73. Keeping the Edge

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. Howard R. Simkin, hypothesizing the activities of an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) deployed on a security assistance operation in the 2050 timeframe.  Mr. Simkin addresses how advanced learning capabilities can improve what were once cognitive load limitations.  This is a one of the themes we will explore at next week’s Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference; more information on this conference can be found at the bottom of this post.]

This is the ODAs third deployment to the country, although it is Captain Clark Weston’s first deployment as a team leader. The rest of his ODA have long experience in the region and country. They all have the 2050 standard milspec augmentation of every Special Operations (SO) Operator:  corneal and audial implants, subdural brain-computer interfaces, and medical nano-enhancement.

Unlike earlier generations of SO Operators aided by advanced technology, they can see into the near-infra red, understand sixty spoken languages, acquire new skill sets rapidly, interface directly with computers and see that information in a heads up display without a device, and survive any injury short of dismemberment. However, they continue to rely on their cultural and human skills to provide those critical puzzle pieces from the human domain which technology and data science alone cannot.

No matter what technologies are at play, the human element will still be paramount. As the noted futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku observed in his discussions of the ‘Cave Man Principle’, “whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time.”[I]

The sound of an onrushing thunderstorm briefly distracted CPT[II] Weston from the report he was compiling. His eyes scanned the equipment hung on wooden pegs protruding from the white plastered walls or scattered on the small wooden desk adorned by a single switch operated lamp. He couldn’t help smiling. The wooden pegs, plastered walls, and primitive lamp were a good metaphor for the region. His apartment back home sported the latest in technology, adaptive video capable walls, a customized AI virtual assistant, and lighting and HVAC[III] that operated without human intervention. Here, it was back to basics.

His concentration broken, he stood up and stretched. Dark of hair and eyes, of medium height and slender build, he could easily pass for a native of the region. As for fluency in the local language, it had been baked into his neural circuitry through rigorous training, cognitive enhancements, and experience. A student of history, Weston had been surprised during his attendance at the SOF[IV] Captains Career Course when he read articles and papers that had heralded the death of language training.

Source: Language Landscapes Blog — http://blogs.fasos.maastrichtuniversity.nl

He wondered. Didn’t the people who wrote those articles pause to consider that no technology works all the time? Either as a result of adversary action or the arrival of mean time between failures, a glitch in a technology-dependent language capability could be at best embarrassing and at worst catastrophic. Didn’t they realize that learning a new language alters the learner’s neural networks, allowing a nuanced understanding of a culture that software had not been able to achieve? Besides, around 65 percent of human communication is non-verbal, he reasoned. Language occurs in a shifting cultural context, something even the best AIs still couldn’t always tackle.

He paced around the room, reflecting on the past few months. Things had definitely taken a turn for the better. With very few exceptions, the Joint security assistance efforts he was aware of were going well. He was very proud of what his ODA had accomplished, training the Ministry of the Interior’s capitol region paramilitary force (CRPF) to what Minerva[V] had deemed a sufficient level of competence in a wide range of tactical skills.

Source: CIO Australia

More importantly, as his Team Sergeant Abdel Jamaal had observed, “We got them to believe in themselves as protectors and to stop acting like bullies.” This had led to the development of an increasing number of information sources which in turn had led to the arrest of a number of senior narco-terrorists.  He and Sergeant Jamaal had advised and assisted in those arrests in a virtual mode. To the local population, it looked like the CRPF was doing all of the work.

The team medical/civil affairs specialist, Sergeant First Class Belinda Tompkins and the team cyber/additive manufacturing authority, Sergeant DeWayne Jones had achieved quite a lot on their own. After consulting with the Nimble Griffin[VI] team, they had employed their expertise to upgrade the antiquated in-country hospital 3D Printers to produce the latest gene editing drugs and fight the diseases still endemic to the region. They had done this in the background, having the CRPF collect the machines quietly and then return them to the hospitals with great fanfare. The resulting media coverage was a public relations bonanza. The only US presence was virtual and invisible to the media or public.

A loud peal of thunder shook Weston from his thoughts. The lights flickered in his room, then steadied up. He sat back down at the table to finish his report. All in all, things were going very well.

[Note that any resemblance to any current events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

If you enjoyed this post, please read Mr. Simkin’s article Technological Fluency 2035-2050, submitted in response to our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas and hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Other Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas submissions include the following:

Soldier Learning 2050, by Charles Heard

Thoughts on Military Education, Training and Leader Development in 2050, by Jim Greer

Cyber Integrating Architecture, by LTC Brett Lindberg, LTC Stephen Hamilton, MAJ Brian Lebiednik, and CPT Kyle Hager

Please also plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference.  This event will be live streamed on both days (08-09 August 2018). You can watch and interact with all of the speakers at the conference watch page or tag @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050.  Note that the live streaming event is best viewed via a commercial internet connection (i.e., non-NIPRNet).

Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He has over 40 years of combined military, law enforcement, defense contractor, and government experience. He is a retired Special Forces officer with a wide variety of special operations experience.
________________________________________________________
[I] Kaku, M. (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Random House (Kindle Edition), 13.
[II] Captain.
[III] Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
[IV]Special Operations Forces.
[V]Department of Defense AI virtual assistant.
[VI]A Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force.

27. Sine Pari

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by Mr. Howard R. Simkin, envisioning Army recruiting, Mid-Twenty First Century. The Army must anticipate how (or if) it will recruit augmented humans into the Future Force. This post was originally submitted in response to our Soldier 2050 Call for Ideas, addressing how humanity’s next evolutionary leap, its co-evolution with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and becoming part of the network, will change the character of war. This is the theme for our Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference — learn more about this event at the bottom of this post.)

