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What I am reading: November 2017 – Future War, Media, Cyber Conflict


Here are articles I found most interesting in November.

The Online War for the Future – Global Guerrillas, 12/1/2017

For years, John Robb has been one of the smartest writers and thinkers on the future of warfare. In this article, Robb discusses how social media is affecting our linkages and how these linkages are being manipulated by political parties dividing us and forcing us closer to conflict.

The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence – From the Green Notebook, 11/19/2017

A very eye-opening article on Artificial Intelligence. In this interview, writer Amir Husain discusses how AI will affect our lives from transportation to energy to warfare. He promotes his recent book and details some of it contents, to include a chapter on “Mind Hacking”, introduced by this important paragraph.

I also think the weaponization of information via AI poses a massive threat. I am concerned about an “always on” psyops war which can destabilize societies, hack elections, undermine leaders and destroy national cohesion. We are already seeing the opening salvos of this new style of conflict and will soon see much more very soon. Increasingly sophisticated Artificial Narrow Intelligence can be deployed to psychologically analyze and profile potentially millions of civilians in order to automatically customize messages to shape their opinions.

Although bullets and robots are sexy and get headlines, this part of conflict is far more important to national survival.

Personalized Warfare – Mad Scientist Laboratory, 11/22/2017

The US Army Training Command has a very interesting blog discussing future war concepts, to include how advanced technology will affect warfare. While a majority of the blog focuses on military tactics – force and bullets – this post talks more about focusing on the mind – either through DNA or influences. What the blog does, however, is assume targeted influence may happen, which is incorrect. It is happening. It is easier to target an ethnic group to upset a nation-state from the inside than target a nation-state militarily. The blog also deliberates “an act of war”, which is foolhardy. Conflict is perpetual.

Tech Leaders Dismayed by Weaponization of Social Media – IEEE, 11/14/2017

On the IEEE Spectrum, a blog for applied sciences and engineering, Tekla S. Perry writes about a recent tech convention where tech leaders, programmers, and engineers discussed how social media has been manipulated and used an information conflict weapon. There is no doubt it happened, now tech people are trying to come up with ideas to fix it. But with the genie so far out of the bottle and communities so hardwired and divisive, it will be very difficult to code their way back to sanity. But at least some understand the problem.

The best way I see to fight divisive views is to buy out and out spend competing views. This is now a marketing battle. While tech leaders can refigure the landscape, the bullets of the information war come through marketing.

It’s not just Russia, 30 countries used the internet to manipulate elections – FastCompany, 11/14/17

FastCompany summarizes the Freedom of the Net 2017 Report. Among their summaries are that 17 nations manipulated online information to influence elections. Russia, however, did so externally, manipulating media in other nations, including the United States. Media is a weapon in the conflict of information. Unfortunately, it is doubtful we will ever see treaties regulating media manipulation, especially if media businesses are open to taking funds for advertising. These funds don’t have to necessarily come from nations. They can come from nation-friendly content producers such as Russia Today.

Digital ‘totalitarian marketing’ threatens privacy and security, former advertising executive says – TheGlobeAndMail, 11/16/2017

A very interesting interview with Bob Hoffman, a former advertising executive. Hoffman discusses topics such as fraud in advertising and the overaccumulation of data by marketing and ad companies. Social media has allowed companies to know more about people than any surveillance organization has ever known. People are being targeted by companies and driven to take actions almost subconsciously. Hearts and minds are the means to the financial ends. According to Hoffman, the accumulation of data started innocently enough, but is now a problem as data is power and Google and Facebook have more power than almost any entities on the planet.

Should Facebook Notify Readers When They’ve Been Fed Disinformation? – FastCompany, 11/17/2017

According to FastCompany, US politicians are asking Facebook, Google, and Twitter to alert users who click on misleading or false stories in the hope that they will be corrected. This is just dumb and will not fix anything. People click stories they want to believe are true, whether they are false or not. Additionally, in the information conflict, first movers have a distinct advantage. Their message reaches the brain first and is very difficult to weed out, especially if the reader wants it to be true. A Facebook message disputing the article won’t cure anything.

On the Business Models of War – The Strategy Bridge, 11/22/2017

Professor Everett C. Dolman wrote an interesting piece on how much, if any, could military forces learn from business. Dolman specifically explores supply-chain models and how they don’t exactly work well for military forces. While he has some good points, and I agree with his premise, he asks a few questions he doesn’t quite answer.

Who is the owner, or shareholder, of the American military entitled to its profits? Is it the government? Or, like the question above, is it the tax-paying citizen?

The answer to this is international business. The US military provides global security for businesses to operate around the world. There is no question about that. The government is providing a service to international business that allows goods to be purchased which requires manufacturing which keeps people employed. At least that’s how it should work.

How Cyber-Grey Ops Became the New Norm in the Middle East – The Cipher Brief, 11/30/2017

A very intense run-down of all of the hotspots in the Middle East and what conflicts are happening in each. There is a lot of influencing operations happening – many stemming from Russia and Iran. The article features quotes and insight from very experienced and very intelligent people who understand the region. Their quotes are not reassuring. The article cites “fake news”, DDoS attacks, and other attacks on the information and cyber platforms of conflict.

Why Cybersecurity Must Be an International Effort – Dark Reading, 12/6/2017

This is an important, albeit obvious, article. According to the former cyber coordinator for the US State Department, nations need to work together to deter cyber attacks. They also shouldn’t attack each other and if they do, there should be recognized punishment. Lastly, nations need to share information and intelligence on threats.

This is all well and good and impossible. Cyber conflict can be outsourced, it can be hidden, it can be used against nations, corporations, and individuals. It is every actor for themselves. Nation states can try to establish intelligence sharing agreements, but those may give away methodology, which is absolutely valuable in cyber conflict.

I am not optimistic.

3 Pillars of Cyberthreat Intelligence – Dark Reading, 11/22/2017

This article, by writer Martin Dion, discusses how Strategic, Operational, and Tactical intelligence should be used to counter cyber security threats. It is a good primer on what each level should do in an organization and the roles of each. The cyber world is quickly realizing how important intelligence is to each organization. The next part is sharing it.

When Routine Isn’t Enough: Why Military Cyber Commands Need Human Creativity – War on the Rocks, 12/5/2017

Stanford University fellow Max Smeets explores how military cyber commands lack initiative and creativity to fight cyber conflict. This is completely understandable as military organizations are based on order and uniformity, which is completely the opposite of the improvisational nature of anarchistic cyber conflict. There are no rules in cyber conflict. Militaries are the most rules based organizations in the world. This is a no-win situation. Perhaps they can bring in small groups of experts and let them run loose, but until then, they will struggle with the threat.