The Convergence is an Army Mad Scientist podcast with a distinct focus on divergent viewpoints, a challenging of assumptions, and insights from thought leaders and subject matter experts. The purpose of "The Convergence" is to explore technological, economic, and societal trends that disrupt the operational environment and to get a diversity of opinions on the character of warfare.
87. Live from D.C., it's Fight Night! (Part 1) with the Hon. Mac Thornberry
[Editor’s Note: Regular consumers of Army Mad Scientist content — via this blog site and The Convergence podcast — will understand how wargaming can enhance Professional Military Education (PME), hone cognitive warfighting skills, and broaden our understanding of the Operational Environment. Wargaming removes hierarchies and encourages players to attempt innovative solutions, while also creating a safe environment in which to fail repeatedly and learn from mistakes. Wargaming can also help us assess concepts and capabilities with a reasonable degree of verisimilitude — before committing the Nation to costly, and in some instances, irrevocable courses of action.
In our latest episode of The Convergence podcast, we report back from “Fight Night” in Washington, D.C. , where we sat down with the Hon. William M. (“Mac”) Thornberry, former U.S. Representative for Texas’ 13th Congressional District and former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the importance of wargaming to public policy, his experiences with it on Capitol Hill, and what we can do to better emphasize it with our lawmakers — Enjoy!][If the podcast dashboard is not rendering correctly for you, please click here to listen to the podcast.]
The Almanac of American Politics 2020 called William M. (“Mac”) Thornberry “one of Congress’ brainiest and most thoughtful members on national and domestic security issues,” and said that he “has long been at the forefront of national security issues.” USA Today said Mac has “experience in Washington, a rare long view and a reputation for serious, thoughtful problem-solving.” Since leaving Congress after 26 years, which included service as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac continues to work at the intersection of technology and national security. He serves various companies and non-profit organizations as a board member and advisor.
Consistently on the leading edge of critical national security issues during his time in Congress, Mac led in creating the National Nuclear Security Administration to improve management of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex; establishing the Department of Homeland Security (introducing a bill to do so six months before the attacks of 9/11); preparing the military to defend the nation in new domains of warfare such as space and cyber; and improving DOD’s innovation and acquisition efforts.
In addition to serving on the House Armed Services Committee throughout his time in Congress, Mac also served on the House Intelligence Committee for 14 years. He has written widely on defense matters and appeared on all major television channels providing insight on national security-related issues.
In December 2021, Mac received the Peace Through Strength Award from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. He is also the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medals from the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, as well as the Marine Corps Foundation’s Semper Fidelis Award, the American Legion’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the Sam Nunn National Security Leadership Award from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and awards from the Aerospace Industries Association, Military Officers Association, National Defense Industrial Association, Non Commissioned Officer Association, Computing Technology Industry Association, USO-Metro among others. During the fall 2021 semester, he was a Resident Fellow
86. Death From Above! The Evolution of sUAS Technology with COL (USA-Ret.) Bill Edwards
[Editor’s Note: Army Mad Scientist continues to explore issues impacting the Operational Environment, especially those directly affecting U.S. Army operations in the contemporary battlespace. Over the past decade-plus, dual use automation technologies have increasingly been weaponized by state and non-state actors alike, democratizing warfighting capabilities in the air, land, and sea domains. In the air domain, Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) initially provided Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities without the associated costs and infrastructure required to operate manned platforms. More recently, we’ve witnessed ISR and strike capabilities converge in small UAS (sUAS), granting lesser powers the ability to identify, reach, and strike targets — “lower[ing] the ‘entry fee’ into combined arms operations.”
With this democratization of the air domain, we’re also witnessing the resurgence of Mass. Virtually anyone will “be able to use these small, cheap, and individually expendable platforms to almost continuously gather real-time intelligence and choose the time and place to overwhelm an adversary’s defenses through sheer volume” — creating, in the eloquent words of proclaimed Mad Scientist Zachery Tyson Brown, Jomini’s Revenge: Mass Strikes Back!
