[Editor’s Note: Regular readers will note that one of our enduring themes is the Internet’s emergence as a central disruptive innovation. With the publication of proclaimed Mad Scientist P.W. Singer and co-author Emerson T. Brooking’s LikeWar – The Weaponization of Social Media, Mad Scientist Laboratory addresses what is arguably the most powerful manifestation of the internet — Social Media — and how it is inextricably linked to the future of warfare. Messrs. Singer and Brooking’s new book is essential reading if today’s Leaders (both in and out of uniform) are to understand, defend against, and ultimately wield the non-kinetic, yet violently manipulative effects of Social Media.]
“The modern internet is not just a network, but an ecosystem of 4 billion souls…. Those who can manipulate this swirling tide, steer its direction and flow, can…. accomplish astonishing evil. They can foment violence, stoke hate, sow falsehoods, incite wars, and even erode the pillars of democracy itself.”
As noted inThe Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, Social Media and the Internet of Things have spawned a revolution that has connected “all aspects of human engagement where cognition, ideas, and perceptions, are almost instantaneously available.” While this connectivity has been a powerfully beneficial global change agent, it has also amplified human foibles and biases. Authors Singer and Brookings note that humans by nature are social creatures that tend to gravitate into like-minded groups. We “Like” and share things online that resonate with our own beliefs. We also tend to believe what resonates with us and our community of friends.
“Whether the cause is dangerous (support for a terrorist group), mundane (support for a political party), or inane (belief that the earth is flat), social media guarantees that you can find others who share your views and even be steered to them by the platforms’ own algorithms… As groups of like-minded people clump together, they grow to resemble fanatical tribes, trapped in echo chambers of their own design.”
Weaponization of Information
The advent of Social Media less than 20 years ago has changed how we wage war.
“Attacking an adversary’s most important center of gravity — the spirit of its people — no longer requires massive bombing runs or reams of propaganda. All it takes is a smartphone and a few idle seconds. And anyone can do it.”
Nation states and non-state actors alike are leveraging social media to manipulate like-minded populations’ cognitive biases to influence the dynamics of conflict. This continuous on-line fight for your mind represents “not a single information war but thousands and potentially millions of them.”
LikeWar provides a host of examples describing how contemporary belligerents are weaponizing Social Media to augment their operations in the physical domain. Regarding the battle to defeat ISIS and re-take Mosul, authors Singer and Brookings note that:
“Social media had changed not just the message, but the dynamics of conflict. How information was being accessed, manipulated, and spread had taken on new power. Who was involved in the fight, where they were located, and even how they achieved victory had been twisted and transformed. Indeed, if what was online could swing the course of a battle — or eliminate the need for battle entirely — what, exactly, could be considered ‘war’ at all?“
Even American gang members are entering the fray assuper-empowered individuals, leveraging social media to instigate killings via “Facebook drilling” in Chicago or “wallbanging” in Los Angeles.
And it is only “a handful of Silicon Valley engineers,” with their brother and sister technocrats inBeijing, St. Petersburg, and a few other global hubs of Twenty-first Century innovation that are forging and then unleashing the code that is democratizing this virtual warfare.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Enabled Information Operations
Seeing is believing, right? Not anymore! Previously clumsy efforts to photo-shop images and fabricate grainy videos and poorly executed CGI have given way to sophisticatedDeepfakes, using AI algorithms to create nearly undetectable fake images, videos, and audio tracks that then go viral on-line to dupe, deceive, and manipulate. This year, FakeApp was launched as free software, enabling anyone with an artificial neural network and a graphics processor to create and share bogus videos via Social Media. Each Deepfake video that:
“… you watch, like, or share represents a tiny ripple on the information battlefield, privileging one side at the expense of others. Your online attention and actions are thus both targets and ammunition in an unending series of skirmishes.”
Just as AI is facilitating these distortions in reality, the race is on to harness AI to detect and delete these fakes and prevent “the end of truth.”
If you enjoyed this post:
– Listen to the accompanying playlist composed by P.W. Singer while reading LikeWar.
[Editor’s Note: The United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at their Menlo Park, CA, campus on 8-9 March 2018, where participants discussed the advent of new biotechnologies and the associated benefits, vulnerabilities, and ethics associated with Soldier enhancement for the Army of the Future. The following post is an excerpt from this conference’s final report.]
