134. On Hype and Hyperwar

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish today’s post by Collin Meisel and returning guest blogger Dr. Jonathan D. Moyer, both of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures. Eschewing another discussion of disruptive emergent technologies, Mr. Meisel and Dr. Moyer instead focus on persistent global trends that, while perhaps not as sexy as artificial intelligence or quantum computing, are just as relevant to warfighters preparing for competition and conflict with potential adversaries in the Future Operational Environment!]

Too often, discussion of the Future Operational Environment (FOE) is filled with science fiction-inspired speculation of a world driven by the likes of quantum artificial intelligence (AI) and “self-constructing robotic ‘cyburgs’”. While these and similar potential technological developments are entertaining—and even useful to ponder—we should not let them distract us from less sensational but also consequential trends that are sure to transform the FOE in the coming decades, such as persistent demographic and economic shifts among great powers and the developing world. In other words, let’s take the “hype” out of hyperwar (i.e., a possible future where AI calls the shots on the battlefield).

For example, as a common feature of proposed hyperwar scenarios, quantum computing is often portrayed as both a force multiplier and boogeyman of the future despite its well-known fragility, stunted development, and potentially insurmountable limitations. Indeed, predictions of a soon-to-arrive quantum code-cracking menace are pure fiction. Similarly, despite predictions of the AI singularity—the hypothetical moment when AI surpasses human intelligence and subsequent advances presumably occur exponentially—AI, too, has its limitations.

Rather than speculating about what could become of these much-hyped technological developments, a more productive use of time is to consider, for example, the serious threat that more limited versions of quantum computing and AI might still pose in, say, the hands of a declining China. Even as it rises, China is up against long-term, persistent trends—such as a forthcoming shrinking population and the predicament of aging before it gets rich—that are sure to impact geopolitics in East Asia and beyond as the Chinese Communist Party, which in part justifies its one-party rule by continued prosperity, clings to power. Indeed, this is a foreseeable, understandable future—the opposite of hype and speculation.

As another increasingly important geopolitical player, India faces its own set of structural shifts in a direction much different from that of China. With relatively high birth rates and lower death rates compared to China, India’s  population will likely continue to rise—and, in part, drive economic growth—as its counterpart to the northeast begins to wither. While these forecasts are of one possible future, their consistency with trends over the last half-century suggests that policymakers in the United States and elsewhere should be preparing for such a world. And what of other persistent demographic trends? Although we cannot know for certain what Africa’s growth to nearly one-third of the world’s population by 2060 will mean in light of Europe’s simultaneous contraction, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that such a demographic shift is likely to happen given persistent global trends. Again, these are understandable futures; they are what is and has been happening, not hype.

Using the freely-available, open-source International Futures tool, we and our colleagues at the Pardee Center for International Futures are working with the Army Future Studies Group (AFSG) to think about long-term futures by examining these and other persistent trends in areas ranging from material power to natural systems. For example, AFSG fellows are asked to think about the planet’s water systems, impending water shortages across regions like Central and Western Asia and Northern Africa, and what they might mean for regional development and potential conflicts. While study of these less buzz-worthy trends may not tell the Army how it will be fighting wars of the future, it can at least help forecast trends that point to where and with whom.

Demographic transitions and shrinking aquifers may not have the same pizzazz as warfare at the speed of thought and other elements of the AI battlefield, but they possess equal potential to transform the FOE in fundamental ways. More importantly, these less sensational but persistent structural shifts can be considered in combination to develop plausible, understandable future scenarios—not science fiction fantasy. To be clear, hyperwar and its accompanying technologies still deserve attention, so long as those considering them do not get caught up in the hype. The goal of futures studies should be to strive towards a more understandable future—then we can worry about Elon Musk and the impending AI apocalypse.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please also see:

Building Capacity to Think about the Future, by Drs.  Jonathan D. Moyer and Christopher Rice and Mr. Alex Porter.

Long Term Trends and Some Implications of Decreasing Global Interdependence, by Dr. Moyer, presented at the Mad Scientist Strategic Security Environment in 2050 Conference at Georgetown University, 8-9 August 2016.

Extended Trends Impacting the Future Operational Environment, excerpted from the aforementioned Mad Scientist Conference’s final report.

