6 April 2017

*** Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War

Myra MacDonald

This is the story of how Pakistan lost the “Great South Asian War”. The causes were deeply rooted in its history. But the policy choices it made after India and Pakistan declared themselves nuclear-armed states in 1998 showed it was not merely a victim of circumstances. The hijacking of Flight IC-814 was only one chapter, but it drew together many threads of that story. The nuclear weapons that were celebrated throughout Pakistan as putting it on par with India instead accelerated its downfall—by giving it a false sense of inviolability under which it unleashed militant forces that it could no longer fully control. Insecurity fed on itself, keeping the country in a state of siege and the military-dominated elite in power even as Delhi exploited its own nuclear-armed status to gain greater international standing. As a praetorian state, Pakistan had always prioritised military over diplomatic and political solutions. The nuclear weapons that made it stronger militarily only accentuated that imbalance. India’s success, in contrast, was based on an approach that was largely diplomatic, political and economic. The possession of nuclear weapons was, at most, a complement to its strategy. As Prime Minister Vajpayee had foreseen when he announced the nuclear tests to the world, India won recognition from the United States as an ally and rising power. It was not so much that India won the Great South Asian War but that Pakistan lost it. A process that had begun in 1947 accelerated after 1998.

** Adjusting to an Imperfect Reality

By Scott Stewart

Security and counterterrorism procedures are often adaptive, for better or for worse. As attackers devise new methods to stage their assaults, authorities change their procedures accordingly. Following a recent attack in London, some people have been calling on British security services to do just that. At approximately 2:40 p.m. March 22, Khalid Masood jerked the steering wheel of his rented Hyundai Tucson sharply to the left at the entrance to London's Westminster Bridge, jumped the curb and pressed the accelerator. Speeding along the sidewalk, he struck pedestrians who could not get out of his way; two people even jumped off the bridge to avoid being hit. As he neared the end of the bridge, Masood re-entered the roadway and sped toward the British Parliament building. He again jumped the curb to target more pedestrians before crashing into the building's perimeter fence shortly after passing Big Ben. Masood then leapt out of the wrecked car and ran around the corner of the compound to the Parliament's main vehicle entrance, where he attacked an unarmed police officer with a knife before being shot by a police officer inside the grounds. Though the attack lasted only 82 seconds, it killed five people (including Masood) and injured 50 more, some of them severely.

British authorities later noted that Masood, a Muslim convert formerly known as Adrian Ajao and Adrian Elms, had a violent criminal history and was previously investigated for his ties to jihadists involved in plots in the United Kingdom. Like many past attackers in the country and in Europe, Masood was a "known wolf." His background, in fact, is similar to that of Michael Adebolajo, one of two men convicted for the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013. That British authorities knew of the assailant and determined that he didn't pose enough of a threat to merit additional surveillance led some to conclude that the United Kingdom's counterterrorism system needs an overhaul.

* Next War: Wargaming the Changing Character of Competition and Conflict

By Benjamin Jensen

Starting in 1858, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder issued a series of tactical problems in the form of map exercises, often one-page military problems designed to train Prussian staff officers and commander. Moltke needed a vehicle to help officers visualize the changing character of war. European countries fielded increasing large formations, moved by rail, capable of increased firepower. By analyzing the map exercises or conducting staff rides, the “Great General Staff” could develop options for mobilizing corps, conducting separate lines of march, and concentrating at the decisive point for the final battle. Wargames were how the military profession adapting to changing material conditions and socio-economic dynamics that altered how and why political actors fought wars. They offered a unique means to teach the essence of tactical victory, campaigning, and strategy, which Moltke saw as a “free, practical, artistic activity” that set the conditions for battlefield success.

Over the next year, as a part of an ongoing series on #wargaming, we will return to Moltke’s vision of a series of map exercises that illuminate the changing character of war and, in the process, help the military professional develop new theories of victory. Every month #wargaming will feature a vision of the next war by publishing a campaign-level decision game. These short, seminar-style games are designed to help national security professionals think about multinational campaigns and major operations possible, but not necessarily probable, in the near future. These modern map exercises can be played individually similar to a tactical decision game, or used by a group to discuss military strategy and practice. 

