By Navneet Bhushan
If the massive impact of Covid-19 pandemic does not wake us to the fragility of our modern life, coming life forms will perhaps consider year 2020 to be the initiation of extinction of homo-sapiens age.The exponential technological revolutions that we have unleashed on ourselves and on the planet, have given us a wonderful world of seamless multi-dimensional long-range connectivity that will be shocking even to the 1970’s readers of Toffler’s Future-Shock.
Reality and Synthetic Reality
Significantly, last three decades gave us a technological substrate that connects one another instantaneously, at substantially lower cost. This should be the greatest achievement of human ingenuity and thinking. We named this new artificial substrate of our reality - cyberspace. It exists in some form that is distinct from reality in physical world. Reality, however, defies precise definition, is inherently paradoxical, and is typically driven by dominant social and political beliefs [[i]]. This substrate also has become a vehicle to “own the reality”, by forces who would like to control us for their specific purposes and “cultism” of all kinds. This “synthetic reality” has also become a threat to national security, as I explain elsewhere.[[ii]]
Biology and Synthetic Biology
There was a crisis of biology after World War II, when physics and to some extent chemistry were ruling the sciences. Ludwig Von Bertalanffy changed it with his “theoretical biology” that proposed a “system theory of organism”. The system (organism) tends to preserve itself and life builds itself in a “hierarchical mode of organization”.
This expanded to general systems theory.
Higher level of organizations is built by lower level components with new laws relevant to the level being built. These new laws are not deducible from the laws of lower levels. Further, so long as the system (“organic”) has not yet reached the maximum organization possible to it, it tends towards it. We have come a long way in biology especially with our ability to go deeper into the basic building blocks of life.
The genetics revolution has given us new ways to rebuild “living systems”. Non-natural, cell-less synthetic biology is already transforming the way we will live. A small error or deliberate mistake or even designed synthetic biology attack can not only destroy a nation but can create new pandemics. Lesson from the current Pandemic, even though the evidence of it being a bio-weapon is insufficient, is that a controlled version of such potentially synthetic bio-weapons can be an interesting option for adversaries. I painted a scenario of such an attack just at the start of year 2020 here[iii].
Energy and Synthetic Energy
The Internal Combustion (IC) engine that has given us more than a century of mobility in the form of automobiles is in for replacement. That depends however upon how soon we can synthesize cheaper Electric Vehicles (EV). The expected EV boom, however, hinges on EV batteries. The lithium-ion battery that powers our mobile phones and electric vehicles are the key. 2019, Nobel Prize for Chemistry was given to the inventors of Lithium-Ion batteries, a clear indicator of how much our new world of anytime connectivity is enabled by these. As the world grapples with creating cheaper and durable EV Batteries, see for example recent Tesla Patent [[iv]], we are headed for EVB boom [[v]]. Our ability to synthesize ways for cheaper, durable, and green energy will impact all dimensions of human existence, including the way we will conduct warfare.
Things – Networked, Autonomous, Nano and Hypersonic
If one studies what is called the “inventive energy” [[vi]] of the world, which indicates the current focus of the inventors of the world in specific domains of technology as reflected in the published patent applications and grant of patents, one can see the focus of the world for last decade or so has been to make things – networked as reflected in Internet of Things, make things autonomous – for example many programs and projects across the world to make autonomous cars, make functional things at the nano level which is one-millionth of a milli meter and increase the speed of the objects to hypersonic levels – which is greater than 5 times the speed of sound.
We are inventing to expand the boundaries of human existence and human-interactivity with matter at extremes that have been unfathomable just about couple of decades back. The impact of these efforts and inventions across the national security spectrum – military, intelligence, and ability of military to execute missions across the known or unknown offensive and defensive operations will be transformative.
The Glue – Algorithmic Intelligence
As I mentioned in the previous article [[vii]] the glue to synthesizing biology, energy and reality is the ability to embed intelligence or what should appropriately be called algorithmic intelligence into machines there by making then more and more autonomous. Ability of these algorithms to quickly filter multi-dimensional data from sensors providing rapid streams of data and create quick meaningful, relevant and decision-enabling picture is well known. What has changed and is changing rapidly is the ability of the technical systems to act in real time autonomously without the need for any human intervention. This has its dangers and also its great benefits – just like any other technology. The C5ISR combat force is glued together through the algorithmic intelligence.
The Glue – Quantum Computing
Quantum computing and quantum technologies will be the next level transformational technology of the sixth wave of innovation. As was mentioned in a previous article [[viii]], “Imagine a 2030 world where nanomaterials are quantum-active with quantum information encoding and manipulating their behaviour. The unmanned aircraft, the robots and the tanks of 2030 military force may be nanomaterials with the ability to hack the sub-atomic information using offensive quantum warfare systems.”
