Note to MySelf: 6GW as Post-Singularity Warfare?

While reading a new-ish Dreaming 5GW post, I followed this old link to Shloky’s blog where the idea of Sixth-Generation Warfare (6GW) came up.

I am posting it here as a reminder to myself to post on the issues.

It is too soon to be thinking 6GW. The post-singularity world can be glimpsed though.

Here is my comment:

I think what you are describing as 6GW and 7GW requires that the technological singularity has occurred. I don’t think I can look to well past that point. Human society would become very chaotic as it reorganizations into new organizational forms I think. Economics would be radically different. Hmmm…speculation on this post-singularity world (warfare, governing, economics, language, art, culture,) would be very interesting.

Here is Shloky’s reply:

Purpleslog – You’re right, this is a singularity based argument. And I’m on board for a post-singularity discussion.


8 Responses

  1. I believe 5GW will be the last generation of warfare.

  2. If the xGW concept is applicable to other historical eras, at some point, shouldn’t we start looking for the whole thing to start over again? If the singularity is going to be such a monumental societal reorganizing, shouldn’t post-singularity warfare theory begin again, as some kind of post-singularity 1st generation of warfare?

    (sorry if that doesn’t make sense, I’m just having trouble conceptualizing it)

  3. Curtis: You may be right. It is not clear there is anywhere to go after 5GW.

    Unless 6GW is Peer-to-Peer war.

    Colin: I understand what you mean. I have moved away from historical mappings of the xGW – that part of Lind’s idea is to weak.

    “I think of each xGW “generation” as a conflict mode to be used given the nature/intentions/capabilities of competing/cooperating actors and whatever is the state of the world at that particular time and place. Globalization is just making it so that now the place for our current particular time is the entire earth for the most part.”

  4. War, States, and economics can not apply to a post-Singularity society. Coercion, let alone monopolized territorial based coercion, would be a wicked absurdity to beings who have near omniscience. There isn’t even a percieved need to take from others when anything can be made out of anything with the use of self-replicating nano-bots, which is nothing less than the elimination of scarcity.

    How can you war with someone when you can be in a constant state of sharing memories, thoughts, feelings and even identities. The only wars that will occur post-Singularity will be ones played out in historical simulation. Speaking of which, what do you all think more likely, that we will be the first post-Singularity society, or that other societies have already experienced the Singularity, and that we are just playing out a historical simulation, an experiment, for them, and will join them when we come to our Singularity?

    I agree with Curtis that 5GW is the last generation of war. It is the final stage of evolution of war before its’ extinction.

  5. Interesting points. And searching on next generation wars, and techno singularity wars, I came across:
    Singularity Warfare in the Transhumanist’s peer-reviewed periodical. This was about getting military to think in terms of singularity.

    But here is a “whole system”s view of asymetrical war, Winning the Long Peace.

    Can there be any such thing as a holistic or sustainable theory of warfare, and can any post-singularity war be a ‘whole’ war, if you consider that all theory and known systems dissolve in the time of the singularity?


  6. I am of the opinion now, that there isn’t a 6GW. After a singularity, conflict will look different.

    This link looks interesting at a glance:

  7. The above link has a market-state like approach and adds to the idea.


    Examining the State as a Service Provider
    A first concrete instance: what if American embassies the world over issued extremely hard identity credentials to people – US citizens or otherwise?

    This is a function typically strongly associated with conventional nation states, but in this age of ICT, there are no technical problems in issuing a biometric identity card to any person who asks for one. Obviously such a card is more limited than, say, a passport. The US Govt. has no access to the criminal files or identity databases of the country of origin of the person requesting an ID. It does not vouch for government knowledge about you, only that you are this person and no other. Such a card might not even bear a name, only vouch for recorded biometric uniqueness.

    However, these secure biometric identity documents unambiguously state that the US Govt. has established that this face goes with this US-issued identity number, fingerprints and retinal scan. In many chaotic situations, these credentials would become the gold standard for identity verification, much like the extraterritorial dollar is the definitively hard cash.

    Obviously such an identity credential has many positive security implications. Also consider its utility to, say, a college professor in an impoverished, unstable country trying to conduct business abroad. Possession of a US-backed digital ID could differentiate a real business transaction from an attempted fraud.

    Correctly managed and designed, acting as an identity credential provider is a service, not an intrusion. This becomes even clearer when dealing with refugees, IDPs, citizens of utterly failed states and many other groups who lack solid enough identity credentials to gain access to international financial infrastructure or other services delivered by the global economy.

