116. Three Futurist Urban Scenarios

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist welcomes back returning guest blogger Dr. Nir Buras with today’s post.  We’ve found crowdsourcing (i.e., the gathering of ideas, thoughts, and concepts from a widespread variety of interested individuals) to be a very effective tool in enabling us to diversify our thoughts and challenge our assumptions.  Dr. Buras’ post takes the results from one such crowdsourcing exercise and extrapolates three future urban scenarios.  Given The Army Vision‘s clarion call to “Focus training on high-intensity conflict, with emphasis on operating in dense urban terrain,” our readers would do well to consider how the Army would operate in each of Dr. Buras’ posited future scenarios…]

The challenges of the 21st century have been forecast and are well-known. In many ways we are already experiencing the future now. But predictions are hard to validate. A way around that is turning to slightly older predictions to illuminate the magnitude of the issues and the reality of their propositions.1 Futurists William E. Halal and Michael Marien’s predictions of 2011 have aged enough to be useful. In an improved version of the Delphi method, they iteratively built consensus among participants. Halal and Marien balanced the individual sense of over sixty well-qualified experts and thinkers representing a range of technologies with facilitated feedback from the others. They translated their implicit or tacit know how to make qualified quantitative empirical predictions.2

From their research we can transpose three future urban scenarios:  The High-Tech City, The Feral City, and Muddling Through.

The High-Tech City

The High-Tech City scenario is based primarily on futurist Jim Dator’s high-tech predictions. It envisions the continued growth of a technologically progressive, upwardly mobile, internationally dominant, science-guided, rich, leisure-filled, abundant, and liberal society. Widespread understanding of what works largely avoids energy shortages, climate change, and global conflict.3

The high-tech, digital megacity is envisaged as a Dubai on steroids. It is hyper-connected and energy-efficient, powered by self-sustaining, renewable resources and nuclear energy.4


Connected by subways and skyways, with skyscraping vertical gardens, the cities are ringed by elaborately managed green spaces and ecosystems. The city’s 50 to 150-story megastructures, “cities-in-buildings,” incorporate apartments, offices, schools and grocery stores, hospitals and shopping centers, sports facilities and cultural centers, gardens, and running tracks. Alongside them rise vertical farms housing animals and crops. The rooftop garden of the 2015 film High Rise depicts how aerial terraces up high provide a sense of suburban living in the high-tech city.5

On land, zero-emission driverless traffic zips about on intelligent highways. High-speed trains glide silently by. After dark, spider bots and snake drones automatically inspect and repair buildings and infrastructure.6

In the air, helicopters, drones, and flying cars zoom around. Small drones, mimicking insects and birds, and programmable nano-chips, some as small as “smart” dust, swarm over the city into any object or shape on command. To avoid surface traffic, inconvenience, and crime, wealthier residents fly everywhere.7

Dominated by centralized government and private sector bureaucracies wielding AI, these self-constructing robotic “cyburgs” have massive technology, robotics, and nanotechnology embedded in every aspect of their life, powered by mammoth fusion energy plants.8

Every unit of every component is embedded with at least one flea-size chip. Connected into a single worldwide digital network, trillions of sensors monitor countless parameters for the city and everything in it. The ruling AI, commanded directly by individual minds, autonomously creates, edits, and implements software, simultaneously processing feedback from a global network of sensors.9


Metropolis by Fritz Lang was the first film to show a city of the future as a modernist dystopia. / Produced by Ufa.

The High-Tech City is not a new concept. It goes back to Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Fritz Lang, who most inspired its urban look in the 1927 film Metropolis. The extrapolated growth of technology has long been the basis for predictions. But professional futurists surprisingly agree that a High-Tech Jetsons scenario has only a 0%-5% probability of being realized.10

Poignantly, the early predictors transmitted a message that the stressful lifestyle of the High-Tech City contradicts the intention of freedom from drudge. Moreover, the High-Tech megacities’ appetite for minerals may lay waste to whole ecosystems. Much of the earth may become a feral wilderness. Massive, centralized AI Internet clouds and distribution systems give a false sense of cultural robustness. People become redundant and democracy meaningless. The world may fail to react to accelerated global crises, with disastrous consequences. The paradoxical obsolescence of high-tech could slide humanity into a new Dark Age.11

The Feral City

Futurists disturbingly describe a Decline to Disaster scenario as five times more likely to happen than the high-tech one. From Tainter’s theory of collapse and Jane Jacobs’s Dark Age Ahead we learn that the cycles of urban problem-solving lead to more problems and ultimately failures. If Murphy’s Law kicks in, futurists predict a 60% chance that large parts of the world may be plunged into an Armageddon-type techno-dystopian scenario, typified by the films Mad Max (1979) and Blade Runner (1982).12

Apocalyptic feral cities, once vital components in national economies, are routinely imagined as vast, sprawling urban environments defined by blighted buildings. An immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases, rule of law has long been replaced by gang anarchy and the only security available in them is attained through brute power.13

Neat suburban areas were long ago stripped for their raw materials. Daily life in feral cities is characterized by a ubiquitous specter of murder, bloodshed, and war, of the militarization of young men, and the constant threat of rape to females. Urban enclaves are separated by wild zones, fragmented habitats consisting of wild nature and subsistence agriculture. With minimal or no sanitation facilities, a complete absence of environmental controls, and massive populations, feral cities suffer from extreme air pollution from vehicles and the use of open fires and coal for cooking and heating. In effect toxic-waste dumps, these cities pollute vast stretches of land, poisoning coastal waters, watersheds, and river systems throughout their hinterlands.14

Pollution is exported outside the enclaves, where the practices of the desperately poor, and the extraction of resources for the wealthy, induce extreme environmental deterioration. Rivers flow with human waste and leached chemicals from mining, contaminating much of the soil on their banks.15

Globally connected, a feral city might possess a modicum of commercial linkages, and some of its inhabitants might have access to advanced communication and computing. In some areas, agriculture might forcefully cultivate high-yield, GMO, and biomass crops. But secure long-distance travel nearly disappears, undertaken mostly by the super-rich and otherwise powerful.16

Dystopian reality and dystopian art: (a) Bangladeshi, hanging on a train in Ijtema in 2017, already live the dystopian future. (b) A Dystopian City

