Art & Artists Impact on National Security

Once we entered the clan’s dead zone we lost all comms and our direct link with the rest of the fire team. No choice, though—we couldn’t lose the target. I could swear my two FireLance ’bots hesitated right before they went full autonomous after crossing that invisible Rubicon somewhere between a puddle of something biological and a crushed silver carton of U.N. Refugee Agency pure-water. I sure flinched as my faceplate display glitched then rebooted as I formed a local network with my two ’bots. Just keep my helmet-cooling fan on, that’s all I ask, because a Marine can’t get much hotter than an off-grid underground Lagos rez in July. I’d vampire their batteries to do it, which was the first wireless power hack Gunny showed us on board ship on the way over.

Read more at Proceedings, the magazine of the US Naval Institute.

Art and Strategy

At the Atlantic Council 2016 Global Strategy forum on Monday, I’ll be talking with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work about art, narrative and the Third Offset in a conversation tied to The Art of the Future Project’s recent short story and art contest on the promise and peril of man-machine, AI and other game-changing advances. The works by the contest finalists will help inform the conversation, which is the highest-level impact yet for the project’s crowd sourcing.

Award-winning writers Max Brooks and Ken Liu will also be speaking at the event about strategy and narrative — and signing books. Novelists and think tanks do go together.

Thanks to Daniel Y. Chiu for giving the project a central role. We’ll also have a design-thinking inspired idea wall for impactful films, games, TV shows and books to draw out the most entertaining and informative titles in order to produce a “must-read, must-watch, must-play” list for the project.

See the conference schedule and details.

The Reality of Killer Robots

Over the last 15 years, the idea of “killer robots” has morphed from science fiction to reality, with unmanned systems now a common feature in post–9/11 conflict zones. Just about everyone fighting the multi-sided war in Iraq and Syria, for instance, has used drones, from the US and Russia to the Syrian government and Hezbollah to the Islamic State.

As robots have become more commonplace on the battlefield, fear has grown that they may be on their way to becoming too independent, too intelligent, and too autonomous, able to do more and more on their own without being steered from afar by human control or restriction.

Read more of my essay with P.W. Singer at VICE News.

The Book Pile


Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to visit Fort Benning in Georgia to discuss Ghost Fleet, imagining the future of war and using vignettes and narrative in the policy world. I came away with the mantra of “Ghost Fleet as a verb,” which was employed by the top general there to get the captains and lieutenants training at Fort Benning to charge up their official writing. Here are some of the books that I sent down after my visit to start a future-of-war lending library for the Commander’s Action Group, which functions as a sort of in-house think tank for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. When I mentioned I was including The Profession in the book pile to Callie Oettinger, Steven Pressfield was kind of enough to contribute some of his most important titles, including The War of Art. These are some of the recent books that have made the biggest impact on how I think about the future because they focus on the human element — and how to write about it.

The Dead Prussian

As podcast titles go, it’s hard to beat The Dead Prussian as a set up for an interview. During a recent trip to Australia, I met up with Mick Cook, an officer in the Australian Army and the podcast’s host. We set up in a Canberra coffee shop and talked Ghost Fleet, the power of narrative and writing, Australia’s military modernization and the 21st Century way of war, and finished with one of the toughest questions I’ve yet encountered — or asked. The podcast is named after the Prussian military officer Carl von Clausewitz who wrote On War.

As Mick puts it on his website: Carl Von Clausewitz and his work On War has had a great influence on the way modern, particularly western, militaries practice war. It is for this reason that this podcast, an exploration of war and warfare, is named The Dead Prussian. This podcast will endeavour to study war and warfare as thoroughly as Clausewitz did.

Listen to episode 8 of The Dead Prussian and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Don’t Get Stuck in Silicon Valley

If Secretary of Defense Ash Carter did a Google search for who would make the biggest splash as the head of the Pentagon’s new innovation panel from Silicon Valley, he couldn’t have gotten a better answer than the executive chairman of the eponymous search engine’s parent company, Eric Schmidt. The move announced at the RSA cyber security confab in San Francisco makes clear to the Beltway the military is serious about closing its innovation gap with the commercial sector by reestablishing ties to the Bay Area’s tech heartland.

Yet if the Defense Department’s innovation scouts get too focused on the corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, they risk missing out on existing or nascent technologies from America’s other innovation hubs.

Read more at National Defense magazine.

Picking Allies

Gaming website Gamasutra shed some light on Tom Clancy’s The Division development and how Ubisoft used a strategy-game oriented studio it acquired, Massive, along with its existing studio capabilities to strike the right balance in developing the game’s look and feel.

One of the most telling, and important, quotes from the article is from a Massive executive describing how the Ubisoft team built and organized the development process. It has applications for any creative project where disparate skillsets need to be aligned toward a common objective: “What are you really passionate about? And, be blunt, where do you think you’re better than us? Because that’s what we want you to do on this project. What would you like to own?”

Read more at the Art of Future Warfare website.

Business Not as Usual

With one eye on the sentry (literally, one eye), Snake looks for an opening to sneak past the Russian spetsnaz commando. Rather than fight his way into the military outpost in a valley in 1980s Afghanistan, the hero of the video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain needs to be guided carefully and thoughtfully into and out of trouble. That’s in part because the game requires thinking about keeping the eye patch-wearing character alive throughout each mission while not losing tabs on the burgeoning private military company they run based off of an oil rig complex in the Seychelles.

Read more at the Art of Future Warfare website.

Art of Darkness

The faces looking through the chain link fence don’t despair any more. They gave up days ago. That’s why they are in the Hudson Refugee Camp, packed in by the thousands just to be close to what was supposed to be salvation: soldiers, medicine or vaccines, communication links to the rest of America. The truly desperate remain outside, fighting over canned food and fresh ammunition. Even if you want to help the refugees, you can’t. You’re needed elsewhere: on the streets of the catastrophe that is New York to help restore order.

This is Manhattan as seen in the early-play version of Tom Clancy’s The Division, a new video game in the Tom Clancy series that follows a small team of covert operators who have been standing by in the event of a catastrophe so great that the United States teeters toward becoming a failed state. In this case, it is a bio-terrorism attack on Black Friday that ruptures the fragile membrane between order and anarchy.

Read more at War On The Rocks.