Advances in synthetic biology likely will enhance future Soldier performance – speed, strength, endurance, and resilience – but will bring with it vulnerabilities, such as genomic targeting, that can be exploited by an adversary and/or potentially harm the individual undergoing the enhancement.
Emerging synthetic biology tools – e.g., CRISPR, Talon, and ZFN – present an opportunity to engineer Soldiers’ DNA and enhance their abilities. Bioengineering is becoming easier and cheaper as a bevy of developments are reducing biotechnology transaction costs in gene reading, writing, and editing. Due to the ever-increasing speed and lethality of the future battlefield, combatants will need cognitive and physical enhancement to survive and thrive.
Cognitive enhancement could make Soldiers more lethal, more decisive, and perhaps more resilient. Using neurofeedback, a process that allows a user to see their brain activity in real-time, one can identify ideal brain states, and use them to enhance an individual’s mental performance. Through the mapping and presentation of identified expert brains, novices can rapidly improve their acuity after just a few training sessions.Further, there are studies being conducted that explore the possibility of directly emulating those expert brain states with non-invasive EEG caps that could improve performance almost immediately.Dr. Amy Kruse, the Chief Scientific Officer at the Platypus Institute, referred to this phenomenon as “sitting on a gold mine of brains.”
There is also the potential to change and improve Soldier’s physical attributes. Scientists can develop drugs, specific dietary plans, and potentially use genetic editing to improve speed, strength, agility, and endurance.
In order to fully leverage the capability of human performance enhancement, Andrew Herr, CEO of Helicase and an Adjunct Fellow at CNAS, suggested that human performance R&D be moved out of the medical field and become its own research area due to its differing objectives and the convergence between varying technologies.
Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors are already trying to enhance themselves with commercial products – often containing unknown or unsafe ingredients – so it is incumbent on the U.S. military to, at the very least, help those who want to improve.
However, a host of new vulnerabilities, at the genetic level, accompany this revolutionary leap in human evolution. If one can map the human genome and more thoroughly scan and understand the brain, they can target genomes and brains in the same ways. Soldiers could become incredibly vulnerable at the genomic level, forcing the Army to not only protect Soldiers using body armor and armored vehicles, but also protect their identities, genomes, and physiologies.
Adversaries will exploit all biological enhancements to gain competitive advantage over U.S. forces. Targeted genome editing technology such as CRISPR will enable adversarial threats to employ super-empowered Soldiers on the battlefield and target specific populations with bioweapons. U.S. adversaries may use technologies recklessly to achieve short term gains with no consideration of long range effects.
There are numerousethicalquestions that come with the enhancement of Soldiers such as the moral acceptability of the Army making permanent enhancements to Soldiers, the responsibility for returning transitioning Soldiers to a “baseline human,” and the general definition of what a “baseline human” is legally defined as.
By altering, enhancing, and augmenting the biology of the human Soldier, the United States Army will potentially enter into uncharted ethical territory. Instead of issuing items to Soldiers to complement their physical and cognitive assets, by 2050, the U.S. Army may have the will and the means to issue them increased biological abilities in those areas. The future implications and the limits or thresholds for enhancement have not yet been considered. The military is already willing to correct the vision of certain members – laser eye surgery, for example – a practice that could be accurately referred to as human enhancement, so discretely defining where the threshold lies will be important. It is already known that other countries, and possible adversaries, are willing to cross the line where we are not. Russia, most recently, was banned from competition in the 2018 Winter Olympics for widespread performance-enhancing drug violations that were believed to be supported by the Russian Government. Those drugs violate the spirit of competition in the Olympics, but no such spirit exists in warfare.
Another consideration is whether or not the Soldier enhancements are permanent. By enhancing Soldiers’ faculties, the Army is, in fact, enhancing their lethality or their ability to defeat the enemy. What happens with these enhancements—whether the Army can or should remove them— when a Soldier leaves the Army is an open question. As stated previously, the Army is willing and able to improve eyesight, but does not revert that eyesight back to its original state after the individual has separated. Some possible moral questions surrounding Soldier enhancement include:
• If the Army were to increase a Soldier’s stamina, visual acuity, resistance to disease, and pain tolerance, making them a more lethal warfighter, is it incumbent upon the Army to remove those enhancements?
• If the Soldier later used those enhancements in civilian life for nefarious purposes, would the Army be responsible?
Answers to these legal questions are beyond the scope of this paper, but can be considered now before the advent of these new technologies becomes widespread.