Emergent Global Trends Impacting on the Future Operational Environment, reviewing three additional sources that help us to understand new trends and technologies affecting the FOE.

 Making the Future More Personal: The Oft-Forgotten Human Driver in Future’s Analysis, by Mr. Andrew Sullivan, addressing the paramount disruptor — people and ideas.

… and crank up R.E.M.‘s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)!

Collin Meisel is a Research Associate at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures and a former U.S. Air Force Security Forces member.

Dr. Jonathan D. Moyer is Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures.

129. “The Queue”

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

Recently ML Cavanaugh asked and answered in a LA Times Op-Ed piece, “Can science fiction help us prepare for 21st Century Warfare?

The Mad Science team answers this question with an emphatic, “YES!

Below is a re-run of our review of Eliot Peper’s argument for business leaders to read more science fiction. His urban planning business case speaks for itself.

For the burgeoning authors among you, submit a story to our Science Fiction Writing Contest 2019 –- you only have two weeks left! — see contest details here.

1.Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction,” by Eliot Peper, Harvard Business Review, 24 July 17.

New York City’s Fifth Avenue bustling with horse-drawn traffic on Easter Sunday, 1900 (see if you can spot the horseless carriage!) / Source: Commons Wikimedia

There are no facts about the future and the future is not a linear extrapolation from the present. We inherently understand this about the future, but Leaders oftentimes seek to quantify the unquantifiable. Eliot Peper opens his Harvard Business Review article with a story about one of the biggest urban problems in New York City at the end of the 19th century – it stank!

Horses were producing 45,000 tons of manure a month. The urban planners of 1898 convened a conference to address this issue, but the experts failed to find a solution. More importantly, they could not envision a future only a decade and a half hence, when cars would outnumber horses. The urban problem of the future was not horse manure, but motor vehicle-generated pollution and road infrastructure. All quantifiable data available to the 1898 urban planners only extrapolated to more humans, horses, and manure. It is likely that any expert sharing an assumption about cars over horses would have been laughed out of the conference hall. Flash forward a century and the number one observation from the 9/11 Commission was that the Leaders and experts responsible for preventing such an attack lacked imagination. Story telling and the science fiction genre allow Leaders to imagine beyond the numbers and broaden the assumptions needed to envision possible futures.

2. Challenges to Security in Space, Defense Intelligence Agency, January 2019.

Source: Evan Vucci / AP / REX / Shutterstock

On 19 Feb 19, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4), establishing the Space Force as the nation’s newest military branch. This force will initially reside within the U.S. Air Force, much as the U.S.  Marine Corps resides within the U.S. Navy. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, as Deputy Secretary of Defense, must now provide the associated draft legislative proposal to the President via the Office of Management and Budget; then it will be submitted to Congress for approval – its specific “details… and how effectively Administration officials defend it on Capitol Hill will determine its fate.

Given what is sure to be a contentious and polarizing congressional debate, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Challenges to Security in Space provides a useful unclassified reference outlining our near-peer adversaries’ (China and Russia) space strategy, doctrine, and intent; key space and counterspace organizations; and space and counterspace capabilities. These latter capabilities are further broken out into: space launch capabilities; human spaceflight and space exploration; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); navigation and communications; and counterspace.

In addition to our near-peer’s space capabilities, Iranian and North Korean space challenges are also addressed. The paper explores these nations’ respective national space launch facilities as venues for testing ballistic missile technologies.

The paper concludes with an outlook assessment addressing the increasing number of spacefaring nations, with “some actors integrat[ing] space and counterspace capabilities into military operations,” and “trends… pos[ing] a challenge to U.S. space dominance and present[ing] new risks for assets on orbit.”

A number of useful appendices are also included, addressing the implications of debris and orbital collisions; counterspace threats illustrating the associated capabilities on a continuum from reversible (e.g., Electronic Warfare and Denial and Deception) to irreversible (e.g., Ground Site Attacks and Nuclear Detonation in Space); and a useful list defining space acronyms.

With the U.S. and our allies’ continued dependence on space domain operations in maintaining a robust deterrence, and failing that, winning on future battlefields, this DIA assessment is an important reference for warfighters and policy makers, alike.

