197. The Arctic: An Emergent Zone of Great Power Competition

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present in today’s post two articles excerpted from last month’s OE Watch addressing BNU-1, China’s first observation satellite providing coverage of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and their high latitude (i.e., polar) equipment. Our near-peer competitors — China and Russia — understand the geo-strategic ramifications of global climate change and are positioning themselves for the coming race to tap the vast (and as of yet relatively unexploited) energy and mineral wealth of the Arctic. Similar signals, like Russia’s mini-subs planting a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole and deploying their first floating nuclear power plant to the Arctic coast are harbingers that the Arctic is an emergent zone of great power competition in the Operational Environment’s (OE’s) Era of Accelerated Human Progress.]

China continues to show interest and invest time, funding, and research in the polar regions. According to the following passage from Xinhuanet, China has her first polar satellite. The article reports that the BNU-1 has successfully obtained data on the polar regions and is conducting full-coverage observation of the Antarctic and the Arctic every day. Developed by the Beijing Normal University and Shenzhen Aerospace Dongfanghong Development Ltd., the satellite will promote research of the Earth’s polar regions and support China’s upcoming 36th Antarctic expedition by enhancing its navigation capability in the polar ice zone.

Note that the Soviet Union/Russia launched a series of Molniya military communications satellites over the polar regions from 1965 to 2004. They used a high elliptical orbit to attain a long dwell time over these high latitude areas. These orbits are suited for Arctic and Antarctic communications similar to the geostationary satellites used over the equator. Russia now uses the updated Meridian satellite series over the polar regions. (Les Grau, OE Watch analyst note)

China’s first polar observation satellite supports polar research,” Xinhua, 9 October 2019.

China’s first polar observation satellite, the BNU-1, has successfully obtained data on polar regions, according to the satellite’s chief scientist.

After nearly one month of in-orbit testing, the satellite is working normally and conducting full-coverage observation of the Antarctic and the Arctic every day, Cheng Xiao, the chief scientist, said at the China Symposium on Polar Science 2019. Cheng said the satellite data connection system allows scientists around the world to obtain polar observation data acquired by the satellite. Registered users can also propose new observation requirements.

The satellite continuously monitored a gigantic iceberg breaking away from the Amery Ice Shelf in east Antarctica in September, helping limit its impact on submerged buoys and investigation ships in the surrounding area. Cheng said the satellite will help reduce China’s reliance on foreign satellites for polar observation data. “The satellite’s spatial resolution reaches 75 meters, which offers more detailed information on the ice cover and the sea ice…”

The satellite will also support China’s upcoming 36th Antarctic expedition by enhancing its navigation capability in the polar ice zone. Developed by the Beijing Normal University and Shenzhen Aerospace Dongfanghong Development Ltd., the satellite weighs 16 kg and is equipped with two cameras and one receiver. It has great significance in promoting the research of Polar Regions and global climate change.

China’s first ice breaker, Xue Long [Snow Dragon] doubles as a polar research vessel and has spent most of her time in the Arctic and Antarctic including over 20 annual Chinese Antarctic expeditions. The vessel was built in Soviet Ukraine shipyards in 1993. As the accompanying passage below from Xinhuanet discusses, Xue Long 2, built in China, will probably make the Antarctic voyage this year. China maintains the Taishan Station in Antarctica. As discussed in the following passage from Xinhuanet, the development of the Nanji 2 all-terrain amphibious polar vehicle will support the station and other polar research. (Les Grau, OE Watch analyst note)

China’s New All-Terrain Vehicle to Join 36th Antarctic Expedition, Xinhuanet.com, 9 October 2019.

China’s self-developed all-terrain vehicle will set off to the South Pole, contributing to the country’s upcoming 36th Antarctic expedition.

The vehicle Nanji 2 (Antarctica No. 2), painted in red and yellow, was manufactured by Guizhou Jonyang Kinetics Co., Ltd. It was recently delivered to the Polar Research Institute of China in Shanghai.

Compared to previous generations, the new amphibious vehicle is equipped with an upgraded running system. It also applies new material and technologies to improve low-temperature performance and wear resistance, allowing it to work at minus 41 degrees Celsius. In addition, the vehicle has increased comfort for researchers with air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Its control system and other core components were all developed in China, said Lyu Qian, general manager of the manufacturer. The vehicle is multifunctional with strong transport capacity and good adaptability to complex terrain. It can undertake various missions, including personnel and materials transportation, sea, ice and land explorations, as well as search and rescue operations.

China is continuing to develop capabilities and acquire experience operating in the polar regions, making them formidable competitors in this space.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

Our Arctic—The World’s Pink Flamingo and Black Swan Bird Sanctuary, by Mr. Frank Prautzsch.

Climate Change Laid Bare: Why We Need To Act Now by Ms. Sage Miller, as well as her “The Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Military” Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) Speaker Session presentation

The OE Watch, November issue, by the TRADOC G-2’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), featuring these two stories, in addition to “China Expands Gaofen Earth Observing Satellite Constellation” and other articles of interest.

 

192. New Skills Required to Compete & Win in the Future Operational Environment

[Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) recruits, trains, educates, develops, and builds the Army, driving constant improvement and change to ensure that the Army can successfully compete and deter, fight, and decisively win on any battlefield. The pace of change, however, is accelerating with the convergence of new and emergent technologies that are driving the changing character of warfare in the future Operational Environment (OE).  Preparing to compete and win in this future OE is one of the toughest challenges facing the Army. TRADOC must identify the requisite new Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviors (KSBs) that our Soldiers and leaders will need to compete and win, and then program and implement the associated policy changes, improvements to training facilities, development of leader programs, and the integration of required equipment into the Multi-Domain force.]

The future OE will compel a change in the character of warfare driven by the diffusion of power, economic disparity, and the democratization and convergence of technology. There are no longer defined transitions from peace to war, or from competition to conflict. “Steady State” now consists of continuous, dynamic, and simultaneous competition and conflict that is not necessarily cyclical. Russia and China, our near-peer competitors, confront us globally, converging capabilities with hybrid strategies to expand the battlefield across all domains and create hemispheric threats challenging us from home stations to the Close Area. They seek to achieve national objectives through competition short of conflict and synthesize emerging technologies with military doctrine and operations to deploy capabilities that create multiple layers of multi-domain stand-off. Additionally, regional competitors and non-state actors such as Iran, North Korea, and regional and transnational terrorist organizations, will effectively compete and fight in similar ways shaped to their strategic situations, but with lesser scope and scale in terms of capabilities.

The convergence and availability of cutting-edge technologies will act as enablers and force multipliers for our adversaries. Artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information sciences, and the Internet of Things will flatten decision making structures and increase speed on the battlefield, while weaponized information will empower potential foes, enabling them to achieve effects at a fraction of the cost of conventional weapons, without risking armed conflict. Space will become a contested domain, as our adversaries will enhance their ability to operate in that domain while working to deny us what was once a key area of advantage.