    There are many US Govt. services which could be extended internationally. The EPA, FDA and OSHA all do work which small nations cannot afford to replicate. Efforts like translating reports and making them available in a coordinated fashion might help a lot of people at relatively low cost to the American people, and harmonize certain global policies with America.

    Outsourcing certain kinds of regulations and research is the legislative equivalent of pegging a currency to the dollar. For example, a developing world country could state that their banned chemical list will be the same as the US list of 20 years ago except in the case of new urgent discoveries. In areas which rest on objective hard science, the downside of pegging one’s national policy to that of a scientific superpower is negligible.

    America stands to gain from these activities many ways, but most strikingly in the case of failed states, where the soft services, primarily scientific and technical, that America could provide would help keep these areas sane and governable without rendering them American protectorates. US backed key services like identity and property rights registers could help tie these nations together in times of real trouble like regime changes or civil wars, and help the new governments keep the bureaucracy functioning through the political unrest.

    Much work has to be done, and many axioms of government must be re-examined to enable this process, but there is great promise here.


    Extraterritorial Defense Using US Air Power
    Many nations wish they had US protection from hostile neighbors. However, it is not viable for the US to send troops to small conflicts across the entire globe. Consider, however, an approach like Air/Ground war with American air power and local ground troops defending their own borders.

    In the most extreme version of this model, the US forces would only operate in the airspace of the country they are defending, and no ground forces would be committed. The defensive effect, however, would be near-absolute as relatively light local armor could likely defend against ground troops deprived of all vehicular support.

    This model presents a very low risk to American fighters, and yet could serve to make even a relatively small, weak nation nearly impregnable. Many nations would be grateful for this support in defending their borders.

    Citizens of countries with such a defense pact would be acutely aware that the US Govt. is protecting them from their hostile neighbors. No small nation could afford to buy the kind of protection that a treaty like this would provide, but the marginal cost to the US for providing the cover is relatively small because the force already exists. This appears to be an effective use of resources.

    What are the costs for providing this kind of defensive service to other nations? Could nations foot part or all of the bill for the coverage they are provided as part of the treaty, or would strategic interests like widespread scattering of bases within friendly countries provide the budget for the cover?

    This also provides an interesting alternative to MAD for regional security: nations with these deals with the US cannot effectively be invaded by their neighbors. This hinges on countries seeing a deal with the US Govt. as being a better long haul security investment than a WMD program or even large conventional forces. There is much work to be done here on the economics and policy preconditions of entering into these kinds of defense pacts.

    Critical Infrastructure
    The US Govt. supports critical global infrastructure like GPS, Iridium, aspects of the Internet, the FDA, OSHA, patent databases and so on. If the US Govt. really pushed the international value of these infrastructure services and maximized the utility of these services to foreign citizens how much impact would that have? How can the US maximize the return on these investments?

    Technological and Development Support for the Global Poor
    Socially responsible technology development projects aimed at stabilizing and then improving the conditions of the global poor can easily be created from America’s scientific and technical base. Many projects already exist, such as the One Laptop Per Child initiative, but these projects are seen as stand-alone initiatives, rather than parts of a coherent policy approach to the developing world.

    Target areas could include global access to clean water through simple technologies like solar water pasteurization, development of new appropriate technology power systems, low cost basic medical technologies and so on.

    The close analogy to the Air-support-only defensive pacts is that the US would take responsibility for developing and testing these technologies, but would only make the designs available free of charge – essentially providing design and laboratory services, and leaving nations, NGOs and individuals to capitalize the designs and handle resource distribution. This keeps costs down, and makes clear where US responsibility ends, which is an important consideration when considering how to reach outside of our borders on non-military levels.

    Another critical area is farming. Roughly 50% of the world’s population makes a living by simple farming, mainly using manual and animal labor. One recent study shows that modern organic agriculture techniques could roughly double the food output of these farmers (Perfecto et. al. “Organic agriculture and the global food supply.”) Organic agriculture practices could be disseminated using modern ICT. For example, a farmer could send an SMS message to the local American embassy while standing in their field. The GPS data about their location could be correlated with satellite imagery showing the condition of their fields over the previous few years using techniques from precision agriculture, a common first world farming practice. Individualized recommendations could then be delivered. The cost per individual helped is relatively small: the heavy work is done by computers. But the effect on global food security, and on how the US is viewed by perhaps 50% of the world’s population is beyond price.