3. Superconduction: Why does it have to be so cold?Vienna University of Technology via ScienceDaily, 20 February 2019.  (Reviewed by Marie Murphy)

One of the major barriers to quantum computing is a rather unexpected one: in order for superconduction to occur, it must be very cold. Superconduction is an electrical current that moves “entirely without resistance” and, as of now, with standard materials superconduction is only possible at -200oC. In quantum computing there are massive amounts of particles moving in interdependent trajectories, and precisely calculating all of them is impossible. Researchers at TU Wien (Technische Universität Wien – Vienna University of Technology) were able to add on to an existing equation that allows for the approximate calculation of these particles in solid matter, not just a vacuum. This new formula may make it easier to develop different superconducting materials and potentially identify materials that could conduct at room temperature.

Quantum computing is heralded as the next big step in the technological revolution and the key to unlocking unthinkable possibilities of human and technological advancement. If there was a way for quantum computing to work at closer to room temperature, then that could lead to a major breakthrough in the technology and the rapid application of quantum computing to the operational environment. There is also a massive first mover advantage in quantum computing technology: the organization that solves the problem first will have unlimited and uncontested use of the technology, and very few people in the world have the technological expertise to quickly replicate the discovery.

4.The Twenty-First Century General, with Dr. Anthony King,” hosted by John Amble, Modern War Institute Podcast, 7 March 2019.

Command: The Twenty-First Century General / Source: Cambridge University Press

In this prescient episode of the Modern War Institute podcast, John Amble interviews Dr. Anthony King (Chair of War Studies in the Politics and International Studies Department at Warwick University in the United Kingdom) about his new book Command: The Twenty-First Century General. Amble and Dr. King have a detailed and informative discussion about the future of command as the world has moved into a digital age and what it’s meant for the battlefield, warfighters, commanders, and even organizational staffs.

One of the more impactful ideas explored in this podcast, in relation to the future of warfare, was the idea of collective decision-making on the part of commanders, as opposed to previous “hero era” individualistic leadership typified by General Patton and Field Marshals Rommel and Montgomery. Command teams (divisional staff, for example) have swelled in size not simply to create meaningless career milestones but due to digital age revolutions that allowed for increasingly complex operations.

With artificial intelligence becoming increasingly pervasive throughout the future operational environment and likely ever-present on future command staffs, Dr. King points out that staffs may not become smaller but actually may increase as operations become even more complex. The changing character of future warfare (especially the emergence of AI) may enable incredible new capabilities in coordination, synchronization, and convergence of effects but adversaries using more simplistic command structures could expose this inherent complexity through speed and decisiveness.

5. Alexa, call the police! Smart assistants should come with a ‘moral AI’ to decide whether to report their owners for breaking the law, experts say,” by Peter Lloyd, Daily Mail.com, 22 February 2019.

Scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway discussed the idea of a “moral A.I.” for smart home assistants, like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod at the AAAI / ACM Conference for Artificial Intelligence, Ethics and Society in Hawaii.  Marija Slavkovik, associate professor at the department of information science and media studies “suggested that digital assistants should possess an ethical awareness that at once represents both the owner and the authorities — or, in the case of a minor, their parents.” Recall that previously, police have seized information gathered by smart devices.

Moral A.I. would require home assistants to “decide whether to report their owners for breaking the law,” or to remain silent. “This would let them weigh whether to report illegal activity to the police, effectively putting millions of people under constant surveillance.” Stakeholders “need to be identified and have a say, including when machines shouldn’t be able to listen in. Right now only the manufacturer decides.” At present, neither stakeholders nor consumers are in charge of their own information and companies use our personal information freely, without commensurate compensation.

If developed, brought to market, and installed (presumably willingly) in our homes (or public spaces), is Moral A.I. a human problem?

Yes. Broadly speaking, no place on earth is completely homogeneous; each country has a different culture, language, beliefs, norms, and society. Debating the nuances, the dystopian sounding and murky path of Moral A.I. involves the larger question on how should ethics be incorporated in AI.