Preparing for this new era is one of the toughest challenges the Army will face in the next 25 years. A key component of this preparation is identifying the skills and attributes required for the Soldiers and Leaders operating in our multi-domain formations.

The U.S. Army currently has more than 150 Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), each requiring a Soldier to learn unique tasks, skills, and knowledge. The emergence of a number of new technologies – drones, AI autonomy, immersive mixed reality, big data storage and analytics, etc. – coupled with the changing character of warfare means that many of these MOSs will need to change, while new ones will need to be created. This already has been seen in the wider U.S. and global economy, where the growth of internet services, smartphones, social media, and cloud technology over the last ten years has introduced a host of new occupations that previously did not exist.

Acquiring and developing the talent pool and skills for a new MOS requires policy changes, improvements to training facilities, development of leader programs, and the integration of required equipment into current and planned formations. The Army’s recent experience building a cyber MOS offers many lessons learned. The Army needed to change policies for direct entry into the force, developed cyber training infrastructure at Fort Gordon, incorporated cyber operations into live training exercises at home station and the Combat Training Centers, built the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, and developed concepts and equipment baselines for cyber protection teams. This effort required action from Department of the Army and each of the subordinate Army commands. Identifying, programming, and implementing new knowledge, skills, and attributes is a multi-year effort that requires synchronizing the delivery of Soldiers possessing the requisite skills with the fielding of a Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)-capable force in 2028 and the MDO-ready force in 2035.

The Army’s MDO concept offers a clear glimpse of the types of new skills that will be required to win on the future battlefield. A force with all warfighting functions enabled by big data and AI will require Soldiers with data science expertise and some basic coding experience to improve AI integration and to maintain proper transparency and biases supporting leader decision making. The Internet of Battle things connecting Soldiers and systems will require Soldiers with technical integration skills and cyber security experience. The increased numbers of air and land robots and associated additive manufacturing systems to support production and maintenance means a new series of maintenance skills now only found in manufacturing centers, Amazon warehouses, and universities. There are many more emerging skill requirements. Not all of these will require a new MOS, but in some cases, the introduction of new skill identifiers and functional areas may be required.

Some of the needed skills may be inherent within the next generation(s) of recruits. Many of the games, drones, and other everyday technologies that already are, or soon will be very common – narrow AI, app development and general programming, and smart devices – will yield a variety of intrinsic skills that recruits will have prior to entering the Army. Just like we no longer train Soldiers on how to use a computer, games like Fortnite©, with no formal relationship with the military, will provide players with militarily-useful skills such as communications, problem solving, and creative thinking, all while attempting to survive against persistent attack. Due to these trends, recruits may come into the Army with fundamental technical skills and baseline military thinking attributes that flatten the learning curve for Initial Entry Training (IET).

While these new recruits may have a set of some required skills, there will still be a premium placed on premier skillsets in fields such as AI and machine learning, robotics, big data management, and quantum information sciences. Due to the high demand for these skillsets, the Army will have to compete for talent with private industry, battling them on compensation, benefits, perks, and a less restrictive work environment. In light of this, the Army may have to consider adjusting or relaxing its current recruitment processes, business practices, and force structuring to ensure it is able to attract and retain expertise. It also may have to reconsider how it adapts and utilizes its civilian workforce to undertake these types of tasks in new and creative ways.

If you enjoyed reading this, please see the following MadSci blog posts:

… and the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference Final Report.

172. Splinternets

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory welcomes returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. Howard R. Simkin with his submission to our Mad Scientist Crowdsourcing topic from earlier this summer on The Operational Environment: What Will Change and What Will Drive It – Today to 2035?  Mr. Simkin’s post addresses the military challenges posed by Splinternets.  Competition during Multi-Domain Operations is predicated on our Forces’ capability to conduct cyber and influence operations against and inside our strategic competitors’ networks.  In a world of splinternets, our flexibility to conduct and respond to non-kinetic engagements is challenged by this new reality in the operational environment. (Note:  Some of the embedded links in this post are best accessed using non-DoD networks.)]

Purpose.
This paper discusses the splintering of the Internet that is currently underway – the creation of what are commonly being called splinternets. Most versions of the future operational environment assume an Internet that is largely accessible to all. Recent trends point to a splintering effect as various nation states or multi-state entities seek to regulate access to or isolate their portion of the Internet.1, 2  This paper will briefly discuss the impacts of those tendencies and propose an operational response.

The Problem.
What are the impacts of a future operational environment in which the Internet has fractured into a number of mutually exclusive subsets, referred to as splinternets?

Background.
Splinternets threaten both access to data and the exponential growth of the Internet as a global commons. There are two main drivers fracturing the Internet. One is regulation and the other is isolationism. Rooted in politics, the Internet is being fractured by regulation and isolationism. Counterbalancing this fracturing is the Distributed Web (DWeb).

Regulation.
Regulation usually involves revenue or internal security. While admirable in intent, regulations cast a chill over the growth and health of the Internet.3  Even well-intentioned regulations become a burden which forces smaller operators to go out of business or to ignore the regulations. Depending on the country involved, activity which was perfectly legal can become illegal by bureaucratic fiat. This acts as a further impetus to drive users to alternative platforms. An example is the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect on 25 May 2018. It includes a number of provisions which make it far more difficult to collect data. The GDPR covers not only entities based in the EU but also those who have users in the EU.4  U.S. companies such as Facebook have scrambled to comply so as to maintain access to the EU virtual space.5

Isolation.
China is the leader in efforts to isolate their portion of the internet from outside influence.6  To accomplish this, they have received help from their own tech giants as well as U.S. companies such as Google.7  The Chinese have made it very difficult for outside entities to penetrate the “Great Firewall” while maintaining the ability of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct malign activities across the Internet.8  Recently, Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google opined that China would succeed in splitting the Internet in the not too distant future.9

Russia has also proposed a similar strategy, which they would extend to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The reason given is the “dominance of the US and a few EU states concerning Internet regulation” which Russia sees as a “serious danger” to its safety, RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK)10  quotes from minutes taken at a meeting of the Russian Security Council. Having its own root servers would make Russia independent of monitors like the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and protect the country in the event of “outages or deliberate interference.” “Putin sees [the] Internet as [a] CIA tool.”11

Distributed Web (DWeb).
The DWeb is “a peer-to-peer Internet that is free from firewalls, government regulation, and spying.” Admittedly, the DWeb is a difficult problem. However, both the University of Michigan and a private firm, Maidsafe claim to be close to a solution.12  Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and organizer of the first Decentralized Web Summit two years ago, recently advocated a “DWeb Camp.” Should a DWeb become a reality, many of the current efforts by governments to control or regulate the Internet would founder.

