How Electromagnetic Weapons May Be Decisive in Future Wars

This excellent article ‘‘Revolution in warfare’: Israel has new ‘invisible’ defense system‘ provides useful insight into electromagnetic weapons that aim to destroy the enemy’s electronic systems, which are now so important in all weaponry.

The weapon, which reportedly can halt electronic capabilities of an enemy, is part of a new suite of electromagnetic warfare called Scorpius. The Scorpius “missiles” send narrowly targeted beams of energy that disrupt enemy electronic sensors, navigation, radar or other electronic activity.” Also, this new weapon is supposedly much more discriminating as “the new Scorpius weapons have an advantage over older forms of electromagnetic warfare because they can send targeted beams without interfering with unintended targets.”

We can also observe this type of weapons to be deployed in the form of drone killing devices. It may be difficult to protect electronics from such weapons if the electromagnetic energy sent is very dense. This has not yet be deployed in major conflicts between technological armies, but could certainly be a game changer in terms of requiring a new generation of reinforced electronics in all weapons to survive electromagnetic aggressions.

Electromagnetic weapons are now operational and will have a significant impact on how future wars may develop, not to mention their potentiel effect on unprotected civilian infrastructure. This is certainly a significant change ahead!


How the Metaverse Term and Concept Was Created in a Novel in 1992

The metaverse term was invented by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book ‘Snow Crash‘. I just read the book -highly recommended- and was astonished at how prescient it was, taking into account the fact it was published in 1992 and thus probably written in 1990 or 1991. At that time, the internet was quite in an infant stage.

In the book we are propelled into some dreary future where the government authority has vanished and where people live both in reality and a virtual world called the metaverse. The hero is a hacker that participated to setting it up and can manage some of the deeper programs, providing him with an advantage in the metaverse. It is worth reading the book so I won’t tell the story.

Still, the amazing part is how the description of the metaverse is actual as per our current view (as is the description of glass-fiber and remote connections to the internet, together with the usage of googles to view the virtual world). Kudos to the author because I remember that time as discovering as I went to university, the capabilities of ftp to connect to an overseas computer, the very beginning of email and no idea of internet at all.

Snow Crash‘ is indeed a highly recommended read, not only because it is an excellent thriller, but also to appreciate how authors can be prescient about future concepts and services. In this case, up to inventing the term ‘metaverse’.


How Geopolitical Competition Give Rise to Grey War

In a new book ‘The Wires of War: Technology and the Global Struggle for Power‘ the author Jacob Helberg describes some geostrategic drivers in the modern world, as explained in detail in this post ‘The Wires of War: Technology and the Global Struggle for Power‘.

Those are:

  1. The Gray War is redefining international politics.
  2. The new weapons of war are everyday technologies.
  3. The face of censorship has fundamentally changed.
  4. Old conceptions of sovereignty no longer apply.
  5. In the Gray War, de-industrialization is disarmament.

What I find interesting here is the concept of ‘grey war’ and the fact that industrialization is the key to remain at an essential place in the world order. “Gray zone competition conflicts are now a pervasive and predominant feature of international politics. I use the term “Gray War” to describe the systemic global tech-fueled struggle between U.S.-led democracies and China-led autocracies. The stakes of this war are ultimately about political power and influence over every meaningful aspect of our everyday lives, our economy, our infrastructure, our ability to compete and innovate, our personal privacy, and subtle decisions we make based on information we interact with every single day.”

Interconnection of our economies and our technologies has changed significantly the face of geopolitical competition. Conflict takes a different face, with grey war and more permanent threats and attacks.


How China Is Promoting a Government Spy App

This excellent Quartz paper ‘One of the world’s most popular iOS apps right now was developed by Chinese police’ exposes how chinese authorities heavily promote an app that basically spies on people phones, to the point that it is visible in download statistics.

While “targeted towards telecom scams, which are among the most rampant crimes in China. In 2020 alone, Chinese police reportedly cracked around 250,000 such cases“, “there are concerns over the extent to which the app is surveilling users.” The app is asking for a lot access and apparently is reacting whenever users do things like consulting foreign web sites.

This is an interesting example of what can happen when there are no strict laws regarding the use of personal data. Of course we all know that it is relatively easy to access phone data for someone with the capabilities to do it. However, having users installing an app with potentially a significant spying capability is something new at this scale.

This provides another example of the always delicate balance between the benefits of technology and its potential drawbacks, and how regulation is essential to protect citizens. The same issue is also of concern with Facebook and others. It is time for strict regulations to come into force that reflect our country view on personal freedom and the need for surveillance to avoid social disruption.


