PRISM  Volume 8, no 3

PRISM Vol. 8, No. 3

(January 2020)

Emerging disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing, and neuroscience will dramatically alter the global security environment. PRISM Vol. 8, No. 3 “Singularity” maps this evolving challenge and propose solutions.

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The evolution and possible weaponization of Cyber Physical Systems will pose significant challenges to the joint force in the emerging global threat environment. (Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation)

Cyber Physical Systems: The Coming Singularity

By Marty Trevino

At this moment, a subtle but fundamental technological shift is occurring that is uniting our digital and physical worlds at the deepest architectural and operational levels. This technological shift will alter the global business, government, military and intelligence ecosystems. It is nothing less than a technological singularity and this technology will forever change our world—it is called Cyber Physical Systems (CPS).

“Every critical infrastructure system in the United States, including that of the USG, depends on commercial telecommunications infrastructure”

The Worst Possible Day: U.S. Telecommunications and Huawei

By Thomas Donahue

As a global power, the United States must be able to sustain military forces and project power anywhere in the world, even in the face of resistance from a sophisticated adversary with the ability to infiltrate or disrupt telecommunications and other critical infrastructure within the United States, in space, under the ocean, and in other regions of the world. Policy must consider the worst possible day, not the routine day.

The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate's Starfire Optical Range. Researchers with AFRL use the Guidestar laser for real-time, high-fidelity tracking and imaging of satellites too faint for conventional adaptive optical imaging systems. The SOR's world-class adaptive optics telescope is the second largest telescope in the Department of Defense. (Courtesy photo)

Directed Energy Weapons Are Real . . . And Disruptive

By Henry “Trey” Obering, III

What exactly is a directed energy weapon? Are these weapons still science fiction, lab experiments, or are they real? How can they be used and how disruptive can they be? What are the challenges and next steps? This article will examine answers to these questions.

Neuron cells system - 3d rendered image of Neuron cell network on black background. Hologram view interconnected neurons cells with electrical pulses.

Redefining Neuroweapons: Emerging Capabilities in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

By Joseph DeFranco, Diane DiEuliis, and James Giordano

While many types of weaponizable neuroscience and technology (neuroS/T) have been addressed in and by extant forums, treaties, conventions, and laws, other newer techniques and technologies have not. Thus, particular advances in neuroS/T have an increased potential for dual use and direct use in warfare, intelligence, and national security (WINS). In this light, this article (1) presents the WINS utility and possible applicability of gene editing methods, nanoparticles, and other tools that can modify the central nervous system; (2) discusses the value and vulnerabilities of big data and bio-cybersecurity in WINS; (3) posits how such developments bring into stark relief existing gaps in international biological and chemical weapons conventions; and (4) proposes steps toward rectification of current and future oversight and governance.

The National Security and National Defense Strategies of the United States are built upon a re-emphasis on great power

Strategic Competition for Emerging Military Technologies: Comparative Paths and Patterns

By Michael Raska

One of the most pressing issues in contemporary international relations is the expectation of a new era of intensifying strategic competition, characterized by the confluence of political, economic, and military-technological competitions in the context of major shifts in the global security environment.1 At the forefront of this growing strategic rivalry is the contest for future supremacy over global security and economic institutional grids between the world’s major military powers—the United States, China, and to a lesser degree, Russia.

“As the the cognitive demands for commanders are expected to become more acute on the future battlefield, new directions in integrating human and machine intelligence could prove militarily advantageous.”