Intelligent Strategic Systems
Disparate systems of previous era military forces became systems-of-systems through the information technology in last forty years or so which gave us a transformed military force of the information era where network was central and systems were hybrids of software and hardware. This was proclaimed as a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) by USA after the Soviet articulation of what was called Military Technology Revolution (MTR).
The asymmetric warfare led to concept of hybrid war where the boundaries of military and civilian operations rapidly blurred as information operations became increasingly ‘hybrid’. The Chinese concept of unrestricted warfare – where anything can be weaponized led to utilization of physical space and cyber space in more and more seamless fashion to launch, influence and disrupt the adversary continuously. This has already led to a state of continuous conflict where information operations are no longer planned for war-time.
The so called peace-time information operations – be it a Stuxnet or Russian use of social media to influence US elections or even unnatural death of a journalist – the deniability aspect of these operations have expanded their use and utilization as instruments of narrative building, influence and destabilization of the adversary’s home turfs.
As we move on from physical space to cyberspace and currently phygital space [[ix] ] where new thinking and new capabilities are needed to operate and counter the new kind of war. It is imperative that we create defence and national security systems that are seamlessly integrated to operate in physical, cyber and phygital spaces. This itself will need a rapid transformation of military and national security apparatus, through what can be called as multi-layered systems fusion. If the phygital is novel, need of the modern world, we need to be ready to operate and respond to what we can call emerging quantum-cyberspace.
There is need for paradigm shift in the way the substrates of our existence has evolved from (a) physical space, cyberspace as separate spaces with links to each other through well-defined interfaces to (b) phygital space where the digital and physical boundaries are seamlessly being blurred to the emerging (c) quantum cyberspace where a new level and resolution of operations will be needed ahead.
To design systems and operations in these systems, we need a quick transformation to invent and design what we called Complex Intelligent Strategic Systems (CISS) [[x]] - a new class of systems and products.
We proposed that these systems are emerging in the Sixth Wave of Innovation (years 2015-2045). We evolved the formal definition of a classical system, to include technical systems with a “mind” of their own. The challenges of discovering, defining, describing, designing, developing, deploying, and deducing (7Ds) the CISS require a complete relook of their lifecycle. Besides the advent of cyber-physical systems, increasing intelligence of technical systems, the massive scale of these systems coupled with strategic nature of many of these systems leads to unprecedented challenges.
These systems are characterized by substantial decentralization, higher embedded/ambient algorithmic intelligence, inherently conflicting, unknowable and diverse needs/requirements, continuous evolution/deployment/learning, heterogeneous, inconsistent, and changing elements, erosion of people/system boundary, regular failures and new paradigms regeneration of parts of the system.
Key aspects for 7Ds of CISS lifecycle i.e., Value, Inventiveness, Human Interaction, Computational Emergence, multi-level Design, Computational Engineering, Adaptive System Infrastructure, Adaptable and Predictable System Quality, Policy, Acquisition and Management need comprehensive and synergistic thinking dimensions. We have identified nine such dimensions - Analytical, Logical, Value, Inventive, and Systems thinking (ALVIS) and Scale, Computational, Algorithmic and Network (SCAN) thinking. These thinking dimensions need to play a much larger part in an integrated manner than the current mostly analytical, logical and analogical thinking.
We estimate that by middle of this decade the quantum-cyberspace will start functioning at nano-levels once the 4th Industrial revolution gains greater traction and spreads much more rapidly – especially in-pandemic and post-pandemic world ahead. Two more thinking dimensions that we need ahead besides the ALVIS-SCAN thinking dimensions of previous waves – Quantum Thinking and Nano Thinking will become a specialized need ahead.
National security apparatus of major nations is already grappling in piecemeal manner. However, we propose the Complex Inventive Strategic Systems (CISS) with an integrated ALVIS-SCAN thinking with the emerging Quantum-Nano (QN) thinking should be the blueprint ahead.
We propose a mission-based approach at a central group in India should be initiated for the 7Ds of CISS with ALVIS-SCAN thinking and evaluating and defining the Quantum-Nano (QN) thinking. ALVIS-SCAN-QN thinking for evolution of CISS in physical, phygital and quantum-cyberspace is needed.
*In the subsequent columns, author will elaborate on how this QN can be implemented.
NatSecTech (National Security Technology) is a fortnightly column covering Futures, Analysis, Architecture, Innovation, Design and Assessment (FAAIDA) of technologies involved in national security.
Author worked as a Defence Scientist from 1990-2000. He is founder director of CRAFITTI CONSULTING (www.crafitti.com) – a Strategy, Technology, Innovation and Intellectual Property Consulting firm focused on co-crafting solutions for global problems. He regularly writes on defence and security. He is the principal author of Strategic Decision Making- Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process published by Springer-Verlag, UK, as part of the Decision Engineering Series. Navneet Blogs at http://innovationcrafting.blogspot.com.He can be contacted at navneet(dot)bhushan(at) crafitti(dot)com