Superempowerment — an increase in the ability of individuals and small groups to accomplish tasks/work through the combination of rapid improvements in technological tools and access to global networks — has enabled small groups to radically increase their productivity in conflict. For example, if a small group disrupts a system or a network by attacking systempunkts, it can amplify the results of its attacks to achieve as much as a 1,400,000 percent return on investment.
Open source warfare is an organizational method by which a large collection of small, violent, superempowered groups can work together to take on much larger foes (usually hierarchies). It is also a method of organization that can be applied to non-violent struggles. It enables:
Here are some suggestions (this is but one of many methods based on recent history, I’m sure that over time a better method will emerge) for building an open source insurgency:
A)The plausible promise. The idea that holds the open source insurgency together. The plausible promise is composed of:
B)The foco. Every open source insurgency is ignited by a small founding group, a foco in guerrilla parlance. The foco sets the original goal and conducts the operation that provides the insurgency with its demonstration of viability. It’s important to understand that in order to grow an open source insurgency, the founding group or individuals must follow a simple path:
Will keep adding to this doctrine over the next couple of months. Could potentially package it into a PDF document for wider distribution when done.
The shift from a marginally functional nation-state in manageable decline to a hollow state often comes suddenly…”Onward to a Hollow State“
The western-style democratic nation-state is in deep decline. As I’ve been warning for nearly a decade, the nation-state as we’ve known it is rapidly hollowing out. Simply, this century’s spike in globalization, financialization, and technological change is gutting it and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Further, this decline isn’t a secret anymore. It’s real and tangible and visible — it’s playing out in US politics right now.
Recently, we hit a new milestone in this decline. The forces hollowing us out have enabled the development of a unified ruling class. A class united by global outlook, education, financial success, status, and technological adoption.
This milestone became crystal clear after Super Tuesday, when everyone in the establishment, from the Democratic and Republican party regulars to the media elites to academic policy wonks to senior government employees to the heads of large corporations and financial firms, banded together to denounce Trump.
In that moment, connected as they were on social networks to confront their existential enemy, America’s technorati was born.
The technorati, a group held together by social networking and unified by common values. A group that strongly senses it has more in common with the technorati of different countries than it does with the other people living in this country. A group that now understands their common interests are far more important than the petty political issues, party loyalties, and policy nuances that divide them.
Of course, the only problem facing the technorati is that it is a very small slice of the population. A small segment of the population that isn’t growing. Globalization, financialization, and rapid technological change is not delivering the improvements it promised — at least, not to anyone but the technorati. The rest of America is being left behind.
The left behinds are the supermajority of Americans getting creamed by the hollowing out of America.
Americans who lose more good good jobs, benefits, and status with each passing year. Americans who went deep into debt for college (in order to ascend to a slot in the technorati) but are perpetually underemployed. Americans who work all day but can only make enough to buy food with the money they earn. Americans now adrift in an America so culturally unmoored, it makes the “people of walmart” not only possible, but common.
The problem for the technorati is that the left behinds are starting to realize they’ve been conned.
They are starting to find their political voice, and their candidates want big changes. A demand that will only grow more intense as the hollowing out of America continues.
This roiling dynamic for amplifying social violence is very, very dangerous. It has the potential to rip the lid off of this country faster than we can respond.
After a brief post Cold War hiatus, great power conflict has returned and it is likely to intensify as the economic woes of China, Russia, and the US worsen.
During the Cold War, great power conflicts were fought through proxies using a variety of different means (my friend Frank Hoffman’s Hybrid Warfare). This method of indirect fighting was used to avoid situations and military casualties that could trigger a nuclear war.
In the near future, we are likely to see the great powers — China, Russia, and the US — fight it out in the same way they did historically, in intense set piece battles (see explanation below).
What is a set piece battle?
However, unlike historical set piece battles, these battles won’t be fought with people. That would be too dangerous since high numbers of Chinese, US, and Russian casualties could lead to a nuclear crisis.
Instead, these battles will be fought and won by autonomous robotic systems.
In the next dozen years, as robotic weapons become autonomous and capable of executing mission orders, we’re going to see a spike in the number of lethal (to the system) tactical engagements between robotic weapons fielded by peer competitors. These early engagements will condition the military and political leadership to fighting in this way without escalation.
However, it won’t be long before one of the great powers decides to test their capabilities in robotic weapons against a regional antagonist.
For example, China could deploy a fully robotic A2/AD (anti access, area denial) system of precision guided munitions, autonomous drones/UUVs/etc. across hundreds of the Spratly islands. A veritable hedgehog of lethal machines capable of destroying anything that entered the territory.
China could then provoke a set piece battle by activating the system and declaring that anything within a very specific territory is off limits to all traffic not specifically approved by the Chinese government.
At this point, the US has three options in response to this “pop-up A2AD” (I love that term). It could:
These battles could be short and over in hours, fought with robotics and cyber combined arms. In some cases, they could go on for decades. An eternal contest until one side or the other runs out of money or the political need to distract an angry population.
The ROI (return on investment) from making FAKE attacks against EU targets could exceed $1,000,000 to $1. IF 10,000 FAKE attacks are made in the next year by self-activating, super-empowered individuals, the costs would be incalculable.
The successful terrorist attacks on Brussels and Paris have left the EU vulnerable to tens of thousands of fast, frequent and fake attacks by self-activating terrorists.
The recent attack on Brussels was big, bloody, and effective.
Fortunately, attacks on this scale don’t occur often. They take lots of time to prepare for and lots of support. Given these costs, it’s unlikely we’ll see an attack on this scale for a while.
Unfortunately, there is a way for terrorists to get around that limitation. A way to continue to damage the EU without mounting a new, large-scale attack. This is accomplished by self-activating terrorists making small, frequent and fake attacks. Fake attacks that have a disruptive impact similar to a real attack. Attacks like:
Why are fake attacks effective?
Worse, at scale (tens of thousands), these attacks could deeply damage the socioeconomic fabric of the EU, by increasing distrust of minorities, generating hundreds of billions in security costs and sinking Schengen.
Many cyber weapons are designed for deep maneuver. These virtual weapons drift across the Internet, jumping from computer to computer to computer, potentially travelling for years until they find the target they were designed to destroy.
Deep maneuver is also possible with autonomous robotic weapons in the real, physical world. I’m not talking about the minimal performance improvements achieved by removing the weight of a pilot or crew from a manned system. Instead, I’m talking about autonomous robotic systems that can undertake missions that last for years and traverse tens of thousands of miles.
Let’s dig into this idea a bit.
The earliest example of robotic deep maneuver I’ve found is an operation from WW2 called Fu-Go. Fu-Go was the Japanese attempt to bomb the continental US using balloon bombs. Although Fu-Go was a complete failure, I find it useful as a way to think productively about how robotic intelligence can be used to surmount physical challenges (distance, time, etc.).
Here are some details about Fu-Go:
I find that this example provides me with some insight into how robotic weapons can make deep maneuvers like cyber weapons. As we know, cyber weapons are already experts at using the environment for propulsion. They use everything from open network connection to the stochastic motion of personal gadgets (cell phones, etc.) to maneuver themselves to their target.
Autonomous robots can do the same in the physical world by substituting intelligence for mechanical performance. This intelligence would allow them to leverage a wide variety of environmental factors to extend mission duration and range, from using wind/ocean currents to hitchhiking on vehicles (ships, trucks, aircraft, etc.) to slow self-propulsion using solar energy (or buoyancy). Deep maneuver makes it possible to:
I spent last year working for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a vision for how advanced robots will transform warfare over the next twenty years. This year I’ll share my thinking with you. Tag along if you are interested.
The winner of the next big conflict will be the side with the best understanding of how to use bots in warfare. Bots aren’t just an iterative improvement in warfare, like stealth or PGMs, it’s a revolution in the making. The US military, to its credit, is working on this. So far, the US military has identified three (out of nearly a dozen) of the foundational ideas needed to successfully employ bots in warfare:
Learning from Nitro Zeus
However, these early ideas are a long way from the operational thinking required to win wars using bots. That type of thinking requires a synthesis of the foundational ideas into new operational concepts. Here’s a good example operational concept I’m calling zero day warfare. It builds off the thinking already demonstrated in recent US cyber operations:
Zero Day Warfare
The goal of zero day warfare is to win the war before it starts (a very zen concept) by deeply penetrating the opponent’s territory years before the conflict begins. Like all maneuver warfare, it is focused on shattering the opponent’s physical and logical cohesiveness. Here’s a quick summary of the highlights:
PS: A zero day warfare that includes deeply deployed autonomous robots will be possible within the next decade. Almost all of the tech needed to pull it off is almost here.