Operational Response.
Our operational response should involve Special Operations Forces (SOF), Space, and Cyber forces. The creation of splinternets places a premium on the ability to gain physical access to the splinternet’s internal networks. SOF is an ideal force to perform this operation because of their ability to work in politically sensitive and denied environments with or through indigenous populations. Once SOF gains physical access, Space would be the most logical means to send and receive data. Cyber forces would then perform operations within the splinternet.

Conclusion.
Most versions of the future operational environment assume an Internet that is largely accessible to all. Therefore, splinternets are an important ‘alternative future’ to consider. In conjunction with Space and Cyber forces, SOF can play a key role in the operational response to allow the Joint Force to continue to operate against splinternet capable adversaries.

If you enjoyed this post, please see:

– Mr. Simkin‘s previous Mad Scientist Laboratory posts:

Keeping the Edge, and

Sine Pari,

… as well as his winning Call for Ideas presentation The Future ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) 2035-2050, delivered at the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference, co-hosted with SRI International on 8–9 March 2018 at their Menlo Park campus in California.

– LtCol Jennifer “JJ” Snow‘s blog post Alternet: What Happens When the Internet is No Longer Trusted?

– Dr. Mica Hall‘s blog post The Cryptoruble as a Stepping Stone to Digital Sovereignty

Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Capability Development & Integration 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. He is also a proclaimed Mad Scientist.

References:
Baker, Dr. Jessica. “What Does GDPR Mean For You?” Digital Guardian. July 11, 2018. https://digitalguardian.com/blog/what-does-gdpr-mean-for-you (accessed September 14, 2018).

Hoffer, Eric. Reflections on the Human Condition. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

L.S. “The Economist explains, “What is the splinternet”?” The Economist. November 22, 2016. https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/11/22/what-is-the-splinternet (accessed September 14, 2018).

Nash, Charlie. “The Google Tapes: Employees Applauded Company for Taking Bold Stance Against China.” Breitbart. September 13, 2018. https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/09/13/the-google-tape-employees-applauded-company-for-taking-bold-stance-against-china/ (accessed September 14, 2018).

Sanger, David E. The Perfect Weapon, War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age. New York: Crown (Kindle Edition), 2018.

Sterling, Bruce. “The China Splinternet Model is Winning.” Wired. July 2, 2016. https://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/2016/07/china-splinternet-model-winning/ (accessed September 2018, 2018).

Tangermann, Victor. “With GDPR Decision, Zuckerberg Proves Yet Again He Has Learned Absolutely Nothing From the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.” Futurism. April 4, 2018. https://futurism.com/zuckerberg-gdpr-cambridge-analytica/ (accessed September 14, 2018).

Tanguay, Pierre, Sabrina Dubé-Morneau, and Gaëlle Engelberts. “Splinternets: How Online Balkanization is Creating a Headache for Digital Content Distribution.” CMF Trends. January 31, 2018. https://trends.cmf-fmc.ca/splinternets-how-online-balkanization-is-creating-a-headache-for-digital-content-distribution/ (accessed September 2018, 2018).

End Notes:

1 Tanguay, Pierre, Sabrina Dubé-Morneau, and Gaëlle Engelberts. “Splinternets: How Online Balkanization is Creating a Headache for Digital Content Distribution.” CMF Trends. January 31, 2018. https://trends.cmf-fmc.ca/splinternets-how-online-balkanization-is-creating-a-headache-for-digital-content-distribution/ (accessed September 2018, 2018).

2 L.S. “The Economist explains, “What is the splinternet”?” The Economist. November 22, 2016. https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/11/22/what-is-the-splinternet (accessed September 14, 2018).

3 Duckett, Chris. “The race to ruin the internet is upon us”. ZDNet. 23 September 2018. https://www.zdnet.com/article/the-race-to-ruin-the-internet-is-upon-us/ (accessed November 13, 2018).

4 Baker, Dr. Jessica. “What Does GDPR Mean For You?” Digital Guardian. July 11, 2018. https://digitalguardian.com/blog/what-does-gdpr-mean-for-you (accessed September 14, 2018).

5 Tangermann, Victor. “With GDPR Decision, Zuckerberg Proves Yet Again He Has Learned Absolutely Nothing From the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.” Futurism. April 4, 2018. https://futurism.com/zuckerberg-gdpr-cambridge-analytica/ (accessed September 14, 2018).

6 Sterling, Bruce. “The China Splinternet Model is Winning.” Wired. July 2, 2016. https://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/2016/07/china-splinternet-model-winning/ (accessed September 2018, 2018).

7 Nash, Charlie. “The Google Tapes: Employees Applauded Company for Taking Bold Stance Against China.” Breitbart. September 13, 2018. https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/09/13/the-google-tape-employees-applauded-company-for-taking-bold-stance-against-china/ (accessed September 14, 2018).

8 Chan, Edward. “Quick Take: The Great Firewall.” Bloomberg News. November 5, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/great-firewall-of-china (accessed November 13, 2018).

9 Kolodny, Lora. “Former Google CEO predicts the internet will split in two — and one part will be led by China.” CNBC. September 20, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/20/eric-schmidt-ex-google-ceo-predicts-internet-split-china.html (accessed November 13, 2018).

10 The RBK Group or RosBiznesKonsalting is a large Russian media group headquartered in Moscow.

11 “Russia Will Create Its Own Internet.” Cyber Security Intelligence Newsletter. January 26, 2018. https://www.cybersecurityintelligence.com/blog/russia-will-create-its-own-internet-3082.html (accessed November 13, 2018).

12 Perry, Tekla. “The Decentralized Internet of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”? Real-World Teams Say They’ve Already Invented It.” IEEE Spectrum. June 9, 2017. https://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/telecom/internet/hbo-silicon-valleys-decentralized-internet-realworld-teams-say-they-already-invented-it (accessed November 13, 2018).

Disclaimer: This is a USASOC G9 Gray Paper that has already been cleared for unlimited release. Distribution is unlimited.  The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

131. Omega

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

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

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

Omega

22 KILOMETERS NORTH OF KYIV / UKRAINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jednostka Wojskowa Komandosow (JWK) / Source: Wikimedia Commons

________________________________

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

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

________________________________

If you enjoyed this excerpt, please:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

130. Trouble in Paradise: The Technological Upheaval of Modern Political and Economic Systems

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the following post by returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Ms. Marie Murphy, addressing how advances in various technologies have the potential to upset the international order and empower individuals and non-state actors.  Read on to learn who will be the winners and losers in this technological upheaval!]

