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.  

The internet enabled billions of humans to connect and aggregate on social media and messaging platforms.  These incredible and innovative technologies make it possible for individuals and organizations in near and distant lands to use these platforms for nefarious purposes to project and impose mental and emotional chaos on enemies.  The result can be a severe breakdown in social and political cohesion, which is exactly the condition you would want your adversary to be in.

It makes one wonder why humanity would ever allow something so powerful to be controlled by a handful of ultra-rich billionaire software developers that are driven by ego, profits and power.  Doesn't it?  We'll need to explore the monopolization of information logistics in a future article as it will have a significant impact on all of our futures.

Projecting and promoting mental and emotional chaos for military purposes is called "information operations."  Information operations is a low cost way of screwing up people's minds and creating agitation.  Common information operations campaigns include the sharing of disinformation, threatening the social and economic status of a group, introducing conspiracies, reputational attacks, and promoting stories and news that will cause disunity and discord in a society.

Information operations now seem to be the preferred, blue-light special, method for screwing up the minds of adversaries.  Massive databases of personal information gleaned from social media and messaging platforms, plus facial recognition and analytics let those involved in information operations create targeted messages that can trigger even our most secret vulnerabilities.

The large number of information operations attacks bouncing around the internet today is mind-boggling - literally.  If you ever need an excuse for being a little off kilter on a given day, then being exposed to everyone's information operations is a good one.

Find more on the future of information here.

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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.