Oceans of ink have been spilled describing two of the great technological trends of this generation and their impact on warfare. The first is the relentless and rapid improvement in information technology (IT), across fields as diverse as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality. One of its key applications in warfare is to enable inputs from distributed, networked sensors to be integrated and analyzed rapidly, generating timely, actionable information in forms that humans and machines can readily interpret.
The second trend is related but distinct: the increasing capabilities of unmanned systems to perform valuable missions. These capabilities are growing not only because of advanced IT enabling more autonomous operations, but also because of improvements in materials science, energy storage, design, and other areas. A third trend, much less remarked on, is the improvement in sensors, which are becoming smaller, cheaper, and more perceptive, with lower power demands and greater durability in various environments.
1. LTGEN H. R. McMaster, USA (Ret.), “Crack in the Foundation: Defense Transformation and the Underlying Assumption of Dominant Knowledge in Future War,” student issue paper, U.S. Army War College (November 2003), vol. S03–03.
2. McMaster, “Crack in the Foundation,” 46–47.
3. See, N. Papernot, P. McDaniel, I. Goodfellow, S. Jha, Z. B. Celik, and A. Swami, “Practical Black-Box Attacks against Machine Learning,” in Proceedings of the 2017 ACM on Asia Conference on Computer and Communications Security (New York: 2017): 506–19.
4. Some of this work is described in D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, and A. Tversky, eds., Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982); and D. Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).
5. There are many sources on this, including P. E. Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017); J. Kruger and D. Dunning, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77, no. 6 (December 1977): 1121–34; D. Kahneman and A. Tversky, “On the Psychology of Prediction,” Psychological Review 80, no. 4 (1973): 237–51; and Scott Plous, The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993).