Furthermore – should lethal autonomous weapons be used on humans? In his recent post entitled “AI Enhancing EI in War,” MAJ Vincent Dueñas addressed how AI can mitigate a human commander’s cognitive biases and enhance his/her (and their staff’s) decision-making to assist them in commanding, fighting, and winning on future battlefields. Humans are susceptible to cognitive biases and these biases sometimes result in catastrophic outcomes—particularly in the high stress environment of wartime decision-making.  AI offers the possibility of mitigating the susceptibility of negative outcomes in the commander’s decision-making process by enhancing the collective Emotional Intelligence (EI) of the commander and his/her staff.  For now, however, AI is too narrow to carry this out in someone’s home, let alone on the battlefield.

6.SS7 Cellular Network Flaw Nobody Wants To Fix Now Being Exploited To Drain Bank Accounts,” by Karl Bode, Techdirt.com, 11 February 2019.

Signaling System 7 (SS7) is a series of cellular telephone protocols first built in 1975 that allows for telephonic communication around the globe. Within this set of protocols is a massive security vulnerability that has been public knowledge for over a decade. The vulnerability allows a nefarious actor to, among other things, track user location, dodge encryption, and record conversations. What’s more, this can be done while looking like ordinary carrier chatter and, in some cases, can be used to gain access to bank accounts through 2-factor authentication and effectively drain them.

This is significant from a military perspective because, as highlighted within a recent blog post, we have already seen near-peer adversarial states execute attacks through cellphone activity, personal wearable device location data, and social media. These states attempt to degrade soldier morale by launching information operations campaigns targeted at soldier families or the soldiers themselves through text messages, social media, or cell phone calls. The SS7 vulnerability could make these campaigns more successful or easier to execute and allow them to penetrate farther into the personal lives of soldiers than ever before.

Lastly, this vulnerability highlights an enduring trend: legacy communications infrastructure still exists and is still heavily used by civilian and military alike. This infrastructure is old and vulnerable and was designed before cellphones were commonplace. Modernizing this infrastructure around the world would be costly and time consuming and there has been little movement on fixing the vulnerability itself. Despite this vulnerability being known since 2008, is this something that will affect operations going forward? With no intrusion signature, will the Army need to modify existing policy on personal electronic devices for Soldiers and their families?

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 OE, 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”!

121. Emergent Global Trends Impacting on the Future Operational Environment

[Editor’s Note: Regular readers of the Mad Scientist Laboratory are familiar with a number of disruptive trends and their individual and convergent impacts on the Future Operational Environment (OE). In today’s post, we explore three recent publications to expand our understanding of these and additional emergent global trends.  We also solicit your input on any other trends that have the potential to transform the OE and change the character of future warfare.]

The U.S. Army finds itself at a historical inflection point, where disparate, yet related elements of the Operational Environment (OE) are converging, creating a situation where fast-moving trends across the Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic (DIME) spheres are rapidly transforming the nature of all aspects of society and human life – including the character of warfare.” — The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare

Last year, the Mad Scientist Initiative published several products that envisioned these fast-moving trends and how they are transforming the Future OE. These products included our:

• Updated Potential Game Changers information sheet, identifying a host of innovative technologies with the potential to disrupt future warfare during The Era of Accelerated Human Progress (now through 2035) and The Era of Contested Equality (2035 through 2050).

 

 

 

Black Swans and Pink Flamingos blog post, addressing both Black Swan events (i.e., unknown, unknowns) which, though not likely, might have significant impacts on how we think about warfighting and security; and Pink Flamingos, which are the known, knowns that are often discussed, but ignored by Leaders trapped by organizational cultures and rigid bureaucratic decision-making structures.

With the advent of 2019, three new predictive publications have both confirmed and expanded the Mad Scientist Initiative’s understanding of emergent trends and technologies:

• Government Accounting Office (GAO) Report to Congressional Committees: National Security Long Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States As Identified by Federal Agencies, December 2018

• Deloitte Insights Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Predictions 2019, January 2019

• World Economic Forum (WEF) The Global Risks Report 2019, 14th Edition, January 2019

Commonalities:

These three publications collectively confirmed Mad Scientist’s thoughts regarding the disruptive potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Quantum Computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data; and individually echoed our concerns regarding Cyber, Additive Manufacturing, Space and Counterspace, Natural Disasters, and the continuing threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction. That said, the real value of these (and other) predictions is in informing us about the trends we might have missed, and expanding our understanding of those that we were already tracking.