Futurists backcasting from 2050 say that the current urbanization of violence and war are harbingers of the feral city scenario. But feral cities have long been present. The Warsaw Ghetto in World War Two was among them, as were the Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood in the 1960s and 1990s; Mogadishu in 2003, and Gaza repeatedly.17

Walled City of Kowloon

Conflict and crime changed once charming, peaceful Aleppo, Bamako, Caracas, Erbil, Mosul, Tripoli, and Salvador into feral cities. Medieval San Gimignano was one. Spectacularly, from 1889 to 1994 the ghastly spaces of Hong Kong’s singular urban phenomenon, the Walled City of Kowloon, provided a living example.18

Muddling Through

The good news is that futurists tend to believe in a 65%-85% probability of a Muddling Through scenario. Despite interlinked, cascading catastrophes, they suggest that technologies may gain some on the problems. Somehow securing a sustainable world for 9 billion people by 2050, they suggest the world will be massively changed, yet somehow livable.19

Lending credibility to the Muddling Through scenario is that it blends numerous hypotheses. It predicts that people living in rural communities will tend the land scientifically. Its technological salvation hypothesis posits that science will come to the rescue. Its free market hypothesis assumes that commerce will drive technological advancements.20

It pictures a “conserver” society tinged by Marxism, a neo-puritan “ecotopia,” colored by both the high-tech and feral scenarios. Tropical diseases, corruption, capitalism, socialism, inequality, and war are not eradicated. But nationalism, tribalism, and xenophobia are reduced after global traumas. Though measurably poorer, most people will still have a reasonable level of wellbeing.21 According to the Muddling Through scenario, large cities retract and densify around their old centers and waterfronts. Largely self-sufficient, small towns and cities survive amid the ruins of suburban sprawl, separated by resurgent forests and fields. Shopping malls, office towers and office parks, town dumps, tract homes, and abandoned steel and glass buildings are stripped for their recyclables. Unsalvageable downtowns in some cases go feral.22

A mix of high and low tech fosters digital communication with those at a distance. There would be drip irrigation, hydroponic farming, aquaculture, and grey water recycling, overlaid with artificial intelligence, biotechnology and biomimicry, nuclear power, geoengineering, and oil from algae.23

In some places, rail links are maintained, but cars are a rarity, and transportation is greatly reduced. Collapsed or dismantled freeways and bridges return to the forest or desert. While flying still exists, it is rarer. But expanded virtual mobility offering “holodeck” experiences subsumes tourism. Cosmopolitanism happens on the porch with an iPad.24

Surprisingly, the Muddling Through scenario ends up with urban fabric similar in properties to homeostatic planning had it been done intentionally. Work is a short walk from home. Corner stores pop up, as do rudimentary cafés, bistros, and other gathering places. Forty percent of the food is produced in or around cities on small farms. Wildlife returns to course freely. Groups of travelers move on surviving “high roads.” Communities meet at large sports venues situated in the countryside between them.25

Sea level rise is met with river and sea walls. At their base, vast new coral beds and kelp forests grow over the skeletons of submerged districts and towns. In a matter of years, rivers and seas build new beaches. Their flood plains are populated with new plants. Smaller scale trade waterfronts are reactivated for shipping, and some ships are even powered by sail. Cities occupying harbors, rivers, and railroad junctions reconnect to distant supply chains, mostly for non-quotidian (i.e., luxury) goods.26

Learning from Rome to Understand Detroit

Rome’s deterioration from a third century city of more than 1,000,000 people started long before it was acknowledged. An unnoticed population drop to 800,000 was characterized by ever larger buildings of decreasing beauty and craft, including the huge Baths of Diocletian (298-306 CE). Anticipating barbarian invasion, Rome’s walls were built (271-275 CE). It was ransacked twice (410 and 455 CE).27

But as if in a dream, 5th century life of the diminishing but still substantial population continued as normal. Invading Goths maintained Rome’s Senate, taxes, and cops. But administrative and military infrastructure vaporized. An unraveling education system led to the rise of illiteracy. Noble families began using mob politics, economic and social linkages broke down, travel and transportation became unsafe, and manufacturing collapsed.28

Rome when it was empty Campo Vaccino (Empty Field), Claude Lorrain (1604/1605–1682), 1636, Louvre, Paris

By 500 CE, Rome had less than 100,000 people. Systematic agriculture disappeared, and much land returned to forest. The Pope and nobility pillaged abandoned public buildings for their materials. The expansive city was reduced to small groups of inhabited buildings, interspersed among large areas of abandoned ruins and overgrown vegetation. In the 12th and 13th centuries the population of Rome was possibly as few as 20,000 people.29

The long journey from first cities, to Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, through Paris, Washington, and Shanghai, helps us understand how our cities might end up. Holding Rome up to the mirrors of history reads like backcasting Rome’s decline and survival in a Muddling Through scenario from today’s view. Halal predicted that muddling would start about 2023 to 2027 and that if we weren’t muddling by then, collapse would set in by 2029.30

Detroit started muddling in 1968. New York proved to be a fragile city during blackouts, as did Dubai in its 2009 financial crisis. Since the 1970s, most of America’s ten “dead cities,” many formerly among its largest and most vibrant, came disturbingly close to being feral. The overlapping invisibilities of heavily armed warlords and brutal police, make the favelas of Medellin and Rio de Janeiro virtually feral.31

Today we are at a tipping point. We can wait for the collapse of systems to reach homeostasis or attain it intentionally by applying Classic Planning principles.32

If you enjoyed this post, please also see Dr. Buras’ other posts:

Nir Buras is a PhD architect and planner with over 30 years of in-depth experience in strategic planning, architecture, and transportation design, as well as teaching and lecturing. His planning, design and construction experience includes East Side Access at Grand Central Terminal, New York; International Terminal D, Dallas-Fort-Worth; the Washington DC Dulles Metro line; work on the US Capitol and the Senate and House Office Buildings in Washington. Projects he has worked on have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, local newspapers, and trade magazines. Buras, whose original degree was Architect and Town planner, learned his first lesson in urbanism while planning military bases in the Negev Desert in Israel. Engaged in numerous projects since then, Buras has watched first-hand how urban planning impacted architecture. After the last decade of applying in practice the classical method that Buras learned in post-doctoral studies, his book, *The Art of Classic Planning* (Harvard University Press, 2019), presents the urban design and planning method of Classic Planning as a path forward for homeostatic, durable urbanism.

