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.
32. Top Attack: Lessons Learned from the 2nd Nagorno-Karabakh War
COL John Antal served 30 years in the Army and has commanded combat units from platoon through regiment and served on division, corps, and multinational staffs. He also served at the National Training Center and has extensive experience in Korea, serving multiple tours on the DMZ. After retiring from the Army, COL Antal was selected by Microsoft Games Studio to help develop an interactive entertainment company in Texas. He then became the Executive Director for Gearbox Software with studios in Texas and Canada. He led teams to develop multiple AAA+ video games and is an innovator in the interactive gaming and learning industry. As an author, COL Antal has published 16 books and hundreds of magazine articles. He has served as Editor of the Armchair General magazine, and appeared on TV and the radio to discuss leadership, historical, and national security issues. He is a freelance correspondent for Euro-based Military Technology (Mönch Publishing Group) and Mittler Report Verlag.
In today’s podcast, COL Antal discusses the implications of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, the psychological effects of drone warfare, and the future of maneuver. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with him:
U.S. success in future conflicts depends on our ability to analyze the trends found in conflicts today. By examining the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war, the United States can gain valuable insights on the future of warfare, and better respond to threats in future conflicts.
Ten lessons learned from the Second Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are:
Know Yourself, Know your Enemies. The Azeris had reviewed the underlying causes of their previous defeat at hands of the Armenian armed forces, meticulously studied their current capabilities, and adapted/incorporated new ways of warfare, enabling them to decisively win this conflict in 44 days. Better equipment, organization, training, preparation, and leadership are key.
Set the Conditions for Success before you Fight. The Azeris had cultivated strategic relationships with both Turkey and Israel — providing them with access to sophisticated ISR and strike UAS and loitering munitions. They also induced hesitation with Armenia’s sponsor, Russia, causing them to equivocate whether the defense of the Nagorno-Karabakh region fell within the scope of the Armenian-Russian mutual defense agreement.
Strike First. The innovative use of obsolete, remotely piloted air assets to probe and force Armenian air defense radars to “light up” enabled the Azeris to then fix, target, and destroy the Armenian layered air defenses using precision weapons, granting them first mover advant
31. The Metaverse: Blurring Reality and Digital Lives with Cathy Hackl
Cathy Hackl is a leading tech futurist and globally recognized business leader specializing in AR, VR, and spatial computing. Ms. Hackl hosts the Future Insiders podcast and has been designated as one of LinkedIn’s Top Tech Voices. She founded and leads the Futures Intelligence Group, a futures research and consulting firm that works with clients in tech, fashion, media, government, and defense implementing innovation strategies, strategic foresight, and emerging technologies. BigThink named Cathy “one of the top 10 most influential women in tech in 2020” and she has been called the CEO’s business guide to the metaverse. She was included in the 2021 prestigious Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.
In today’s podcast, Ms. Hackl discusses forecasting, the metaverse, and women in tech. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with her:
The world is approaching a pivotal moment for VR/AR/MR. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of these technologies, as they allow for an elevated sense of presence in a distanced physical world.
AR/VR technologies have extremely diverse applications, from filters on social media to the treatment of PTSD and Alzheimer’s disease. Novel applications for these technologies are in constant development, particularly as wearables like “smart glasses” proliferate in the commercial sphere.
Although AR/VR are frequently associated with altered visuals, other senses are increasingly incorporated into these platforms. Currently in development is AR that would allow users to focus on a single conversation amidst significant background noise.
As the metaverse, a digital copy of the world available in real time, is developed, the way we engage with the physical world will change. Information available to VR/AR users in various “layers” could be manipulated or controlled by actors capable of altering the available data.
In order to recruit future generations to technology development, it will be essential to “meet them where they are.” By identifying online platforms, interests, and values of youth, recruiters will be able to present opportunities to create meaningful change in an attractive manner.