New Insights:

From the GAO Report we learned:

Megacorporations as adversaries. Our list of potential adversaries must expand to include “large companies that have the financial resources and a power base to exert influence on par with or exceeding non-state actors.” Think super-empowered individual(s) enhanced further by the wealth, reach, influence, and cover afforded by a transnational corporation.

The rich population is shrinking, the poor population is not. Working-age populations are shrinking in wealthy countries and in China and Russia, and are growing in developing, poorer countries…. [with] the potential to increase economic, employment, urbanization and welfare pressures, and spur migration.”

Climate change, environment, and health issues will demand attention. More extreme weather, water and soil stress, and food insecurity will disrupt societies. Sea-level rise, ocean acidification, glacial melt, and pollution will change living patterns. Tensions over climate change will grow.”

Internal and International Migration. Governments in megacities … may not have the capacity to provide adequate resources and infrastructure…. Mass migration events may occur and threaten regional stability, undermine governments, and strain U.S. military and civilian responses.”

Infectious Diseases. New and evolving diseases from the natural environment—exacerbated by changes in climate, the movement of people into cities, and global trade and travel—may become a
pandemic. Drug-resistant forms of diseases previously considered treatable could become widespread again…. Diminishing permafrost could expand habitats for pathogens that cause disease.”

From Deloitte Insights Predictions we learned:

Intuitive AI development services may not require specialized knowledge. “Baidu recently released an AI training platform called EZDL that requires no coding experience and works even with small data training sets…. Cloud providers have developed pre-built machine learning APIs [application-programming interfaces] for technologies such as natural language processing that customers can access instead of building their own.”

Cryptocurrency growth may have driven Chinese semiconductor innovation. Chinese chipmakers’ Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), initially designed to meet domestic bitmining demands, may also meet China’s growing demand for AI chipsets vice Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). “Not only could these activities spark more domestic innovation… China just might be positioned to have a larger impact on the next generation of cognitive technologies.”

Quantum-safe security was important yesterday. Malicious adversaries could store classically encrypted information today to decrypt in the future using a QC [Quantum Computer], in a gambit known as a ‘harvest-and-decrypt’ attack.”

From the WEF Report we learned:

This is an increasingly anxious, unhappy, and lonely world. Anger is increasing and empathy appears to be in short supply…. Depression and anxiety disorders increased [globally] between 1990 and 2013…. It is not difficult to imagine such emotional and psychological disruptions having serious diplomatic—and perhaps even military—consequences.”

The risk from biological pathogens is increasing. “Outbreaks since 2000 have been described as a ‘rollcall of near-miss catastrophes’” and they are on the rise. “Biological weapons still have attractions for malicious non-state actors…. it [is] difficult to reliably attribute a biological attack… the direct effects—fatalities and injuries—would be compounded by potentially grave societal and political disruption.”

Use of weather manipulation tools stokes geopolitical tensions. Could be used to disrupt … agriculture or military planning… if states decided unilaterally to use more radical geo-engineering technologies, it could trigger dramatic climatic disruptions.”

Food supply disruption emerges as a tool as geo-economic tensions intensify. Worsening trade wars might spill over into high-stakes threats to disrupt food or agricultural supplies…. Could lead to disruptions of domestic and cross-border flows of food. At the extreme, state or non-state actors could target the crops of an adversary state… with a clandestine biological attack.”

Taps run dry on Water Day Zero. “Population growth, migration, industrialization, climate change, drought, groundwater depletion, weak infrastructure, and poor urban planning” all stress megacities’ ability to meet burgeoning demands, further exacerbating existing urban / rural divides, and could potentially lead to conflicts over remaining supply sources.

What Are We Missing?

The aforementioned trends are by no means comprehensive. Mad Scientist invites our readers to assist us in identifying any other additional emergent global trends that will potentially transform the OE and change the character of future warfare. Please share them with us and our readers by scrolling down to the bottom of this post to the “Leave a Reply” section, entering them in the Comment Box with an accompanying rationale, and then selecting the “Post Comment” button. Thank you in advance for all of your submissions!