Japan and India: Concerted Efforts at Regional Diplomacy

By Tan Ming Hui and Nazia Hussain

How Japan and India can cooperate to increase engagement with ASEAN – without alarming China. 

Facing an uncertain geopolitical climate, Japan and India will benefit from working closely to play a greater leadership role in the region as they share converging strategic and security interests. Given the possibility that the United States may disengage from the Asia-Pacific, both Tokyo and New Delhi are concerned about Beijing’s increasing assertiveness and will seek to increase their collective capabilities to counterbalance China’s otherwise unhindered dominance. Competitive behavior vis-a-vis China is likely to continue in arenas such as the South China Sea, Official Development Assistance (ODA), and infrastructure projects.

Although neither Japan nor India is party to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, they are both committed to upholding freedom of navigation and a rules-based regime, and have vital commercial and strategic stakes that keep their interest alive in the troubled waters. Japan has been increasing its strategic engagement in the contested region by providing capacity building assistance to ASEAN member states, notably Vietnam and the Philippines. Japan is also planning to send its largest warship, the Izumo helicopter carrier, on a three-month tour through the South China Sea, before it joins the Malabar joint naval exercises with India and the United States in the Indian Ocean in July. This signals that Tokyo has the political will and capacity to play a larger maritime role.

GM Crops Debate: Naming The Missing Links, Ethics And Safety

Rahul Goswami

Kermani’s article ‘Let’s be honest about GM crops’ is one of the many recent contributions to educating the Indian consumer about the dangers of GM crops, but is the biotechnology industry listening?

The intemperate attack on Viva Kermani's article 'Let's be honest about GM crops' by Shanthu Shantharam in his rejoinder, 'Genetically-Modified Crops Are The Future, Here's Why', has entirely exposed the many limitations of the biotechnology industry and the science it represents. There is the matter of Shantharam’s taunting language towards the writer, Kermani, while he has done nothing to take issue with the substantial points she has raised.

But there are far more weighty matters of the roles and responsibilities of science, of agriculture and the cultivation of food and of the experiences of society and scientists alike with a type of scientific domain (that is, biotechnology) and the effects of its use. These have either been entirely ignored by Shantharam, as he has done for the roles and responsibilities of science or have been given an importance – in the case of agriculture and the cultivation of food – that is simply not to be found outside North America or been presented as being successful alone (the effects of the use of biotechnology, as seen by scientists and societies), whereas the 40 years of the existence of this technology are accompanied by 40 years of charlatanry which has ducked behind the worn shield of 'science'.

Nepal's India-China Balancing Act Put to the Test

By Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Prachanda’s recent outreach to China is his latest attempt to balance ties with both Nepal’s neighbors. 

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (commonly known as Prachanda) finally visited China eight months into his second stint in office.

Prachanda held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 27. Speaking to the media after his meeting with Xi, Prachanda said that the Chinese president had stressed political stability and infrastructure development in Nepal. According to the Nepali prime minister, Xi also suggested that Prachanda build a good relationship with India.

Prachanda had visited India in September 2016, one month after assuming office, in his first foreign trip. Though he wanted to go Beijing soon after the India visit, it took nearly seven more months before he finally made the trip.

The chief purpose of Prachanda’s visit was attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2017, held in China’s Hainan province. Media reports suggest that China refused to treat his visit as state visit, citing lack of time and preparations.

The visit concluded without any substantial agreements between two countries. According to observers, China’s main purpose was to send the message that it continues to engage with Nepal. Prachanda, meanwhile, was also in a hurry to visit China to correct his “pro-India” image.

Will China swallow Sri Lanka?

by Victor Cherubim 

It is an accepted norm that when one party renegades on any deal the original contract becomes void and has to be re-negotiated.