Minds at War: China’s Pursuit of Military Advantage through Cognitive Science and Biotechnology

By Elsa B. Kania

The United States is starting to confront unprecedented challenges to the military and technological superiority that it has enjoyed in recent history. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is emerging as a powerhouse across a range of emerging technologies, and Chinese leaders recognize today’s technological revolution as a critical, even historic, opportunity to achieve strategic advantage. As Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and Commander-in-Chief of the CMC Joint Operations Center, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping has highlighted the importance of military innovation to “keep pace with the times” (与时俱进) and adapt to the global revolution in military affairs.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft equipped with external fuel tanks and armed with munitions sits in a hanger prior to Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, July 23, 2019. (Tech. Sgt. Michael Mason)

Killing Me Softly: Competition in Artificial Intelligence and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

By Norine MacDonald and George Howell

The conduct of war is being fundamentally altered by the revolutionary impact of artificial intelligence (AI). The competition in AI and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) marks the onset of the “7th Military Revolution” and the states that integrate these advances first will have a prodigious military advantage.” China has seized this moment, increasingly posing a risk to the historical technological advantage of the United States and destabilizing the foundations of modern warfare.

An aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a mission to support state agencies fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, Aug. 4, 2018. (Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

The Ethics of Acquiring Disruptive Technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Weapons, and Decision Support Systems

By C. Anthony Pfaff

Reluctance to develop AI applications for military purposes is not going to go away as the development, acquisition, and employment of these systems challenge the traditional norms associated with not just war­fighting but morality in general. Meanwhile, as the debate rages, adversaries of the United States who do not have these ethical concerns continue with their development. China, for example, has vowed to be the leader in AI by 2030. No one should have any illusions that the Chinese will not use this dominance for military as well as civilian purposes. So, to maintain parity, if not advantage, DOD has little choice but to proceed with the development and employment of artificially intelligent systems. As it does so, ethical concerns will continue to arise, potentially excluding important expertise for their development. To include this expertise, DOD needs to confront these concerns upfront.

Extreme terrain discover technology

The Challenges Facing 21st Century Military Modernization

By Bernard F.W. Loo

When a military organization undertakes a modernization program, it is intuitive to expect that existing capabilities are going to be replaced by superior capabilities. There is an implied suggestion that a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of this superiority is enhanced lethality; lethality surely constitutes a necessary condition of the strategic effectiveness of the military organization in question. At the risk of stating the obvious, military organizations around the world exist to protect the security of their respective countries: in peacetime, by deterring the adversaries of the country from waging war, and in wartime, by defeating these adversaries should they choose the war option. These two missions are not mutually exclusive: “The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one.” Nevertheless, it is possible to question the extent to which lethality subsequently connects to strategic effectiveness, which is understood here as the ability to win wars. In other words, while modernization ought to result in a military organization that is more lethal than before, this enhanced lethality does not guarantee strategic effectiveness.

Singapore skyline

A Small State Perspective on the Evolving Nature of Cyber Conflict: Lessons from Singapore

By Eugene E.G. Tan

Cyber conflicts among states are still largely driven by geopolitical and political considerations and should not be seen as separate from other kinds of conflict or political objectives. Brandon Valeriano, Benjamin Jensen, and Ryan Maness observe that modern cyber strategies are neither new nor revolutionary and that actions in cyberspace fall into “a domain of limited coercive actions designed to alter the balance of information as well as manage escalation risks in long-term competitive interactions.” Cyber operations may offer new ways to test the robustness of networks, control messaging, or degrade a network, but they do not fundamentally change great power competition or the hierarchy of states in the international system.


General John M. Murray, Commanding General, Army Futures Command

“Thinking About What Could Be” An Interview with General John M. Murray, Commanding General, Army Futures Command

By Michael Miklaucic

Army Futures Command is an adaptation to the on-going change in the international order we have seen since the end of World War Two. The rules of the road for international order have changed; Russian destabilization of Ukraine, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the inevitable shift from an Atlantic-based global economy to a Pacific-based economy.

Book Review

The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence

Reviewed by Ronald Sanders

It seems like we are continuously bombarded with prophecies about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all of its permutations—from quantum computing and machine learning to RPA and Skynet—will radically change just about everything we do.1 However, much of its potential (whether as promise or pariah) remains prospective, more speculative than real.