Today’s episode of The Convergence podcast features our interview with COL Bill Edwards (USA-Ret.) exploring the very real, contemporary threat presented by sUAS, what trends he’s seeing emerge from current and recent conflicts, and how the U.S. Army, the Joint Force, and the Nation as a whole should respond. Read the highlights from our interview below, then listen to this important podcast — it’s not too late, but the time to act is now!]
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COL Bill Edwards (USA-Ret.) currently serves as President of Federal and Public Safety at Building Intelligence, Inc. Before this role, COL Edwards was a Principal in Protective Design and Security for Thornton Tomasetti, a globally recognized structural engineering firm. As an organizational leader, he has been instrumental in expanding the organization’s global footprint by providing strategic direction in the startup of a new security consultancy division focused on providing comprehensive security-driven risk mitigation approaches and business continuity solutions.
Before this, COL Edwards served as the Director of Intelligence, Special Operations Command North, where he oversaw the successful unification of interagency communications in support of Homeland Defense. He additionally earned recognition for transforming a struggling $400M DoD technical intelligence program as the Capability Director for the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Center, and served as a Commander in the U.S. Army, overseeing strategic military and intelligence operations in theatres across the globe.
From 2009 to 2011, COL Edwards served as a Commander and Director of Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. In this highly complex leadership role, he led a U.S. Army
85. Do You Have What It Takes? Let's Check Your Brain! with Mr. Loran Ambs
[Editor’s Note: Army Mad Scientist has extensively explored how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) can be harnessed to enhance our Warfighters’ ability to fight at machine speed and sustain our decisive Soldier overmatch. But as frequent contributor COL Stefan J. Banach (USA-Ret.) has noted, the evolution and convergence of technologies has added a new non-kinetic battle space to conventional warfare, which in turn requires the recruiting and retention of adaptive Warfighters, with highly-tuned aptitudes for tactical innovation and rapid, decisive decision-making. The challenge facing the Army is how to effectively identify and then screen for these and other requisite talents.
Today’s episode of The Convergence podcast features our interview with Mr. Loran Ambs, Chief Technology Officer, Ideal Innovations, Inc., regarding his company’s research into measuring the distinctive characteristics of innate talent, identifying potential high performers, and how the Army can harness AI/ML to screen and match these high performers with specialty vocations — Read on!]
Mr. Loran Ambs serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Ideal Innovations, Inc. He supports the development and implementation of innovation processes at I-3 and DoD customer sites. Mr. Ambs participates in the conception, development, and transition of technical solutions for problems affecting operations of the DoD and intelligence communities. He conducts basic and applied research into techniques using measures of brain activation for the discovery of traits, aptitude, knowledge, interest, familiarity, group association and compatibility applied to selection and assessment of individuals for in military, government, academic and commercial environments. Mr. Ambs is inventor or co-inventor of more than 30 issued U.S. patents including several related to brain activation matching, brain matched compatibility, and knowledge discovery.
Mr. Ambs previously served as the on-site PM in Afghanistan for the installation and operation of stand-off biometric data collection, remotely operated ISR systems, wireless data communication, data fusion, aggregation and presentation capabilities leading to increased safety and effectiveness of our soldiers and coalition partners. He served as the Chief Scientist for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in which he participated in the identification, acquisition, development, test, and transition of solutions for the detection, neutralization, and mitigation of IEDs. He collaborated with the DoD Service branches, DoD labs, National Labs, operational units, Congressional staffers, Defense Science Board, Army Science Board, National Academies, JASONS, industry, and academic institutions to focus the Nation’s resources on defeating IEDs.