If you enjoyed reading these assessments about future trends, please also see the Statement for the Record:  Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, 29 January 2019, from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

84. Quantum Surprise on the Battlefield?

[Editor’s Note:  In the following guest blog post, Mad Scientist Elsa B. Kania addresses quantum technology and the potential ramifications should the People’s Republic of China (PRC) win the current race in fielding operational quantum capabilities].

If China were to succeed in realizing the full potential of quantum technology, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might have the capability to offset core pillars of U.S. military power on the future battlefield.  Let’s imagine the worst-case (or, for China, best-case) scenarios.

The Chinese military and government could leverage quantum cryptography and communications to enable “perfect security” for its most sensitive information and communications. The PLA may look to employ ‘uncrackable’ quantum key distribution (QKD), which involves the provably secure exchange of keys in quantum states, over fiber optic networks for secure command and control, while extending the range of its quantum networks to more far-flung units or even ships at sea, through an expanding constellation of quantum satellites.

If China were to ‘go dark’ to U.S. intelligence capabilities as a result, then a new level of uncertainty could complicate U.S. calculus and assessments, while exacerbating the risks of surprise or misperception in a crisis or conflict scenario.

China’s massive investments in quantum computing could succeed someday in the decadal marathon towards a fully functional and universal quantum computer.

Liaoning Exercise in the West Pacific / Source: Flickr by rhk111

If developed in secret or operational sooner than expected, then these immense computing capabilities could be unleashed to break public key cryptography. Such asymmetric cryptography, which today is quite prevalent and integral to the security of our information technology ecosystem, relies upon the difficulty of prime factorization, a task beyond the capabilities of today’s classical computers but that could be cracked by a future quantum computer. The impact could be analogous to the advantage that the U.S. achieved through the efforts of American code-breakers ahead of the Battle of Midway.

Although there will be options available for ‘quantum-proof’ encryption, the use of public key cryptography could remain prevalent in older military and government information systems, such as legacy satellites. Moreover, any data previously collected while encrypted could be rapidly decrypted and exploited, exposing perhaps decades of sensitive information. Will the U.S. military and government take this potential security threat seriously enough to start the transition to quantum-resistant alternatives?

Future advances in quantum computing could be game changers for intelligence and information processing. In a new era in which data is a critical resource, the ability to process it rapidly is at a premium. In theory, quantum computing could also accelerate the development of artificial intelligence towards a closer approximation to “superintelligence,” provoking concerns of unexpected, by some accounts even existential, risks and powerful capabilities.

PLA Navy Kilo-Class Submarine / Source: Took-ranch at English Wikipedia https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12184725

Meanwhile, based on active efforts in the Chinese defense industry, the next generation of Chinese submarines could be equipped with a ‘quantum compass’ to enable greater precision in positioning and independence from space-based navigation systems, while perhaps also leveraging quantum communications underwater for secure control and covert coordination.

The PLA might realize its ambitions to develop quantum radar that could be the “nemesis” of U.S. stealth fighters and bolster Chinese missile defense. This “offset” technology could overcome the U.S. military’s advantage in stealth. Similarly, the ‘spooky’ sensitivity in detection enabled by techniques such as ghost imaging and quantum remote sensing could enhance PLA ISR capabilities.

In the aggregate, could China’s future advances in these technologies change the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific?

Su-27 Flanker fighter / Source: DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen

For China, the potential to disrupt paradigms of information dominance through quantum computing and cryptography, while perhaps undermining U.S. advantages in stealth technologies through quantum radar and sensing, and even more actively contesting the undersea domain, could create a serious challenge to U.S. military-technological predominance.

Perhaps, but this imagining of impactful military applications of quantum technology is far from a reality today. For the time being, these technologies still confront major constraints and limitations in their development.

It seems unlikely that quantum cryptography will ever enable truly perfect security, given the perhaps inevitable human and engineering challenges, along with remaining vulnerabilities to exploitation.

At present, quantum computing, while approaching the symbolic milestone of “quantum supremacy,” faces a long road ahead, due to challenges of scaling and error correction.

Certain quantum devices, for sensing, metrology, and positioning, may be quite useful but could enable fairly incremental, evolutionary improvements relative to the full range of alternatives.

