Future Networks: The Ever Evolving Landscape of the digital age and its application in modern warfighting.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Ever since the dawn of man, humans have continuously innovated new technologies as a means of solving problems, which often leads to our lives being a tad bit easier. This is no more apparent than during the 20th and 21st centuries, in which the means of how we have engaged in military and political conflict. As we continue to innovate new technologies in particular the internet, countries around the world have attempted to create new strategies to wage war with other nations, through means of information gathering, cyberwarfare, the internet of things, and blockchains. So what is the root cause of these new concepts of warfare?

Information Networks through the ages

Information gathering and disinformation spreading have been an important part of conflict dating all the way back to ancient Egypt, through the likes of “the ancient craft of espionage”. (thehistorypress.co.uk, 2021) Since those times, the primary objective of an information network is “to achieve information superiority over an adversary” (D. Anthony, 1997) and during times of war especially during the ancient, and early modern history periods, making an informed decision was crucial as one wrong step could have your entire army destroyed in a swift attack.

Art of War

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

Courtesy of :www.audible.com.au

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in 9AD between the Romans and Germanic Tribes, is a prime example of the importance of a reliable and strong information network. “Arminius of the Cherusci began to plot an insurrection” (Hudson, 2019) as a trusted Germanic-Roman Citizen, and advisor to Publius Varus, He informed Varus of rebellion forming and Varus without question took action, however in doing so he walked 3 Roman Legions into a Germanic Ambush in which all 3 Legions were completely wiped out. Due to battles like this, the importance of gathering more and better information has become ever so clear, with World War 2 being a prime example of the major bounds forward in this realm, as radios, cartography, radar, and just good old creativity like in Operation Fortitude where “Real tanks were replaced by dummy tanks when they were moved from their holding areas.” which made the “Germans think the Allies had more tanks than they actually did” (iwm.org.uk, 2021) along with allowing the allies to make final preparations for D-day elsewhere.

Prop WW2 Tank – Courtesy of: http://www.iwm.org.uk

Modern application of Information Networks

With the innovation of the internet, a new realm of information networks has become available for nations to utilise to gain further information on their adversaries. With Wartime, becoming less frequent as we move towards one global village, if we have learned anything from human history, we will always find a reason to have a conflict with one another. It has been roughly 76 days since World War 2 yet the world continues to rise its military spending to “$2 trillion in 2020” (sipri.org, 2021) Therefore, some of this money has been used to bring over innovative civilian technologies and adapt it for military application, these include:

  • Meme Warfare: Does not act as a tool for gathering information, however,, it is a useful tool for recruitment of future soldiers through engagement with a Gen Z Audience, as “Governments try imitating the genre in their propaganda” (Donovan, 2019) Memes have also seen a rise in use during political elections most notably the Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump 2016 presidential election, in which popular memes like ‘Pepe the Frog’ and popular culture at the time ‘Pokemon GO’ were used to help boost engagement with the new generation of voters. Meme Warfare could also be used to build a “detailed analysis on enemy, friendly and non-combatant populations.” (Siegel, 2017) which will help military commanders to understand the culture behind their adversaries.
Courtesy of: @Pray_KEK
  • Cyber Warfare & Hackers: has been one of the largest ventures in recent years in establishing new methods of data gathering information and spreading disinformation, Cyberwarfare has acted as an “uncharted frontier” (theweek.com, 2015) similar to Germanys’ use of Mustard and/or Chlorine Gas during the trench warfare of World War One. Because of this Cyber Warfare has blurred the line between peace and war, as countries continue to push the boundaries of what is considered ‘acceptable’ probing of information during peacetime.
  • Internet of Things: Battlefields have become extremely advanced as “the military gathers data through sensors on a range of platforms” (lockheedmartin.com, 2017) like planes, ground vehicles, warships and even foot soldiers, than send that data back to an HQ to “disseminate the most mission-critical information” which can be used to make smarter combat decisions. This also allows for better “risk assessment, and response time” (Cameron, 2021) to respond to the changing landscape of the battlefield. This web of networks can be compared to the revolutionary technologies of the radios and radars during World War 2, so it will be interesting to see how ioT continues to grow into the future.
  • Block Chains: acts a strong defence against internal and external threats of cyber attacks, and members of NATO have “already begun to explore the possibilities of introducing blockchain into its military machines”. (fintechnews.org, 2020) The companies of Maersk and BlockFreight have both proven that the blockchain can be adopted to support more than NATO’s original purpose of maintain a secure platform for information gathering but can also be applied to “military logistics, procurement, and finance”.

Where from here?: The Future of Networks

Iron man 2 (Hammer Drones) – Courtesy of : ironman.fandom.com

The Future of Networks and their application in the military industry will always be present, as each country attempts to gain an upper hand where ever possible, evident by the creation of different branches of ones armed forces like the American United Space Force. As countries continue to remain at peace but continue to probe each others’ systems for information, it will be interesting to consider the implications these may have on the future. Humans have moved away from traditional conflict as the death of soldiers is extremely costly, which can be seen by the adoption of drone technologies, for example, “a soldier in Arizona can command a drone strike in Pakistan”. (theweek.com, 2015) With this use of drone technology, it has its limitations of still requiring a human to oversee all the primary functions, and as countries look to build Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, it will be only time before America, China, Russia, and other countries establish an independent robot defence force including combined forces of ground vehicles, air vehicles, and navy vessels, connected through the concept of the internet of things to build a neural network of accurate and actionable data and awareness.

With the rise of hacking between governments the importance of making new systems to impede the potential damage that these attacks can have, a decentralized blockchain can make hacks really difficult and can lower the incentive to actually attempt a breach but as new technology is created to defeat old methods of hacking, new means of probing are being created even faster. So, as we look to the future it is going to be extremely interesting how these different networks will shape the way we live our lives going forward!

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