1 Population growth, clean water, compromised resilience of infrastructures, drug-resistant microbes, pandemics, possible famine, authoritarian regimes, social breakdowns, terrestrial cataclysms, terrorist mischief, nuclear mishaps, perhaps major war, inequity, education and healthcare collapse, climate change, ecological devastation, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, world confusion, institutional gridlock, failures of leadership, failure to cooperate. Sources include: Glenn, Jerome C., Theodore J. Gordon, Elizabeth Florescu, 2013-14 State of the Future Millennium Project: Global Futures Studies and Research, Millennium-project.org (website), Washington, DC, 2014; Cutter, S. L. et al., Urban Systems, Infrastructure, and Vulnerability, in Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, in Melillo, J. M. et al., (eds.), U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2014, Ch. 11, pp. 282-296; Kaminski, Frank, A review of James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency 10 years later, Mud City Press (website), Eugene, OR, 9 March 2015; Urban, Mark C., Accelerating extinction risk from climate change, Science Magazine, Vol. 348, Issue 6234, 1 May 2015, pp. 571-573; Kunstler, J.H., Clusterfuck Nation: A Glimpse into the Future, Kunstler.com (website), 2001b; US Geological Survey, Materials Flow and Sustainability, Fact Sheet FS-068-98, June 1998; Klare, M. T., The Race for What’s Left, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2012; Drielsma, Johannes A. et al., Mineral resources in life cycle impact assessment – defining the path forward, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 21 (1), 2016, pp. 85-105; Meinert, Lawrence D. et al., Mineral Resources: Reserves, Peak Production and the Future, Resources 5(14), 2016; OECD World Nuclear Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency, 2004; Tahil, William, The Trouble with Lithium Implications of Future PHEV Production for Lithium Demand, Meridian International Research, 2007; Turner, Graham, Cathy Alexander, Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse, Guardian, Manchester, 1 September 2014; Kelemen, Peter, quoted in Cho, Renee, Rare Earth Metals: Will We Have Enough?, in State of the Planet, News from the Earth Institute, Earth Institute, Columbia University, September 19, 2012; Griffiths, Sarah, The end of the world as we know it? CO2 levels to reach a ‘tipping point’ on 6 June – and Earth may never recover, expert warns, Daily Mail, London, 12 May 2016; van der Werf, G.R. et al., CO2 emissions from forest loss, Nature Geoscience, Volume 2, November 2009, pp. 737–738; Global Deforestation, Global Change Program, University of Michigan, January 4, 2006; Arnell, Nigel, Future worlds: a narrative description of a plausible world following climate change, Met Office, London, 2012; The End, Scientific American, Special Issue, Sept 2010; Dator, Jim, Memo on mini-scenarios for the pacific island region, 3, November, 1981b, quoted in Bezold, Clement, Jim Dator’s Alternative Futures and the Path to IAF’s Aspirational Futures, Journal of Futures Studies, 14(2), November 2009, pp. 123 – 134.

2 Halal, William, Through the megacrisis: the passage to global maturity, Foresight Journal, VOL. 15 NO. 5, 2013a, pp. 392-404; Halal, William E., and Michael Marien, Global MegaCrisis Four Scenarios, Two Perspectives, The Futurist, Vol. 45, No. 3, May-June 2011; Halal, William E., Forecasting the technology revolution: Results and learnings from the TechCast project, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80.8, 2013b, pp. 1635-1643; TechCast Project, George Washington University, TechCast.org (website), Washington, DC, N.D.; National Research Council, Persistent Forecasting of Disruptive Technologies—Report 2, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC,2010.  Halal, William E., Technology’s Promise: Expert Knowledge on the Transformation of Business and Society, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2008; Halal et al., The GW Forecast of Emerging Technologies, Technology Forecasting & Social Change, Vol. 59, 1998, pp. 89-110. The name was inspired by the oracle at Delphi (8th century BCE to 390 CE). The modern Delphi Method helps uncover data, and collect and distill the judgments of experts using rounds of questionnaires, interspersed with feedback. Each round is developed based on the results of the previous, until the research question is answered, a consensus is reached, a theoretical saturation is achieved, or sufficient information was exchanged. Linstone, Harold A., & Murray Turoff (eds.), The Delphi method: Techniques and applications, Addinson-Wesley, London, 1975; Halal, William E., Business Strategy for the Technology Revolution: Competing at the Edge of Creative Destruction, Journal of Knowledge Economics, Springer Science+Business Media, New York, September 2012. The author consolidated both of Halal and Marien muddling scenarios into one. The uncertainty of each particular forecast element was about 20% – 30 %.

3 Dator, James, Advancing Futures, Westport: Ct, Praeger, 2002; Bezold, 2009.

4 Chan, Tony, in Reubold, Todd, Envision 2050: The Future of Cities, Ensia.com (website), 16 June, 2014; Kunstler, James Howard, Back to the Future, Orion Magazine, June 23, 2011. Urry, John et al., Living in the City, Foresight, Government Office for Science, London, 2014; Hoff, Mary, Envision 2050: The Future of Transportation, Ensia.com (website), 31 March, 2014.

5 Kaku, Michio, The World in 2100, New York Post, New York, 20 March 2011. Tonn, Bruce E., LeCorbusier Meets the Jetsons in Anytown U.S.A. in the Year 2050: Glimpses of the Future, Planning Forum, Community and, Regional Planning, Volume 8, School of Architecture, The University of Texas, Austin, 2002; Urry et al., 2014.

6 Kaku, 2011; Hon, 2016. Rubbish bins will send alarms when they are about full. Talking garbage bins will reward people with poems, aphorisms, and songs for placing street rubbish in the bin. Heinonen, 2013.

7 Urry et al., 2014.

8 Heinonen, 2013. The prefix cy*, an abbreviation of cybernetics, relates to computers and virtual reality. The suffix *burg means city, fortified town. Urrutia, Orlando, Eco-Cybernetic City of the Future, Pacebutler.com (website), 12 February 2010; Tonn, 2002.