///////////Personal Blog, Master Sergeant Grant Robertson, Recruiting District Seven…

This morning I had an in-person interview with a prospective recruit – Roberto Preciado. For the benefit of those of you who haven’t had one yet, I offer the following.

Roberto arrived punctually, a good sign. Before he entered I said, “RECOM, activate full spectrum recording and analysis.”

The disembodied voice of the Recruiting Command AI replied, “Roger.”

“Let him in.” I stood up to better assess him as he stepped through the doorway. He had dark hair and eyes, and was of slender build and medium height. My corneal implants allowed me to assess his general medical condition. He was in surprisingly good shape for his age.

We went through the usual formalities before getting down to business.

Roberto sat down gingerly, “I..um..I wanted to check out becoming part of Special Operations.”

“You came to the right place,” I replied. “So why Special Operations?”

“My uncle was in Special Operations during ‘the Big One.’ Next to my dad, he is the coolest person I ever met, so…” He searched for words, “So I decided to come and check it out.”

“Okay.” I began. “This isn’t your uncle’s Special Operations. Since the Big One, we’ve made quite a few” – I caught myself before saying changes – “upgrades.” I paused, “Roberto, before we take the enhanced reality tour, I’d like to know what augments you have had – if any.”

“Sure.” Roberto paused for a moment,“ Let’s see… I’ve got Daystrom Model 40B ER corneal implants, a Neuralink BCI jack, and a Samsung cognitive enhancement implant. That’s about it.”

“That’s fine. So you have no problems with augmentation then?”

“No, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. I work for a living. Call me Sergeant.” I replied.

“Yes sir…I mean Sergeant.” Roberto replied somewhat nervously.

I smiled reassuringly, “Let’s continue with the most important question…do you like working with people?”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

My corneal implants registered a quick flash of green light. RECOM had monitored Roberto’s metabio signature for signs of deception and found none.

“In spite of all the gadgets we work with, we still believe that people are more important than hardware. If you don’t like working with people, then you are not who we want.” I said in a matter-of-fact tone. “So,” I continued, “What are your interests?”

“I like solving problems.” Roberto shifted in his chair slightly, “I’m pretty good in a hackathon, I can handle a 4D Printer, I like to tinker with bots, and I got all A’s in machine learning.”

“So you like working with AI?”

“Yeah,” Roberto grinned, “It is way cool.”

Reassured by another green flash, I asked, “How about sports?”

“Virtual or physical?”


“Both.”

“I like virtual rock climbing and…do MMORPGs count as a sport?”
[i.e., Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games]

“Depends on the MMORPG.” I replied stifling a smile.

Roberto paused before answering, ‘Call of Duty – The Big One, Special Operations Edition’ and ‘Zombie Apocalypse’.”




I was beginning to like this kid. Apparently, so was RECOM who flashed another green light. “I’d say they count.” I nodded. “So how about physical sports?”

“I was on the track team and I still like distance running.” He smiled self-consciously, “Got a letter in track.” He thought for a moment, “I played a lot of soccer when I was a kid but never got really good at it. I think it was because when I was younger, I was really small.”

I nodded politely. “So Roberto, besides hackathons have you ever hacked devices?”

He looked a bit startled, then uncomfortable. “Well…I…yes…I have.”

“Don’t worry, this isn’t an interrogation.” I leaned forward a bit, “Son, we want people who can think, who can adapt commercial off-the-shelf technology for use in the field. We need innovative thinkers.”

“Okay.”

“So what devices did you hack?”

“I think the first one I hacked was a service bot when I was ten. You know, the house cleaning types?”

I nodded slightly.

“Well,” Roberto continued, “my parents wanted me to clean my room every day. They said it built character.” He smiled, “I guess they were right but I didn’t see it that way. So I hacked our service bot to clean my room whenever my parents were out of the house.”

“Did it work?”

“For a while. But you know smart houses…our AI realized that something wasn’t right and blabbed.” He shook his head, “Boy, did I get in trouble.”

“Was that the end of it?” I asked.

“For a while, then I figured out how to hack the whole house…AI and all. Machine learning is a nice skill to have.” He reflected for a moment, “It taught me a lesson – before you hack, you have to know the whole system.”

“Yes.” I nodded in agreement, “That’s a good point.”

My corneal implants flashed, “Probability of successful training completion – 95%.”

“So are you ready to jack into our training simulation? It’s not quite as good as what you are used to at home, but it will give you an idea of what your training will be like.”


“Yes sir…I mean Sergeant.”

For the next ten minutes, I guided him through a compressed experience of special operations training.

When we finished I asked, “So what do you think? Can you handle it?”

Roberto replied without hesitation, “Where do I sign?”

I smiled at the idea of signing a document. “Just read through the enlistment contract. If you agree, just place your right hand on the bio-scanner and look into the retinal scanner.”

Roberto slowly scrolled through the document while I sat quietly by. A few minutes later, the enlistment was complete.

That done, we set the date for his swearing in, as well as who would attend the ceremony. He departed, smiling. As for me, it was the beginning of a day without equal…but more of that in my next blog. ///////////End Personal Blog, Master Sergeant Grant Robertson, Recruiting District Seven


If you enjoyed this post, please note that Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. This conference will be live-streamed; click here to watch the proceedings, starting at 0845 PST / 1145 EST on 08 March 2018. Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for more information regarding this conference.

Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He has over 40 years of combined military, law enforcement, defense contractor, and government experience. He is a retired Special Forces officer with a wide variety of special operations experience.