32. Virtual War – A Revolution in Human Affairs (Part I)

(Editor’s Note: Originally published under the same title in Small Wars Journal, Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to have COL(R) Stefan J. Banach distill his compelling article into several guest blog posts. The article is a crystal clear clarion call for the need to design a lasting national technology-based policy, strategy, and doctrine in the face of increasingly agile adversaries.)

War, of any kind, is the ultimate failure of mankind. Yet, in the course of human endeavors, we have found another way in which to wage global war – in this case, Virtual War in Virtual Battle Space. The “Technology Singularity” espoused by Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, is the fundamental source and accelerant for Virtual War. The Vinge and Kruzweil articulation of the “Singularity” of biological and machine intelligence is much closer than most of us understand. The majority of the people in the world are caught up in the inertia of everyday activities, and the emergence of Virtual War is opaque to most of us. To that end and for clarity, the world is experiencing Virtual War – A Revolution in Human Affairs.

Virtual War transcends the “normal” revolutions in military affairs or traditional security rubrics that are discussed in Pentagon forums, within the defense industrial base, and among law enforcement agencies. Virtual War is drastically transforming global human affairs as we know them, and in ways that we do not yet understand. Eric Schmidt got it right when he opined that,

“the Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, it is the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”

Virtual War is a global systems approach to achieve social control. Virtual War heuristics include: offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, social media, information operations (e.g., “Fake News”), artificial intelligence, stealth technologies, and cloaking techniques. The end game is to control and influence the will of a person, group, or larger population to achieve ideological objectives over time in support of a cause or a specific sponsor.

The United States, and indeed the world, is experiencing the birth pains of the coming exponential technological change that Vinge and Kurzweil predicted in the 1990’s, and in 2005. Let the drastically reduced lifespans of commercial companies be a guide in this regard. The average age of an S&P 500 company is currently under 20 years, decreased from 60 years in the 1950s, according to Credit Suisse. The Wall Street firm says the trend is accelerating and blames the disruption on unprecedented technological advancements. In that vein, Andy Serwer, Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance, asked this important question at the 2018 Davos World Economic Forum,

If robots, AI, nanotechnology, machine learning, and 3D printing are going to be doing all the work, what the heck will human beings do nine to five?

This question portends more challenges than simply the re-training and the re-education of a pending massive unemployed work force. The world has seen, since the events on 9/11, that large populations of unemployed or under-employed people are not helpful in terms of maintaining global security and stability.

Tangentially, sixteen years of attrition warfare and the banality associated with fighting predominantly in Physical Battle Space are financially unsustainable. The National Security Act of 1947, which is the basis of U.S. National Security, is seventy-one years old and is collapsing under the weight of Virtual War exigencies. As Peter Drucker noted,

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

The new normal, inherent in Virtual War, is the unprecedented kinetic maneuvering of one civilian population against another, which has produced hundreds of mass casualty events around the world since 9/11. The civilian vs. civilian terror attacks on 9/11 were planned using the Internet of Things (IoTs) – in Virtual Space – prior to the execution of the physical attacks on the respective civilian targets in the United States. Hundreds of other terror attacks have taken place around the world since 9/11, and were planned and coordinated in Virtual Space before the horrific attacks took place in Physical Space. What will the world’s security paradigm for warfare and law enforcement look like when the Internet of Things (IoTs) evolves to the Internet of Everything (IoET), that includes much more powerful Nano-Biologically enhanced human beings?

Non-lethal Virtual Space activities also occur continuously around the world in social and political domains that target domestic and foreign matters, with the aim to gain and maintain control of a particular narrative to influence an audience to act in a certain ideological manner. The growing liminality which exists today, by way of virtual space activity, is causing a truth crisis, as the velocity of human interaction and the velocity of information is at an all-time high. The average person does not know what to believe given the ubiquity of information and the obvious bias in government and within traditional and non-traditional media sources.

On the socio-economic front, there is a growing divide between the rich and poor, as the middle class struggles with sustainability. There is also a widening chasm between globalist and nationalist. The 1648 Westphalian nation-state model is at odds with a growing number of emergent empowered actors who do not rely on monolithic state entities to govern their behavior in virtual or physical space. Each of these aforementioned variables are all interdependently joined and, to varying degrees, are technologically driven fissures in the world today.

Per Kurzweil’s prose, future changes will be tantamount to a technological tsunami – which is now at our doorstep, in the context of the evolutionary timeline. Given the accelerating pace of technological advancements, we should expect significant social change. An unprecedented rupture of all the classic learning, leadership, management, strategy development, planning, and governance archetypes that are in existence today is absolutely possible. This externality will move the world from its current state of complexity to chaos. The end result will be the first of many instances where biological and machine intelligence forever transforms warfare and our existence as we know it.

The pending exponential technological advancements will move civilization to a completely new era. This will be an era where humans will not be able to survive without machine intelligence, augmented synthetic strength, and artificial stealth capabilities on the web or in physical space. Subterranean and extra-terrestrial options will be sought to support life and will be made possible by new technological advancements that were previously unimaginable. The nation-state or actors who can learn the fastest, and optimally frame and reframe their strategies the best, will rule the day in a world that fights predominantly in Virtual Space, and only as necessary in Physical Space, as it is too costly on multiple fronts.