If the Army decides to reverse certain Soldier enhancements, it likely will need to determine the definition of a “baseline human.” This would establish norms for features, traits, and abilities that can be permanently enhanced and which must be removed before leaving service. This would undoubtedly involve both legal and moral challenges.
The complete Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Final Report can be readhere.
To learn more about the ramifications of Soldier enhancement, please go to:
– Dr. Amy Kruse’sHuman 2.0podcast, hosted by our colleagues at Modern War Institute.
– The Ethics and the Future of War panel discussion, facilitated by LTG Jim Dubik (USA-Ret.) from Day 2 (26 July 2017) of the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle in 2030-2050 Conference at Georgetown University.
 Ahmad, Zarah and Stephanie Larson, “The DNA Utility in Military Environments,” slide 5, presented at Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and the Soldier 2050 Conference, 8 March 2018.  Kruse, Amy, “Human 2.0 Upgrading Human Performance,” Slide 12, presented at Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and the Soldier 2050 Conference, 8 March 2018 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00034/full https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/610034/china-is-already-gene-editing-a-lot-of-humans/ https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2018/05/07/russia-confirms-its-armed-robot-tank-was-in-syria/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/russia-banned-from-2018-olympics-following-doping-allegations/2017/12/05/9ab49790-d9d4-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d12db68f42d1
[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’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 ourPotential 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.]
“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 AIdiffers 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 disruptiveInformation Operation (IO) campaigns and Virtual Warfare, revolutionizing human affairs. The West would be best served in emulating the PRC with itsMilitary-Civil Fusion Centers and integrate the resources of the State with the innovation of industry to achieve their own AGI solutions soonest. Thedecisive 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!
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 reporthere.
In a study published byPLOS ONE, researchers found that arobot’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 beaccompanied 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 theappropriate 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.
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 arounddense 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.
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 undefinedgray 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: firstname.lastname@example.org — we may select it for inclusion in our next edition of “The Queue”!
[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.
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, androbotic systems to target infrastructure from afar, and more accessible technology to create weapons of mass destruction.”[I]
Additionally, Brad D. Williams, in an introductionto 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.
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 thatartificial 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 ofdenial, 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.
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.
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:
– Watch videos of each of the conference presentations on the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment (OE) Enterprise YouTube Channelhere.
– Review the conference presentation slides (with links to the associated videos) on the Mad Scientist All Partners Access Network (APAN) sitehere.
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/.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present (somewhat belatedly) our July 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!]
Mr. Nicholson summarizes a recent presentation by one of our favorite Mad Scientists,P.W. Singer from New America. Mr. Singer warns that as more and more items are linked to the internet of things, the opportunities for nations and societies (also non-state actors andsuper-empowered individuals) to attack and be attacked become much broader. He states that “all of this technology does not mean that we will see humans eliminated from war anytime soon. Rather, just like the steam engine and the plane and the computer, we will see changes in the human skills that are most needed and less needed. This movement of people skills can and should change everything from our recruiting and training to our doctrine and organizational design.” This movement of people skills was a key aspect of last week’s Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference, conducted at Georgetown University on 8 – 9 August. The demands on Leaders and skills required to compete in the changing character of war are probably fundamentally different. Mr. Singer challenges us to choose real change and not change just enough to fail. His example of the USS Arizona with its two catapult-launched float planes demonstrates a bureaucracy’s incremental approach in the face of revolutionary change. That change – modern bombers – made this once great warship a monument to a “Day that will live in Infamy.”
David Ignatius, famed spy novelist and Washington Post journalist, tackles not only espionage but also a multitude of disruptive technologiesin his new thriller, The Quantum Spy. The book revolves around a race towards leap-ahead developments in quantum computing between the United States and China; but a looming subplot is the cat and mouse game of counterintelligence, infiltration, and insertion of moles between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Chinese Ministry of State Security. CIA case officer and Army veteran Harris Chang struggles with his Chinese heritage, devotion to America, and the sometimes unscrupulous role of his organization in fighting to protect America’s secrets. The book is replete with detailed and accurate descriptions ofAmerican innovation efforts. The depiction of the infiltration on American college campuses and research institutions by foreign students being sponsored and often directed by foreign adversaries is alarming and timely given recent real-world events such as aChinese student taking groundbreaking work on metamaterials at Duke University back to his home country. The book raises important questions about the balance between open, collaborative innovation (that opens up a number of vulnerabilities) and more restrictive, government-funded research (that may be more secure), both of which are critical in the current Era of Accelerated Human Progress (now through 2035) as described inThe Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare. Similarly to Agents of Innocence and Body of Lies, David Ignatius has created a work that not only features a fantastic story but that includes many government, military, and intelligence implications.