    Similar approaches are possible in medicine. Carefully prepared information packs, tailored to the health risks of each climate, geography and lifestyle could be coupled with existing medical expert systems to provide very basic, but still very useful, global health support at relatively low marginal costs. Education is similarly an open door: primary and even secondary education materials, vetted for accuracy and cultural appropriateness, and then translated into many world languages could help countless people at very low cost, and the more educated a population is, the less vulnerable they will be to rumors and propaganda.

    Private service providers are incentivized to provide global network services, but nobody has the combination of budget and long range interests to foot the bill for developing the services which would save lives by reaching across the networks to help people.
    Think of this as “Voice of America” for the Internet Age.

    The mandate won by taking care of this kind of work as part of the core business of the US Govt. would be overwhelming popular support for the US as a country that ends the worst consequences of poverty: a reputation which cannot be matched by any other nation, and which is culturally important in many different traditions.

    Projected benefits include improving the quality of life in slums and especially villages all over the world, encouraging some villagers to remain on their own land, rather than migrating to the slums, which are prone to extremism and unrest. Villagers are also typically ecologically benign, being organic farmers by trade. Would a villager who’s children went to school, who was taught advanced agriculture, who’s own life was saved during an illness by network services provided free of charge by the American people drop the dime and inform on terrorists operating from his village?

    There is no human intelligence network like a population which genuinely supports America and has a vested interest in America’s continued prosperity and survival.

    Global Human Rights Monitoring and Reporting
    While America cannot expect all other nations to meet American standards of human rights – and many nations currently exceed American standards – the US Govt. could support free speech, habeas corpus etc. as global values. There already exists a mandate for this: the Founding Fathers make clear the basic human rights which they consider universal, and these rights clash in no way with those of most other cultures. The unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” represent a standard that may apply widely, even if some areas of the Bill of Rights may be less globally applicable.

    This is an incredibly delicate area, and yet also very important in terms of transnational sovereignty. The mandate to prevent terrorism logically extends to preventing people being terrorized in other ways, although the line between support and interventionism must be carefully drawn.

    Could the US Govt. provide a global human rights monitoring and reporting system as a global service to the citizens of other nations? What about an extremely streamlined asylum process, perhaps housing asylum seekers in countries other than the US while cases are processed? Measures like these could provide strong support for human rights without being unreasonably intrusive to other governments or expensive to the US taxpayer.

    Identity Services and Property Databases
    The digital ID card system examined earlier can also extend to support for property rights databases – particularly for small land holders. This service could be provided relatively cheaply using GPS and satellite data, helping keep people on their land, safeguard their property, and perhaps join the global economy if de Soto’s ideas on property rights at the bottom of the pyramid are correct. Higher level financial infrastructure like stock markets may also fall into the category of services which the US Govt. could support in the developing world at reasonable expense for very broad positive consequences.

    Citizens of strong, well organized states with good services may have little to gain from working with the US in these ways. However, a rural subsistence farmer may actually get better services in many areas from an “extended services package” from the US Govt. than from their own state in areas where the service can be provided remotely over the network, such as for identity services or scientific information about topics like water purification.

    It is nearly certain that within 20 years internet access will be nearly universal even among the very, very poor through cellphones and new generations of extremely low cost computing devices making parts of this outreach cheap and global.

    SSTR makes no sense in the conventional nation state/Marshall Plan sense for many of the areas where the military might be expected to try. Is it realistic to expect countries which were chaotic and violent before the US arrived to become placid and well organized afterwards? How far up the curve do we expect to be able to push a state in one generation?

    Rather, the goals of SSTR work should be to provide services to individuals rather than to transform states from the top down. We should focus on providing basic infrastructure, services and amenities with the appropriately sized and positioned programs, in the hope of building systems that will remain functional if trouble starts after the US presence is gone. State-like services which are anchored in the US or at secure facilities closer to the users can provide individuals with government services, whether it is defensive air power, an ID hard enough to permit international banking, or water purification technology that works in their climate. In the US all of these services are either provided by the State, or are heavily State regulated. However, most of them can be supported or provided globally at marginal cost to the US taxpayer as a stepping stone to long term global security.

    By placing the policing aspects of the GWOT in the context of a comprehensive service package offered by the US to the governments and citizens of other countries, it is possible to integrate the currently confusing messages about US sovereignty at a global scale.

    The US Govt. can chart a path to a long term national role which allows it to keep military preeminence without making all of US citizens seem like legitimate targets for unconventional war. The crux is to rationalize the theoretical basis of US transnational sovereignty to include state services other than military security operations.

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