Thursday, April 28, 2022

Watching Information Operations in Real-Time

This week Microsoft published a paper called Special Report: Ukraine.  In it, they reveal Russia's cyberattacks on the Ukraine and detail the strategies Russia is employing, and what they have been doing to combat it.  I can't imagine that the team of coffee drinking, rain soaked programmers in Seattle expected to find themselves in the middle of a war.  Heroes and nerds come in all different sizes and sometimes they are one and the same.

At the beginning of the report, Microsoft shares how Russians view information warfare, “Confrontation in the information space with the goal of causing damage to critical information systems, undermining political, economic, and social systems, psychologically manipulating the public to destabilize the state and coerce the state to make decisions to benefit the adversary party”, according to public Defense Ministry documents.  Additional comments by Russian officials suggest they view information operations as a means to degrade troop morale, discredit the leadership, and undermine the military and economic potential of the enemy via information [operations], which can at times be more effective than traditional weapons. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Imposing from Afar: Information Operations

I reference the late American military strategist, John Boyd, often in my articles.  He had such a unique perspective and understanding of conflict, decision-making and strategy.  One of the most insightful points he taught, and I have shared often, is that the ultimate objective of a military force is not to kill more enemy on the battlefield, but rather to impose mental and emotional chaos on the enemy that results in poor decision-making and a "loss of will" to continue the fight.

Before the age of the internet and the advent of social media, messaging, podcast and media platforms, the most efficient way to impose mental and emotional chaos on an enemy was to enlist the church to oppose and curse an adversary, and then to march or sail to their land and attack, pillage, destroy, enslave and conquer.  Today, with digital transformation and digital platforms, there are more cost-effective alternatives.  These alternatives offer improved efficiencies, and the ability to impose your will without the economic costs, discomforts and inconveniences of the battlefield.  

Friday, April 22, 2022

Weaponized Personal Data

Wars have a way of bringing out the best and worst qualities in humans.  Courage, selflessness, loyalty, discipline, perseverance are all virtues that stand out.  Likewise, the sins of man are on full display whenever there are wars, and are likely the cause of them.  One of the things that makes the war in Ukraine so uniquely horrible is the amount of participants' personal data being captured, analyzed against social media sites, and then shared with family members and the public.  Artificial intelligence, trained on billions of social media posts, can identify just about anyone and any military personnel today.  Once identified, personal information can be associated with them and stories told - true or not.

Jack McDonald, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, was quoted by Wired as saying, "Openly publishing lists of your opponent[s], particularly at the scale that digital operations appear to allow, seems very new.” What kind of information is being shared with the public? Names, birthdays, passport numbers, job titles and photos of them in death.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Information as a Weapon

There are many important subjects and debates worth considering today including the merits of globalization, economic systems, freedom, equality, personal dignity, pluralism, human rights, politics, morality, peace and our future.  All of these important discussions are informed by information.  As such, how to find, capture, validate, weigh and authenticate information is critical to our societies' futures.

Just today, I read how TikTok has stopped information from outside of Russia from being viewed by Russian users.  That means Russian users get only a one-sided, Russian view of the war in Ukraine.  A biased, one-sided view does not support rational, balanced perspectives and objective decision-making.  The same challenge arises if any of us limit our news and information to only one perspective.

My wife insists on reading news from a wide variety of sources, even sources she most often disagrees with.  I hear her grumbling when she reads, but she adamantly defends the need to include a plethora of viewpoints in order to gain perspective.  She is a wise lady.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Battle for the Future of Information Logistics

It is well known today that psychographic profiling of us humans, combined with social engineering strategies are effective at influencing our thinking.  Our brains are vulnerable to all kinds of external and internal influences.  Given this knowledge today, there is a keen sense of urgency to monitor and control information logistics, the movement of information around the world, and the massive quantity of influential information that can be targeted at each one of us.  

Let's quickly review the history of psychographic profiling and its partnering with social engineering strategies before continuing our discussion of information logistics.  In the 1960s psychographic researchers began studying how to understand consumers and their behaviors at a deeper level based on personality traits, emotional triggers, interests, needs, values and attitudes, etc.  A few decades later these findings were dusted off and combined with neuromarketing (the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers' motivations, preferences, and decision) to study how various advertisements and political messages impacted people with different psychological or psychographic profiles.  

Monday, April 04, 2022

The Humanity in Killer Robots

Us humans are strange creatures.  Drones, which are like robots with wings that fly above a war zone waiting to pounce on an enemy like a hawk seem to be clever to us, but not if they walk upon the ground.  If they walk - that crosses some kind of line in the sand that we find intolerable.  Why is one clever, and the other unacceptable?  

I wish for only peace and happiness, but understanding how humans interact with machines is going to be an increasingly important area of study.

The following video clip is a parody of robots being trained by humans to be killer robots.  Look for the humanity in this clip.

Thoughts?
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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.