3. “War and the Human Brain” podcast with Dr. James Giordano and Mr. John Amble, Modern War Institute, 24 July 2018 (originally aired in 2017) – review by Marie Murphy.
Modern War Institute’s John Amble spoke with Dr. James Giordano about his research in neuroscience and using “the brain as a weapon” following his presentation at the Mad Scientist Visualizing Multi Domain Battle in 2030-2050 Conference, 25-26 July 2017, at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. After a brief historical overview of neuroscience’s military applications, Dr. Giordano explains how recent research on electric and magnetic trans-cranial stimulation and implantable electrodes has opened up possibilities and controversies. Soldiers of the future could obtain modifications that improve memory, cognition, and vigilance while decreasing fatigue. Conversely, there is anethical dilemma when it comes to discontinuing, removing, or deactivating these improvements; there is concern regarding the Soldier potentially feeling disabled or disenabled afterwards. The discussion transitioned to the implications of “drugs, bugs, toxins, and tools,” all of which can have some kind of effect on neurological activity, and all of which can be weaponized. These capabilities, while not considered weapons of mass destruction, are categorized asweapons of mass disruption. These tools and technologies pose a real, rising threat in the future Operational Environment; are deployable by nation-states, non-state actors, andsuper-empowered individuals; and can be specifically targeted for optimal impact. Read more about these capabilities in the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference Final Report.
On 17 July 2018, the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics issued apress release in conjunction with their publication ofGenome editing and human reproduction. The Council, established in 1991 to address ethical issues raised by new developments in biology and medicine, “concluded that editing the DNA of a human embryo, sperm, or egg to influence the characteristics of a future person (‘heritable genome editing’) could be morally permissible.” Futurism interpreted this as meaning we are “one step closer to designer babies,” and concluded it “is a promising sign for anyone eager for the day gene-editing lets them create the offspring of their dreams.” That said, the Council recommends two overarching principles governing the ethical use of heritable genome editing: “they must be intended to secure, and be consistent with, the welfare of the future person; and they should not increase disadvantage, discrimination or division in society.” The Council also noted that current British law precludes the genomic editing of embryos that are to be placed in a womb. So, no Brave New World in our future, right?
Not necessarily.… As Mr. Hank Greely, Professor of Law, Stanford University,pointed out this spring at our Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference, we are on the cusp of being able to use skin cells to generate lines of viable embryos, which then may be subjected to Preimplantation Genetic Diagnoses prior to selection and implantation to preclude a host of genetic diseases and ensure healthier babies (who could possibly object to that?). With the advent of genetic editing and artificial wombs, we will be able to manipulate the genomic coding of any given embryo (initially to address genetic disease, but eventually to enhance capabilities), implant it, and then “decant” the resulting progeny. Sound farfetched? At the same conference, Ms. Elsa Kania, CNAS, noted that the PRC is currently gene editing human embryos and conducting human clinical trials. Their Bio-Google Initiative (BGI) is soliciting DNA from their geniuses in an attempt to understand the genomic basis for intelligence. With the advent of genetically enhanced humans, it is conceivable that we could face adversaries in the Deep Future Operational Environment with warrior caste soldiers, each modified genetically as embryos for greater strength, endurance, and combat performance in complex and extreme environments (e.g., high / low temperatures, low atmospheric pressures) and with optimized Brain Computer Interfaces. Previous regimes sought to populate their forces with “Supermen” — genomic editing may provide future regimes with the post-industrial means of accomplishing this objective “… by the lights of perverted science.”
Red Meat Games released its fifth virtual reality (VR) project, Bring to Light. Developers designed the VR horror game to push players to their terror limits with the help of a biometric sensor. Right now, Bring to Light is the first VR game to use biometric feedback to effect gameplay; it calls to mind the Black Mirror episode “Playtest,” a near-future cautionary tale of the risks associated with combining VR and Augmented Reality (AR) with gaming. In spite of this, AR and VR will become more integrated and player involved. As discussed in last month’seditionof “The Queue,” VR has the potential to also accelerate learning and enhance retention when used to train our Soldiers and Leaders.
