133. “Back (and Forward) to the Future IV” and What We Have and Haven’t Learned

[Editor’s Note: Returning guest blogger Frank Prautzsch peers 34 years into the past to explore how the blockbuster film “Back to the Future” and its sequels portrayed a number of fantastic technologies that have since evolved from pure science fiction into reality in 2019; then looks forward a similar number of years to envision future technological possibilities in 2053. Enjoy Mr. Prautzsch’s post and dare to “live outside-of-the-box” and imagine the true edge cases of the possible!]

On 3 July 1985, writer/producers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale first brought Marty McFly and Doc Brown to the big screen in the amazing hit “Back to the Future.” Younger generations will need to stream this motion picture for themselves to learn about technological vision in the Reagan era, while taking a glimpse at social norms and life in 1955. With all the thrills of science fiction and time travel, we munched on popcorn, witnessing nothing short of the bizarre in fictional technology and science. This motion picture was such a success that two sequels followed in 1989 and 1990.

Such motion pictures were more than entertainment; they pulled on our technical imagination and eventually on our goals to attain these technologies. As Mad Scientists, we often don’t want to profess a deep or incisive long shot at futuristic technology for fear of ridicule… of being wrong… or of disbelief in ourselves… and we continue to second guess our imagination, rather than offer our vision of the future. Are the visionaries confined to Hollywood? It is important for planners and strategic thinkers alike to not just “think out-of-the-box” but to “LIVE there.” Every Mad Scientist’s artwork should get an “F” for staying inside the lines!

As we look in the rear-view mirror at “Back to the Future” from 2019, 34 years have passed. As we look “Ahead to the Future,” 34 years from now, today’s chronological apex places us at the controls and gadgets of the 2053 warfighter.  2019 is a dividing and divining point between the past and the future. Why all this build up? Notably, all of the technologies from “Back the Future” either exist or are in the progress of existing… including “time” travel.

Here are some tangible examples today which were irrational in 1985:

a. The Flying DeLorean. While it looks positively nothing like the original, DeLorean Aerospace LLC developed the DLC-7 flying car. At nearly 20 ft. long and 18 ft. wide, this craft has auto-stow wings that allow the car to occupy the family garage.

 

b. The Hoverboard. The Arca Aerospace Corporation‘s ArcaBoard harnesses ducted electric fans generating 272 horsepower to carry a 180 lb. pilot at 12.5 mph.

 

c. Self-Lacing Sneakers. Motivated by both this subject motion picture and the needs of the handicapped, Nike Corporation developed self-lacing sneakers. Albeit pricey, such sneakers were magical 34 years ago, and now they are a commodity.

 

 

d. Time Travel. While the ability to conduct time reversal in nature is still unattained, a team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory explored this question in a first-of-its-kind experiment, managing to return a computer briefly to the past. The results, published March 13 of this year in the journal Nature‘s Scientific Reports, suggests new paths for exploring the backward flow of time in quantum systems. They also open new possibilities for quantum computer program testing and error correction. Additional work at IBM verifies that photons in a quantum state can occupy two realities at the same time.

 

e. The Cubs Winning the World’s Series. After beating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 and winning three straight games, the Chicago Cubs officially put an end to their 108-year title drought during Game 7 of the 2016 MLB World Series.

From Nov 8-11, 2018, an independent survey of 2,201 adults, found that 71 percent said that they’d be likely to watch another outing of Marty McFly and Doc Brown, ahead of other franchises such as Pixar’s Toy Story (69 percent), Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones (68 percent), and Universal’s Jurassic Park (67 percent).1 There is a visionary technology nerd trapped in all of us. So why not a Tetralogy? With the same angst of the future, the producers and writers of the previous trilogy series don’t desire to mess with success.

While the Mad Scientist community remains visionary regarding warfare and weapons systems, by 2054, virtually any platform or system will be of commercial origin. In his bestselling book, Norman Augustine (the former President and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation) highlights his “Laws” about business management and government procurements. Similar cost growth ramps will likely apply to Army platforms. From the beginnings of tactical aircraft until today, the cost of an aircraft has increased four-fold every 10 years.