The federal government’s focus on artificial intelligence has de-prioritized AR/VR. However, AR/VR are innately American technologies, and increased focus on their development could allow the United States to maintain its current advantage in the field.
Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for our next episode of “The Convergence,” featuring an interview with COL John Antal (USA-Ret.) discussing the implications for future conflict from the Second Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, the psychological effects of drone warfare, and the future of maneuver, on 1 April 2021.
30. The Future of Ground Warfare with COL Scott Shaw
COL Scott Shaw commands the Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG), whose mission is to provide global operational advisory support to U.S. Army forces to rapidly transfer current threat based observations and solutions to tactical and operational commanders in order to defeat emerging asymmetric threats and enhance multi-domain effectiveness.
In today’s podcast, COL Shaw discusses the future of ground warfare and the realities of combat for tomorrow’s Soldiers. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with him:
AWG was developed to promote U.S. Army understanding of asymmetric threats. Today, this effort is focused in three research areas: the operations and information environment, electronic warfare, and countering unmanned systems.
The United States needs to balance focus, spending, and training among threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations (VEOs). Strategists need to remember that “the enemy gets a vote,” and thus efforts will need to remain adaptable.
While the United States excels at fighting at a Brigade Combat Team-level, future success will stem from excellence in space and cyber operations, electronic warfare, air defense, information operations, and lean logistical planning. These areas are challenging and will require extensive organization and advanced exercise design.
The use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for reconnaissance and targeting will increase. As these systems proliferate, they will lower the ‘entry fee’ into combine
29. The Policy and Law of Lethal Autonomy with Michael Meier and Shawn Steene
Michael Meier is the Special Assistant to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) for Law of War Matters at Headquarters, Department of the Army. As such, Mr. Meier serves as the law of war subject matter expert for the U.S. Army JAG Corps, advising on policy issues involving the law of war. Mr. Meier also reviews all proposed new U.S. Army weapons and weapons systems to ensure they are consistent with U.S. international law obligations. Additionally, he is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, instructing courses on the Law of Armed Conflict. Mr. Meier is a retired JAG officer, having served in the U.S. Army for 23 years.
Shawn Steene is the Senior Force Developer for Emerging Technologies, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, where his portfolio includes Emerging Technologies and S&T, including Autonomous Weapon Systems policy and Directed Energy Weapons policy. Prior to joining OSD Strategy & Force Development, Mr. Steene worked in OSD Space Policy, where his portfolio included Space Support (launch, satellite control, orbital debris mitigation, and rendezvous and proximity operations), as well as strategic stability and all space-related issuances (Directives, Instructions, DTMs, etc.). He is a proclaimed Mad Scientist, having presented and served as a discussion panelist in our Frameworks (Ethics & Policy) for Autonomy on the Future Battlefield, the final webinar in our Mad Scientist Robotics and Autonomy series of virtual events.
In today’s podcast, Messrs. Meier and Steene discuss the ground truth on regulations and directives regarding lethal autonomy and what the future of autonomy might mean in a complex threat environment. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with them:
Current law and policy do not specifically prohibit or restrict the use of autonomous weapons. However, these systems will need to operate within the law of armed conflict and Department of Defense (DoD) directives. These restrictions entail that autonomous systems will need to be capable of distinguishing between appropriate targets and non-combatants, maintain proportionality in attacks, and undertake feasible precautions to reduce risk to civilians and protected objects.
Ultimately, operators and human supervisors will be held responsible under laws of conflict and U.S. policy. Thus, appropriate safeguards will need to be adopted to ensure appropriate human oversight of autonomous systems. DoD directives establish guidelines for this supervision and facilitate case by case reviews of systems with autonomous capabilities.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy are not interchangeable. While some autonomous systems use AI, this is not always the case.