Stanford University is working on a technology known as “Shapeshift” that presents users with a haptic “touch” interface that provides a bridge between VR and the physical world. Shapeshift is a high-resolution, compact, modular shape display consisting of 288 actuated pins (4.85mm×4.85mm, 2.8mm inter-pin spacing) formed by six 2×24 pin modules. It is reminiscent ofpin art toys played with by children and adults alike for years. The interface will allow users to truly feel the objects they see and interact with in VR, bringing about an entirely new level of immersion into constructed virtual or augmented worlds. The implications for accurate and intuitive modeling, design, simulation, and trainingare astounding. In the future, such interfaces could be utilized in vehicles, on or with weapons, and integrated in classrooms and other training venues.
Engineers from Tufts University have re-designed the bandage with the intent of taking it from a passive treatment to an active treatment for chronic wounds. These skin wounds can be from burns, diabetes, or other medical conditions that overwhelm the normal regenerative capabilities of the skin. The bandage monitors the pH and temperature and can administer drugs when either goes out of normal range. While the bandage treats only certain chronic skin conditions at present, it is easy to see future implications of this technology, especially in Soldiers on the battlefield. Persistent or serious wounds can be monitored and treated in real-time without needing to take the Soldier out of the fight or waiting for medical advice and treatment from a professional. This could reduce cost and recovery time. What is the next step beyond smart bandages? Will it be feasible to have general health sensors and a variety of treatments embedded on the Soldier in the future?
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: email@example.com — we may select it for inclusion in our next edition of “The Queue”!
Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to announce that Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies this week (Wednesday and Thursday, 8-9 August 2018) in Washington, DC.
Future learning techniques and technologies are critical to the Army’s operations in the 21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces. The ability to effectively respond to a changing Operational Environment (OE) with fleeting windows of opportunity is paramount, and Leaders must act quickly to adjust to different OEs and more advanced and lethal technologies. Learning technologies must enable Soldiers to learn, think, and adapt using innovative synthetic environments to accelerate learning and attain expertise more quickly. Looking to 2050, learning enablers will become far more mobile and on-demand.
Looking at Learning in 2050, topics of interest include, but are not limited to: Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Realities (VR/AR/MR); interactive, autonomous, accelerated, and augmented learning technologies; gamification; skills needed for Soldiers and Leaders in 2050;synthetic training environments; virtual mentors; and intelligent artificial tutors. Advanced learning capabilities present the opportunity for Soldiers and Leaders to prepare for operations and operate in multiple domains while improving current cognitive load limitations.
Plan to join us virtually at the conference as leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and government gather to discuss:
1) How will emerging technologies improve learning or augment intelligence in professional military education, at home station, while deployed, and on the battlefield?
2) How can the Army accelerate learning to improve Soldier and unit agility in rapidly changing OEs?
3) What new skills will Soldiers and Leaders require to fight and win in 2050?
– Read our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas finalists’ submissionshere, graciously hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.
– Starting Tuesday, 7 August 2018, see the conference agenda’s list of presentations and the associated world-class speakers’ biographieshere.
Join us at the conference on-linehere via live-streaming audio and video, beginning at 0840 EDT on Wednesday, 08 Aug 2018; submit your questions to each of the presenters via the moderated interactive chat room; and tag your comments @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050.
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. Howard R. Simkin, hypothesizing the activities of an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) deployed on a security assistance operation in the 2050 timeframe. Mr. Simkin addresses how advanced learning capabilities can improve what were once cognitive load limitations. This is a one of the themes we will explore at next week’s Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference; more information on this conference can be found at the bottom of this post.]
This is the ODAs third deployment to the country, although it is Captain Clark Weston’s first deployment as a team leader. The rest of his ODA have long experience in the region and country. They all have the 2050 standard milspec augmentation of every Special Operations (SO) Operator: corneal and audial implants, subdural brain-computer interfaces, and medical nano-enhancement.
Unlike earlier generations of SO Operators aided by advanced technology, they can see into the near-infra red, understand sixty spoken languages, acquire new skill sets rapidly, interface directly with computers and see that information in a heads up display without a device, and survive any injury short of dismemberment. However, they continue to rely on their cultural and human skills to provide those critical puzzle pieces from the human domain which technology and data science alone cannot.