“The influx of Chinese economic assistance into Sri Lanka …. has raised questions regarding the intentions behind these massive loans.” Asia Times 27 March 2017. 

( April 1, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is pressure mounting on President Maithripala Sirisena on many sides. We are informed both from inside the Yahapalanya Government and from political opposition from outside including by Ex President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his well articulated Press Statement in respect of the Concessionary Agreement on the 99 year lease of the Hambantota Port to Chinese Merchant Port Holdings, Hong Kong (CMP).

Besides, there is unrest among the Port workers and their Unions on the outcome of a deal, To add to it all, there is covert “arm twist” from the IMF on Sri Lanka’s estimated national debt of US$64.9 billion of which US $ 8 billion is owed to China.

How much do we know of intricate business negotiation?

Xinjiang’s Rapidly Evolving Security State

The Chinese government has held several shows of force in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), with machine-gun toting police and armored personnel carriers parading through the streets of the region’s major cities, foreground the ongoing instability in China’s far western region (Tianshan, February 28). Since the July 5, 2009 riots in the regional capital of Urumqi, thousands have died in violent clashes between the Muslim Uyghur minority and the Han-dominated Party-state. In response, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has built a multi-tiered security state with, among other components, the recruitment of nearly 90,000 new police officers and a 356 percent increase in the public security budget (Foreign Affairs, December 23, 2016). According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Xinjiang is now the “frontline” in China’s battle against “terrorism,” and consequently a testing ground for new policing and surveillance methods (Xinhua, April 28, 2014).

Using data gleaned from public service postings, it is possible to map the development of this security state in Xinjiang. Beginning in 2006, XUAR public and civil service jobs have been publically advertised on the Chinese Internet in an effort to increase transparency. These recruitment adverts contain a range of useful information, such as the number and types of positions plus specific requirements for residency, ethnicity, and education, among other details. By aggregating recruitment adverts across hundreds of regional websites and then disaggregating and analyzing the resulting data, we have compiled a unique dataset that chronicles the ballooning security footprint in Xinjiang. [1]

Strategic Technology Might Disrupt India-China Status Quo – Analysis

By Arun Mohan Sukumar

Ant Financial’s (the fintech arm of the Alibaba Group) effort to acquire MoneyGram, one of the world’s leading money transfer companies, reflects China’s naked ambition to control technology ecosystems of the 21st century.

The range of products and services that Chinese behemoths have eyed (and in many cases, acquired) is astonishing. At the time of writing, this author found that Tencent, the Shenzhen-based messaging platform has bought a five percent stake in Tesla, leading many to speculate its plans for the self-driving car market. Last year, Chinese appliance manufacturer Midea announced its takeover of Kuka, a German robotics company that Europe digital commissioner saw as “important for the digital future of European industry.” Brazil’s most successful “online-discount” company Peixe Urbano was bought by Chinese search engine giant Baidu as early as 2014. And finally in 2015, India’s own Paytm ceded a 40 percent stake in Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce company.

China’s Secret Plan To Crush SpaceX And The U.S. Space Program

By Clay Dillow

China‘s breakneck economic expansion may be flagging, but the country’s ambitions in space show no signs of slowing down. Alongside ongoing efforts to rival NASA by placing robotic landers, and eventually astronauts, on the moon and Mars, China’s government is increasingly looking to its burgeoning space sector to rival U.S. companies like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk‘s SpaceX, which is targeting March 30 for the latest launch of its Falcon 9 rocket..

Though Chinese space authorities have publicly announced the country’s ambitions to forge itself into a major space power by the early 2030s, President Xi Jinping’s government is also considering ways to direct spending that will push Chinese tech companies toward breakthroughs in downstream technologies like robotics, aerospace, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and other 21st-century technologies.

The majority of China’s space ambitions remain focused on boosting Chinese prestige at home and abroad. But a push within Xi’s government to triple spending on space science as well as the emergence of a small but growing group of privately backed space start-ups suggest that both Chinese industry and government see long-term economic benefits in their investments in space technologies.