The current revolution in robotics is due to rapid advances in the ability of robots to think (enough to fly themselves).
This means that most of the big improvements we’ll see in the use of autonomous robots in warfare will be due to finding new uses of this attribute more than any other. Let’s explore this a bit.
It’s now possible to turn a simple low performance drone into a weapon that is nearly as effective as a precision guided missile (PGM) that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is accomplished through the creative substitute inexpensive and sophisticated machine thinking for expensive mechanical performance.
In other words, the smarter the drone is, the better it can mimic the performance of the much more expensive PGM.
This is already possible today with inexpensive, commercially available drones. Low cost drones are now smart enough to approximate the performance of an expensive surface to surface missile system with a little creativity. Let’s dive into this a bit.
From a mechanical perspective, consumer drones aren’t that impressive:
However, these drones are already very smart:
Even this basic capability is more than enough to turn a basic drone into an extremely dangerous first strike weapon. Here’s a scenario that pits ten drones against a major airport:
Here are the takeaways:
Published January 12, 2016
SPECIAL GUEST: John Robb (Global Guerrillas). We’re joined by JOHN ROBB, author/entrepreneur/inventor/former USAF pilot, for some futurist looks into drones and self-driving cars. How does the current situation with these technologies mirror the early days of the Internet, what possible ways they will transform society, and through it all, how is DEEP LEARNING reshaping our lives. With a side of social networking, including our favorite kicking target FACEBOOK. Recorded on 1/7/2016.
Mike & Matt’s Recommended Reading:
John’s blog Global Guerrillas, about Networked tribes, system disruption and the emerging bazaar of violence, the future of conflict.
John on Twitter
Global Guerrillas on Facebook
John’s Wikipedia entry
Google Brain: “Can we build a centralized machine leaning platform?” Smarter Devices for our Connected Environments, suggested “find out more” link by our Twitter friend, Nicholas Perry
What is culture? In the broad sense, it’s a way of life. More specifically, it’s a basket of shared behaviors that determine how we solve problems, define success, and treat each other.
Culture is important. It has been proven critical to socioeconomic success, at every level, from the extremely large group to the individual (although at the individual scale, we call it character). For example, in the corporate world, most successful CEOs will tell you the same thing: culture is everything.
So, if it’s so important, why don’t we talk about culture more?
It isn’t easy to quantify. It’s not easy for bureaucrats to dictate or markets to measure.
Fortunately, there is a way to understand it a bit better. Culture is important because it plays a critical role in personal and group decision making. More specifically, it drives the “orientation” step of John Boyd’s decision making model, the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop.
Orientation is different than the other steps in decision making. It’s a gut check. A check of core values. It is a synthesis of everything you’ve learned as it applies to the problem you face. This makes it squishy and holistic. It’s the step that Einstein so elegantly referred to in this quote:
If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.
Unlike orientation, the other steps (observe, decide, act) used in decision making are largely mechanistic, analytic and quantitative. To improve these other steps, you speed them up (i.e. computers), increase their fidelity (accuracy without error), and widen their scope (more data).
In contrast, culture is how human beings have learned to speed up orientation in a dependable way.
Culture can provide any individual, organization, or country with the outlook needed to successfully orient problems repeatedly and without hesitation.
Here’s an example:
Some business cultures place a high value on treating the counterparty in a transaction with respect and dignity. In those cultures, it’s important that every business transaction is a win-win, where both sides are better off for doing business together, regardless of the contractual details.
In other business cultures, business transactions are highly competitive. In those cultures, it’s important to win every business transaction and contractual details are used as a weapon to bludgeon the counterparty into submission.
See the difference in approach due to culture?
What should also be obvious from this example is that cultures differ. They can be wildly different.
They aren’t equally effective, the usually don’t mix well, and some can be toxic.
PS: John Boyd developed the OODA loop to figure out how to win conflicts. He postulated, correctly, that successful decision making is the most important factor in survival — from simple organisms surviving evolutionary pressures in primordial pools to winning wars on modern battlefields. Therefore, success in any conflict was largely due to faster, better decision making. The faster you can make good decisions, the faster you can iterate to success.
Here’s some thinking on how warfare will change over the next twenty years.
Fast forward 20 years (about the age of the WWW). An aging, schlerotic EU has become the destination for over a hundred million refugees and migrants fleeing the densely populated killing fields of Africa and SW Asia.
The rapidity of influx has led the EU to take extreme measures. Tens of millions of these migrants/refugees are roughly housed in relocation camps all across Europe.
Violence within these camps has risen steadily, leading to an EU-wide Islamic insurgency.
The soldiers sent to counter this insurgency are outfitted with autonomous weapons. These weapons combine deep learning (making them very smart) and cloud robotics (allowing the military to rapidly share advances in training and technique) to provide these soldiers with capabilities far beyond what we’ve seen in previous wars.
Here’s an idealized example so you can get the idea. A human/robot team advances down a street in an urban environment.
Of course, much of this capability might become open source and available to anyone smart enough to employ it.
This isn’t an academic question. Some organizations already employ truly autonomous systems and these systems are getting very good very quickly.
Since these systems are already in use, I think this question is about as important as it gets.
Unfortunately, these systems are so new, very few people are working on the answer to this question. Worse, this question is devilishly hard to answer, because a truly autonomous system…
Here’s my early thinking on this.
You can’t control these systems using the methods we built for controlling the human built software and machines we already have. If you attempt to control autonomous systems in the same way you control automation, you will fail (and fail badly).
A new method of command and control is needed. Here are some ideas for how to pull this off:
There’s been a big change in the wind for a decade. Many of us have heard and felt it rumbling in the background, shaking the foundations of an already decrepit global socioeconomic system.
Depending on how you view the world, you see it differently. I see it as as technological transformation. A technological transformation that will upend everything.
Here’s a taste of what is driving this change forward. It’s real and it’s coming.
Up until three hundred years ago, the world relied on the work being done by people, largely by hand. The skills and methods required to do this work were largely inside the minds of the people doing that work. We created organizations to aggregate the people needed for doing work on a large scale and guilds to protect this knowledge.
To overcome the limits of a world made by hand, we developed something new: automation. We’ve transformed the world by building machines (in both hardware and software) that do work for us. Automation is based on a scientific process that figures out how things work and an engineering process that turns these scientific ideas into machines that actually do work.
However, we’ve now reached the limits of automation. How so? Automation is limited by the ability of human beings to construct the cognitive models (both scientific and engineering) needed to build the machines that provide it.
To overcome these limits, we’re now building cognitive machines that can build their own models for how things work and how to accomplish tasks. Unlike the machines that provide us with automation, these machines aren’t built in the traditional way and they can tackle problems far more complex than anything done by automation.
The big change is that these machines build themselves. They bootstrap their abilities in the same way human beings do: through learning, training, and experience. However, they can learn it MUCH faster (deep learning) than we do and once they do, they can share their new abilities with other machines all over the world instantly (cloud robotics).
If you don’t think this is a big deal, you are wrong. It’s the biggest shift in technology we’ve seen since the rise of automation over three hundred years ago and it’s going to change everything. In particular, it’s going to upend the rules of economics, warfare, and politics we thought were immutable.
Battles between the corporate allies of hollow nation-states and the gangs and tribes of black globalization are at the center of this century’s epochal war. That war will eventually put the senior executives of US tech and financial companies in the crosshairs. Here’s a good example. Over the weekend, ISIS threatened the life of Jack Dorsey, a co-founder and Chairman of Twitter. Why? Twitter, at the urging of the US government, has been shutting down the accounts of ISIS supporters for months. So, ISIS supporters responded by making a threat with a nifty graphic:
We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back. But when our lions come and take your breath, you will never come back to life
The CEO as an Objective of War
Unfortunately for the suits in Silicon Valley, ISIS isn’t as much of a pushover as al Qaeda was. They have mass and momentum and they are smart enough to understand the role of the Internet in this struggle. Additionally, they have lots of experience coercing CEOs and other senior executives. They did it quite a bit of it during the war in Iraq (and it worked).