Augustine professes that LAW NUMBER XVI applies:

“In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. The aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy. 3 ½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.”2

As we stand in 2019 and gaze forward to 2053, the following point technologies may be more than the script for “Back to the Future IV.” Should Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale elect to change their minds and write “Back to the Future IV…The Tetralogy,” the following are just some (but by no means all) of the key commercial technical attributes of our 2053 world:

a. 8G in-situ, ultra-high speed, real time mobile connectivity and all sensory immersion at the edge.

b. Wireless high capacity, high efficiency, medium and high tension power distribution using Zenneck waves.

c. Green 100 mAh to 5 MW Batteries, energy harvesting, and mass storage that require little or no recharge and last until load device obsolescence.

d. Personal, Service-based, and Business Flying Cars and Jetpacks.

e. “Supersonic-plus” intercontinental flight.

f. Night vision eyeglasses, lasik-like night vision implants and contact lenses.

g. Quantum and organic computer augmentation and Quantum networks for Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence, Cyber, and Cyborg functions.

h. Robotic Cyber and counter-Cyber Operations.

i. Quantum Entanglement algorithms for prediction, interaction, and discovery management for new materials, chemicals, medicines, sensing, encryption, communications, information teleportation, and hybrid periodic elements.

j. Multi-domain unmanned and collaborative AI systems that fly, loiter, swim, drive, submerge, and multi-sense persistently (with some that do all of these functions).

k. Printed and stem cell vacuum grown replaceable bones, organs, muscles and skin.

l. Tailored immunotherapy pathogen disease treatment and recovery (including cancer).

m. Tailored-dose printed medicines with robotic dose delivery.

n. Ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor environments, with human privacy only achieved through electronic cloaking using e-nanofabrics.

o. Expanded use of graphene and carbon for light and resilient structural and micro-electronic/quantum markets.

p. Expanded use of nuclear, hydrogen, and fusion-based power to combat runaway climate change and end oil-dependence.

q. A major pep rally for the Cleveland Indians who, after a 104-year drought, win the World Series.

While there are millions of other technical discoveries that have yet to occur, “living out-of-the-box” requires Mad Scientists to accept a risky vision, open the lid on the top of the military’s reality box, and wave to all the inventors and innovators that are inside looking at you.

If you enjoyed this post, please also:

Read Frank Prautzsch’s previous MadSci blog posts: Auto Immune Disease Treatment in a New Age of Bio Convergence and Our Arctic—The World’s Pink Flamingo and Black Swan Bird Sanctuary; as well as his Speaker Series presentation on Advancing Armor on our APAN site.

See similar posts assessing future disruptive technological trends: Potential Game Changers, Black Swans and Pink Flamingos, and Emergent Global Trends Impacting on the Future Operational Environment; and

Crank up Huey Lewis and the News’ hit The Power of Love from Back to the Future!

In his current role as President of Velocity Technology Partners LLC, Mr. Frank Prautzsch (LTC, Ret. Signal Corps) is recognized as a technology and business leader supporting the government and is known for exposing or crafting innovative technology solutions for the DoD, SOF, DHS and Intelligence community. He also provides consult to the MEDSTAR Institute for Innovation. His focus is upon innovation and not invention. Mr. Prautzsch holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a distinguished graduate of the Marine Corps Signal Advanced Course, Army Airborne School, Ranger School, and Command and General Staff College. He also holds a Master of Science Degree from Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California with a degree in Systems Technology (C3) and Space.


1 “Which Movie Franchise should Return? “Back to the Future” Tops New Poll” (The Hollywood Reporter Magazine, Nov 20, 2018) pg. 1.

2 Norman R. Augustine, Augustine’s Laws (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., 1986.) pg. 106-7.

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.

42. China’s Drive for Innovation Dominance

“While the U.S. military may not necessarily have to fight Russia or China, it is likely that U.S. forces through 2050 will encounter their advanced equipment, concepts, doctrine, and tactics in flashpoints or trouble spots around the globe..” — extracted from The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare

The Future Operational Environment’s Era of Contested Equality (i.e., 2035 through 2050) will be marked by significant breakthroughs in technology and convergences, resulting in revolutionary changes that challenge the very nature of warfare itself. No one actor is likely to have any long-term strategic or technological advantage during this period of enduring competition. Prevailing in this environment will depend on an ability to synchronize multi-domain capabilities against an artificial intelligence-enhanced adversary with an overarching capability to visualize and understand the battlespace at even greater ranges and velocities.

Ms. Elsa Kania, Adjunct Fellow, Technology and National Security Program, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), presented People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Human-Machine Integration” at last month’s Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference. In this presentation, Ms. Kania addressed China’s on-going initiatives that seek to change military power paradigms via competition and innovation in a number of key technologies. This post summarizes Ms. Kania’s presentation.

Xinhua News Agency (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)
Under President Xi Jinping‘s leadership, China is becoming a major engine of global innovation, second only to the United States. China’s national strategy of “innovation-driven development” places innovation at the forefront of economic and military development. These efforts are beginning to pay off, as Beijing is becoming as innovative as Silicon Valley. China continues to strengthen its military through a series of ambitious Science and Technology (S&T) plans and investments, focusing on disruptive and radical innovations that will enable them to seize the high ground with decisive technologies (e.g., AI, hypervelocity, and biotechnology).