Trump Has a Strategy for Destroying the Islamic State — and It’s Working


Defeating the Islamic State was candidate Trump’s top national-security priority, one of the few policy issues on which he was consistent. While his claim to have a secret plan — and that keeping it secret was good strategy — was risible to national security experts, his policy goals were and are consistent. American effort should focus on fighting the Islamic State. Regime change to push Bashar al-Assad out of power was not only a lesser objective, but counterproductive to a stable end-state for Syria that prevents terrorism and too costly given Russia and Iran’s support for the regime. Stability is to be prioritized over humanitarian relief or democracy promotion. Russia is to be palliated, their interests supported.

He proclaimed that “we are going to convey my top generals and give them a simple instruction. They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS.” While strictly speaking that deadline has passed without apparent formal approval, the Departments of State and Defense have indeed been prioritizing defeating the Islamic State. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first big international event the gathering of the coalition fighting the Islamic State, reinforcing the president’s twin messages that it is the administration’s top national-security priority, and that “the United States will increase our pressure on ISIS and al Qaeda and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through ceasefires, to allow refugees to return home.”

Opinion: How to counter the Kremlin's hacking playbook

Anup Ghosh

MARCH 29, 2017 —In a recent Passcode opinion piece, Niloofar Razi Howe, the worldwide chief strategy officer of the cybersecurity firm RSA, declared, "No, Russia didn’t hack the election."

So, I'll be equally unequivocal, too: Russia did hack the US election.

While Russia did not alter the vote counts, we know from the Joint Analysis Report issued by the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center and the FBI in December that Russia waged a campaign of strategic hacking and leaking of documents to influence the outcome of the election. Many would argue that they succeeded, even if it is unknowable.

As uncomfortable as it may be, we need to recognize foreign interference in our free and fair election system. Russia modernized its cold war disinformation campaign apparatus with social media platforms to achieve unprecedented scale for its campaigns of influence. The Kremlin exploits the best attributes of the internet – that anyone can be a publisher and can potentially reach everyone – to create divisions for Russia’s political goals. Social media – once promised as a force to democratize the world through the free and unfettered flow of information – is now distributing extreme content that could pose a significant threat to democracies everywhere.

Recalibrating U.S. Strategy toward Russia

These are turbulent times for American foreign policy. Nowhere are the challenges facing the United States more evident than in U.S. policy toward Russia. Drawing on scholars across several disciplines and perspectives, CSIS conducted a year-long study that sought to achieve two goals. First, to provide policymakers with a clearer understanding of Russia’s strategic motivations and objectives, along with the tools it uses to advance its goals. Second, to lay out a comprehensive strategy to secure U.S. and transatlantic interests in the face of the complex Russia challenge set.

The authors view Russia’s shift toward a more belligerent security posture as an enduring reality, not an aberration. It is the product of long-standing Russian beliefs, coupled with an increasing recognition that it can advance them more effectively today than was possible in years past. The authors argue, however, that neither the United States nor its allies in Europe have made the necessary conceptual shift to accept the long-term Russia challenge, nor determined the strategic objectives that their policies should advance. The West’s approach to date has been insufficient to meet the threat, and dissonance among allies is only serving to embolden Russia and broaden its goals. The United States must, therefore, center its Russia policy and, indeed, its European and global strategies on an unadulterated assessment of interests, priorities, and vulnerabilities and identify achievable objectives and, on this basis, articulate acceptable trade-offs against other global requirements. To this end, this report offers the framework for a comprehensive strategy toward Russia, one derived from analysis and insights regarding key elements of past U.S. policy toward Russia; historical Russian reactions to major events on its periphery; and the tool sets each side can bring to bear in advancing its national interests.


To Save Peacekeeping From Trump’s Budget Ax, Will the U.N. Embrace Fighting Terrorism?


GAO, Mali — A few minutes before 9 a.m. on Jan. 18, a white Toyota Land Cruiser carrying 50-gallon drums crammed with metal and explosives turned up a wide sandy track toward a military compound guarded by U.N. peacekeepers. Inside the compound, behind a thin concrete wall topped with razor wire, was the ultimate symbol of the country’s troubled peace process: a special unit of Malian forces and former rebels who were due to patrol together in a show of solidarity.