9 Shepard, M., Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, And The Future of Urban Space. MIT Press, Cambridge, 2011; Kurzweil, Ray, The Singularity is Near, Penguin Group, New York, 2005. Some futurists predict that the energy required to keep a “global brain” operating may so deplete energy that it will bankrupt society and cause total collapse. Heinonen, 2013. The terms smart city, intelligent city, and digital city are sometimes synonymous, but the digital or intelligent city is considered heavily technological. Heinonen, 2013; Giffinger, Rudolf et al., Smart cities – Ranking of European medium-sized cities. Centre of Regional Science, Vienna UT, October 2007; Kaku, 2011; Vermesan, Ovidiu and Friess, Peter, Internet of Things: Converging Technologies for Smart Environments and Integrated Ecosystems, River Publishers, Aalborg DK, 2013; Cooper, G., Using Technology to Improve Society, The Guardian, Manchester, 2010; Heinonen, 2013. Typical smart city programs utilize traffic data visualization, smart grids, smart water and e-government solutions, The Internet, smartphones, inexpensive sensors, and mobile devices. Amsterdam, Dubai, Cairo, Edinburg, Malaga, and Yokohama have smart city schemes. Webb, Molly et al., Information Marketplaces: The New Economics of Cities, The Climate Group, ARUP, Accenture and The University of Nottingham, 2011.

10 Dator, 2002; Bezold, 2009. The Jetsons originally ran a single season in 1962-63. It was revived but not resuscitated in 1985. The term Jetsons today stands for “unlikely, faraway futurism.” Novak, Matt, 50 Years of the Jetsons: Why The Show Still Matters, Smithsonian.Com, 19 September 2012.

11 Perrow, Charles, Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, Basic Books, New York, 1984. By adding complexity, including conventional engineering warnings, precautions, and safeguards, systems failure not only becomes inevitable, but it may help create new categories of accidents, such as those of Bhopal, the Challenger disaster, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Deconcentrating high-risk populations, corporate power, and critical infrastructures is suggested. Perrow, Charles, The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2011; Turner, 2014; Jacobs, Jane, Dark Age Ahead, Random House, New York, 2004, p.24.

12 Jacobs, 2004; Dirda, Michael, A living urban legend on the sorry way we live now, Washington Post, Washington DC, 6 June, 2004; Dator, 2002; Bezold, 2009; Dator, James, Alternative futures & the futures of law, in Dator, James & Clement Bezold (eds.), Judging the future, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1981. pp.1-17; Halal, 2013b.

13 The term feral city was coined in Norton, Richard J., Feral Cities, Naval War College Review, Vol. LVI, No. 4, Autumn 2003. See also Brunn, Stanley D. et al., Cities of the World: World Regional Urban Development, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2003, pp. 5–14, chap. 1.

14 Norton, 2003.

15 Urry, J., Offshoring. Polity, Cambridge, 2014; Gallopin, G., A. Hammond, P. Raskin, R. Swart, Branch Points, Global Scenario Group, Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, 1997, p. 34. Norton, 2003.

16 Tonn, 2002; Urry et al., 2014.

17 Backcasting is future hindsight. Kilcullen, David, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013.

18 Heterotopia, in Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things, Vintage Books, New York, 1971; Foucault, M., Of Other Spaces, Diacritics 16, 1986, pp. 22-27. Girard, Greg, and Ian Lambot, City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City, Watermark, Chiddingfold, 1993, 2007, 2014; Tan, Aaron Hee-Hung, Kowloon Walled City: Heterotopia in a Space of Disappearance (Master’s Thesis), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1993; Sinn, Elizabeth, Kowloon Walled City: Its Origin and Early History (PDF). Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 27, 1987, pp. 30–31; Harter, Seth, Hong Kong’s Dirty Little Secret: Clearing the Walled City of Kowloon, Journal of Urban History 27, 1, 2000, pp. 92-113; Grau, Lester W. and Geoffrey Demarest, Diehard Buildings: Control Architecture a Challenge for the Urban Warrior, Military Review, Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, September / October 2003; Kunstler, James Howard, A Reflection on Cities of the Future, Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, 28 September, 2006; ArenaNet Art Director Daniel Dociu wins Spectrum 14 gold medal!, Guild Wars.com (website), 9 March 2007. Authors, game designers, and filmmakers used the Walled City to convey a sense of feral urbanization. It was the setting for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1988 film Bloodsport; Jackie Chan’s 1993 film Crime Story was partly filmed there during among genuine scenes of building demolition; and the video game Shadowrun: Hong Kong features a futuristic Walled City. Today the location of the former Kowloon Walled City is occupied by a park modelled on early Qing Dynasty Jiangnan gardens.

19 Halal, 2013a; Wright, Austin Tappan, Islandia, Farrar & Rinehart, New York, Toronto, 1942; Tonn, Bruce E., Anytown U.S.A. in the Year 2050: Glimpses of the Future, Planning Forum, Community and, Regional Planning, Volume 8, School of Architecture, The University of Texas, Austin, 2002; Porritt, Jonathon, The World We Made: Alex McKay’s Story from 2050, Phaidon Press, London, 2013. World Made by Hand novels by James Howard Kunstler: World Made By Hand, Grove Press, New York, 2008; The Witch of Hebron, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010; A History of the Future, Atlantic Monthly, 2014; The Harrows of Spring, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016

20 Turner, 2014.

21 Dator, 2002; Bezold, 2009; Dator & Bezold, 1981; Dator, 1981a; Dator, 1981b; Dator, James, The Unholy Trinity, Plus One (Preface), Journal of Futures Studies, University of Hawaii, 13(3), February 2009, pp. 33 – 48; McDonough, William & Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, Macmillan, New York, 2002; Porritt, 2013; Urry et al., 2014.

22 Wright, 1942; Kunstler, 2011; Givens, Mark, Bring It On Home: An Interview with James Howard Kunstler, Urban Landscapes and Environmental Psychology, Mung Being (website), Issue 11, N.D., p. 30; Kunstler, World Made by Hand series.

23 Tonn, 2002; Mollison, B. C. Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia, 1988; Holmgren, D. and B. Mollison, Permaculture One, Transworld Publishers, Melbourne, 1978; Holmgren, D., Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability, Holmgren Design Services, Hepburn, Victoria, Australia, 2002; Holmgren, David, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adopt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, Chelsea Green Publishing White River Junction, Vermont, 2009; Walker, L., Eco-Village at Ithaca: Pioneering a Sustainable Culture, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, 2005; Hopkins, R., The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, Green Books, Totnes, Devon, 2008; Urry et al., 2014; Porritt, 2013.