President Xi leads China’s Central Military-Civil Fusion Development Commission, whose priorities include intelligent unmanned systems, biology and cross-disciplinary technologies, and quantum S&T. Though the implementation of a “whole of nation” strategy, President Xi is leveraging private sector advances for military applications. This strategy includes the establishment of Joint Research Institutes to promote collaborative R&D; new national labs focused on achieving dual-use advances; and collaboration within national military-civil fusion innovation demonstration zones. Major projects concentrate on quantum communications and computing, brain science, and brain-inspired research.

By 2030, China will be world’s premier Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation center. Building upon their successes with Alpha Go, the PLA is seeking to establish a “Battlefield Singularity,” leveraging AI potential in planning, operational command and control, decision support tools, wargaming, and brain-computer interfaces controlling unmanned systems. They will deepen military-civil fusion AI initiatives with Baidu, Alibaba Group, Tencent, and iFLYTEK. AI is seen as a potential game-changer by the Chinese, a way to augment perceived military shortcomings.

This focused initiative on innovation may result in China’s First Offset, characterized by integrating quantum satellites with fiber optic communication networks; human-machine interfaces; drone swarms able to target carrier task forces; naval rail guns; and quantum computing.

Potential areas for biotechnology and AI convergences include:

“Intelligentized” Command Decision-Making: The Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC) has called for the PLA to leverage the “tremendous potential” of AI in planning, operational command, and decision support. Ongoing research is focusing on command automation and “intelligentization,” with experimental demonstrations of an “external brain” for commanders and decision support systems for fighter pilots and submarines.

Brain-Computer Interfaces: Active research programs in brain-computer interfaces are underway (e.g., at PLA Information Engineering University, Tsinghua University), enabling “brain control” of robotic and “unmanned” systems and potentially facilitating brain networking.


Military Exoskeletons: Several prototype exoskeletons have been tested and demonstrated to date, augmenting soldiers’ physical capabilities, with the latest generations being more capable and closer to being fielded by the PLA.








CRISPR in China: Gene editing is currently underway with animals and human embryos due to less stringent regulatory requirements in the PRC. BGI (a would-be “bio-Google”) is currently soliciting DNA from Chinese geniuses in an attempt to understand the genomic basis for intelligence.






Chinese Superintelligence: The Chinese aspire to develop “brain-like” or human-level AI. Their new National Engineering Laboratory for Brain-Inspired Intelligence Technologies and Applications, with Baidu involvement, is focusing on learning from the human brain to tackle AI, advancing next-generation AI technologies.

While technological advantage has been a key pillar of U.S. military power and national competitiveness, China is rapidly catching up. Future primacy in AI and biotech, likely integral in future warfare, could remain contested between the U.S. and China. The PLA will continue explore and invest in these key emerging technologies in their on-going drive for innovation dominance.

For more information regarding the PLA’s on-going innovation efforts:

Watch Ms. Kania’s video presentation and read the associated slides from the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference.

Listen to Ms. Kania’s China’s Quest for Enhanced Military Technology podcast, hosted by our colleagues at Modern War Institute.

Read Ms. Kania’s “Battlefield Singularity Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China’s Future Military Power,” which can be downloaded here.

Check out Ms. Kania’s Battlefield Singularity website.

31. Top Ten Bio Convergence Trends Impacting the Future Operational Environment

As Mad Scientist Laboratory has noted in previous blog posts, War is an intrinsically human endeavor. Rapid innovations in the biological sciences are changing how we work, live, and fight. Drawing on the past two years of Mad Scientist events, we have identified a change in the character of war driven by the exponential convergence of bio, neuro, nano, quantum, and information. This convergence is leading to revolutionary achievements in sensing, data acquisition and retrieval, and computer processing hardware; creating a new environment in which humans must co-evolve with these technologies. Mad Scientist has identified the following top ten bio convergence trends associated with this co-evolution that will directly impact the Future Operational Environment (OE).

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

2) The next 50 years will see an evolution in human society; we will be augmented by Artificial Intelligence (AI), partner with AI in centaur chess fashion, and eventually be eclipsed by AI.


3) This augmentation and enhanced AI partnering will require hyper-connected humans with wearables and eventually embeddables to provide continuous diagnostics and human-machine interface.


4) The Army will need to measure cognitive potential and baseline neural activity of its recruits and Soldiers.




5) The Army needs new training tools to take advantage of neuralplasticity and realize the full cognitive potential of Soldiers. Brain gyms and the promise of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) training sets could accelerate learning and, in some cases, challenge the tyranny of “the 10,000 hour rule.”

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

7) Asymmetric Ethics, where adversaries make choices we will not (e.g., manipulating the DNA of pathogens to target specific genome populations or to breed “super” soldiers) will play a bigger part in the future. This is not new, but will be amplified by future technologies. Bio enhancements will be one of the areas and experimentation is required to determine our vulnerabilities.