Army Mad Scientist sat down with Mr. Ambs to discuss his company’s research into measuring the distinctive characteristics of innate talent, identifying potential high performers, and how the Army can harness AI/ML to screen and match these high performers with specialty vocations (e.g., pilots, special operators, and other select duty positions). The following bullet points highlight key insights from our conversation:
Training is expensive – it costs $13 million to train one F-35 pilot –
84. The AI Study Buddy at the Army War College Part 2 with Dr. Billy Barry
[Editor’s Note: Regular readers of the Mad Scientist Laboratory and listeners to The Convergence podcast know that our Pacing Threat — China — is feverishly modernizing its People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In addressing the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on October 16, 2022, China’s President Xi Jinping stated that quickly elevating the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to a world-class army is a strategic requirement, and that China would adhere to the integrated development of the PLA through the concept of “three-izations” (三化) — mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization — the latter being China’s concept for integrating Artificial Intelligence’s (AI’s) machine speed and processing power to military planning, operational command, and decision support. Xi further stated that these three-izations were to be pursued simultaneously and in parallel.
Consequently, it behooves us to better understand how, in the words of Dr. James Mancillas, “AI will disrupt our current military decision cycles… [and] shape the future of AI enabled military operations.” That said, understanding the limits imposed by our adversaries’ embrace of AI is just as important as appreciating how AI can help sustain and enhance our Warfighters’ overmatch — possibly allowing us to exploit the constraints wrought by an adversary’s overreliance on AI to our advantage.
Today’s episode of The Convergence podcast is the second in our The AI Study Buddy at the Army War College series, featuring Dr. Billy Barry discussing AI study technology, its impact within the Army War College, and how he sees it evolving in the future — Read on!]
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Dr. Billy Barry is a Professor of Emerging Technology and Principal Strategist of the Artificial Intelligence/Intelligence Augmentation (AI/IA) Program (GovCon) for the Center for Strategic Leadership at the United States Army War College. Before working at the Army War College, Dr. Barry was a visiting professor of Philosophy and Just War Theory at the United States Military Academy at West Point. A pioneer in Human-AI/IA teams, he is the first to introduce AI-powered intelligent augmentation androids, robots, digital virtual beings, and strategic advisors as teaching and learning partners in civilian university and Professional Military Education classrooms. A sought-after TEDx and international keynote speaker, Dr. Barry’s influence extends to Fortune 50
83. Shattering the Mirror: The Key to Understanding Adversarial Decision-Making with LTC Nathan Colvin
[Editor’s Note: Sunday morning’s tropical idyll was shattered as the adversary’s surprise attack caught our naval, ground, and air forces completely unprepared. An hour and a half later, more than 2,400 U.S. Service members and civilians had been killed, with almost another 1,200 wounded. Despite three missed tactical warnings that could have alerted our local defenses of the impending attack (perhaps reducing its effectiveness), senior Army and Navy leaders on-site remained blithely unaware until the first wave of attackers struck their primary targets — as were the Nation’s political and military leadership in Washington, DC, when they received news of the catastrophic attack. Collectively, we had been lulled by perhaps the most insidious of cognitive biases — mirror imaging — believing that the Japanese Empire wanted to avoid war with the U.S. at all costs because of our perceived military superiority.
“Mirror imaging occurs when we subscribe our beliefs or ideas to other competitors. A corollary to this mirror imaging idea is the concept of railroading where we assume that other competitors, for example, are developing technology at similar pace and along the same track that we are. Mirror imaging places a premium on the notion that our way is the only way – discounting history and organizational, strategic, geographic, and cultural differences – as well as dismissing ideas that others might have.” As Dr. Nick Marsella stated so eloquently, “Thinking about the future is hard work, requiring us to continually examine the rigor associated with these efforts and avoiding the cognitive biases inherent in our future’s work. ”
Gaming is an invaluable tool for adding rigor to our exploration of Operational Environment possibilities – it also helps us to identify and avoid our cognitive biases. Frequent contributor LTC Nathan Colvin recently used game theory to explore the dynamics affecting three principal “actors” – the transnational “liberal order” (i.e., the West), the diffuse aggregate needs of the Russian people (a society of individuals), and the individual needs of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin himself (as an autocratic leader) — to clinically explain the rationale underlying the superficially irrational invasion of Ukraine. Today’s post features highlights from our latest episode of The Convergence podcast with LTC Nathan Colvin discussing game theory and how it can provide insights into the pitfalls of mirror imaging our rationality and morality onto foreign leaders’ decision-making processes — Read on!]