No matter what technologies are at play, thehuman elementwill still be paramount. As the noted futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku observed in his discussions of the ‘Cave Man Principle’, “whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time.”[I]
The sound of an onrushing thunderstorm briefly distracted CPT[II] Weston from the report he was compiling. His eyes scanned the equipment hung on wooden pegs protruding from the white plastered walls or scattered on the small wooden desk adorned by a single switch operated lamp. He couldn’t help smiling. The wooden pegs, plastered walls, and primitive lamp were a good metaphor for the region. His apartment back home sported the latest in technology, adaptive video capable walls, a customized AI virtual assistant, and lighting and HVAC[III] that operated without human intervention. Here, it was back to basics.
His concentration broken, he stood up and stretched. Dark of hair and eyes, of medium height and slender build, he could easily pass for a native of the region. As for fluency in the local language, it had been baked into his neural circuitry through rigorous training, cognitive enhancements, and experience. A student of history, Weston had been surprised during his attendance at the SOF[IV] Captains Career Course when he read articles and papers that had heralded the death of language training.
He wondered. Didn’t the people who wrote those articles pause to consider that no technology works all the time? Either as a result of adversary action or the arrival of mean time between failures, a glitch in a technology-dependent language capability could be at best embarrassing and at worst catastrophic. Didn’t they realize that learning a new language alters the learner’s neural networks, allowing a nuanced understanding of a culture that software had not been able to achieve? Besides, around 65 percent of human communication is non-verbal, he reasoned. Language occurs in a shifting cultural context, something even the best AIs still couldn’t always tackle.
He paced around the room, reflecting on the past few months. Things had definitely taken a turn for the better. With very few exceptions, the Joint security assistance efforts he was aware of were going well. He was very proud of what his ODA had accomplished, training the Ministry of the Interior’s capitol region paramilitary force (CRPF) to what Minerva[V] had deemed a sufficient level of competence in a wide range of tactical skills.
More importantly, as his Team Sergeant Abdel Jamaal had observed, “We got them to believe in themselves as protectors and to stop acting like bullies.” This had led to the development of an increasing number of information sources which in turn had led to the arrest of a number of senior narco-terrorists. He and Sergeant Jamaal had advised and assisted in those arrests in a virtual mode. To the local population, it looked like the CRPF was doing all of the work.
The team medical/civil affairs specialist, Sergeant First Class Belinda Tompkins and the team cyber/additive manufacturing authority, Sergeant DeWayne Jones had achieved quite a lot on their own. After consulting with the Nimble Griffin[VI] team, they had employed their expertise to upgrade the antiquated in-country hospital 3D Printers to produce the latestgene editingdrugs and fight the diseases still endemic to the region. They had done this in the background, having the CRPF collect the machines quietly and then return them to the hospitals with great fanfare. The resulting media coverage was a public relations bonanza. The only US presence was virtual and invisible to the media or public.
A loud peal of thunder shook Weston from his thoughts. The lights flickered in his room, then steadied up. He sat back down at the table to finish his report. All in all, things were going very well.
[Note that any resemblance to any current events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]
If you enjoyed this post, please read Mr. Simkin’s articleTechnological Fluency 2035-2050, submitted in response to our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas and hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.
Other Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas submissions include the following:
Please also plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference. This event will be live streamed on both days (08-09 August 2018). You can watch and interact with all of the speakers at the conference watch page or tag @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050. Note that the live streaming event is best viewed via a commercial internet connection (i.e., non-NIPRNet).
Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He has over 40 years of combined military, law enforcement, defense contractor, and government experience. He is a retired Special Forces officer with a wide variety of special operations experience.
________________________________________________________ [I] Kaku, M. (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Random House (Kindle Edition), 13. [II] Captain. [III] Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. [IV]Special Operations Forces. [V]Department of Defense AI virtual assistant. [VI]A Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force.
[Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International on 8–9 March 2018 at their Menlo Park campus in California. This conference explored bio convergence, what the Army’s Soldier of 2050 will look like, and how they will interact and integrate with their equipment. The following post is an excerpt from this conference’s final report.]
While the technology and concepts defining warfare have continuously and rapidly transformed, the primary actor in warfare – the human – has remained largely unchanged. Soldiers today may be physically larger, more thoroughly trained, and better equipped than their historical counterparts, but their capability and performance abilities remain very similar.