24 Urry et al., 2014; Porritt, 2013; Caletrío, Javier, “The world we made. Alex McKay’s story from 2050” by Jonathon Porritt (review), Mobile Lives Forum, forumviesmobiles.org (website), 21 May 2015.

25 Kunstler, 2001b.

26 Kunstler, 2006; Williams, 2014.

27 Krautheimer, Richard, Rome: Profile of A City, 312-1308, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1980.

28 Palmer, Ada, The Shape of Rome, exurbe.com (website), Chicago, 15 August 2013.

29 Procopius of Caesarea, (c.490/507- c.560s) Procopius, Dewing, H B., and Glanville Downey (trans), Procopius, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000.On the Wars in eight books (Polemon or De bellis) was published 552, with an addition in 554; Storey, Glenn R., The population of ancient Rome, Antiquity, December 1, 199; Wickham, Chris, Medieval Rome: Stability and Crisis of a City, 900-1150, Oxford Studies in Medieval European History, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 2015. Population numbers are uncertain well into the Renaissance. Krautheimer, 1980.

30 Porritt, 2013; Alexander, Samuel, Resilience through Simplification: Revisiting Tainter’s Theory of Collapse, Simplicity Institute Report, Melbourne (?), 2012b; Palmer, 2013: Halal, 2013a, 2013b.

31 America’s “Ten Dead Cities” in 2010: Buffalo; Flint; Hartford; Cleveland; New Orleans; Detroit; Albany; Atlantic City; Allentown, and Galveston. McIntyre, Douglas A., America’s Ten Dead Cities: From Detroit to New Orleans, 24/7 Wall Street (website), 23 August, 2010; Gibson, Campbell, Population of The 100 Largest Cities And Other Urban Places In The United States: 1790 To 1990, Population Division, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington, DC, June 1998. See also “America’s 150 forgotten cities.” Hoyt, Lorlene and André Leroux, Voices from Forgotten Cities Innovative Revitalization Coalitions in America’s Older Small Cities, MIT, Cambridge, MA, 2007; Manaugh, Geoff, Cities Gone Wild, Bldgblog.com (website), 1 December 2009.

32 Buras, Nir, The Art of Classic Planning for Beautiful and Enduring Communities, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2019.

109. Classic Planning Holism as a Basis for Megacity Strategy

[Editor’s Note: Recent operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to liberate Mosul illustrate the challenges of warfighting in urban environments. In The Army Vision, GEN Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, and Dr. Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Army, state that the U.S. Army must “Focus training on high-intensity conflict, with emphasis on operating in dense urban terrain…” Returning Mad Scientist Laboratory guest blogger Dr. Nir Buras leverages his expertise as an urban planner to propose a holistic approach to military operations in Megacities — Enjoy!]

A recent study identified 34 megacities, defined as having populations of over 10 million inhabitants.1 The scale, complexity, and dense populations of megacities, and their need for security, energy, water conservation, resource distribution, waste management, disaster management, construction, and transportation make them a challenging security environment.2

With urban warfare experience from Stalingrad to Gaza, it is clear that a doctrinal shift must take place.

Urban terrain, the “great equalizer,” diminishes an attacker’s advantages in firepower and mobility.”3 Recent experiences in Baghdad, Mosul, and Aleppo, as well as historically in Aachen, Seoul, Hue, and Ramadi, shift the perspective from problem solving to critical holistic thinking skills and decision-making required in ambiguous environments.4 For an Army, rule number one is to stay out of cities. If that is not possible, the second rule of warfare is to manipulate the environment.

The Strategic Studies Group finds that a megacity is the most challenging environment for a land force to operate in.5 But currently, the U.S. Army is incapable of operating within the megacity.6 The intellectual center of gravity is open to those who choose to seize it, because it does not exist.7

Cities are holistic entities, but holism is not about brown food and Birkenstocks.  Holism is a discipline managing whole systems which are more than a sum of their parts. Where problem-solving methodology drags the problem with it, resulting in negative synergies (new problems); the holistic methodology works from aspiration and results in positive synergies, many of which are unforeseen. The aspiration for megacity operations is control, not conquest. The cure must not be worse than the disease.

The holistic approach to combat, to fight the urban context, not the enemy, means reconfiguring the environment for operational purposes. Its goal of reforming antagonism to U.S. interests by controlling and reforming the city to become self-ruling and long-term sustainable, would facilitate urban, political, and economical homeostasis in alignment with U.S. interests and bequeath a homeostatic urban balance legacy — “Pax Americana.”8 Paradoxically, it may be the most cost-effective approach.

Megacities are inherently unsustainable and need to be fixed, war or not. Classic planning for megacities would break them down into environmentally controllable chunks of human scaled, walkable areas of 30,000, 120,000, and 500,000 persons by means of swathes of countryside. A continuous network of rural, agricultural, and natural areas, it would be at least 1-mile deep, and be the place where transport, major infrastructure, highways, campuses, large-scale sports venues, waste dumps, and even mines, might be located.

This is naturally ongoing in Detroit, is historically documented to have happened in Rome, and can be witnessed in Angkor Wat. While the greatest beneficiaries of this long-term would be the populace, its military benefits are obvious. The Army would simply accelerate the process.

The idea is to radically change the fighting environment while bolstering the population and its institutions to sympathize with U.S. goals. “Divide and conquer” followed by a sustainable legacy. Notably, operations within a megacity requires an understanding of a city’s normal procedures and daily operations beforehand.9 The proposed framework for this is the long-term classic planning of cities.

The application of classic planning to megacity operations follows four steps: Disrupt, Control, Stabilize, and Transfer.

1. DISRUPT urban fabric with swathes of country at least a mile wide containing a continuous network of rural, agricultural, natural, and water areas at least 1-mile deep, where transport, major infrastructure, highways, campuses, large-scale sports venues, etc., are located. In urban fabric, structures would be removed to virgin ground, and agriculture and nature reinstated there. Solutions for the debris will need to be developed, as well as for buried infrastructure. The block layout may remain in whole or part for agricultural and forest access. Soil bacteria may be used to rapidly consume toxic and hazardous materials. This has to be thoroughly planned in advance of a conflict.

2. CONTAIN urban fabric to a 1 hour walk (2 hours max), 2-4 miles from edge to edge, both in existing fabric and in new settlements for relocated persons.