There are also reasons to consider critically when Chinese official media discloses (especially in English) oft-hyped advances such as in quantum radar – since reporting on such apparent progress could be variously intended for purposes of signaling or perhaps even misdirection.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) neutral-atom quantum processors — prototype devices which designers are trying to develop into full-fledged quantum computers  https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnistgov/5940500587/

Although China’s advances and ambitions should be taken quite seriously – particularly considering the talent and resources evidently mobilized to advance these objectives – the U.S. military may also be well postured to leverage quantum technology on the future battlefield.

 

Inevitably, the timeframe for the actual operationalization of these technologies is challenging to evaluate, especially because a significant proportion of the relevant research may be occurring in secret.

For that reason, it is also difficult to determine with confidence whether the U.S. or China is truly leading in the advancement of various disciplines of quantum science.

Moreover, beyond concerns of competition between the U.S. and China, exciting research is occurring worldwide, from Canada and Europe to Australia, often with tech companies and start-ups at the forefront of the development and commercialization of these technologies.

Looking forward, the trajectory of this second quantum revolution will play out over decades to come. Future successes will require sustained investments, such as those China is actively pursuing in the range of tens of billions.

As the Chinese military and defense industry start testing and experimenting with quantum technology, the U.S. military should also explore further the potential – and evaluate the limitations – of these capabilities, including through deepening public-private partnership.

As China challenges American leadership in innovation, the U.S. military and government should recognize the real risks of future surprises that could result from truly ‘made in China’ innovation, while also taking full advantage of the opportunities to impose surprise upon strategic competitors.

The above blog post is based on the recently published Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report entitled Quantum Hegemony? – China’s Ambitions and the Challenges to U.S. Innovation Leadership, co-authored by Ms. Elsa Kania and  Mr. John Costello.  Mad Scientist believes that this report is the best primer on the current state of quantum technology.  Note that quantum science – communication, computing, and sensing – was previously addressed by the Mad Scientist Laboratory as a Pink Flamingo.

Ms. Kania was proclaimed an official Mad Scientist following her presentation on PLA Human-Machine Integration at the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference at SRI International, Menlo Park, 8-9 March 2018.  Her podcast from this event, China’s Quest for Enhanced Military Technology, is hosted by Modern War Institute.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article belong to the author alone and do not represent the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or the U.S. Army Training and Training Doctrine Command.

Ms. Kania is an Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS.

51. Black Swans and Pink Flamingos

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

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

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

At the workshop, attendees identified the following Black Swans:

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


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


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


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

At the workshop, attendees identified the following Pink Flamingos:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

29. Engaging Human-Machine Networks for Cross-domain Effects

(Editor’s Note: While war will remain an enduring human endeavor for the foreseeable future, engaging human networks will require a greater understanding of robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, and the Internet of Everything. Future battlefield networks at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels will leverage these aforementioned technologies to radically change the character of war, increasing the reach, speed, and lethality of conflict. Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Mr. Victor R. Morris, addressing the global implications of human-machine teaming.)

The character of war, strategy development, and operational level challenges are changing; therefore operational approaches must do the same. Joint Publication 3-25 Countering Threat Networks includes versatile lines of effort to identify, neutralize, disrupt, or destroy threat networks. These efforts correspond with engaging diverse networks to reach mission objectives within the overall Network Engagement strategy. Network Engagement consists of three components: partnering with friendly networks, engaging neutral networks, and Countering Threat Networks (CTN).

To successfully engage networks and achieve the desired effects, more advanced human-machine collaborative networks need to be understood and evaluated. Human-machine networks are defined by the integration of autonomy and narrow artificial intelligence to accelerate processes, collective understanding, and effects. These networks exist in military operational systems and within interrelated diplomatic, information, and economic systems.

Photo Credit: RAND Monitoring Social Media Lessons for Future Department of Defense Social Media Analysis in Support of Information Operations

This post analyzes collaborative networks using Network Engagement’s Partnering, Engaging and Countering (PEC) model. The intent is to outline a requirement for enhanced Network Engagement involving human-machine collaboration. An enhanced approach accelerates Joint and multinational engagement capabilities to achieve cross-domain effects in a convergent operational environment. Cross-domain effects are achieved through synchronized capabilities and overmatch in the interconnected physical domains, information environment, and cyberspace.