Regardless, the targeted killing of a well known tech executive in sunny California by ISIS jihadis does appear impossible to imagine. Few places are more remote from each other, and not just geographically. Silicon Valley is a hyperconnected, financially mainlined zone striving for a tech nirvana. ISIS is a disconnected autonomous zone striving to return to the 7th Century. However, that’s probably a bad assumption. Charlie Hebdo showed the world that terrorism is evolving and corporate targeting on global scale is now on the agenda. This means an attack on a tech CEO isn’t just possible, but probable. Worse, once an attack on a senior tech executive happens, future threats will be instantly credible and highly coercive.
If that occurs, we are going to find out very quickly that the corporation, and particularly tech companies, are particularly bad organizations for warfare. One reason is that they are too centralized. In particular, the institution of the CEO is a grave weakness (a systempunkt in global guerrilla lingo). The CEO’s centrality to the corporate network makes him/her a single point of failure for the entire organization. Another is that executives in most of the western world are very soft targets. Easy to find (Google and Google maps), easy to isolate, and easy to kill…
Back in 2003, the US was headed towards complete dependence on foreign oil. Additionally, the demand for energy (particularly from China) was growing far faster than production, which meant an energy price spike was inevitable.
Of course, this could be avoided if another big source of oil was found and exploited. However, based on existing production technology, the only big fields left untapped were in Iraq, but due to sanctions (limiting production to 2m barrels a day, far less than the 8 m bpd projected to be possible).
The result was inevitable. The US invaded Iraq to free up production (that’s largely why the fields were secured in the first couple of days of the invasion), but it screwed up. The national security “brain-trust” didn’t anticipate that the Iraqi guerrillas would disrupt this production so effectively (I covered this in detail on this blog and in my book). The result? Iraq produced less oil, for years after the invasion, than it did under sanctions.
That loss of production in combination with disruption caused by Nigerian guerrillas (who copied the success of the Iraqis), produced an energy crunch that drove the global economy into a massive recession. Worse, this recession became a decade long depression due to the disruption caused by the banks and hedge funds we allow to hack the global financial system.
One of the benefits of this oil crunch was that high prices spurred technological innovation that led to an upheaval in the US energy system over the last decade. New technology has enabled US oil and natural gas production to boom. Not only that, this tech enables energy production to scale industrially — that’s a big change if you understand the implications.
The most immediate benefit of a return to US energy autonomy has been lower natural gas, oil, and gasoline prices (autonomy that will only grow as solar zooms). However, there’s other benefits that should be obvious too. Since the US isn’t dependent on Middle Eastern energy anymore, US national security policy will be decoupled from Middle Eastern conflicts. Like it or not, this is inevitable.
What does this mean?
Here’s a new way to think about something that should be obvious…
To the politicians in DC and financiers in New York, Saudi Arabia is an island of stability in a sea of chaos. A reliable ally, willing to keep the oil flowing, year in and year out. A place that’s not vulnerable to the instability that routinely guts the countries around it.
Of course, that line of thinking is utterly misguided. The opposite is true.
In reality, Saudi Arabia is extremely fragile and much of the chaos we see in the Middle East is due to the way Saudi Arabia avoids falling to pieces. Worse, we are largely to blame for this. We go along with this charade, and our willingness to play along is doing much of the damage.
To understand why this illusion Saudi stability is so toxic, let’s dig into a very smart idea from thermodynamics called dissipative structures. In fact, the idea was so good that won Ilya Prigogine the Nobel prize in Chemistry. Prigogine’s idea provides us with insight into how everything from how biological structures (e.g. bacteria, apes…) to natural phenomena (e.g. tornadoes) to social systems (e.g. nation-states) build order and prevent collapse.
The important part of this idea for us, is that all dissipative structures grow by exporting or expelling waste products into an external environment. In other words, they achieve “order” by getting rid of the disorder produced by building it.
Here it is in very simple terms. Within biological structures, eating produces the energy needed to build and maintain an organism. In turn, consuming food produces disorder in the form of feces. Organisms expel feces into the outside world because holding onto it is dangerous. The same process is true with almost all complex structures. With automobiles, it’s exhaust fumes. With complex social systems, it is everything from warfare to pollution.
We could spend all day on this idea, but let’s cut to the chase and apply this framework to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a particularly expensive dissipative structure because it is extremely rigid, anachronistic, and unchanging. To maintain this archaic structure despite the titanic forces of globalization trying to pull it apart, it must export an incredible amount of disorder (entropy) into the surrounding region. Disorder such as:
Obviously, this Saudi entropy has damaged everyone in the world. It spreads violent instability throughout the world, from the terrorism of 9/11 to the violent ascent of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan…
Worse, the damage being done by Saudi Arabia is increasing with each passing year, as it attempts to defy the inexorable gravitational attraction of a fluid, dynamic, and tightly integrated global system.
This means that even if ISIS is defeated in the next couple of years, Saudi Arabia’s dysfunctional system will produce something worse soon thereafter.
The jihadi entrepreneurs of ISIS don’t just accumulate wealth and territory.
They are also accumulating violence capital.
What is violence capital?
In traditional businesses, money is the primary form of capital. In on-line businesses, network capital (the size of the network it controls or influences) is often more valuable than the financial capital it has. In the fluid world of jihadi entrepreneurship, violence capital is often most important form of capital.
Groups and individuals accumulate violence capital through the calculated application of violence. It’s expended on the following:
Violence capital comes in lots of different forms and is expended in lots of different ways — from the neighborhood bully to the petty mobster to petty tyrants to global superpowers to the Mongols (the unmatched, epic purveyors of violence capital).
Hopefully, you can see that it’s a useful tool for thinking about the use and value of violence.
In the case of ISIS, the violence capital they are accumulating is of a special type. They are building their capital by:
any and all apostates, unbelievers, moderates, etc.
Why are they doing this? To become credible as an expansionist jihad within the fundamentalist Wahhabi tradition. A credibility can only be built with lots of violence capital.
Here’s one of the reasons that the FAA has seized control of all drones (including toys) and is slowing the development of automated aviation to a crawl. It’s a dumb move, since it won’t work, but they are doing it anyway.
The reason is that drones make disruption easy.
For example. Let’s take a simple $1,350 drone like the X8 from 3D robotics. It’s a good product, with solid duration (15m) and payload (.8 kg) numbers.
That’s more than enough capability for significant disruption with a little innovation.
How so? With GPS auto-navigation and a container that auto-releases its payload over GPS coordinates (an easy mod), it can become the perfect delivery vehicle.
What could it deliver? Caltrops for example. A handful of caltrops can shut down automobile traffic on major highways for hours.
Combined with a drone, caltrops can shut down most ground transportation in a big city in less than an hour.
Recover vehicle and depart area. Potential for capture: very low.
Disruption potential? High.
The big question: Will the FAA effort to control drones protect against this type of disruption? No. It won’t.
It actually makes the situation worse. It prevents the development of the safeguards an economically viable drone delivery network would produce.
Perversely, limiting drone use to big corps (that make political contributions) and government agencies, won’t create the economic progress that will turn this technology into a beneficial innovation. It will do just the opposite. It will simply increase the level of economic corruption/stagnation we are already experiencing in the US.
Some of the recent protests over Furguson have attempted to block traffic (LA and Boston) to cause delays. Here’s an example (note the barricades on the left). Of course, this method isn’t much of a danger.
A more troublesome method?
Disruption that uses a very old technology: the caltrop (see below).
Caltrops were originally designed to damage the hooves of horses (or impale the foot of a soldier). They work equally well against tires.
A handful of these tossed onto a highway at periodic intervals and in different locations can achieve very high levels of disruption.
Not only that, they are actually very easy to make. Just clip a section from a chain fence. Clip the ends to a point and bend them into shape.
PS: Years ago, I pointed to a study by the Federal Reserve that showed that disruption like this can act as a “tax” on a urban target that can cause a severe economic contraction. The trick is keeping it going long enough to happen.