LTC Nathan Colvin is currently an Army War College Fellow at the College of William and Mary. He holds a Graduate Certificate in Modeling and Simulations from Old Dominion University, where he is also completing his Ph.D. in International Studies as an I/ITSEC Leonard P. Gollobin Scholar. He earned masters’ degrees in Aeronautics and Space Studies (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University), Administration (Central Michigan University), and Military Theater Operations (School of Advanced Military Studies). He is an Army Stra
82. The AI Study Buddy at the Army War College with LtCol Joe Buffamante
[Editor’s Note: In recent weeks, Mad Scientist Laboratory has featured a number of podcasts and associated blog posts exploring the democratization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential ramifications for Warfighters and the Operational Environment (OE). From generating better proposals from a broader array of defense contractors, exploring the future of warfare and OE trends, the convergence of neuroscience and AI, and the future of learning through emerging technologies — large language models (e.g., Open AI‘s ChatGPT) can augment how we learn, work, create, and — most importantly to the U.S. Army — compete and fight.Imagine a not-too-distant future when all of our Military Leaders (from platoon to echelons above corps) are able to harness the comprehensive thoughts and insights of the world’s military theorists and tacticians, from antiquity to the present, via a personal AI digital assistant — or as proclaimed Mad Scientist Juliane Gallina so eloquently stated — a “Patton in the Pocket.” Human-machine teaming has the potential to enable future Commanders to focus on the battle at hand with coup d’œil, or the “stroke of an eye,” maintaining situational awareness and processing inputs, generating potential courses of action, and down selecting the best way ahead — tailored to specific mission objectives and conditions at the bleeding edge of the fight — all at machine speed. Sustained Soldier overmatch indeed!
The application of Soldier-enhancing human-machine teaming isn’t limited to tactical applications, however. In today’s episode of The Convergence podcast, we interview LtCol Joe Buffamante, USMC, about his experience in applying human-machine teaming to support Professional Military Education (PME), leveraging large language models as effective learning support tools, and establishing and maintaining trust in AI applications — Enjoy!]
LtCol Joe Buffamante is a native of Great Valley, New York, and graduated from Miami (Ohio) University, receiving his commission in the United States Marine Corps in May 2003. Upon completion of The Basic School, he was designated an Armor Officer and graduated from the Armor Officer Basic Course in May 2004. He has commanded USMC units in combat tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and has served as a maneuver and fire support team instructor at 29 Palms, California. LtCol Buffamante assumed the duties as Chief of Readiness for Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS), Ft. Eustis, Virginia, in 2014, ultimately serving as the training chief for current operations where he was responsible for training all Joint Operations Center personnel. Following completion of this Joint assignment, LtCol Buffamante attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, earning a Master’s Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies. He also attended the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School (MAWS) and received the additional MOS of 0505 (MAGTF Planner). LtCol Buffamante is currently a student at the United States Army War College (AWC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Army Mad Scientist sat down with LtCol Buffamante to discuss his experience in applying human-machine teaming to support PME, leveraging large language models as effective learning support tools, and establishing and maintaining trust in AI applications. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our conversation:
• As a student at the AWC, LtCol Buffamante, along with Dr. Billy Barry, used a large language model as a learning support tool to explore the effectiveness of human-machine teaming research, specifically the effectiveness of the system itself and in collaboration with a human vice a human alone.
• LtCol Buffamante employed the system to assist in answering research questions related to his coursework. He co