Access to new and advanced technologies has the potential to upset the current power dynamic of the world. From the proliferation of smartphones to commercially available software and hardware, individuals and states that were previously discounted as threats now have the potential to launch sophisticated attacks against powerful international players. Power will no longer remain in the upper echelons of society, where it is primarily held by national governments, multinational corporations, and national news services. These groups are losing their information dominance as individuals, local authorities, and other organizations now have the ability to access and distribute unfiltered information at their fingertips.1

A historical example of technology altering the balance of power are cassette tapes. Ayatollah Khomeini used cassette tape recordings to deliver sermons and direct the Iranian Revolution when exiled in Paris, while the United States observed the use of cassette tapes by the USSR in the spreading of communist propaganda.2 A new technology in the hands of empowered individuals and states allowed for events to transpire that otherwise would not have been possible with the same speed and effectiveness. Adaptation of technology created new agency for actors to direct movements from thousands of miles away, forever shaping the course of history. A more contemporary example is the role of smartphones and social media in the Arab Spring. These new disruptive technologies enabled the organizing of protests and the broadcasting of videos in real time, eclipsing traditional journalism’s ability to report.3

Near-term Analysis:

Technologically sophisticated international actors, such as the United States and the European Union, will maintain the capacity to manage the growth and use of technology within their own borders without adversely affecting governance. However, the increased availability of these technologies may strain civil/government relations in both developing countries and authoritarian systems.4 Technologies such as smartphones and the ability to instantly transmit data may force governments to be accountable for their actions, especially if their abuses of power are recorded and distributed globally by personal devices. At the same time however, “smart” devices may also be used by governments as instruments of social control, repression, and misinformation.

Technology also affords non-state actors new methods for recruiting and executing operations.  Technology-enabled platforms have allowed these groups to network near instantaneously across borders and around the world in a manner that would have been impossible prior to the advent of the digital age.5 A well-known example is the use of social media platforms by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS for propaganda and recruitment. These groups and others, such as Hezbollah and the political opposition in Venezuela, have deployed drones for both reconnaissance and as lethal weapons.6 The availability of these information age technologies has enabled these groups to garner more power and control than similar organizations could have done in the past, posing a real threat to major international actors.

Distant Future Analysis:

There is an extremely high chance of future political disruption stemming from technological advancement. There are some who predict a non-polar power balance emerging. In this scenario, the world is dominated by dozens of technologically capable actors with various capabilities. “Hyperconnected,” developed states such as Sweden, Finland, and Israel may become greater international players and brokers of technologically backed global power. “Partially-connected” nations, today’s developing world, will face multiple challenges and could possibly take advantage of new opportunities due to the proliferation of technology. Technologically empowered individuals, groups, or neighboring states may have the ability to question or threaten the legitimacy of an otherwise weak government. However, in these “partially-connected” states, technology will serve to break down social barriers to equalize social discourse among all strata of society. Other predictions suggest the dissolution of national boundaries and the creation of an “interconnected state” comprised of different national laws without borders in a virtual space.7

Democracy itself is evolving due to technological innovation. Increasing concerns about the roles of privacy, big data, internet security, and artificial intelligence in the digital age raise the following questions: how much does technology influence and control the lives of people in democratic countries, and what effect does this have on politics? Algorithms control the advertisements on the internet based on users’ search history, the collection and sale of personal data, and “fake news” which affects the opinions of millions.8  While these technologies provide convenience in the daily lives of internet-connected citizens, such as recommending items for purchase on Amazon and other platforms, they also lead to an erosion of public trust, a pillar upon which democracy is founded. Democracies must remain vigilant regarding how emerging technologies influence and affect their people and how governments use technology to interact with its citizens.

The changing geopolitical dynamics of the world is inextricably linked with economic power, and increasing economic power is positively correlated with technological advancement. Power is becoming more diffused as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (i.e., the BRICS states), the Philippines, Mexico, Turkey, and others develop stronger economies. States with rising economic power may begin to shun traditional global political and economic institutions in favor of regional institutions and bilateral agreements.9 There will be many more emerging markets competing for market share,10 driving up competition and forcing greater innovation and integration to remain relevant.

One of the major factors of the changing economic landscape is the growth of robotics use. Today these technologies are exclusive to world economic leaders but are likely to proliferate as more technological advancements make them cost-effective for a wider range of industries and companies. The adaptation of artificial intelligence will also dictate the future success of businesses in developed and emerging economies. It is important for governments to consider “retraining programs” for those workers laid off by roboticization and AI domination of their career fields.11 Economically dominant countries of the future will be driven by technology and hold the majority of political power in the political arena. These states will harness these technologies and use them to increase their productivity while training their workforce to participate in a technologically aided market.

The Winners and Losers of the Future:

Winners:

  • Countries with stable governments and emerging economies which are able to adapt to the rapid pace of technological innovation without severe political disruption.
  • Current international powers which invest in the development and application of advanced technologies.

Losers:

  • Countries with fragile governments which can be overpowered by citizens, neighbors, or non-state actors armed with technology and authoritarian regimes who use technology as a tool of repression.
  • Traditional international powers which put themselves at risk of losing political and financial leverage if they only work to maintain the status quo. Those systems that do not adapt will struggle to remain relevant in a world dominated by a greater number of powers who fall into the “winners” category.

Conclusion

Modern power players in the world will have to adapt to the changing role of technology, particularly the influence of technology-empowered individuals. Technology will change how democracies and other political systems operate both domestically and on the world stage. The major international players of today will also have to accept that rising economic powers will gain more influence in the global market as they are more technologically enabled. As power becomes more diluted when states gain equalizing technology, the hegemony of the current powers that lead international institutions will begin to lose relevancy if they do not adapt.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

… and Ms. Murphy‘s previous posts:

… and crank up Bob Marley and the Wailers Get Up, Stand Up!

Marie Murphy is a junior at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, studying International Relations and Arabic. She is a regular contributor to the Mad Scientist Laboratory; interned at Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the Mad Scientist Initiative during the Summer of 2018; and is currently a Research Fellow for William and Mary’s Project on International Peace and Security.


1 Laudicina, Paul A, and Erik R Peterson. “Divergence, Disruption, and Innovation: Global Trends 2015–2025.” Strategy, A T Kearney, www.middle-east.atkearney.com/strategy/featured-article/-/asset_publisher/KwarGm4gaWhz/content/global-trends-2015-2025-divergence-disruption-and-innovation/10192?inheritRedirect=false&redirect=http://www.middle-east.atkearney.com/strategy/featured-article?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_KwarGm4gaWhz&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-2&p_p_col_count=1.

2 Schmidt, Eric, and Jared Cohen. “The Digital Disruption.” Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Magazine, 27 Oct. 2010, www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2010-10-16/digital-disruption.

3 Duffy, Matt J. “Smartphones in the Arab Spring.” Academia.edu – Share Research, 2011, www.academia.edu/1911044/Smartphones_in_the_Arab_Spring

4 China is a unique case here because it’s a major developer of technology and counter-technology systems which block the use of certain devices, applications, or programs within their borders. But Chinese people do find loopholes and other points of access in the system, defying the government.

5 Schmidt, Eric, and Jared Cohen. “The Digital Disruption.” www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2010-10-16/digital-disruption.