PPS: Here a vehicle (with a false bottom) that was used to disrupt the main N-S highway in China last year. Was it the cause of the 120 mile/week long traffic jam?
John Boyd is famous in large part for showing how decision making is critical to victory.
To do this he built the OODA loop. The OODA describes how we make decisions:
The OODA, when repeated quickly and accurately, allows any organism to quickly adapt to new and evolving circumstance.
As you can guess, making great decisions are particularly critical in warfare.
Although Boyd doesn’t spend much time on it, it’s also critical in economic activity.
Better decisions yield economic success for both individuals and the global economy as a whole (when many people make them).
The trick to doing it repeatedly is by getting the orientation right.
Orientation is the most critical step (by far) in the OODA.
Orientation is the step that combines everything in an instant — cultural tradition, morals, training, education, personal experience, emotional intelligence — in a way that provides a decision with direction, scope, and scale.
Orientation provides us with the cross connections necessary for high quality innovation.
Here’s an example.
I just saw this pic online. It’s from Spotify, the online music service, about how they develop products. It was meant to clever . It wasn’t.
I know from decades of developing innovative products (or being near to those who are) that real product innovation doesn’t work this way.
The depicted method is simply a description of incremental improvement.
Real innovation requires orientation.
Here’s Boyd’s example: the snowmobile. It’s unlikely that iteration will yield a snowmobile. It’s a strange device.
A mix of skis, tank treads, bike handlebars and outboard motor.
It’s a product derived from connections drawn from numerous sources to combine an innovative whole.
Simply, it’s a product of good orientation.
What happens when a terrorist network (ISIS) finds a way to activate terrorists using social media (neatly piercing the security defenses that we pay hundreds of billions of $$ for every year) to randomly attack civilians (like the knife attack in Roanoke VA last week)?
You get a society at a tipping point. A society at this tipping point is reactive and labile. It is EASILY sent into a frenzied retreat.
How is this different?
Unlike the classic example of yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, this panic can be induced by anything that sounds/looks/feels like a threat rather than the claim of a specific threat (like “fire”). Nearly anything can set them off.
Here’s three examples of that over the last two weeks (there have been many more):
This public reactiveness may become the new normal both here and in Europe. If so, we can expect people take advantage of it.
All it takes is a single audio clip. Like this or this either near a public space or done remotely on a timed playback device is all it would take to ignite the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that leads to a large scale evacuation. In fact, people are so reactive now, I suspect it wouldn’t even take a sound that is explicit, only something that sounds similar.
Think about this for a moment. The ability to shut down a public space for hours:
is a substantial capability.
How so? Take this fall’s election for example.
It is a far easier to close a voting location with a sound than hack a voting machine.
This is big news. This is the first large scale demonstration that the “Terrorism Tax” I speculated about back in 2004, actually works.
Liz Alderman at the NYTimes reported that terrorism is squashing Europe’s first glimmer of recovery since the financial crash. EU economic growth has been halved since spring, with France now at zero. Here are some details:
The Terrorism Tax
Although Europe has suffered terrorism before, this time it’s different. Instead of big and relatively infrequent terrorist attacks, these new attacks are small, numerous and geographically dispersed. This change is a big deal, because it makes it possible for terrorists to turn attacks into “a tax” that depresses economic activity by imposing new costs and changing economic behavior. Here’s some of the theory from my 2004 article on it:
A terrorism tax is an accumulation of excess costs inflicted on a city’s stakeholders by acts of terrorism. These include direct costs inflicted on the city by terrorists (systems sabotage) and indirect costs due to the security/insurance/policy/etc. changes needed to protect against attacks. A terrorism tax above a certain level will force the city to transition to a lower market equilibrium (aka shrink). So, what is that level? Here’s what they concluded:
The terrorism tax is even more effective when it is combined with systems disruption (the intentional disruption of infrastructure). That combo puts in play hidden dynamics – both economic and societal – that can turn a functional society into a violent insurgency within months.
There’s a war for the future being waged online. It’s being fought across the world’s online social networks, and the outcomes of these online battles increasingly dictate the outcome of what happens later in the real world.
One of the most successful tactics used in this war is the manipulation of language in order to confuse, scare, nullify or outrage targeted audiences with the objective of making money, aggregating political power, and disrupting opponents.
While this manipulation has ALWAYs been true of human conflict, it’s being done on a scale and to a degree that we’ve never seen before due social networking, globalization, and social/media fragmentation.
A great example of tactical manipulation is called the the Russell Conjugation (or the “emotive conjugation” championed by the philosopher Bertrand Russell , the pollster Frank Luntz and recently Thiel Capital’s Eric Weinstein).
The Russell conjugation exploits the gap in the emotional content of a word or phrase and the factual content. Here are a few of Russell’s examples:
“I am firm; you are obstinate; he is a pig-headed fool.”
“I am righteously indignant; you are annoyed; he is making a fuss over nothing.”
Notice how the factual content remains unchanged. In each case, the person referenced is factually described as “a person who is reluctant to accept new information.” However, the words used change the emotional content drastically, from a positive to neutral-negative to negative-opprobrium.
The ability to change the emotional spin on a fact is critical. As all great marketing pros already know, the emotional content of a message is much more important than the factual content when it comes to selling anything. All brands are simply emotion (a commercial brand is monetized emotion).
However, this gets more complicated when an emotional spin is applied to facts presented as news. As Weinstein correctly points out, people don’t just care about the factual content since they don’t view a fact as a bit of disconnected information. They see all facts within a social context and that context is identified by the emotional context attached to that fact.
In fact, if historical behavior is a guide, people care more about the social consequences of the facts than the fact itself.
We’ve seen this before. Context seeking is also the basis of consumerism as Thorstein Veblen pointed out in his classic book on modern economics The Theory of the Leisure Class. Simply, the entire modern economy is based on people buying products and services in an attempt to mimic the choices and habits of people they consider cooler, wealthier or more successful than they are.
This is also true with news in a fragmented society. Most people go to news sources they trust to find out more than the facts. They want to find out how they should feel about a fact (or whether they should reject that fact) from people they consider to be leaders of their social network.
This context seeking used to be limited to the news presented by reporters/editors of the big papers like the New York Times and the TV network news organizations like CBS. That’s not true anymore. Control over the emotional content of news has fragmented due to the rise of social media and social networking. People don’t just look for the “correct” emotional spin on a fact from a big media company, they seek it from alt news orgs and personalities on social networks they identify with.
This suggests that the current debate over “fake news” isn’t due to the use of fabricated information. Instead, it’s really a negative way of describing news that has an emotional context that is at odds/war with the emotions approved by the major media, academia, or government.
PS: Here’s a good book from Frank Luntz on how this manipulation works in practice. Example: how the Estate Tax was redeemed by calling it the Death Tax and Illegal Immigrants were redeemed by calling them Undocumented Immigrants.
Social networking is changing politics, that fact should be clear by now. A simple proof: Trump wouldn’t be in the White House without it.
But where is political networking taking us? That’s the BIG question. I’ve been doing lots of thinking about this (it’s going into my book). Here’s my shorthand for where our political system is headed. We have three political networks to choose from:
Trump used an open source insurgency (I first wrote about this back in 2004) to become president. This insurgency didn’t just with the election, it:
Trump’s insurgency worked like open source insurgencies in the past (from the Iraq war to Egypt/Tunisia).
Trump’s currently trying to adapt this insurgency to govern. Where will it take us? Early results suggest that Trump’s insurgency is better suited for dismantling a large, bureaucratic government and international order than running it. It’s also the type of network that will erode the rule of law over time.
The second form of political social networking I’m seeing is found in the opposition to Trump’s presidency. Right now, it’s known as the #resistance The orthodoxy wasn’t planned, it:
The orthodoxy is an open source insurgency in reverse. It uses social networking to crack down on deviation and dissent.
How will an orthodox network govern? It will eventually formalize compliance with the orthodoxy. Compliance, evidenced by a long social networking history, will qualify people for positions of authority and power. Any deviation will result in bans, loss of income, etc. until the target repents. This orthodoxy will work in parallel to the rule of law and likely exceed its coercive power over time.
This form of social networking doesn’t have an example in the US yet.