3. STABILIZE neighborhoods, quarters, and city centers hierarchically, and densify them, up to 6-8 floors tall, according to the classic planning model of standard fabric buildings. Buildings taller than 6 or 8 stories may be placed on the periphery, if they are necessary at all.  Blocks, streets, plazas, and parks are laid out in appropriate dimensions.  Proven, traditional designs are used for buildings at least 85% of the time.  Stabilize communities through leadership, mentoring, the establishment of markets, industry, sources of income, and community institutions.

4. TRANSFER displaced communities to new urban fabric built on classic planning principles as developed after the Haiti Earthquake; and transfer air rights from land reclaimed for country to urban fabric centers (midrise densification) and peripheries (taller buildings as necessary). Transfer community management back to residents as soon as possible (1 year). Transfer loyalty; build community; develop education, mentoring, and training; and use civilian commercial work according to specifically developed management models for construction, economic, and urban management.10

To adopt a holistic approach to the megacity, the U.S. Army must engage in a comprehensive understanding of the environment prior to the arrival of forces, and plan the shaping of the environment, focusing on its physical attributes for both the benefit of the city and the Army. This holistic approach may generate outcomes similar to the type of synergies stimulated by the Marshall Plan after World War II.

If you enjoyed this post, please listen to:

Tomorrow’s Urban Battlefield podcast with Dr. Russell Glenn, hosted by our colleagues at the Modern War Institute.

… and also read the following:

– Mad Scientist Megacities and Dense Urban Areas Initiative in 2025 and Beyond Conference Final Report

– Where none have gone before: Operational and Strategic Perspectives on Multi-Domain Operations in Mega Cities Conference Proceedings

My City is Smarter than Yours!

Nir Buras is a PhD architect and planner with over 30 years of in-depth experience in strategic planning, architecture, and transportation design, as well as teaching and lecturing. His planning, design and construction experience includes East Side Access at Grand Central Terminal, New York; International Terminal D, Dallas-Fort-Worth; the Washington DC Dulles Metro line; work on the US Capitol and the Senate and House Office Buildings in Washington. Projects he has worked on have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, local newspapers, and trade magazines. Buras, whose original degree was Architect and Town planner, learned his first lesson in urbanism while planning military bases in the Negev Desert in Israel. Engaged in numerous projects since then, Buras has watched first-hand how urban planning impacted architecture. After the last decade of applying in practice the classical method that Buras learned in post-doctoral studies, his book, *The Art of Classic Planning* (Harvard University Press, 2019), presents the urban design and planning method of Classic Planning as a path forward for homeostatic, durable urbanism.

1 Demographia World Urban Areas 11th Annual Edition 2015,” Demographia, 2-20, September 18, 2015, accessed December 16, 2015, http://www.demographia.com/db-worldua.pdf. 67% of large urban areas (500,000 and higher) located in Asia and Africa.

2 Jack A. Goldstone, “The New Population Bomb: The Four Megatrends That Will Change the World,” Foreign Affairs, (January/February 2010) 38-39; National Intelligence Council, Global trends 2030 Report: Alternative Worlds (Washington, DC: National Intelligence Council, 2012), 1. Quoted in Kaune.

3 ARCIC, Unified Quest Executive Report 2014 (Fort Eustis, VA: US Army Capabilities Integration Center, 2014), 1. Quoted in Kaune.

4 Harris et al., Megacities and the US Army, 22. Louis A. Dimarco, Concrete Hell Urban Warfare from Stalingrad to Iraq (Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2012) 214-215. Quoted in Kaune.

5 Harris et al., Megacities and the US Army, 21.

6 Kaune.

7 David Betz, “Peering into the Past and Future of Urban Warfare in Israel,” War on the Rocks, December 17, 2015, accessed December 17, 2015, http://warontherocks.com/2015/12/peering-into-the-past-and-future-of-urban-warfare-in-israel/. Quoted in Kaune.

8 Tom R. Przybelski, “Hybrid War: The Gap in the Range of Military Operations” (Newport, RI: Naval War College, Joint Military Operations Department), iii.

9 Kaune.

10 Michael Evans, “The Case Against Megacities,” Parameters 45, no. 1, (Spring 2015): 36. Quoted in Kaune.

101. TRADOC 2028

[Editor’s Note:  The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) mission is to recruit, train, and educate the Army, driving constant improvement and change to ensure the Total Army can deter, fight, and win on any battlefield now and into the future. Today’s post addresses how TRADOC will need to transform to ensure that it continues to accomplish this mission with the next generation of Soldiers.]

Per The Army Vision:

The Army of 2028 will be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any adversary, anytime and anywhere, in a joint, multi-domain, high-intensity conflict, while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare. The Army will do this through the employment of modern manned and unmanned ground combat vehicles, aircraft, sustainment systems, and weapons, coupled with robust combined arms formations and tactics based on a modern warfighting doctrine and centered on exceptional Leaders and Soldiers of unmatched lethality.” GEN Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, and Dr. Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Army, June 7, 2018.

In order to achieve this vision, the Army of 2028 needs a TRADOC 2028 that will recruit, organize, and train future Soldiers and Leaders to deploy, fight, and win decisively on any future battlefield. This TRADOC 2028 must account for: 1) the generational differences in learning styles; 2) emerging learning support technologies; and 3) how the Army will need to train and learn to maintain cognitive overmatch on the future battlefield. The Future Operational Environment, characterized by the speeding up of warfare and learning, will challenge the artificial boundaries between institutional and organizational learning and training (e.g., Brigade mobile training teams [MTTs] as a Standard Operating Procedure [SOP]).

Soldiers will be “New Humans” – beyond digital natives, they will embrace embedded and integrated sensors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), mixed reality, and ubiquitous communications. “Old Humans” adapted their learning style to accommodate new technologies (e.g., Classroom XXI). New Humans’ learning style will be a result of these technologies, as they will have been born into a world where they code, hack, rely on intelligent tutors and expert avatars (think the nextgen of Alexa / Siri), and learn increasingly via immersive Augmented / Virtual Reality (AR/VR), gaming, simulations, and YouTube-like tutorials, rather than the desiccated lectures and interminable PowerPoint presentations of yore. TRADOC must ensure that our cadre of instructors know how to use (and more importantly, embrace and effectively incorporate) these new learning technologies into their programs of instruction, until their ranks are filled with “New Humans.”