Emblazoned with the insignia of the special unit, known by its French acronym MOC, the Land Cruiser passed the U.N. peacekeepers and the first security perimeter without incident. When a security guard at the main gate asked the driver for identification, he rammed the vehicle through a metal barrier and made a hard left toward a group of soldiers who were assembled to drill. Then he detonated his payload.

“There was a blue light, a big noise, and smoke,” said Lt. Col. Samballa Sidibé, the MOC’s logistics chief. “When it cleared, there was a spectacular scene of desolation.”

The bodies of at least 77 dead and more than 100 wounded lay twisted in the sand, arrayed about a giant, smoking crater. The attack, which was later claimed by an affiliate of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, incapacitated roughly one-third of the MOC’s 600 U.N.-trained troops. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Malian history.

Intelligent adoption of artificial intelligence

Milan Sheth

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most talked about technologies in recent times. It is capable of increasing enterprise revenue through identifying, analysing and, most importantly, acting on the insights from underlying data. The pertinent question is, “Should we wait for AI to evolve fully and then apply it or should we look at specific applications to solve business challenges?”

Range of AI—Human assistant to human replacement

The combination of parallel processing power, massive data sets, advanced algorithms and machine learning capabilities are spawning varied versions of AI systems.

Today, AI capabilities vary from specific/narrow to super, all-encompassing AI.

Narrow, or specific AI, is an intelligent assistant that can aid humans in making complex decisions and enhance their cognitive powers by processing vast amounts of data. It can conceptualize and correlate data, recognize the patterns and deliver intelligent output.

For instance, soft AI can be used to detect frauds in various sectors such as banks.

Terrorism In Westminster: London Had Expected Attack For Some Time And Police Reaction Was Rapid

by David Lowe

At least five people are dead and 20 injured following a terrorist incident in London. What had been dreaded finally happened - an attack on UK soil which brought to mind recent tragedies on mainland Europe. Police are conducting a "major terrorist investigation".

It appears that a car was driven at speed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, which is just in front of the Palace of Westminster - home to the UK parliament. At least two people have died as a result of being injured by the car.

The driver then reportedly ran the few metres to the parliament complex and attacked a police officer with a knife before being shot by another officer. The police later confirmed that the stabbed officer was among the dead, as well as the suspected attacker.

Parliamentarians were quickly put into lockdown and the prime minister was driven away at speed. The area around Westminster - including Whitehall, where many government departments are based - was shut off. The rapidity with which the authorities reacted proves that London, though horrified by what has happened, was ready for such an event.



Lieutenant General Mark A. Brilakis 
Deputy Commandant, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, United States Marine Corps

Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke 
Chief of Naval Personnel, United States Navy

Major General Jason Evans 
Director, Military Personnel Management, United States Army

Lieutenant General Gina M. Grosso 
Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, United States Air Force

Mr. Anthony M. Kurta 
Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Office of the Secretary of Defense

115th Congress

Civilian casualties are not inevitable. The military sets an acceptable number in advance

Nick McDonell

Iraqi officials report that a U.S. airstrike killed nearly 200 civilians in West Mosul on March 17. The U.S. military acknowledged that it had carried out a mission in the area, and is now investigating this strike as well as another in March, said to have killed dozens of civilians near the Syrian city of Raqqah.

When a missile meets its target, chemicals inside the weapon combine, causing gases to expand and exert pressure on the warhead, which shatters outward, turning into shrapnel behind a blast wave. This wave, faster than sound, compresses the surrounding air, pulverizes any nearby concrete, plaster, or bone, and creates a vacuum, sucking debris back to the zero point. The chemical interaction also produces heat, causing fire.

Although the ensuing civilian casualties may seem like unstoppable tragedies, they are not. Civilian casualties are not inevitable. They are a choice.