The participatory party is still young, but it combines the fluidity of the “insurgency” with the solidarity of “orthodoxy.”
How would a participatory network govern? Unlike the other systems, it has the best chance of working within the confines of the current US Constitution. It also has the strength to tame political distortions caused by globalization without resorting to the extremes of either the orthodoxy or the insurgency.
My bet is on a participatory political system made possible by social networking. It’s the best chance for a better future. A system where we put social networking to work for us instead of against us.
Of course, the reality is probably something different: we’re prepping for a civil war.
Here’s a new drone (warning, acronym creep) called the CICADA, or Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.
It’s tiny and weighs only 65 grams. It is meant to be dropped by an aircraft in a swarm (dozens at a time). Once released, each drone flies/glides to its target location and takes up residence.
What are they good for? Not much right now, but they could evolve into a way to rapidly deploy large, geographically dispersed networks of sensors and/or mesh communication nodes.
Why use them? They have the potential to provide P2P communications and real time intel to human units and autonomous weapons operating in a contested environment. In other words, a relatively simple mesh comms/sensor network like this would allow units in the field to connect with each other and sources of intel sideways.
Longer term? We will likely see vast networks of drone sensor/comms nodes that provide resilient over the horizon services that surpass (both in survivability and usability) those provided by satellites and other traditional means.
I figured out what I’m going to talk about at the Prime Minister’s conference in Singapore next month: the automation of terrorism. Here’s the outline of what I’m going to discuss (I already have most of the thinking on this topic already done and the trend is already in motion).
New technologies have put us on the brink of a significant upgrade to extremist violence. Specifically, it may now be possible to fully automate a terrorist attack or worse, a terrorist network. Here’s how:
Social networking already connects billions of people worldwide and it is rewiring us psychosocially. We can already see the disruptive effects of this, creating an environment conducive to extremism:
Bots (software) build make it possible to automate extremist activities on and across social networks (as seen in the recent US election).
Drones (hardware bots) make it possible to automate physical attacks. With relatively simple DIY modifications, drones can already:
Written on a cool summer morning near “the shot heard around the world”
PS: Automation of this type has the potential to leverage (on a grand scale) the breakdown of masculinity in the West to disruptive effect.
One of the biggest revolutions over the past 15 years of war has been the rise of drones — remotely piloted vehicles that do everything from conduct air strikes to dismantle roadside bombs. Now a new generation of drones is coming. Only this time they are autonomous — able to operate on their own without humans controlling them from somewhere with a joy stick. Some autonomous machines are run by artificial intelligence which allows them to learn, getting better each time. It’s early in the revolution but the potential exists for all missions considered too dangerous or complex for humans to be turned over to autonomous machines that can make decisions faster and go in harm’s way without any fear. Think of it as the coming swarm, and if that sounds like the title of a sci-fi mini-series, well, as we first reported earlier this year, it’s already a military reality. We saw it with our own eyes and captured it on camera.
This swarm over the California desert is like nothing the U.S. military has ever fielded before. Each of those tiny drones is flying itself. Humans on the ground have given them a mission to patrol a three-square mile area, but the drones are figuring out for themselves how to do it. They are operating autonomously and the Pentagon’s Dr. Will Roper says what you’re seeing is a glimpse into the future of combat.
Will Roper: It opens up a completely different level of warfare, a completely different level of maneuver.
The drone is called Perdix. An unlikely name for an unlikely engine of revolution. Roper, head of a once-secret Pentagon organization called the Strategic Capabilities Office, remembers the first time he saw Perdix, which is named after a bird found in Greek mythology.
Will Roper: I held it up in my hands, it’s about as big as my hand. And I looked at it and said, “Really? This is, this is what you want me to, to get excited about?” You know, it looks like a toy.
Perdix flies too fast and too high to follow, so 60 Minutes brought specialized high-speed cameras to the China Lake Weapons Station in California to capture it in flight.
Developed by 20 and 30-somethings from MIT’s Lincoln Labs, Perdix, is designed to operate as a team, which you can see when you follow this group of eight on a computer screen.
Will Roper: We’ve given them a mission at this point, and that mission is as a team go fly down the road and so they allocate that amongst all the individual Perdix.
David Martin: And they’re talking to each other.
Will Roper: They are.
David Martin: By what?
Will Roper: So they’ve got radios on and they’re each telling each other not just what they’re doing but where they are in space.
David Martin: How frequently are they talking back and forth to each other?
Will Roper: Many, many times a second when they’re first sorting out.
David Martin: I mean, it looks helter skelter.
Will Roper: You want them to converge to a good enough solution and go ahead and get on with it. . . It’s faster than a human would sort it out.
Cheap and expendable, Perdix tries to make a soft landing but it’s no great loss if it crashes into the ground.
Perdix can be used as decoys to confuse enemy air defenses or equipped with electronic transmitters to jam their radars.
David Martin: This one looks like it has a camera.
As a swarm of miniature spy planes fitted with cellphone cameras they could hunt down fleeing terrorists.
Will Roper: There’s several different roads they could have gone down. And you don’t know which one to search. You can tell them, “Go search all the roads,” and tell them what to search for and let them sort out the best way to do it.
The Pentagon is spending $3 billion a year on autonomous systems, many of them much more sophisticated than a swarm of Perdix.
This pair of air and ground robots runs on artificial intelligence.
Jim Pineiro: I’m going to say “start the reconnaissance.”
They are searching a mock village for a suspected terrorist, reporting back to Marine Captain Jim Pineiro and his tablet.
Jim Pineiro: The ground robot’s continuing on its mission while the air robot is searching on its own.
The robots are slow and cumbersome but they’re just test beds for cutting edge computer software which could power more agile machines — ones that could act as advance scouts for a foot patrol.
Jim Pineiro: I would want to use a system like this to move maybe in front of me or in advance of me to give me early warning of, of enemy in the area.
David Martin (standup): This time I’m the target. The computer already knows what I look like, so now we’ll see if it can match what’s stored in its memory with the real thing as I move around this make-believe village.
The robots’ artificial intelligence had done its homework the night before, Tim Faltemier says, learning what I look like.
Tim Faltemier: We were able to get every picture of every story that you’ve ever been in.
David Martin: How many pictures of me are there out there?
Tim Faltemier: When we ran this through, we have about 50,000 different pictures of you that we were able to get. Had we had more time we probably could’ve done a better job.
David Martin: So because you’ve got 50,000 pictures of me, how certain would you be?
Tim Faltemier: Very.
David Martin: Now it’s looking at me.
Tim Faltemier: It recognized you instantly.
Tim Faltemier: So, what we reported today on our scores we’re about a one in 10,000 chance of being wrong.
While the robot was searching for me inside an auditorium at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, Lt. Cdr. Rollie Wicks was watching from a missile boat in the Potomac River.
Rollie Wicks: What I was doing was, I was turning over control of the weapon system to the autonomous systems that you’ve seen on the floor today.
Had Wicks given permission to shoot, the missile would have struck my location using a set of coordinates given to it by the robots.
Rollie Wicks: They were controlling a remote weapons system. They were controlling where that weapons system was pointing, with me supervising.
It will be about three years before these robots will be ready for the battlefield. By then, Captain Pineiro says, they will look considerably different.
David Martin: Will those robots when they reach the battlefield will they be able to defend themselves?
Jim Pineiro: We are looking into that. We are looking into defensive capability for a robot – armed robots.
David Martin: Shoot back?
Jim Pineiro: Correct.
This Pentagon directive states “autonomous . . . Systems shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.”
What that means, says General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military’s man in charge of autonomy, is that life or death decisions will be made only by humans — even though machines can do it faster and, in some cases, better.
David Martin: Are machines better at facial recognition than humans?
Paul Selva: All the research I’ve seen says about five years ago machines actually got better at image recognition than humans.
David Martin: Can a disguise defeat machine recognition?
Paul Selva: If you think about the proportions of the human body there are several that are discrete and difficult to hide. The example that I will use, as I look at you, is the distance between your pupils. It is very likely unique to you and a handful of other humans. A disguise cannot move your eyes.
David Martin: So if I have a ski mask on that doesn’t help?
Paul Selva: Not if your eyes are visible. If you have to see, you can’t change that proportion.