Delivering training for new, as of yet undefined MOSs and skillsets. The Army will have to compete with Industry to recruit the requisite talent for Army 2028. These recruits may enter service with fundamental technical skills and knowledges (e.g., drone creator/maintainer, 3-D printing specialist, digital and cyber fortification construction engineer) that may result in a flattening of the initial learning curve and facilitate more time for training “Green” tradecraft. Cyber recruiting will remain critical, as TRADOC will face an increasingly difficult recruiting environment as the Army competes to recruit new skillsets, from training deep learning tools to robotic repair. Initiatives to appeal to gamers (e.g., the Army’s eSports team) will have to be reflected in new approaches to all TRADOC Lines of Effort. AI may assist in identifying potential recruits with the requisite aptitudes.

“TRADOC in your ruck.” Personal AI assistants bring Commanders and their staffs all of the collected expertise of today’s institutional force. Conducting machine speed collection, collation, and analysis of battlefield information will free up warfighters and commanders to do what they do best — fight and make decisions, respectively. AI’s ability to quickly sift through and analyze the plethora of input received from across the battlefield, fused with the lessons learned data from thousands of previous engagements, will lessen the commander’s dependence on having had direct personal combat experience with conditions similar to his current fight when making command decisions.

Learning in the future will be personalized and individualized with targeted learning at the point of need. Training must be customizable, temporally optimized in a style that matches the individual learners, versus a one size fits all approach. These learning environments will need to bring gaming and micro simulations to individual learners for them to experiment. Similar tools could improve tactical war-gaming and support Commander’s decision making.  This will disrupt the traditional career maps that have defined success in the current generation of Army Leaders.  In the future, courses will be much less defined by the rank/grade of the Soldiers attending them.

Geolocation of Training will lose importance. We must stop building and start connecting. Emerging technologies – many accounted for in the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) – will connect experts and Soldiers, creating a seamless training continuum from the training base to home station to the fox hole. Investment should focus on technologies connecting and delivering expertise to the Soldier rather than brick and mortar infrastructure.  This vision of TRADOC 2028 will require “Big Data” to effectively deliver this personalized, immersive training to our Soldiers and Leaders at the point of need, and comes with associated privacy issues that will have to be addressed.

In conclusion, TRADOC 2028 sets the conditions to win warfare at machine speed. This speeding up of warfare and learning will challenge the artificial boundaries between institutional and organizational learning and training.

If you enjoyed this post, please also see:

– Mr. Elliott Masie’s presentation on Dynamic Readiness from the Learning in 2050 Conference, co-hosted with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC, on 8-9 August 2018.

Top Ten” Takeaways from the Learning in 2050 Conference.

60. Mission Engineering and Prototype Warfare: Operationalizing Technology Faster to Stay Ahead of the Threat

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist is pleased to present the following post by a team of guest bloggers from The Strategic Cohort at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC). Their post lays out a clear and cogent approach to Army modernization, in keeping with the Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Mark A. Milley’s and Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper’s guidance “to focus the Army’s efforts on delivering the weapons, combat vehicles, sustainment systems, and equipment that Soldiers need when they need it” and making “our Soldiers more effective and our units less logistically dependent.” — The Army Vision,  06 June 2018 ]



“Success no longer goes to the country that develops a new fighting technology first, but rather to the one that better integrates it and adapts its way of fighting….” The National Defense Strategy (2018).



Executive Summary
While Futures Command and legislative changes streamline acquisition bureaucracy, the Army will still struggle to keep pace with the global commercial technology marketplace as well as innovate ahead of adversaries who are also innovating.

Chinese Lijian Sharp Sword Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) — Source: U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) News

Reverse engineering and technology theft make it possible for adversaries to inexpensively copy DoD-specific technology “widgets,” potentially resulting in a “negative return” on investment of DoD research dollars. Our adversaries’ pace of innovation further compounds our challenge. Thus the Army must not only equip the force to confront what is expected,

Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAV — Source: USNI News

but equip the force to confront an adaptable enemy in a wide variety of environments. This paper proposes a framework that will enable identification of strategically relevant problems and provide solutions to those problems at the speed of relevance and invert the cost asymmetry.

To increase the rate of innovation, the future Army must learn to continually assimilate, produce, and operationalize technologies much faster than our adversaries to gain time-domain overmatch. The overarching goal is to create an environment that our adversaries cannot duplicate: integration of advanced technologies with skilled Soldiers and well-trained teams. The confluence of two high level concepts — the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Mission Engineering and Robert Leonard’s Prototype Warfare (see his Principles of Warfare for the Information Age book) — pave the way to increasing the rate of innovation by operationalizing technology faster to stay ahead of the threat, while simultaneously reducing the cost of technology overmatch.

Mission Engineering
OSD’s Mission Engineering concept, proposed by Dr. Robert Gold, calls for acquisitions to treat the end-to-end mission as the system to optimize, in which individual systems are components. Further, the concept utilizes an assessment framework to measure progress towards mission accomplishment through test and evaluation in the mission context. In fact, all actions throughout the capability development cycle must tie back to the mission context through the assessment framework. It goes beyond just sharing data to consider functions and the strategy for trades, tools, cross-cutting functions, and other aspects of developing a system or system of systems.

Consider the example mission objective of an airfield seizure. Traditional thinking and methods would identify an immediate needed capability for two identical air droppable vehicles, therefore starting with a highly constrained platform engineering solution. Mission Engineering would instead start by asking: what is the best way to seize an airfield? What mix of capabilities are required to do so? What mix of vehicles (e.g.,  Soldiers, exoskeletons, robots, etc.) might you need within space and weight constraints of the delivery aircraft? What should the individual performance requirements be for each piece of equipment?

Mission Engineering breaks down cultural and technical “domain stovepipes” by optimizing for the mission instead of a ground, aviation, or cyber specific solution. There is huge innovation space between the conventional domain seams.

Source: www.defenceimages.mod.uk

For example, ground vehicle concepts would be able to explore looking more like motherships deploying exoskeletons, drone swarms, or other ideas that have not been identified or presented because they have no clear home in a particular domain. It warrants stating twice that there are a series of mission optimized solutions that have not been identified or presented because they have no clear home in the current construct. Focusing the enterprise on the mission context of the problem set will enable solutions development that is relevant and timely while also connecting a network of innovators who each only have a piece of the whole picture.