6 “Drone Terrorism Is Now a Reality, and We Need a Plan to Counter the Threat.” International Security: Fragility, Violence and Conflict, World Economic Forum, 20 Aug. 2018, www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/08/drone-terrorism-is-now-a-reality-and-we-need-a-plan-to-counter-the-threat.

7 Schmidt, Eric, and Jared Cohen. “The Digital Disruption.”  www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2010-10-16/digital-disruption.

8 Unver, Hamid Akin. “Artificial Intelligence, Authoritarianism and the Future of Political Systems.” SSRN, EDAM Research Reports, 2018, 26 Feb. 2019, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3331635.

9 Laudicina, Paul A, and Erik R Peterson. “Divergence, Disruption, and Innovation: Global Trends 2015–2025.”

10 Stowell, Joshua. The Emerging Seven Countries Will Hold Increasing Levels of Global Economic Power by 2050. Global Security Review, 26 Apr. 2018, www.globalsecurityreview.com/will-global-economic-order-2050-look-like/.

11 Laudicina, Paul A, and Erik R Peterson. “Divergence, Disruption, and Innovation: Global Trends 2015–2025.”

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”!

126. Nowhere to Hide: Information Exploitation and Sanitization

[Editor’s Note:  In today’s post, Mad Scientist Laboratory explores how humankind’s recent exponential growth in interconnectivity will continue to affect warfare in the Future Operational Environment.  Using several contemporary use cases, we identify a number of vulnerabilities that have already been exploited by our adversaries.  The U.S. Army must learn how to sanitize its information signatures while simultaneously exploit those presented by our adversaries.  As previously stated on this site by COL Stefan J. Banach (USA-Ret.),  “Virtual Space is the decisive terrain and securing it is the decisive operation.]

Internet of Battle Things (IOBT) / Source: Alexander Kott, ARL

The timeless competition of finders vs. hiders is a key characteristic of the Future Operational Environment (FOE). Through the proliferation of sensors creating the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT), ubiquitous global communication, and pervasive personal electronic devices, the finders will be ascendant on the battlefield. They have more advantages and access than ever before – with the ability to make impactful non-kinetic action – and the hiders are creating bigger, enduring, and more conspicuous signatures. In the FOE, our ability to wade through the petabytes of raw sensor and communications data input to generate a Common Operating Picture and arrive at actionable courses of action will be significantly challenged. Will we be able to sanitize Blue Forces’ signatures to prevent our adversaries from detecting and exploiting similar information, while simultaneously seeing through Red Forces’ deception measures to strike decisively?

A recent example highlighting the inherent and unpredictable vulnerabilities presented by these emerging technologies is the incident involving personal fitness devices that track users via GPS. Many military personnel have used these devices to track personal performance while conducting physical fitness training.  The associated tracking information was transmitted back to fitness-tracking company Strava, where it was aggregated and then published as maps that were then made available to the public. Unfortunately, these maps contained articulate outlines of PT routes in and around military bases, the locations of which were not intended to be made public. This now publically available information inadvertently provided our adversaries with sensitive information that, in years past, would have required considerable time and other resources to acquire.

In response, the DoD issued a memorandum through Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan effectively banning the use of geolocation capabilities in operational areas. While there was swift policy resolution in this case, albeit after-the-fact, there are a number of continuing and emergent threats presented by the information age that still need to be addressed.

In the previous example, the culprit was a smart watch or fitness tracking device that is a companion piece to the smart phone. Removing or prohibiting these devices is less detrimental to the overall morale, spirit, and will power of our Soldiers than removing their cell phones — their primary means of voice, data, and social media connectivity — oftentimes their sole link with their family back home. Adversaries have already employed tactics designed to exploit vulnerabilities arising from Soldier cellphone use. In the Ukraine, a popular Russian tactic is to send spoofed text messages to Ukrainian soldiers informing them that their support battalion has retreated, their bank account has been exhausted, or that they are simply surrounded and have been abandoned. Taking it one step further, they have even sent false messages to the families of soldiers informing them that their loved one was killed in action.

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

This sets off a chain of events where the family member will immediately call or text the soldier, followed by another spoofed message to the original phone. With a high number of messages to enough targets, an artillery strike is called in on the area where an excess of cellphone usage has been detected.

Similarly, a NATO red team was able to easily infiltrate their own forces through information gathered on social media sites – amassing locations, dates, and other data – to influence their Soldiers’ behavior.  Facebook and Instagram allowed them to track Soldiers, determine exact locations of exercises, and identify all members of a certain unit.

Hamas employed a similar tactic against Israeli Defense Force soldiers, using fake accounts to pose as attractive women in honey trap operations to access sensitive operational information.

Each of these examples illustrate recent, low-cost, and effective means of deception. Device exploitation, the over-sharing of sensitive data, and the challenge in determining information credibility will only increase as connected devices continue to both proliferate and transition from being portable and wearable to embeddable and implantable. The following questions must be addressed by the U.S. Army:

– How can we sanitize ourselves to mitigate these and other vulnerabilities from adversely affecting us operationally on future battlefields?

– How do we ensure that the information we are receiving and processing is legitimate and that we are not being spoofed?

– How are we preparing to exploit similar vulnerabilities in our adversaries?

Fictitious 1st Army Group patch. Commanded by then LTG George S. Patton, to deceive the Germans prior to the invasion of France

– Is this even possible in a hyper-connected and complex battlefield or are we destined to be on the wrong side of some future Operation Fortitude, where effective military deception helped ensure the success GEN Eisenhower’s Great Crusade to liberate Europe from the Nazis in World War II?

One final thought — geolocation information and high resolution remote sensing capabilities, which only a short decade and a half ago were limited to a handful of national intelligence services, have entered into a new, democratized era.  As recently demonstrated in three warzone use casesanyone (including non-spacefaring nations, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals) can now access current and past imagery to generate high resolution, three dimensional views for geolocation, analysis, and (unfortunately) exploitation.  The convergence of this capability with the proliferation of personalized information signatures truly means that there is “Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide.”  (Crank it up with Martha and the Vandellas!)

If you enjoyed this post, please also read the following blog posts addressing the weaponization of social media, the future of battlefield deception, and virtual warfare:

125. The Importance of Integrative Science/Technology Intelligence (InS/TINT) to the Prediction of Future Vistas of Emerging Threats

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to feature today’s post by returning guest bloggers Dr. James Giordano and CAPT (USN – Ret.) L. R. Bremseth, and co-author Joseph DeFranco. Given on-going collaboration by our near-peer adversaries in Science and Technology (S/T) development and the execution of non-kinetic operations, today’s authors propose an expanded, integrated, and multi-national approach to S/T Intelligence. Enjoy!]

InS/TINT Karma *

(click on the link above to listen along as you read this post!)

“[it’s]… gonna get you; gonna knock you right on the head; you better get yourself together; pretty soon you’re gonna be dead.”