David Martin: So, if the machine’s better, why not let it make the decision?
Paul Selva: This goes to the ethics of the question of whether or not you allow a machine to take a human life without the intervention of a human.
David Martin: Do you know where this is headed?
Paul Selva: I don’t.
Virtually any military vehicle has the potential to become autonomous. The Navy has begun testing Sea Hunter, an autonomous ship to track submarines. Program manager Scott Littlefield says that when you no longer have to make room for a crew, you can afford to buy a lot of them.
Scott Littlefield: You could buy somewhere between 50 and 100 of these for the price of one warship.
David Martin: I’ve heard somebody describe this ship as looking like an overgrown Polynesian war canoe. Why does it look like it does?
Scott Littlefield: To be able to go across the Pacific Ocean without refueling, this hull form, the, the trimaran, was, was the best thing we could come up with.
David Martin: What is its range?
Scott Littlefield: We can go about 10,000 nautical miles on, on, on a tank of gas – 14,000 gallons.
Sea hunter is at least two years away from being ready to steam across the Pacific on its own. Among other things, it has to learn how to follow the rules of the road to avoid collisions with other ships. When we went aboard it had only been operating autonomously for a few weeks and there was still a human crew – just in case.
When testing is done, this pilot house will come off and the crew will be standing on the pier waving goodbye. From then on this will be a ghost ship commanded by 36 computers running 50 million lines of software code. And, these life lines will have to come off too since there’s no need for them with no humans on board.
It has a top speed of 26 knots and a tight turning radius which should enable it to use its sonar to track diesel-powered submarines for weeks at a time.
Scott Littlefield: Many countries have diesel submarines. That’s the most common kind of submarine that’s out there.
David Martin: China?
Scott Littlefield: China has them.
David Martin: Russia?
Scott Littlefield: Russia has them.
David Martin: Iran?
Scott Littlefield: Iran has them.
David Martin: North Korea?
Scott Littlefield: Yes.
David Martin: I think I get the picture.
Scott Littlefield: Yes.
But of everything we saw, tiny Perdix is closest to being ready to go operational – if it passes its final exam. Will Roper and his team of desert rats are about to attempt to fly the largest autonomous swarm ever: 100 Perdix drones.
Will Roper: This is one of the riskiest, most exciting things that’s going on right now in the Pentagon.
Risky not only because the swarm would be more than three times larger than anything Roper’s ever done before but also because 60 Minutes is here to record the outcome for all to see.
David Martin: Why are you letting us watch?
Will Roper: Couple of reasons, David, I, I, when this first came up, I have, I have to be honest with you, my first response was, “That sound, sounds like a horrible idea.” Right? I mean, it’s just human nature. I, I don’t want this to fail on camera. But I did not like the fear of failure being my only reason for not letting you be here. And we also wanted the world to see that we’re doing some new things.
This time, the Perdix will be launched from three F-18 jet fighters, just as they would on a real battlefield.
Will Roper: There they are.
David Martin: Yup.
Will Roper: All right. A little piece, a little piece of the future.
The F-18s are traveling at almost the speed of sound, so the first test for Perdix is whether they will survive their violent ejection into the atmosphere.
[Radio: Complete…104 alive.]
Will Roper: That’s 104 in the swarm, David.
David Martin: 104 alive.
Will Roper: That’s 100 swarm. There they are. You see them?
David Martin: Yeah, yeah.
Will Roper: Look at them, Look at them.
Will Roper: They flash in the sun as the come into view.
David Martin: There’s a – oh yeah.
As the Perdix descend in front of our cameras, they organize themselves into a tighter swarm. Imagine the split-second calculations a human would have to make to keep them from crashing into each other.
Will Roper: Look at that! It’s just everywhere you look it’s coming into view. It does feel like a plague of locusts.
Will Roper: So they’re running out of battery.
There are reams of data that still have to be analyzed but roper is confident Perdix passed its final exam.
[Radio: One vehicle down.]
And could become operational as early as this year.
David Martin: I’ve heard people say that autonomy is the biggest thing in military technology since nuclear weapons. Really?
Will Roper: I think I might agree with that, David. I mean, if what we mean is biggest thing is something that’s going to change everything, I think autonomy is going to change everything.
Study: Raising the Minimum Wage Leaves Automation-Prone Workers Behind
A new study by economists Grace Lordan and David Neumark finds that minimum-wage increases make it likelier that low-skilled workers whose jobs can be automated will become unemployed. The study is especially relevant given two recent trends: first, the incorporation of dramatic minimum-wage hikes into the Democratic doctrine, and second, the continued progress of automation.
The coincidence of those trends, if Lordan and Neumark are to be believed, does not bode well for low-skilled workers. The study examines the effect of minimum-wage increases on workers whose jobs consist of “routine” tasks, which “involve a repeated sequence of actions, are easily codifiable, and [are] therefore substitutable with technology.” Such jobs exist across a variety of industries, and are especially abundant in finance, retail, manufacturing, and public administration.
Automating data entry, upholstering, or assembly-line work is easier than automating jobs requiring adaptation to unpredictable conditions or abstract problem-solving. And as the unstoppable march of technical progress continues apace, the technology required to automate those jobs becomes more sophisticated — and less expensive. Raising the minimum wage means raising the cost of labor. But when many workers are performing tasks that can be done more efficiently by computers or machines, management will hesitate to pay them $15 an hour. Sure enough, the authors find, “minimum wage increases cause a statistically significant reallocation of labor away from automatable tasks.” The average numbers are bleak — “a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to a 0.43 percentage point decrease in the share of automatable jobs done by low-skilled workers” — but the numbers under the hood are even worse. Older workers in manufacturing are hit especially hard, as are women in public administration and blacks in the transportation and manufacturing sectors.
Increasing the minimum wage also causes workers to switch jobs, adding to the precariat. So, too, does it leave them vulnerable to reductions in hours. Lordan and Neumark see their study as filling a gap in the minimum-wage literature, which they say “usually focuses on very low-skilled workers.” Rather than examining the effect of a wage increase on teenagers, for instance, their analysis takes a look at all the jobs which can feasibly be automated. That’s timely information, and not just for bank tellers: The driverless car, the bricklaying robot, and, further out, Ross the lawyer may render more occupations exposed to the pressures of automation than before.
It’s true that the share of non-routine jobs in our labor force has risen over time as routine jobs have either moved overseas or been automated away. Automation hasn’t cannibalized jobs; it has led to the creation of more opportunities for high-skilled workers. But there’s a swathe of people to whom the modifier “high-skilled” doesn’t currently apply. Balancing the creative destruction brought about by new technology with the need for an employed populace is a difficult challenge that simply raising the minimum wage won’t meet. This study is evidence that raising the minimum wage in a world of automation means fewer low-wage jobs. If we had a national productivity strategy or a coherent approach to immigration, that could be a good thing. Such a counterfactual requires a possible world far away from the one we live in, however. If implemented here, the Democratic “fight for $15” could cause catastrophe for millions.
We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.
Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. Digital fabrication technologies, meanwhile, are interacting with the biological world on a daily basis. Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.
Challenges and opportunities
Like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely.
In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.
At the same time, as the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, the revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.
In addition to being a key economic concern, inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital—the innovators, shareholders, and investors—which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor. Technology is therefore one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries: the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends, but a hollowing out of the middle.
This helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate. It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness. A winner-takes-all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction.
Discontent can also be fueled by the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the dynamics of information sharing typified by social media. More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information. In an ideal world, these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding and cohesion. However, they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group, as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread.
The impact on business
An underlying theme in my conversations with global CEOs and senior business executives is that the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed. Indeed, across all industries, there is clear evidence that the technologies that underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a major impact on businesses.
On the supply side, many industries are seeing the introduction of new technologies that create entirely new ways of serving existing needs and significantly disrupt existing industry value chains. Disruption is also flowing from agile, innovative competitors who, thanks to access to global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution, can oust well-established incumbents faster than ever by improving the quality, speed, or price at which value is delivered.
Major shifts on the demand side are also occurring, as growing transparency, consumer engagement, and new patterns of consumer behavior (increasingly built upon access to mobile networks and data) force companies to adapt the way they design, market, and deliver products and services.