The U.S. military predicts how many people will die in its airstrikes by surveilling and estimating the population within a proposed blast radius. It also sets a limit on the number of innocent people each command is authorized to kill incidentally. This limit, called the Non-Combatant Cutoff Value, or NCV, is perhaps our starkest rule of engagement, and it varies region-by-region for political reasons.

Forget The Terminator; Suicide & Data Drones Are Future, Says SCO’s Roper


AFA HQ: William Roper, the man who’s helping shape that future at the well-named Strategic Capabilities Office, told a packed room here that “stealth won’t last forever;” that adapting to the new version of war he’s helping the country ready for “is going to be harder for the Air Force than the other services;” that the Terminator model of war — with truly autonomous robots acting and reacting and killing — “is a future I just can’t see.”

It was vintage Roper, who was often seen at the right hand of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

“Every time you’ve got a story about autonomy in the DoD, you’ve got the required picture of the Terminator right beside it,” he said (yes, we’re guilty as charged). “That kind of autonomy is simply to me, in a future I just can’t see.”

Now that’s a pretty arresting set of concepts but it’s dense. He told us that the way ahead will see “attritable drones” able to collect and distribute huge amounts of data and help protect the humans who actually go to war. In current traditional war plans, the first 10 days of war are usually considered the greatest period of destruction by the air forces. Roper doesn’t think the first days will look like that anymore.

The Next Big War Will Turn on AI, Says US Secret-Weapons Czar


William Roper says the military must get better at feeding the voracious learning algorithms that will fight future battles. 

The first day of the next major conflict shouldn’t look like war at all according to William Roper, who runs the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO. Instead, imagine a sort of digital collection blitzkrieg, with data-gathering software and sensors setting of alarms left and right as they vacuum up info for a massive AI. Whoever collects the most data on Day One just might win the war before a single shot is fired.

“My prediction for the future is that when we go out to fly planes on the first day of battle, whether they are manned or unmanned, that the purpose of the first day or the second day will not be to go out and destroy enemy aircraft or other systems. It’s to go out, collect data, do data reconnaissance, so that our learning system gets smarter than [the enemy’s],” Roper said Tuesday at an Air Force Association event on Tuesday. “Every day you fly, you get that exponential increase in sophistication.”


The website, DarkWebNews posted an article on March 23, 2017, with the title above. DarkWebNews writes that “a vendor going by the pseudonym “SunTzu583,” on a dark web marketplace is allegedly selling over one million decrypted Yahoo and Gmail accounts obtained from previous data breaches.”

“The listing — which offers sets of email addresses, user names, passwords, and in some cases, plain-text password hints and internal IDs — is being made available for various prices, depending on the dataset,” that is being requested, DarkWebNews reports. “100,000 Yahoo accounts stolen in the 2012 Last.fm breach is going for 0.0079 Bitcoin, the equivalent of $10.75; another 145K Yahoo mail accounts obtained from the 2008 MySpace data breach, and the 2013 Adobe hack are going for 0.0102 Bitcoin ($13.75).”

“More than 40 million user accounts were exposed in the Last.FM hack,” DarkWebnews notes, “while a staggering 360M were stolen and leaked on the Dark Web in the MySpace breach of 2008. The DarkWeb vendor offered another half million sets of credentials on a different listing; but,for a marginally higher price of 0.0210 Bitcoin, or ($28.24).”

Going Deep and Dark: Mining Threat Intelligence From the Hidden Web


Everybody has heard of the dark web. But for most, it’s a nebulous concept at best.

Even the name makes it sound more like a plot from a spy novel than a real thing. It conjures up images of mob bosses arguing over territory at a back room card table.

The truth, of course, is altogether different. It’s much less fantastical, and much more commercial.

Recorded Future and Infosecurity Magazine recently co-hosted a webinar to demystify the dark web, and explore the ways legitimate security officers can navigate it in search of valuable threat intelligence. The webinar featured three expert speakers: Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collection at Recorded Future, Chris Pace, technology advocate at Recorded Future, and Konrad Smelkovs, senior manager at KPMG cyber defense service.
The Internet’s Back Room Card Table

So, what exactly is the dark web?