PEC Model: Partnering with friendly networks, engaging neutral networks, and countering threat networks

The Multi-Domain Battle concept addresses the extended battlefield and large-scale combat through Joint reconnaissance, offensive, and defensive operations to reach positions of relative advantage.

Collective defense treaties and Joint security cooperation consist of both foreign internal defense and security force assistance to deter conflict. Foreign internal defense, when approved, involves combat operations during a state of war.

First, Joint Forces may be required to partner with host nation forces and engage hostile elements with offensive operations to return the situation to a level controllable by the host nation. Additionally, defensive tasks may be required to counter the enemy’s offense and engage the population and interconnected “internet of things.” Protection determines which threats disrupt operations and the rule of law, and then counters or mitigates those threats. Examples of specific collaborative and networked threats include cyber attacks, electronic attack, explosive hazards, improvised weapons, unmanned aerial and ground systems, and weapons of mass destruction. Battle networks are technologically enhanced Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) human-machine combat capabilities that integrate defense systems for territorial defense and/or protected coercive activities.

Source:
http://globalbalita.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/A2AD-offensive-against-Japan.jpg

Furthermore, countering networks requires an understanding of great powers competition and political ends. Geopolitical competitors develop strategies across the continuum of conflict relative to rival advantages and national interests. These strategies emphasize both direct and indirect approaches across all domains to reach political ends. A mixed approach facilitates statecraft and unbounded policy to offset perceived disadvantages, deliver key narratives, and shape international norms.

Intergovernmental Military Alliances
Photo credit: Wikimedia

The collaborative networks that possess distinctive ways to achieve political objectives include:

1) Conventional Joint and irregular proxy forces with integrated air, ground, and sea defense capabilities

2) Emergent and disruptive technological networks

3) Super-empowered individuals and asymmetric proxy networks

Examples of emergent and disruptive technologies are artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, internet of things consisting of low-cost sensors, and additive manufacturing (3D printing).

Client states and proxy networks present significant challenges for Joint and multinational alliances when used as a key component of a competitor’s grand strategy. Proxy networks, however, are not limited to non-state paramilitary or insurgent networks. These un-attributable organizations also include convergent terrorist, transnational organized crime, and international hacker organizations.

Here the Syrian rebels are a proxy for the United States, and the Syrian government a proxy for Russia.
Image Credit: Thomas Leger

Multinational companies, political parties, and civic groups also act as proxy networks with access to high-end technologies and geo-economic capabilities. Geo-economics refers to the use of economic instruments to manipulate geopolitical objectives. These networks then either blend and cooperate or compete with other proxy actors, based on various motivations and incentives.

Adversaries will also use artificial intelligence networks as proxies to deliver more deniable and innovative attacks. The efficacy of multi-domain networks with human-machine teaming correlates to partnering, engaging, and countering activities designed to shape, deter, and win.

Source:
https://www.hackread.com/darpa-squad-x-help-troops-pinpoint-enemy-in-warfare/

Finally, operational approaches designed to force critical factors analysis, decision-making, and assessments are critical to understanding human and technologically-enabled 21st century competition and conflict. The Joint Operational Area must be assessed as one extended domain with resilient strategic network configurations designed to partner with, engage, and counter diverse systems.

Mission command through human-machine teaming, networks, and systems integration is inevitable and will leverage human adaptability, automated speed, and precision as future capabilities. The global competition for machine intelligence dominance is becoming a key element of both the changing character of war and technical threat to strategic stability.

Modifying doctrine to account for advances in autonomy, narrow artificial intelligence, and quantum computing is inevitable, and human-machine teaming has global implications.

If you enjoyed this post, please note:

  • U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s Red Diamond Threats Newsletter, Volume 8, Issue 10 October 2017 addresses Russian “Snow Dome” A2/AD human-machine combat capabilities on pages 7-12.

  • The transformative impact of AI, robotics, and autonomy on our Soldiers and networks in future conflicts is further addressed in Redefining the Role of Soldiers on the Future Battlefield.

  • Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. This conference will be live-streamed; click here to watch the proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018. Ms. Elsa Kania, Adjunct Fellow, Center for New American Security (CNAS), will address “People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Human-Machine Integration” on Day 2 (09 March 2018) of the Conference.



Victor R. Morris is a civilian irregular warfare and threat mitigation instructor at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Germany.