A key trend is the development of technology-enabled platforms that combine both demand and supply to disrupt existing industry structures, such as those we see within the “sharing” or “on demand” economy. These technology platforms, rendered easy to use by the smartphone, convene people, assets, and data—thus creating entirely new ways of consuming goods and services in the process. In addition, they lower the barriers for businesses and individuals to create wealth, altering the personal and professional environments of workers. These new platform businesses are rapidly multiplying into many new services, ranging from laundry to shopping, from chores to parking, from massages to travel.
On the whole, there are four main effects that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has on business—on customer expectations, on product enhancement, on collaborative innovation, and on organizational forms. Whether consumers or businesses, customers are increasingly at the epicenter of the economy, which is all about improving how customers are served. Physical products and services, moreover, can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value. New technologies make assets more durable and resilient, while data and analytics are transforming how they are maintained. A world of customer experiences, data-based services, and asset performance through analytics, meanwhile, requires new forms of collaboration, particularly given the speed at which innovation and disruption are taking place. And the emergence of global platforms and other new business models, finally, means that talent, culture, and organizational forms will have to be rethought.
Overall, the inexorable shift from simple digitization (the Third Industrial Revolution) to innovation based on combinations of technologies (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is forcing companies to reexamine the way they do business. The bottom line, however, is the same: business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.
The impact on government
As the physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to converge, new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities. Simultaneously, governments will gain new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on pervasive surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure. On the whole, however, governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policymaking, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.
Ultimately, the ability of government systems and public authorities to adapt will determine their survival. If they prove capable of embracing a world of disruptive change, subjecting their structures to the levels of transparency and efficiency that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge, they will endure. If they cannot evolve, they will face increasing trouble.
This will be particularly true in the realm of regulation. Current systems of public policy and decision-making evolved alongside the Second Industrial Revolution, when decision-makers had time to study a specific issue and develop the necessary response or appropriate regulatory framework. The whole process was designed to be linear and mechanistic, following a strict “top down” approach.
But such an approach is no longer feasible. Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change and broad impacts, legislators and regulators are being challenged to an unprecedented degree and for the most part are proving unable to cope.
How, then, can they preserve the interest of the consumers and the public at large while continuing to support innovation and technological development? By embracing “agile” governance, just as the private sector has increasingly adopted agile responses to software development and business operations more generally. This means regulators must continuously adapt to a new, fast-changing environment, reinventing themselves so they can truly understand what it is they are regulating. To do so, governments and regulatory agencies will need to collaborate closely with business and civil society.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will also profoundly impact the nature of national and international security, affecting both the probability and the nature of conflict. The history of warfare and international security is the history of technological innovation, and today is no exception. Modern conflicts involving states are increasingly “hybrid” in nature, combining traditional battlefield techniques with elements previously associated with nonstate actors. The distinction between war and peace, combatant and noncombatant, and even violence and nonviolence (think cyberwarfare) is becoming uncomfortably blurry.
As this process takes place and new technologies such as autonomous or biological weapons become easier to use, individuals and small groups will increasingly join states in being capable of causing mass harm. This new vulnerability will lead to new fears. But at the same time, advances in technology will create the potential to reduce the scale or impact of violence, through the development of new modes of protection, for example, or greater precision in targeting.
The impact on people
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships. It is already changing our health and leading to a “quantified” self, and sooner than we think it may lead to human augmentation. The list is endless because it is bound only by our imagination.
I am a great enthusiast and early adopter of technology, but sometimes I wonder whether the inexorable integration of technology in our lives could diminish some of our quintessential human capacities, such as compassion and cooperation. Our relationship with our smartphones is a case in point. Constant connection may deprive us of one of life’s most important assets: the time to pause, reflect, and engage in meaningful conversation.
One of the greatest individual challenges posed by new information technologies is privacy. We instinctively understand why it is so essential, yet the tracking and sharing of information about us is a crucial part of the new connectivity. Debates about fundamental issues such as the impact on our inner lives of the loss of control over our data will only intensify in the years ahead. Similarly, the revolutions occurring in biotechnology and AI, which are redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of life span, health, cognition, and capabilities, will compel us to redefine our moral and ethical boundaries.
Shaping the future
Neither technology nor the disruption that comes with it is an exogenous force over which humans have no control. All of us are responsible for guiding its evolution, in the decisions we make on a daily basis as citizens, consumers, and investors. We should thus grasp the opportunity and power we have to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution and direct it toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values.
To do this, however, we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Today’s decision-makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.
In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.
This article was first published in Foreign Affairs
Friday will be the finale of Season 10 of Ancient Aliens. The show hails Erich von Daniken and Zecharia Sitchin as innovators. However, none of their ideas, nor much of what is suggested by this new pop culture paradigm, are actually original, including the works of Graham Hancock whom I discussed in previous articles. Hancock, who is a frequented guest on Ancient Aliens, often says that folklore and mythology are really remnants of humanity’s racial memory, and its what remains of a real history of a lost civilization that was destroyed at the end of the last Ice Age.
The Ancient Alien Theory, or Ancient Astronaut Theory, was first put forth in modern times by von Daniken and Sitchin. It states that an ancient and advanced extraterrestrial race came to Earth, perhaps even colonized it, and created humans through genetic manipulation, and eventually shared their technology with us and have been a constant force throughout our history. Over the past 7 years this theory has taken on a life of its own, and now people claim that multiple extraterrestrial races have visited and continue to visit the Earth, and have their own secret agenda, working undercover with the world’s governments to possibly modify, enslave or even exterminate humanity. This is hogwash. The ancient astronaut theory is nothing new. In fact, as D.M. Murdock points out “it should be noted that neither man came up with the ancient astronaut theory, which was largely developed by a German occultic society, for one, during the 19th century.” It was also a popular theme in the Edda Society, the Thule Society, the Vril Society, Himmler’s Ancestral Heritage Society, a research arm of the SS, and even leading members of the NSDAP, including Hitler himself. Murdock also points out that the idea itself goes back not just a few decades to von Daniken or the National Socialists, but rather to a very ancient time.
Although the idea of the ancient gods being aliens may seem novel, the tendency to make the gods of old into “real people” or “flesh and blood” is not at all new, dating to before the time of the Greek historian Herodotus (5th c. BCE) and developed by the Greek philosopher Euhemeros or Evemeras (c. 300 BCE). This tendency is called, in fact, “euhemerism” or “evemerism,” which claims that the numerous gods of various cultures were not “mythical” but were in reality kings, queens, warriors and assorted heroes whose lives were turned into fairytales with the addition of miraculous details to their biographies. The current Anunnaki thesis is a modern version of evemerism, although it seeks to explain the miracles as not fabulous “additions” to the tales but genuine attributes of advanced extraterrestrials.
This is basically Giorgio Tsoukalos’ usual “Its the Ancient Aliens!” story, in which he explains how all our myths are merely “misinterpreted accounts of flesh in blood aliens.” Giorgio often claims that by calling these ancient accounts myths we are robbing the ancients of their real history, which has been rather confused and misinterpreted, but true history nonetheless. The mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out that the ancients knew they were myths, but were concerned rather with their symbolic significance. Rather than interpreting these myths in a literal extraterrestrial sense, he used them as a symbolic reference to an even greater truth.
There is concrete archaeological evidence of the advanced nature of ancient white civilization and significant evidence that the gods were in fact Ancient Aryans. Recently on In Search of Aliens, Giorgio Tsoukalos and David Childress went to investigate a series of elongated skulls found in Paracas. They were hoping to prove that the skulls were of ancient alien origin. Rather than getting that input, the curator at the museum told them the elongated skulls were determined to belong to an unknown race, an actual group of men naturally born with elongated skulls; not a deformity but an actual race. Their closest DNA match proved they were not of South American origin, but rather tested to have originated from Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The date was 3500 B.C. This was shocking to them. Since this broadcast, they have back-peddled and are now claiming that the DNA did not match any known “organism” on this planet. This is simply not the case, and they never air that show anymore. Reconstructions of the face show a very Nordic facial structure, but of course with the huge cranium. The original drawings were eventually made into a new artist representation that made them look like South American Indians. I guess showing them blonde and blue-eyed would be too Nazi or racist for them. I’m neither qualified or inclined to suggest how or why they have elongated skulls. If I did wish to speculate, I would say that this could be a separate branch of the White race the went along its own evolutionary path over 5,000 years ago or more then went extinct.