These limitations in human performance, however, may change over the next 30 years, as advances in biotechnology and human performance likely will expand the boundaries of what is possible for humans to achieve. We may see Soldiers – not just their equipment – with superior vision, enhanced cognitive abilities, disease/virus resistance, and increased strength, speed, agility, and endurance. As a result, these advances could provide the Soldier with an edge to survive and thrive on the hyperactive, constantly changing, and increasingly lethalMulti-Domain Battlespace.
In addition to potentially changing the individual physiology and abilities of the future Soldier, there are many technological innovations on the horizon that will impact human performance. The convergence of these technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, augmented reality, brain-machine interface, nanotechnologies, and biological and medical improvements to the human – is referred to asbio convergence. Soldiers of the future will have enhanced capabilities due to technologies that will be installed, instilled, and augmented. This convergence will also make the Army come to terms on what kinds of bio-converged technologies will be accepted in new recruits.
The conference generated the following key findings:
• The broad advancement of biotechnologies will provide wide access to dangerous and powerful bioweapons and human enhancements. The low cost and low expertise entry point into gene editing, human performance enhancement, and bioweapon production has spurred a string of new explorations into this arena by countries with large defense budgets (e.g., China), non-state criminal and terrorist organizations (e.g., ISIS), and evensuper-empowered individualswilling to subject their bodies to experimental and risky treatments.
• Emerging synthetic biology tools (e.g., CRISPR, Talon, and ZFN) present an opportunity to engineer Soldiers’ DNA and enhance their performance, providing greater speed, strength, endurance, and resilience. These tools, however, will also create new vulnerabilities, such as genomic targeting, that can be exploited by an adversary and/or potentially harm the individual undergoing enhancement. Bioengineering is becoming easier and cheaper as a bevy of developments are reducing biotechnology transaction costs in gene reading, writing, and editing. Due to the ever-increasing speed and lethality of thefuture battlefield, combatants will need cognitive and physical enhancement to survive and thrive.
• Ensuring that our land forces are ready to meet future challenges requires optimizing biotechnology and neuroscience advancements. Designer viruses and diseases will be highly volatile, mutative, and extremely personalized, potentially challenging an already stressed Army medical response system and its countermeasures. Synthetic biology provides numerousapplications that will bridge capability gaps and enable future forces to fight effectively. Future synthetic biology defense applications are numerous and range from sensing capabilities to rapidly developed vaccines and therapeutics.
• Private industry and academia have become the driving force behind innovation. While there are some benefits to this – such as shorter development times – there are also risks. For example, investments in industry are mainly driven by market demand which can lead to a lack of investment in areas that are vital to National Defense but have low to no consumer demand. In academia, a majority of graduate students in STEM fields are foreign nationals, comprising over 80% of electrical and petroleum engineering programs. The U.S. will need to find a way to maintain its technological superiority even when most of the expertise eventually leaves the country.
• The advent of new biotechnologies will give rise to moral, regulatory, and legal challenges for the Army of the Future, its business practices, recruiting requirements, Soldier standards, and structure. The rate of technology development in the synthetic biology field is increasing rapidly. Private individuals or small start-ups with minimal capital can create a new organism for which there is no current countermeasure and the development of one will likely take years. This potentiality leads to the dilemma of swiftly creating effective policy and regulation that addresses these concerns, while not stifling creativity and productivity in the field for those conducting legitimate research. Current regulationmay not be sufficient, and bureaucratic inflexibility prevents quick reactive and proactive change. Our adversaries may not move as readily to adopt harsher regulations in the bio-technology arena. Rather than focusing on short-term solutions, it may be beneficial to take a holistic approach centered in a world where bio-technology is interacting with everyday life. The U.S. may have to work from a relative “disadvantage,” using safe and legal methods of enhancement, while our adversaries may choose to operate below our defined legal threshold.
Bio Convergence is incredibly important to the Army of the Future because the future Soldier is the Bio. The Warrior of tomorrow’s Army will be given more responsibility, will be asked to do more, will be required to be more capable, and will face more challenges and complexities than ever before. These Soldiers must be able to quickly adapt, change, connect to and disconnect from a multitude of networks – digital and otherwise – all while carrying out multiple mission-sets in an increasingly disrupted, degraded, and arduous environment marred with distorted reality, information warfare, and attacks of a personalized nature.