Prototype Warfare

Prototype Warfare represents a paradigm shift from fielding large fleets of common-one-size-fits-all systems to rapidly fielding small quantities of tailored systems. Tailored systems focus on specific functions, specific geographic areas, or even specific fights and are inexpensively produced and possibly disposable.

MRZR with a tethered Hoverfly quadcopter unmanned aircraft system — Source: DefenseNews / Jen Judson

For example, vehicle needs are different for urban, desert, and mountain terrains. A single system is unlikely to excel across those three terrains without employing exotic and expensive materials and technology (becoming expensive and exquisite). They could comprise the entire force or just do specific missions, such as Hobart’s Funnies during the D-Day landings.

A further advantage of tailored systems is that they will force the enemy to deal with a variety of unknown U.S. assets, perhaps seen for the first time. A tank platoon might have a heterogeneous mix of assets with different weapons and armor. Since protection and lethality will be unknown to the enemy, it will be asymmetrically challenging for them to develop in a timely fashion tactics, techniques, and procedures or materiel to effectively counter such new capabilities.

Potential Enablers
Key technological advances present the opportunity to implement the Mission Engineering and Prototype Warfare concepts. Early Synthetic Prototyping (ESP), rapid manufacturing, and the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence (AI) provide ways to achieve these concepts. Each on its own would present significant opportunities. ESP, AI, and rapid manufacturing, when applied within the Mission Engineering/Prototype Warfare framework, create the potential for an innovation revolution.

Under development by the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), ESP is a physics-based persistent game network that allows Soldiers and engineers to collaborate on exploration of the materiel, force structure, and tactics trade space. ESP will generate 12 million hours of digital battlefield data per year.

Beyond the ESP engine itself, the Army still needs to invest in cutting edge research in machine learning and big data techniques needed to derive useful data on tactics and technical performance from the data. Understanding human intent and behaviors is difficult work for current computers, but the payoff is truly disruptive. Also, as robotic systems become more prominent on the battlefield, the country with the best AI to control them will have a great advantage. The best AI depends on having the most training, experimental, and digitally generated data. The Army is also acutely aware of the challenges involved in testing and system safety for AI enabled systems; understanding what these systems are intended to do in a mission context fosters debate on the subject within an agreed upon problem space and associated assessment framework.

Finally, to achieve the vision, the Army needs to invest in technology that allows rapid problem identification, engineering, and fielding of tailored systems. For over two decades, the Army has touted modularity to achieve system tailoring and flexibility. However, any time something is modularized, it adds some sort of interface burden or complexity. A specific-built system will always outperform a modular system. Research efforts are needed to understand the trade-offs of custom production versus modularity. The DoD also needs to strategically grow investment in new manufacturing technologies (to include 3D printing) and open architectures with industry.

Associated Implications
New challenges are created when there is a hugely varied fleet of tailored systems, especially for logistics, training, and maintenance. One key is to develop a well-tracked digital manufacturing database of replacement parts. For maintenance, new technologies such as augmented reality might be used to show mechanics who have never seen a system how to rapidly diagnose and make repairs.

Source: Military Embedded Systems

New Soldier interfaces for platforms should also be developed that are standardized/simplified so it is intuitive for a soldier to operate different systems in the same way it is intuitive to operate an iPhone/iPad/Mac to reduce and possibly eliminate the need for system specific training. For example, imagine a future soldier gets into a vehicle and inserts his or her common access card. A driving display populates with the Soldier’s custom widgets, similar to a smartphone display. The displays might also help soldiers understand vehicle performance envelopes. For example, a line might be displayed over the terrain showing how sharp a soldier might turn without a rollover.

The globalization of technology allows anyone with money to purchase “bleeding-edge,” militarizable commercial technology. This changes the way we think about the ability to generate combat power to compete internationally from the physical domain, to the time domain. Through the proposed mission engineering and prototype warfare framework, the Army can assimilate and operationalize technology quicker to create an ongoing time-domain overmatch and invert the current cost asymmetry which is adversely affecting the public’s will to fight. Placing human thought and other resources towards finding new ways to understand mission context and field new solutions will provide capability at the speed of relevance and help reduce operational surprise through a better understanding of what is possible.

Source: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory / Gov.UK

If you enjoyed this post, join SciTech Futures‘ community of experts, analysts, and creatives on 11-18 June 2018 as they discuss the logistical challenges of urban campaigns, both today and on into 2035. What disruptive technologies and doctrines will blue (and red) forces have available in 2035? Are unconventional forces the future of urban combat? Their next ideation exercise goes live today — watch the associated video here and join the discussion here!

This article was written by Dr. Rob Smith, Senior Research Scientist; Mr. Shaheen Shidfar, Strategic Cohort Lead; Mr. James Parker, Associate Director; Mr. Matthew A. Horning, Mission Engineer; and Mr. Thomas Vern, Associate Director. Collectively, these gentlemen are a subset of The Strategic Cohort, a multi-disciplinary independent group of volunteers located at TARDEC that study the Army’s Operating Concept Framework to understand how we must change to survive and thrive in the future operating environment. The Strategic Cohort analyzes these concepts and other reference materials, then engages in disciplined debate to provide recommendations to improve TARDEC’s alignment with future concepts, educate our workforce, and create dialogue with the concept developers providing a feedback loop for new ideas.

Further Reading:

Gold, Robert. “Mission Engineering.” 19th Annual NDIA Systems Engineering Conference, Oct. 26, 2016, Springfield, VA. Presentation.

Leonard, Robert R. The Principles of War for the Information Age, Presidio Press (2000).

Martin, A., & FitzGerald, B. “Process Over Platforms.” Center for a New American Security, Dec. 13, 2013.

FitzGerald, B., Sander, A. & Parziale, J. “Future Foundry A New Strategic Approach to Military-Technical Advantage.” Center for a New American Security, Dec. 14, 2016.

Kozloski, Robert. “The Path to Prototype Warfare.” War on the Rocks, 17 July 2017.

Hammes, T.X. “The Future of Warfare: Small, Many, Smart vs. Few & Exquisite?” War on the Rocks, 7 Aug. 2015.

Smith, Robert E. “Tactical Utility of Tailored Systems.” Military Review (2016).

Smith, Robert E. and Vogt, Brian. “Early Synthetic Prototyping Digital Warfighting For Systems Engineering.” Journal of Cyber Security and Information Systems 5.4 (2017).