The fact is that these skulls, all testing to be of Scandinavian or Nordic origin, is hard evidence for my theory that in distant times, that a lost civilization 12,000 years ago or more had traveled the globe and been the founders of ancient cultures, and the Paracas skulls were the remains of a long-standing Ancient Aryan population that once existed in South America. Many Old European sites, including those on Malta and Sardinia, plus in Egyptian tombs, were scattered with burials of men with elongated skulls. This is not going to be solved quickly, as the academics do not wish to press the issue, not only for the ancient alien implication, but also not to awaken any facts about our Ancient Aryan past. The Jews are using such authors, as well as the ancient alien camp, to confound our race to the point that we deny our own accomplishments as a race. The White race did not need ancient aliens to build our ancient civilizations, or to found other civilizations in remote corners of the Earth. Our race is capable of so much more. Ancient Alien theorists are selling our people short. As stated last year in an article entitled “Aryan Genesis,” the location of the original Aryan homeland remains an unsolvable riddle. In Aryan Genesis I wrote:
For almost three centuries, European linguists, anthropologists and geneticists have been searching for the true origins of the Indo-European, or Aryan, peoples. Many of us identify the term Aryan with German National Socialism, while some Jewish and liberal academics propose that Aryans are a non-existent people invented by Hitler to enhance a feeling of Germanic supremacy. This is of course false.”
We know, from both the Hindu Vedas and ancient Zoroastrian texts from Persia, that a northern race of powerful warriors invaded the areas of present Iran, northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan around 3500 B.C. and established an empire known as Aryas. Over 300 words in the Indo-European languages are derived from these people, including the name Iran. Archaeologists of the 19th century referred to the Aryans as Indo-European or Indo-Germanic tribes. However, in Hinduism and in Iran the term Aryan means “noble,” and this race is often called the “Shining Ones” who were pitted against the forces of darkness, often called the Dasyus or the ”Dark Ones.”
The ancient symbol of the Aryan was the swastika. But where did the Aryans start using this controversial symbol? Hindu legend says that civilization dates back to an incredibly distant time, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years, and that the ancestors of the Aryans were blond, oftentimes bearded, light-skinned people led by their Lord Indra. The earliest record of the swastika in India dates back to the Indus Valley civilization around 3500 B.C. This time period coincides with the Aryan invasion theory.
Recently, an even more ancient civilization, the Danubian civilization, was found which dates roughly to 5,000 years B.C., about the time a huge freshwater lake north of the Bosporus flooded from water pouring in from the Mediterranean that transformed it into the Black Sea. This body of water increased greatly in size and submerged hundreds of square miles of dry land.
In Bulgaria, dating to this time, a pottery shard from the Danubian civilization dating back to 5300 B.C. was discovered bearing the sign of the swastika. In Kiev’s Natural History Museum, an ivory sculpture made from mammoth tusks dating back to the Paleolithic era (Old Stone Age), some 25,000 years ago, bears this symbol. The idea that a group of Europeans known as the Solutreans migrated across the northern ice-shelf to North America 6,000 years before the Mongoloids arrived in 18,000 B.C might indicate why American Indians, including the Mayas and Aztecs, also use swastikas in their art.
Authors Graham Hancock and Andrew Collins believe that an ancient site called Gobekli Tepe, a vast ceremonial complex with gigantic pillars and altars that dates to before the flooding of the Black Sea, were created by an advanced unknown culture. They are quick to assume Atlanteans or aliens created it. This is hogwash. Our white ancestors had been watching the stars for thousands of years and were quite advanced. Scholars also have never quite found the location of the Urheimat (or primordial homeland) of the Proto-Aryans. The fact that they watched the sky and were the first true astronomers may be the origin of ancient references to sky-people, not aliens.
I suggest that these Proto-Aryans evolved in the lands now submerged beneath the Black Sea. The typically accepted map of Aryan DNA distributions indicates the strongest concentrations of these people in and around the Black Sea then emanating outward to Europe, India and central Asia. The Danubian civilization originated shortly after the deluge, known as the Great Flood.
An article printed by National Vanguard in the December 2005 edition states:
In June 2005, archeologists found Europe’s oldest formalized civilization, a network of dozens of temples, 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. More than 150 gigantic monuments were found underneath fields and cities in Germany, Austria, and Slovakia built more than 7,000 years ago, in 4800 B.C. and 4600 B.C.”
These cities post-dated Gobekli Tepe; that complex still remains the oldest structure, dating back some 12,000 years. But these discoveries show that civilized white people have been in existence for a very long time.
National Vanguard also says that a discovery in Slovakia of 35,000-year-old skeletons of clearly Nordic skull dimensions proves that the idea we were very African-like at this point is false. In the 1990s, an ancient primate was discovered in what is now northern Germany. Also around this time, younger fossils dating to around 2.5 million years and resembling upright walking hominids found in Africa were found in the Republic of Georgia. This only intensifies Alan Thornes’ argument of independent evolution of modern races.
The Ancient Aliens theorists have no real evidence, but raw speculation. So far not one genuine shred of evidence has surfaced that clearly says the ancient gods of the Sumerian and Babylonian tradition came from beyond the stars. Because an ancient god had wings or strange, bulky apparel doesn’t mean he was an extraterrestrial. In my opinion, it is very possible that visitations from extraterrestrials did happen in ancient times. It is even possible that we were seeded here by a higher authority, but I will not conclude that the majority of our accomplishments as a race can be attributed to extraterrestrials. And if they could be, I believe there is evidence of advanced Caucasian-like beings that could be our White Aryan ancestors.
Modern warfare is set to undergo major changes, thanks to new technologies springing forth from the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics. As Jon Wolfsthal sees it, the US isn’t doing enough to ensure that these advances are made with the proper consideration.
Wolfsthal is a non-resident fellow at Harvard University’s Managing the Atom project, and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Between 2014 and 2017, he acted as the senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, serving as a special assistant to President Barack Obama.
In a guest post submitted to DefenseNews, Wolfsthal argues that while AI and autonomous weapons stand to improve national security and mitigate the risks taken by servicemen and women, the need to compete with other technologically advanced nations is resulting in a lack of oversight.
Neither the government nor the general public seems interested in having a serious discussion about the ethical ramifications and the legal basis of developing these programs, says Wolfsthal. As a result, bodies like the Department of Defense are focusing on what they can create, rather than whether they should.
He suggests that the National Security Council needs a better process for assessing the technologies the US wants to pursue, and what’s being investigated by other nations. He adds that Congress should be more proactive in developing policy, and that the Senate and House Armed Services committees should be be fostering debate and discussion. Wolfsthal also criticizes President Trump for failing to staff the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, a decision he describes as “unconscionable.”
“The possible advantages to the United States are endless,” writes Wolfsthal. “But so too are the risks.” AI and autonomous weapons aren’t necessarily something that the military should shy away from — adoption of these technologies seems like something of a foregone conclusion — but they need to be implemented with care and consideration.
This stance mirrors the one taken by Elon Musk. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has made no secret of his concerns about AI. However, last month he clarified his position, stating that the technology offers up huge benefits if we can avoid its most perilous pitfalls.
Now is the time for these discussions to take place. We’re already seeing drones employed by the US Army, even if the hardware is sometimes imperfect. Meanwhile, Russia is thought to be developing missiles that make use of AI, and China is working on its own intelligent weapons systems.
It might seem like an exaggeration to compare the advent AI and autonomous weapons to the introduction of nuclear weaponry, but there are some broad similarities. These are instruments of death that can be used at long range, reducing the risk of friendly casualties.
It is likely naive to think that there’s still an opportunity to reverse course and curb the implementation of these technologies in a military context. At this point, the priority has to be making sure that we don’t allow these advances to be utilized recklessly. Like nuclear armaments, these technologies stand to completely revolutionize the way nations go to war. And before a technologically augmented conflict begins in earnest, it would be wise for the government and the public to figure out where they stand on how these weapons are wielded.
September 6, 2017
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