For additional information regarding this conference:
[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the following guest blog post by Mr. Lewis Jones. Originally a “Letter Home” submission to theCall for Ideasassociated with the Mad Scientist Installations of the Future Conference (see more information about this event at the end of this post), we hope that you will enjoy Mr. Jones’ vision of a mid-Twenty First Century forward deployed base.]
Hey Dad, guess who got new PCS orders! From March 2042 I’ll be assigned to Joint Base Harris in Japan. You spent your early career in Japan, right? I’ll never forget your stories about Camp Zama, a sprawling installation housing hundreds of soldiers and civilians. I used to love hearing about the 2020s, when enemy sensors, drones, and artificial intelligence first wreaked havoc on operations there.
Remember the Garrison commander whose face was 3D-scanned by a rigged vending machine near the gate? The enemy released that humiliating videoright before a major bilateral operation. By the time we proved it was fake, our partners had already withdrawn.
What about the incident at the intel battalion’s favorite TDY hotel with a pool-side storage safe? Soldiers went swimming and tossed their wallets into the safe, unaware that anembedded scanner would clone their SIPR tokens. To make matters worse, the soldiers secured the safe with a four digit code… using the same numbers as their token PIN.
Oh, and remember the Prankenstein A.I. attack? It scanned social media to identify Army personnel living off-base, then called local law enforcement with fake complaints. The computer-generated voice was very convincing, even giving physical descriptions based on soldier’s actual photos. You said that one soured host-nation relations for years!
Or the drones that hovered over Camp Zama, broadcasting fake Wi-Fi hotspots. The enemy scooped up so much intelligence and — ah, you get the picture. Overseas bases were so vulnerable back then.
Well, the S1 sent me a virtual tour and the new base is completely different. When U.S. Forces Japan rebuilt its installations, those wide open bases were replaced by miniature, self-contained fortresses. Joint Base Harris, for example, was built inside a refurbished shopping mall: an entire installation, compressed into a single building!
Here’s what I saw on my virtual tour:
• The roof has solar panels and battery banks for independent power. There’s also an enormous greenhouse, launch pads for drones and helos, and a running trail.
• The ground level contains a water plant that extracts and purifies groundwater, along with indoor hydroponic farms. Special filtration units scrub the air; they’re even rated against CBRN threats.
• What was once a multi-floor parking garage is now a motor pool, firing range, and fitness complex. The gym walls are smart-screens, so you can work out in a different environment every day.
• Communications are encrypted and routed through a satellite uplink. The base even has its own cellphone tower. Special mesh in the walls prevent anybody outside from eavesdropping on emissions— the entire base is a SCIF.
• The mall’s shops and food court were replaced by all the features and functions of a normal base: nearly 2,000 Army, Air and Cyber Force troops living, working, and training inside. They even have a kitchen-bot in the chow hall that can produce seven custom meals per minute!
• Supposedly, the base extends several floors underground, but the tour didn’t show that. I guess that’s where the really secret stuff happens.
By the way, don’t worry about me feeling cooped up: Soldiers are assigned top-notch VR specs during in-processing. During the duty day, they’re only for training simulations. Once you’re off, personal use is authorized. I’ll be able to play virtual games, take virtual tours… MWR even lets you link with telepresence robots to “visit” family back home.
The sealed, self-contained footprint of this new base is far easier to defend in today’s high-tech threat environment. Some guys complain about being stuck inside, but you know what I think? If Navy sailors can spend months at sea in self-contained bases, then there’s no reason the Army can’t do the same on land!
If you were intrigued by this vision of a future Army installation, please plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Installations of the Future Conference, co-sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (OASA (IE&E)); Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI); and Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), at GTRI in Atlanta, Georgia, on 19-20 June 2018. Clickhere to learn more about the conference and then participate in the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0830 EDT on 19 June 2018.
Lewis Jones is an Army civilian with nearly 15 years of experience in the Indo-Pacific region. In addition to his Japanese and Chinese language studies, he has earned a Masters in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University. He has worked as a headhunter for multinational investment banks in Tokyo, as a business intelligence analyst for a DOD contractor, and has supported the Army with cybersecurity program management and contract administration. Lewis writes about geopolitics, international relations, U.S. national security, and the effects of rapid advances in technology.
[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.
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, andArtificial Intelligence (AI)with an increasing potential for overmatch. Adversaries will restrict us to temporary windows of advantage with periods of physical and electronic isolation.
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.
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.
5. Increased speed of human interaction, events and action withdemocratized 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.
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.
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.
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!