John Lennon 1

On January 29th, 2019, Daniel Coats, the United States Director of National Intelligence, reported to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about emerging threats to national security.2  The report stated that “…rapid advances in biotechnology, including gene editing, synthetic biology, and neuroscience, are likely to present new economic, military, ethical, and regulatory challenges worldwide as governments struggle to keep pace. These technologies hold…potential for adversaries to develop novel biological warfare agents, threaten food security, and enhance or degrade human performance

Supportive of our ongoing work,3 the report detailed the ways that existing S/T (i.e., radical leveling science and technologies, or RLT) and newly developing methods and tools (i.e., emerging science and technologies, or ET) can force-multiply non-kinetic engagements that disrupt the extant balances of economic, political, and military power. This is further fortified by the Intelligence Community’s observation of recent Chinese and Russian activities and collaborative efforts4 in S/T development and execution of non-kinetic operations. China and Russia have made significant investments and deepened political interest in research and innovation to assert growing effect, if not dominance, in international scientific, biomedical, and technological markets. Specifically, the report stated:

During the past two decades, the US lead in S&T fields has been significantly eroded, most predominantly by China, which is well ahead in several areas.5

China’s expanding efforts in bio S/T research and innovation is significant as it can, and is intended to alter the international geopolitical landscape.6, 7 Chinese philosophy and political culture establish ethico-legal grounds for research practices that can differ from those of the west and that enable somewhat more rapid progress across a broader range of S/T enterprises.8, 9, 10

Beijing has stepped up efforts to reshape the international discourse around human rights, especially within the UN system. Beijing has sought not only to block criticism of its own system but also to erode norms, such as the notion that the international community has a legitimate role in scrutinizing other countries’ behavior on human rights (e.g., initiatives to proscribe country-specific resolutions), and to advance narrow definitions of human rights based on economic standards.11

This is occurring via Chinese interest and engagement in (1) academic and university research; (2) the economic and political encouragement of government scientific agencies; (3) commercial investment; and (4) establishing legal bases for intellectual property in order to gain greater ownership and control of S/T development. China’s current and proposed Five-Year Plans (FYPs) conjoin governmental, academic, and commercial enterprises to initiate and fulfill long-term agendas to establish and sustain S/T development and use to exercise multi-dimensional global power.12

Xinhua News Agency (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)

At the 2018 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, Xi stated his desire to lead the reform of the global governance system, driving a period of increased Chinese foreign policy activism and a Chinese worldview that links China’s domestic vision to its international vision.13

As we have claimed, we believe that it will be increasingly important to analyze, quantify, and predict how particular RLTs and ETs can and likely will be employed by foreign competitors and advisories in both non-kinetic and kinetic ways.14 Currently, the models used by the United States and its allies tend to favor a somewhat limited timescale and linear pattern of S/T development.15 And if/when more extensive timescales are used, linear modeling and limited analysis for the scope of effects can constrain accuracy and reliability of predictions.

However, current research and progress in S/T is assuming a more exponential increase (Figure 1), which reflects China’s more long-term visions, if not aspirations. Thus, we feel that it is near-sighted to solely focus on five-ten-year developments. Yet it may be that the lenses currently used for more far-sighted views tend to be restricted in scope. This is problematic because such models can fail to recognize and appreciate the ways that both short- and long-term enterprises may be used to evoke strategically latent, multi-focal, disruptive effects to establish balances of power in the future.

Figure 1

To this point, we advocate expanding and improving the focus of the “predictability horizon” to better perceive three vistas of future S/T development and use. As shown in Figure 2, these are the: (1) vista of probability (present to 5 years); (2) vista of possibility (6 to 15 years); and (3) vista of potentiality (16 to 30 years). We assert that in light of current trends in global S/T research and development, it is important to examine what is probable, and from such probabilities, what is possible thereafter. Identification and depiction of possibilities (and the multi-dimensional factors that would be necessary for their actualization) enables a more salient view to better gauge the potentialities that could be realized 16 to 30 years into the future.

Figure 2

Of course, more proximate developments are easier to define and predict. Moving farther into the future, extant and emerging technologies can foster a greater variety of uses and effects. The potential uses and influences of S/T are more difficult to accurately model due to (1) diverse socio-political and economic pushing and pulling forces (in society and science), and (2) the contingencies of socio-cultural and political variables that establish “fertile” grounds for viable uses of S/T. Using a solely inductive (i.e., advancing) approach to S/T analysis and prediction may be inadequate. Rather, we recommend combining inductive methods with deductive (i.e., retrospective) analytics that are aimed at identifying potential uses and values of S/T (and the multi-varied factors required for its articulation) in the 16-30 year future timeframe, and working backwards to address and model what possibilities and probabilities would be necessary to allow such long-term occurrences. We refer to this deductive-inductive approach as Integrative S/T Intelligence (InS/TINT) that engages temporal and socio-cultural trends, contingencies, and necessities to define, analyze, model, and predict strategically-latent S/T developments, uses, and effects on the global stage.

Such an enterprise requires:  (1) an ongoing assessment of current S/T, research trends, and implicitly and/or explicitly stated long-term goals of competitors and/or possible adversaries; (2) multi-national cooperation to monitor the development of S/T that could be weaponized; and (3) establishing more acute, improved perspectives of non-kinetic engagements and the viable roles that S/T can play in leveraging their effects. Toward these goals, the United States and its allies must recognize and assess both the explicit/overt and more tacit aspects of research and use activities of several countries that already have enterprises dedicated to dual- and/or direct-use of S/T in warfare, intelligence, and national security (WINS) operations.16, 17 This will mandate deeper surveillance of international S/T research and agendas to accurately evaluate both near-and longer-term activities, progress, and trajectories. Surveillance should focus on (1) university and research sites; (2) the extent and directions of private and public support in S/T; (3) efforts toward recruitment of researchers; (4) S/T commercialization; (5) current/future military postures; and (6) current/future market space occupation and leveraging potential.

As we have previously described, an effort of this magnitude demands conjoined efforts from multiple national resources (that are beyond a whole-of-government approach).18 The type of program of record or program management office (PMO) that we have proposed is crucial. Such a program will require ongoing domestic funding and participation and support of like-minded, multi-national allies. But we perceive such effort and commitment to be worthwhile, important, and necessary, as the threat of adversaries’ use of emerging technologies in non-kinetic engagements is clear – both at present and for the future. Therefore, we consider it prudent to dedicate funding and resources to prevent such engagements of emergent S/T from becoming a national emergency.

History punishes strategic frivolity sooner or later

Henry Kissinger

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

… and her presentation on PLA Human-Machine Integration at the Mad Scientist Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference at SRI International’s Menlo Park Campus on Day 2 (9 March 2018).