Additional Mad Scientist items interest include:

A New National Security Innovation Base — New America is hosting a live and on-line event today, Monday, 26 Feb 18, that will address what America’s National Security Innovation Base looks like in the 21st century and how to protect and channel its power. For more information regarding this event, click here.

Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. Click here to learn more about the conference and then watch the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018.

COL(R) Stefan J. Banach concluded his military service as the U.S. Army’s 11th Director of the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). As the SAMS Director, he led the development of the initial Design Methodology concepts and doctrine for the U.S. Army from 2007-2010. He is a Distinguished Member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and served in that organization for nine years, culminating with command of the 3rd Ranger Battalion from 2001-2003.

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

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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


Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. Click here to learn more about the conference and then watch the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018.


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

18. Mad Scientist FY17: A Retrospective

With the Holiday celebrations behind us, Mad Scientist Laboratory believes a retrospective of FY17 is in order to recap the key points learned about the Future Operational Environment (OE).

Our first event in 2017 was the Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Autonomy Conference, facilitated with Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in Atlanta, Georgia, 7-8 March 2017. Key findings that emerged from this event include:

All things in the future OE will be smart, connected, and self-organizing. The commercial Internet of Things (IoT) will turn into a militarized Internet of Battle Things (IoBT).



Narrow Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here today and is beginning to show up on the battlefield. Near peer competitors and non-state actors will have access to these technologies on pace with the United States due to commercial and open source availability of algorithms.

AI and humans must co-evolve. It is not clear that the singularity (i.e., AI leading to a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, ultimately resulting in a super intelligence far surpassing human intelligence) will be realized in the period leading up to 2050. Human teaming with AI enablers will be the best instantiation of general intelligence supporting Commanders on the future battlefield. Next steps towards singularity are systems that can reflect, have curiosity, and demonstrate teamwork.

The physical and virtual spaces will merge. Augmented and virtual reality will become more than a gaming platform focused on entertainment but a global communication platform delivering unique expertise to the battlefield to include medical and language skills.

Convergence is a key attribute in all aspects of the future battlefield. Expect convergence of capability, sensors, power onto systems, uniforms, and in the far term humanity itself.

Our Enemy after Next Conference, facilitated with NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on 11-12 April 2017 led to the following conclusions:

The next fight will be characterized by electrons vs electrons. All belligerents will seek to hide themselves and blind their enemies. The fight after next will be characterized by AI vs AI (algorithm vs algorithm). How AI is structured and integrated will be the strategic advantage.

Information Warfare is taking on new meaning. Humans now have a personal relationship with their information and virtual reality and holograms in your living room will create new opportunities for swaying populations.

Major competitions in the war after next include – cyber-attack vs AI, stealth vs detection, directed energy vs hardening, space vs counter-space, strikers vs shielders.



We are in a 10 year window of a change in how we think about space. Space is now competitive as Super-Empowered Individuals, non-state actors, and near peer competitors have near equal access. One major game changer is the commercial move towards a Low Earth Orbit space constellation consisting of thousands of small satellites.

There is a real tension between the idea that ubiquitous sensors and real time upload of data onto the cloud will make it impossible to hide and that the near equal access of capabilities across all parties will make war constant.

At the Visualizing Multi-Domain Battle 2030 – 2050 Conference, facilitated with Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on 25-26 July 2017, Mad Scientists determined:

The definition of maneuver should be expanded to include maneuvering ideas as well as forces to a position of advantage. A globally connected world and social media platforms have amplified the importance of ideas and the information dimension.

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

Smart cities are leaving the edge and early adopters and becoming mainstream. The data collected by billions of sensors will be a treasure trove for the country and Armed forces that learn to exploit. Passive collection of this information might be a significant advantage in winning the hiders v finders competition.

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

Human enhancement, the unlocking of the genome, and improving artificial intelligence will stress the Army’s policies and ethics. In any case, our 4 + 1 potential adversaries are exploring using all three of these capabilities as a way to gain advantage over U.S. Forces. This is not a 2050 problem but more than likely a 2030 reality.

The Mad Scientist Initiative employs Crowdsourcing and Story Telling as two innovative tools to help us envision future possibilities and inform the OE through 2050. In our FY17 Science Fiction Writing Contest, we asked our community of action to describe Warfare in 2030-2050. We received an overwhelming response of 150 submissions from Mad Scientists around the globe. From them, we discerned the following key themes:

Virtually every new technology is connected and intersecting to other new technologies and advances. Convergence frequently occurred across numerous technologies. Advances in materials, AI, drones, communications, and human enhancement amplified and drove one another across multiple domains.

A major cultural divide and gulf in understanding still existed between different populations even with developments in technology (including real-time language translators).



The fully enmeshed communications and sensing residing in future systems made the hiders vs. finders competition ever more important in future conflict settings.

Due to the exponential speed of interaction on the battlefield (during and in between high-intensity conflict), a number of the military units required smaller formations, with large effects capabilities and more authority, and operated under flat and dispersed command and control structures.

The constant battle for and over information often meant victory or failure for each side.





2018 is shaping up to be even more enlightening, with Mad Scientist conferences addressing Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 and Learning in 2050. We will also support a Smart and Resilient Installations franchise event, hosted by the Army Secretariat. Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for more information on the year ahead!