To kick off the webinar, Andrei Barysevich tackled the elephant in the room. Very few people understand how the dark web really operates, so here’s the analogy he gave:

“Imagine a nondescript entrance to a bar in a dark alley. A place you won’t find in the phonebook. If you know the secret knock and password, they’ll let you in. Otherwise, good luck next time. The same concept applies to dark web communities, which you won’t find through Google or any other search engine. Only current members can tell you how to find a particular community.”

Surviving digital disruption

Rajesh Janey

Over the past 12 months, the established order has been shaken to its core in nations around the world. Seemingly unknown outsiders have unseated seemingly unassailable organizations—and everyone is talking about cognitive intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI). It’s almost absurd: Apple and Samsung are talking about connected cars; Google wants to take over your home; and, closer home, companies as diverse as Paytm and India Post are turning into banks. Disruption isn’t just a buzzword; it’s happening as we speak.

These disruptions are driven by the Big D: Democratization of data and digital capabilities. It’s nothing less than a revolution on an industrial scale, and is as transformative as the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, and the steam engine. However, it won’t be a bloodless revolution.

The Goliaths of every sector are uneasy about the Digital Davids that threaten their existence. Giants have seen their market share and mind share wiped out by savvy and nimble start-ups that understand and respond to consumer expectations better.

Private Space wins the Race

Robert Zimmerman

At this moment no one really knows what President Donald Trump's space policy will be. His State of the Union speech on February 28 made only one fleeting vague comment about space, stating that "American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream." And though in the past he has expressed enthusiastic support for space exploration, and his transition team has indicated a preference for private commercial space plus a desire to return to the Moon, no specific details about their policy have been released.

Determining future American space policy, however, is really not that difficult. All Trump has to do is to look at the numbers.

The dueling manned space policy objectives of Congress and President Obama since 2010 has forced NASA to follow a two-pronged approach to manned space, and a comparison of these two approaches provides stark empirical evidence for determining the most effective approach for putting Americans in space.

The first approach is centered on the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion capsule. This program, strongly supported by Congress, has followed the traditional approach used first during the 1960s. The President makes a Kennedy-like speech outlining some specific target in space that NASA must reach by some set deadline. For Kennedy, the target was the Moon and the deadline was the end of the decade. For George Bush in 2004 the target was the Moon and beyond and the deadline was 2015. For Barack Obama, the target was first an asteroid by 2020s, and then Mars by the 2030s.

The Next Big War Will Turn on AI, Says US Secret-Weapons Czar


William Roper says the military must get better at feeding the voracious learning algorithms that will fight future battles. 

The first day of the next major conflict shouldn’t look like war at all according to William Roper, who runs the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO. Instead, imagine a sort of digital collection blitzkrieg, with data-gathering software and sensors setting of alarms left and right as they vacuum up info for a massive AI. Whoever collects the most data on Day One just might win the war before a single shot is fired.

“My prediction for the future is that when we go out to fly planes on the first day of battle, whether they are manned or unmanned, that the purpose of the first day or the second day will not be to go out and destroy enemy aircraft or other systems. It’s to go out, collect data, do data reconnaissance, so that our learning system gets smarter than [the enemy’s],” Roper said Tuesday at an Air Force Association event on Tuesday. “Every day you fly, you get that exponential increase in sophistication.”

As head of the SCO, Roper helps the services turn existing technologies and weapons into surprising new capabilities…fast. He is the military’s foremost go-to guy to figure out how to use advances in technology to secure military advantage and how the enemy might do the same. (Think, perhaps, of the title character in 1964’s Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove.) Roper says that the United States’ most important and overlooked asset is probably the digital information it produces in terrific abundance. Every second, data is pouring out of planes, satellites, and sensors related to targeting, machine performance, mission success, intelligence, and more. The military, he says, treats that data cheaply.