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What I’m Reading: April 2018 – Innovation, Global Conflict Problems, Solutions, and Cooperation


Here are articles I found most interesting in April 2018:

The 20-year-old entrepreneur is a lie – MIT Sloan School of Management, 4/20/2018

Although young entrepreneurs get all the headlines, two MIT professors found that the average age of a entrepreneur is in their 40s. This is mostly due to experience in the field, understanding their environment, and confidence in the operations and funding side of the business. What made it more interesting is that the survey broke down entrepreneurs from non-innovating small business owners (barber shops, book stores, restaurants, etc.) and was focused only on growth companies.

What 40 Years of Research Reveals About The Difference Between Disruptive and Radical Innovation – Harvard Business Review, 4/9/2018

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are two different types of Innovation: Radical and Disruptive. Disruptive brings new challenges to established markets. Radical brings new products and creates a new market. The article also outlines how incumbent market leaders can defend against unexpected competitor innovation. Defending against disruptive innovation requires a strong organization that can compete and defend the market. Defending against radical innovation requires scaling and rapid technological adoption.

Innovation and the Challenger Mentality – The Strategy Bridge, 4/17/2018

From The Strategy Bridge comes this article on innovation in the US Military. According to the author, the US Military is on the verge of falling behind because it has been so strong for so long. As other nations catch up to the US, the US needs to refocus as a challenger, not a leader. Besides the technology itself, there are also organizational cultural and structural changes that need to be made in order for the US to realign itself in a competitive stance. Of course, there is mention of innovation happening best in small teams. The analogy I have used often is innovation should be the speed boats tethered to the ocean liner.

Iran’s Priorities in a Turbulent Middle East – International Crisis Group, 4/13/2018

A long analysis of Iran’s international strategy. In a tumultuous Middle East, understanding one of the biggest antagonists from their perspective is important. This report discusses Iran moving out of isolation by analyzing its history, causes, and national strategic organization. It then deep-dives into Iran’s geopolitical goals and processes, to include discussion of proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to get smart on Iran.

Interestingly, Iran causes all this disruption in the region with a defense budget less than that of Israel. Definitely an example of low-cost, high-impact warfare.

Reverse-Engineering the ISIS Playbook Part 1: Counter-Terrorism and Counter Violent Extremism Messaging Lessons From ISIS’S English Language Magazines – VOX, 4/13/2018

This article is a summary of a study done by the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence (NoE) academic research network. According to the article, the study found three trends in ISIS’s English online magazine. Understanding completely that the English online magazine is only one small portion of ISIS’s propaganda machine, the authors also composed insights for those attempting to counter ISIS’s messaging based on those discovered trends.

Where Facebook’s Fake News Has Deadly Consequences – The Daily Beast, 4/17/18

Where there are weak social standards and low education, ignorance or willful deception can cause havoc. Deception is a low-cost, low-barrier of entry method that can have very real, very negative, and very dangerous impacts. Because of Facebook and other social media, the media platform is complete anarchy and pushing many societies to be short and brutish. In the case of this article, it is Iraq facing the fire of social media manipulation. And according to the article, Facebook has little incentive or plans to change their offerings to the Iraqi people.

Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match – NY Times, 4/21/2018

Another article about the influence of Facebook in countries with weak social institutions. This article focuses on Sri Lanka, where memes and “fake news” have stirred up passion and anger without a necessary counterbalance. The Facebook business model is based on interaction and emotion, which makes it very easy to game. And when every account is a publisher and the media platform is anarchy, accounts pushing truth get outshouted. The difficult part of the solution is that most other platforms that appeal to truth focus on the rational, while Facebook focuses on the emotional.

The best line of this article is when a Sri Lankan official rips Facebook, saying “We are a community, not a market.” Harsh.

YouTube’s Plan to Clean Up the Mess That Made It Rich – Bloomberg Business, 4/26/2018

While Facebook faces most of the blame for divisiveness and social media-inspired violence, Bloomberg reports that YouTube is also facing similar problems. Another example of anarchy in the media platform and its short, brutish results. According to the article, once YouTube started paying ad dollars, it exploded into a cacophony of good, bad, and key word grabbing extremism. Like Facebook, Google, owner of YouTube, doesn’t have a clue how to fix it without reducing its bottomline and displeasing its shareholders.