Mad Scientist James Giordano, PhD, is Professor of Neurology and Biochemistry, Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program, and Co-Director of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Law and Policy at Georgetown University Medical Center. As well, he is J5 Donovan Group Senior Fellow, Biowarfare and Biosecurity, at US Special Operations Command, (USSOCOM). He has served as Senior Science Advisory Fellow to the SMA Group of the Joint Staff of the Pentagon; as Research Fellow and Task Leader of the EU-Human Brain Project Sub-Program on Dual-Use Brain Science, and as an appointed member of the Neuroethics, Legal and Social Issues Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He is an elected member of the European Academy of Science and Arts, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (UK).

L. R. Bremseth, CAPT, USN SEAL (Ret.), is Senior Special Operations Forces Advisor for CSCI, Springfield, VA. A 29+ years veteran of the US Navy, he commanded SEAL Team EIGHT, Naval Special Warfare GROUP THREE, and completed numerous overseas assignments. He also served as Deputy Director, Operations Integration Group, for the Department of the Navy.

Joseph DeFranco is J5 Donovan Group Fellow in Biowarfare and Biosecurity, at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). He is currently studying neuroscience in the college of arts and sciences, and biodefense at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University, VA, and formerly served on the staff of Congressman Donald S. Beyer (VA-08). His current research focuses upon the possible use of novel microbiological agents and big data as force-multiplying elements in non-kinetic, hybrid, and kinetic engagements, and the role of global agencies in biosecurity.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post was adapted from portions the authors’ whitepaper of the Strategic Multilayer Assessment Group, Joint Staff, Pentagon, and their essay to appear in the Defense Life Sciences Journal. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of the US Government, Department of Defense, and/or the institutions with which the authors are affiliated.


* Crank it up!  Karma is the sum of all actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding one’s fate in their future existence(s). https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/karma

1 Lennon J. “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).” Instant Karma! Apple Records, 1970.

2 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, Senate, 116th Congress. p. 16 (2019) (Testimony of Daniel R. Coats).

3 Bremseth LR, Giordano J. Emerging technologies as threats in non-kinetic engagements. Mad Scientist Laboratory Post #105, 13. December, 2018. Available online at:
http://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/105-emerging-technologies-as-threats-in-non-kinetic-engagements/.

4 Ibid. ref. 2. p.24.

5 Ibid. ref. 2. p. 15.

6 Chen C, Andriola J, Giordano J. Biotechnology, commercial veiling and implications for strategic latency: The exemplar of neuroscience and neurotechnology research and development in China. In: Davis ZD, Nacht M. (eds.) Strategic Latency Red, White and Blue: Managing the National and International Security Consequences of Disruptive Technologies. Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore Press, 2018, pp. 12-32.

7 Nach, M, Laderman S, Beeston J. Strategic Competition in China-US Relations. No. 5, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Center for Global Security Research, October 2018.

8 Giordano J. Looking ahead: The importance of views, values, and voices in neuroethics –now. Camb Q Health Care Ethics 27(4): 728-731 (2018).

9 Shook JR, Giordano J. Ethics transplants? Addressing the risks and benefits of guiding international biomedicine. AJOB-Neurosci 8(4): 230-232 (2017).

10 Palchik G, Chen C, Giordano J. Monkey business? Development, influence and ethics of potentially dual-use brain science on the world stage. Neuroethics, 10:1-4 (2017).

11 Ibid. ref. 2. p. 26.

12 Ibid. ref. 6.

13 Ibid. ref. 2. p. 25.

14 Ibid. ref. 3.

15 Pillsbury M. The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. NY: Griffin, 2016. For additional overviews, see: Bipartisan Report of the Blue-Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense. Biodefense Indicators: One Year Later; Events Outpacing Efforts to Defend the Nation, December 2016.  Siegrist DW, Tennyson SL (eds.) Technologically-based Biodefense. Arlington, VA: Potomac Institute Press (2003).

16 Ben Ouagrham-Gormley S. The bioweapons convention; A new approach. Bull Atomic Sci 71, Nov 24 (2015).

17 Giordano J. The neuroweapons threat. Bull Atomic Sci 72(3): May 31 (2016).

18 Ibid. ref. 3.

107. “The Queue”

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present our November 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 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!]

1. Is China a global leader in research and development? China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), 2018. 

The United States Army’s concept of Multi-Domain Operations 2028 describes Russia and China as strategic competitors working to synthesize emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, machine learning, nanotechnology, and robotics, with their analysis of military doctrine and operations. The Future OE’s Era of Contested Equality (i.e., 2035 through 2050) describes China’s ascent to a peer competitor and our primary pacing threat. The fuel for these innovations is research and development funding from the Chinese Government and businesses.

CSIS’s China Power Project recently published an assessment of the rise in China’s research and development funding. There are three key facts that demonstrate the remarkable increase in funding and planning that will continue to drive Chinese innovation. First, “China’s R&D expenditure witnessed an almost 30-fold increase from 1991 to 2015 – from $13 billion to $376 billion. Presently, China spends more on R&D than Japan, Germany, and South Korea combined, and only trails the United States in terms of gross expenditure. According to some estimates, China will overtake the US as the top R&D spender by 2020.”

Second, globally businesses are funding the majority of the research and development activities. China is now following this trend with its “businesses financing 74.7 percent ($282 billion) of the country’s gross expenditure on R&D in 2015.” Tracking the origin of this funding is difficult with the Chinese government also operating a number of State Owned Entities. This could prove to be a strength for the Chinese Army’s access to commercial innovation.

China’s Micius quantum satellite, part of their Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) program

Third, the Chinese government is funding cutting edge technologies where they are seeking to be global leaders. “Expenditures by the Chinese government stood at 16.2 percent of total R&D usage in 2015. This ratio is similar to that of advanced economies, such as the United States (11.2 percent). Government-driven expenditure has contributed to the development of the China National Space Administration. The Tiangong-2 space station and the “Micius’ quantum satellite – the first of its kind – are just two such examples.”

2. Microsoft will give the U.S. military access to ‘all the technology we create’, by Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times (on-line), 1 December 2018.

Success in the future OE relies on many key assumptions. One such assumption is that the innovation cycle has flipped. Where the DoD used to drive technological innovation in this country, we now see private industry (namely Silicon Valley) as the driving force with the Army consuming products and transitioning technology for military use. If this system is to work, as the assumption implies, the Army must be able to work easily with the country’s leading technology companies.  Microsoft’s President Brad Smith stated recently that his company will “provide the U.S. military with access to the best technology … all the technology we create. Full stop.”

This is significant to the DoD for two reasons: It gives the DoD, and thus the Army, access to one of the leading technology developers in the world (with cloud computing and AI solutions), and it highlights that the assumptions we operate under are never guaranteed. Most recently, Google made the decision not to renew its contract with the DoD to provide AI support to Project Maven – a decision motivated, in part, by employee backlash.

