up our patrol, as usual.

“Second squad ready to step.” Staff Sergeant Nguyen.

“Copy, second squad. The public affairs specialist is up and transmitting. We’ve got a foothold into the local internet exchange point, and we’ve got good visual on the whole town from the drones. No abnormal activity. Go ahead and step.”

We leave the tent, the nine of us stepping into the scorching sunlight as two Chinese field hackers march across the courtyard in their suits. Their suits’ exoskels look suspiciously like ours…same design and functions and almost the same weapons systems. Suits look a little sleeker and newer; less used. Two headless mules, our ammo, water, and gear resupply drones, fall in behind us, their legs moving rhythmically and spider-like as their LIDAR sensors navigate the terrain in front of them and keep them locked on to us 20 yards to our rear. They follow us like four-legged mechanical spiders, crawling across the dusty, crumbling streets between our company’s firm base and the center of town…


Video envisioning the world described in Mr. Mathison Hall’s “Patrolling the Infosphere.”

You can read the rest of Mr. Hall’s winning entry, as well as 22 other submissions from this contest at Science Fiction: Visioning the Future of Warfare 2030-2050.

Watch Mr. Hall’s presentation entitled “Patrolling the Infosphere” at the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle 2030-2050 Conference.

Mad Scientist Laboratory has also explored the benefits of Story Telling in the televisual arts in Dr. Peter Emanuel’s guest blog post.

Harvard Business Review and MIT Technology Review have both realized the merits of Science Fiction; as Mr. Eliot Peper notes in his article in HBR:

“Exploring fictional futures frees our thinking from false constraints. It challenges us to wonder whether we’re even asking the right questions. It forces us to recognize that sometimes imagination is more important than analysis.”

For additional examples of how Story Telling provides us with provocative and unique insights into future possibilities regarding warfare and the Future Operational Environment, read the finalists from our recent Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas, hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

18. Mad Scientist FY17: A Retrospective

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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





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