The United States is concerned with and making efforts to addr
28. The Next Ten Years of Tech with Eli Dourado
Eli Dourado is a senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity (CGO) at Utah State University. He focuses on the hard technology and innovation needed to drive large increases in economic growth — speeding up infrastructure deployment, eliminating barriers to entrepreneurs operating in the physical world, and getting the most out of federal technology research programs. He has worked on a wide range of technology policy issues, including aviation, Internet governance, and cryptocurrency. His popular writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy, among other outlets.
In today’s podcast, Mr. Dourado discusses technology opportunities in the next decade, the economic impact of shifting technology trends, and their impact on global security. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with him:
According to economic statistics, technological growth has stagnated since 2005. While some claim that the economy has fully matured and further growth will be limited, others argue that there is still room for growth, but U.S. culture and complacency has prevented further growth.
In the next two decades, geothermal energy will have the biggest impact on economic development. Cheap, unlimited geothermal energy will enable the use of more expensive materials like silicon carbide by significantly reducing the cost to create them, produce energy without carbon emissions thus mitigating the effects of climate change, and reduce food security concerns via indoor growing models.
The United States is now energy independent, which could incentivize a shift away from intervention in the Middle East. Conflict in the region could still significantly impact U.S. supply chains, given Asian reliance on Middle Eastern energy flows.
While genetic enhancements are still decades away, brain computer interfaces (BCI) could allow soldiers to command technology at the speed of thought in the next ten years. Related bioethical concerns, while important, may also be limiting the growth of beneficial technologies.
Decreasing launch costs are facilitating both commercial and governmental expansion in space. High resolution earth sensing technology could soon enable a “live Google Earth,” in which viewers could watch scenarios unfold in real time (e.g., Uyghur camps), impacting social movements.
Augmented reality will be widely adopted by the middle of the decade. However, systems will still require the development of ‘contextua
27. Hybrid Threats and Liminal Warfare with Dr. David Kilcullen
David Kilcullen is Professor of Practice at the Center on the Future of War and the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University, a Senior Fellow at New America, and an author, strategist, and counterinsurgency expert. He served 25 years as an officer in the Australian Army, diplomat and policy advisor for the Australian and United States Governments, in command and operational missions (including peacekeeping, counterinsurgency and foreign internal defense) across the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe. In the United States, he was Chief Strategist in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, and served in Iraq as Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus, before becoming Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is the author of a number of influential books including The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One, Counterinsurgency, Out of the Mountains, and Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism — based on an essay that received the Walkley Award, the Australian version of the Pulitzer Prize. His newest book is The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West.
In today’s podcast, Dr. Kilcullen discusses the future of conflict, changing concepts of victory, and achieving decisive advantages. The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview with him:
Different actors (state and non-state) are converging on a set of tactics: small teams, modular, urban, use of cyber kinetics.
This convergence is an adaptation to US and Western dominance in a small sub-set of warfare characterized by high tech, connected, exquisite systems of systems. We describe this as conventional or regular warfare because we are the best in the world at this type of conflict.
These different actors are the Dragons (states) and Snakes (non-state actors). Dragons are back, but acting more like Snakes. Snakes are more capable due to the democratization of technology which makes them more lethal and capable of operating regionally and globally.
The War on Terror is not over, but the period of large occupations has ended. Simultaneously, the possible resurgence of Great Power Conflict means the US must be capable of fighting both near peer competitors and capable non-state actors.
The defining characteristics of future warfare include:
Liminal Warfare – Our adversaries will seek to operate below the West’s response threshold, executing covert operations that may be detected, but whose sponsorship remains cloaked and unattributed; and ambiguous actions, where both the operation and sponsor may be suspected, but remains unproven.
Tactical Concepts employing small teams, modular, swarming, empowered by advanced communications and (in the future) artificial intel
Customer ReviewsSee All
A great podcast!
Great conversations about security with leading experts and entertaining hosts. The perfect length for a quick break or car ride. A must listen!!
I really hope you guys are able to keep stuff like this coming down the line.
Great job, Luke and AFC. Changing the way we perceive warfare in this new decade and beyond is going to be what drives strategy and perception in the international stage.