Our near-peer competitors do not appear to be experiencing similar tensions or friction between their respective governments and private industry.  China’s President Xi is leveraging private sector advances for military applications via a “whole of nation” strategy, leading China’s Central Military-Civil Fusion Development Commission to address priorities including intelligent unmanned systems, biology and cross-disciplinary technologies, and quantum technologies.  Russia seeks to generate innovation by harnessing its defense industries with the nation’s military, civilian, and academic expertise at their Era Military Innovation Technopark to concentrate on advances in “information and telecommunication systems, artificial intelligence, robotic complexes, supercomputers, technical vision and pattern recognition, information security, nanotechnology and nanomaterials, energy tech and technology life support cycle, as well as bioengineering, biosynthetic, and biosensor technologies.”

Microsoft openly declaring its willingness to work seamlessly with the DoD is a substantial step forward toward success in the new innovation cycle and success in the future OE.

3. The Truth About Killer Robots, directed by Maxim Pozdorovkin, Third Party Films, premiered on HBO on 26 November 2018.

This documentary film could have been a highly informative piece on the disruptive potential posed by robotics and autonomous systems in future warfare. While it presents a jumble of interesting anecdotes addressing the societal changes wrought by the increased prevalence of autonomous systems, it fails to deliver on its title. Indeed, robot lethality is only tangentially addressed in a few of the documentary’s storylines:  the accidental death of a Volkswagen factory worker crushed by autonomous machinery; the first vehicular death of a driver engrossed by a Harry Potter movie while sitting behind the wheel of an autonomous-driving Tesla in Florida, and the use of a tele-operated device by the Dallas police to neutralize a mass shooter barricaded inside a building.

Russian unmanned, tele-operated BMP-3 shooting its 30mm cannon on a test range / Zvezda Broadcasting via YouTube

Given his choice of title, Mr. Pozdorovkin would have been better served in interviewing activists from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and participants at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) who are negotiating in good faith to restrict the proliferation of lethal autonomy. A casual search of the Internet reveals a number of relevant video topics, ranging from the latest Russian advances in unmanned Ground Combat Vehicles (GCV) to a truly dystopian vision of swarming killer robots.

Instead, Mr. Pozdorovkin misleads his viewers by presenting a number creepy autonomy outliers (including a sad Chinese engineer who designed and then married his sexbot because of his inability to attract a living female mate given China’s disproportionately male population due to their former One-Child Policy); employing a sinister soundtrack and facial recognition special effects; and using a number of vapid androids (e.g., Japan’s Kodomoroid) to deliver contrived narration hyping a future where the distinction between humanity and machines is blurred. Where are Siskel and Ebert when you need ’em?

4. Walmart will soon use hundreds of AI robot janitors to scrub the floors of U.S. stores,” by Tom Huddleston Jr., CNBC, 5 December 2018.

The retail superpower Walmart is employing hundreds of robots in stores across the country, starting next month. These floor-scrubbing janitor robots will keep the stores’ floors immaculate using autonomous navigation that will be able to sense both people and obstacles.

The introduction of these autonomous cleaners will not be wholly disruptive to Walmart’s workforce operations, as they are only supplanting a task that is onerous for humans. But is this just the beginning? As humans’ comfort levels grow with the robots, will there then be an introduction of robot stocking, not unlike what is happening with Amazon? Will robots soon handle routine exchanges? And what of the displaced or under-employed workers resulting from this proliferation of autonomy, the widening economic gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the potential for social instability from neo-luddite movements in the Future OE?   Additionally, as these robots become increasingly conspicuous throughout our everyday lives in retail, food service, and many other areas, nefarious actors could hijack them or subvert them for terroristic, criminal, or generally malevolent uses.

The introduction of floor-cleaning robots at Walmart has larger implications than one might think. Robots are being considered for all the dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks assigned to the Army and the larger Department of Defense. The autonomous technology behind robots in Walmart today could have implications for our Soldiers at their home stations or on the battlefield of the future, conducting refueling and resupply runs, battlefield recovery, medevac, and other logistical and sustainment tasks.

5. What our science fiction says about us, by Tom Cassauwers, BBC News, 3 December 2018.

Right now the most interesting science fiction is produced in all sorts of non-traditional places,” says Anindita Banerjee, Associate Professor at Cornell University, whose research focuses on global sci-fi.  Sci-Fi and story telling enable us to break through our contemporary, mainstream echo chamber of parochialism to depict future technological possibilities and imagined worlds, political situations, and conflict. Unsurprisingly, different visions of the future imagining alternative realities are being written around the world – in China, Russia, and Africa. This rise of global science fiction challenges how we think about the evolution of the genre.  Historically, our occidental bias led us to believe that sci-fi was spreading from Western centers out to the rest of the world, blinding us to the fact that other regions also have rich histories of sci-fi depicting future possibilities from their cultural perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with standout books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body ProblemAfrofuturism is also on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther.

The Mad Scientist Initiative uses Crowdsourcing and Story Telling as two innovative tools to help us envision future possibilities and inform the OE through 2050. Strategic lessons learned from looking at the Future OE show us that the world of tomorrow will be far more challenging and dynamic. In our FY17 Science Fiction Writing Contest, we asked our community of action to describe Warfare in 2030-2050.  The stories submitted showed virtually every new technology is connected to and intersecting with other new technologies and advances.  The future OE presents us with a combination of new technologies and societal changes that will intensify long-standing international rivalries, create new security dynamics, and foster instability as well as opportunities. Sci-fi transcends beyond a global reflection on resistance; non-Western science fiction also taps into a worldwide consciousness – helping it conquer audiences beyond their respective home markets.

6. NVIDIA Invents AI Interactive Graphics, Nvidia.com, 3 December 2018.

A significant barrier to the modeling and simulation of dense urban environments has been the complexity of these areas in terms of building, vehicle, pedestrian, and foliage density. Megacities and their surrounding environments have such a massive concentration of entities that it has been a daunting task to re-create them digitally.  Nvidia has recently developed a first-step solution to this ongoing problem. Using neural networks and generative models, the developers are able to train AI to create realistic urban environments based off of real-world video.

As Nvidia admits, “One of the main obstacles developers face when creating virtual worlds, whether for game development, telepresence, or other applications is that creating the content is expensive. This method allows artists and developers to create at a much lower cost, by using AI that learns from the real world.” This process could significantly compress the development timeline, and while it wouldn’t address the other dimensions of urban operations — those entities that are underground or inside buildings (multi-floor and multi-room) — it would allow the Army to divert and focus more resources in those areas. The Chief of Staff of the Army has made readiness his #1 priority and stated, “In the future, I can say with very high degrees of confidence, the American Army is probably going to be fighting in urban areas,” and the Army “need[s] to man, organize, train and equip the force for operations in urban areas, highly dense urban areas.” 1  Nvidia’s solution could enable and empower the force to meet that goal.

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”!


1Commentary: The missing link to preparing for military operations in megacities and dense urban areas,” by Claudia ElDib and John Spencer, Army Times, 20 July 2018, https://www.armytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2018/07/20/commentary-the-missing-link-to-preparing-for-military-operations-in-megacities-and-dense-urban-areas/.