How well does ‘microtargeted psychographic advertising’ work anyway? – Mashable, 3/24/2018

This is a good, well-balanced, well-written article dissecting political ad targeting via social media. While some researchers don’t believe the ads have an impact, others believe ads targeted to specific undecided voters can be effective. These ads rely on users’ data to promote one candidate over the other, and often play on the emotions of the user, sometimes specifically targeting more susceptible users.

5 ways we’re working to rebuild trust in the media – World Economic Forum, 4/23/2018

From the World Economic Forum comes this article on rebuilding trust in news and information. The WEF is promoting organizational cooperation, a shared data model and terms among researchers, open and transparent research, alerts, and creating a credibility system (possibly Blockchain). All of this is good, and may help in research, but how will it help social media feeds and still maintain expressive freedom or freedom for parody and satire?

Modern Political Warfare: Current Practices and Possible Responses – Rand Organization, 4/5/2018

This link is the summary page of a new Rand Organization study on what they term “Political Warfare”, or “measures short of war”. This topic includes Information Operations, or attempts to sway the discourse and opinions of a target audience and is managed by both the military and the US State Department. The report calls for better coordination between these bodies as well as better use of US Special Operations Forces. Like almost every single one of these reports, synergy and communication need to improve.

Virtual War and Weapons of Mass Deception – Modern War Institute, 4/19/2018

A breakdown of “virtual war” – the control and weaponization of online capabilities such as media, the internet of things, networks, artificial intelligence, and big data. According to the report, “domestic governments, foreign governments, large companies, terrorist organizations, and drug cartels” are all competitors in this virtual space.  The author writes that the disintegration of truth and the perception of the US Government as an institution has weakened the US  and made essential the cooperation and merging of Information Operations, Cyber Operations, Social Media, and Artificial Intelligence. As the Intelligence Community needed to do 10 years ago with the globalization of counter terrorism, breaking virtual war silo is essential if the US is to maintain dominance in the world.

War Planning Must Include Domestic Plans, Too – War On The, 4/2/2018

As the world becomes more chaotic, the US National Security bureaucracy is alerting US infrastructure of threats far too slowly. Slow intelligence is great when the US has good intelligence on a threat. But low-cost, high-impact threats such as cyber attacks and EMP attacks to infrastructure require rapidly disseminated intelligence. This article advocates for such rapid intelligence processes and then outlines solutions for increased infrastructure and defense cooperation.

Defense and Self-Defense in the Information Age: Collaborative Strategy and Collective Vision – Strategy Bridge, 4/5/2018

This article discusses how the US can compete in the highly chaotic platform of Information Conflict. It details how US adversaries are using a whole-of-government approach and how the US should do the same. The article describes a task force with roles for the US Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and the FCC.

This sounds great in theory, but I am not optimistic. Such a task force requires great leadership with a great vision. It also requires an extraordinary amount of buy-in. Neither of which I see in our current government.

Stopping Cyber Madness: Why the Private Sector Must Lead the Fight – Dark Reading, 4/11/2018

According to the author, the US is falling behind in the Cyber Platform of conflict. Adversaries such as Russia, Iran, and China are attacking US companies and infrastructure at an alarming rate. Because the US government moves too slow, and its adversaries are moving at the speed of business, US corporations must create a low cost collaboration environment, one that unifies “around common means of intelligence exchange and collaboration”. The article concludes by outlining some of the current initiatives.

Study measures impact of economic aid programs in Afghanistan war zone – Yale News, 4/13/2018

A very interesting article summarizing an important study by Yale political scientists. The study measured the effect various economic aid programs had on increasing government support and decreasing extremism. The programs varied from vocational training to one-time cash payments, or combined. The cash payments worked to increase government support – until the money ran out. The vocational programs increased opportunity, but did not change support either way. Combined, however, the aid options were effective in increasing support for the government and away from extremism groups.

Very interesting, if governments can afford to do both options.