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

9) Chemical and bio defense will need to be much more sophisticated on the next battlefield. The twin challenges of democratization and proliferation have resulted in a world where the capability of engineering potentially grave bio-weapons, once only the purview of nation states and advance research institutes and universities, is now available to Super-Empowered Individuals, Violent Non-State Actors (VNSA), and criminal organizations.

10) We are missing the full impact of bio on all emerging trends. We must focus beyond human enhancement and address how bio is impacting materials, computing, and garage level, down scaled innovation.


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. Click here to learn more about the conference and then watch the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018.


Also note that our friends at Small Wars Journal have published the first paper from our series of Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas finalists — enjoy!

22. Speed, Scope, and Convergence Trends

“Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.” — Sun Tzu

This timeless observation from The Art of War resonates through the millennia and is of particular significance to the Future Operational Environment
Mad Scientist Laboratory has addressed the impact of Autonomy, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Robotic Trends in previous posts. Consequential in their own right, particularly in the hands of our adversaries, the impact of these technology trends is exacerbated by their collective speed, scope, and convergence, leading ultimately to man-machine co-evolution.

Speed. Some Mad Scientists posit that the rate of progress in these technologies will be “faster than Moore’s law.” As our adversaries close the technology gap and potentially overtake us in select areas, there is clearly a “need for speed” as cited in the Defense Science Board (DSB) Report on Autonomy. The speed of actions and decisions will need to increase at a much higher pace over time.

“… the study concluded that autonomy will deliver substantial operational value across an increasingly diverse array of DoD missions, but the DoD must move more rapidly to realize this value. Allies and adversaries alike also have access to rapid technological advances occurring globally. In short, speed matters—in two distinct dimensions. First, autonomy can increase decision speed, enabling the U.S. to act inside an adversary’s operations cycle. Secondly, ongoing rapid transition of autonomy into warfighting capabilities is vital if the U.S. is to sustain military advantage.” — DSB Summer Study on Autonomy, June 2016 (p. 3)

Scope. It may be necessary to increase not only the pace but also the scope of these decisions if these technologies generate the “extreme future” characterized by Mad Scientist Dr. James Canton as “hacking life” / “hacking matter” / “hacking the planet.” In short, no aspect of our current existence will remain untouched. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomy – far from narrow topics – are closely linked to a broad range of enabling / adjunct technologies identified by Mad Scientists, to include:

• Computer Science, particularly algorithm design and software engineering
• Man-Machine Interface, to include Language / Speech and Vision
• Sensing Technologies
• Power and Energy
• Mobility and Manipulation
• Material Science to include revolutionary new materials
• Quantum Science
• Communications
• 3D (Additive) Manufacturing
• Positioning, Navigation and Timing beyond GPS
• Cyber

Science and Technological Convergence. Although 90% of the technology development will occur in the very fragmented, uncontrolled private sector, there is still a need to view robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy as a holistic, seamless system. Technology convergence is a recurring theme among Mad Scientists. They project that we will alter our fundamental thinking about science because of the “exponential convergence” of key technologies, including:

• Nanoscience and nanotechnology
• Biotechnology and Biomedicine
• Information Technology
• Cognitive Science and Neuroscience
• Quantum Science




This convergence of technologies is already leading to revolutionary achievements with respect to sensing, data acquisition and retrieval, and computer processing hardware. These advances in turn enable machine learning to include reinforcement learning and artificial intelligence. They also facilitate advances in hardware and materials, 3D printing, robotics and autonomy, and open-sourced and reproducible computer code. Exponential convergence will generate “extremely complex futures” that include capability “building blocks” that afford strategic advantage to those who recognize and leverage them.

Co-Evolution. Clearly humans and these technologies are destined to co-evolve. Humans will be augmented in many ways: physically, via exoskeletons; perceptionally, via direct sensor inputs; genetically, via AI-enabled gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR; and cognitively via AI “COGs” and “Cogni-ceuticals.” Human reality will be a “blended” one in which physical and digital environments, media and interactions are woven together in a seamless integration of the virtual and the physical. As daunting – and worrisome – as these technological developments might seem, there will be an equally daunting challenge in the co-evolution between man and machine: the co-evolution of trust.

Trusted man-machine collaboration will require validation of system competence, a process that will take our legacy test and verification procedures far beyond their current limitations. Humans will expect autonomy to be nonetheless “directable,” and will expect autonomous systems to be able to explain the logic for their behavior, regardless of the complexity of the deep neural networks that motivate it. These technologies in turn must be able to adapt to user abilities and preferences, and attain some level of human awareness (e.g., cognitive, physiological, emotional state, situational knowledge, intent recognition).

For additional information on The Convergence of Future Technology, see Dr. Canton’s presentation from the Mad Scientist Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, & Autonomy Conference at Georgia Tech Research Institute last March.