How Civility Becomes an Explicit Expectation in Society

This Gapingvoid rant ‘Want to be a better human?‘ brings back the issue of civility (as in “civilized conduct (especially: courtesy or politeness) or a polite act or expression” [Wikipedia]). It is not the first time I hear about the explicit comeback of this simple concept, which before was quite an implicit assumption of social life.

As organizations shuffle from minority to minority, demonstrating how much they care & how inclusive they are, what is completely overlooked is the unsexy conversation about being nice, respectful, and kind, treating others fairly, and a hundred other courtesies that our moms taught us, or should have.”

I can’t more agree with this statement. It is a pity that people need to be reminded of their duty about civility explicitly, still is a a foundation of life in society and preempts any debate a difference and discrimination.

Maybe it is worth reminding more broadly about civility, what it means, how it is practiced. That we need to do it, however, shows the failure of both family and school to bring a minimum of social skills to people.

Let’s thus be more explicitly require civility and explain what it means. This is a minimum for social interaction and if it needs to be explicit so be it!


How Many Startups Subcontract Hardware Production to a Single Company

This article “Your Favorite Start-up Might Not Have Made That Thing It’s Selling Meet Doris Dev” highlights that many startup companies rely on a single source for their hardware design and production: a company named Doris Dev.

Doris Dev is “an agency that handles product design, engineering, sourcing, manufacturing, and even fulfillment from its offices in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and Hong Kong.” – “a team of product development experts who can lead any project from idea to market, including design, engineering, sourcing, manufacturing, testing, distribution and beyond” according to their website.

This can easily be understood taking into account the amount of design and production knowledge that is needed to produce hardware. Start-ups then focus on defining the product, brand and marketing. I find that it is a clever positioning for the Doris Dev company. “Doris Dev clears a path for founders, taking on the managerial load of product development (a huge plus for the many first-time entrepreneurs with minimal experience managing a team) and enabling more types of entrepreneurs and more types of products to go to market“.

The start-up ecosystem has thus evolved to enable outsourcing of hardware production. Still I can see some drawbacks in this approach, because the product may fail to deliver and it can certainly be cheaper to own its own supply chain in the longer term. At some stage the start-up companies will have to become more industrial. Still, actual value chains never stop astonishing us!


How Stories Change Cultures

In this interesting post ‘The Connection Between Narrative and Culture‘, Valeria Maltoni addresses how cultures change. Cultures being often defined by narratives (like popular stories), they are at the center of cultural change too.

Culture develops over larger time horizons. It’s a reflection of a society’s or group orientation. Like the market, collective attention determines what people carry forward. Hence the prevailing narratives. Some see change as the result of influence by a group of outsiders. […] I have another theory of change […] It does start with a story. But the story has to reflect the reality to draw from it. Not just be utopia.

I find this approach interesting. In a world where stories are constantly created over social networks, the emergence of strong collective stories may be what changes cultures. It requires diversity, infusion of new ideas, and this creates stories and memes. At the end of the day, it makes cultures evolve.

The idea that cultures are defined by collective stories and evolve through stories is quite strong. And quite actionnable.


How Human Augmentation Becomes Imperative for Defense

This interesting article ‘Space Force scientist warns it’s ‘imperative’ the US military experiment with human augmentation and AI to stay ahead of Russia and China‘ expose how military competition leads into human augmentation. And what happens in the military will undoubtedly spread later in civilian usage.

[this Space Force scientist] announced we are entering the age of ‘human augmentation,’ which is crucial to the US’s national defense in order to not ‘fall behind our strategic competitors.

It proposes in particular to use self-learning algorithms to develop innovative strategies (such as AlphaGo algorithm that has self-taucht how to play go). This would lead to a battlefield combining human and IA agents (including probably drones). Therefore, human agents will need to be augmented to be able to fully work together with AI and fully participate in the battlefield.

This development was expected but we can now anticipate that it may go faster due to increased competition in the arms race between nations.

The challenge I believe will be to effectively combine the virtual battlefield with the real battlefield conditions: in effect the twin battlefield will have to reflect actual conditions on the ground and this will certainly be a major challenge in the years to come.


How Copyright Trolls Now Spread to Modern Creative Common Licenses

This excellent article ‘Beware the Copyleft Trolls‘ explains how certain organisations are now suing systematically material used under modern Creative Common licenses.

Creative Commons licenses are a new approach to copyrights that provide lighter protection and usage rights. They have developed with the development of collaborative approaches on the internet, where images, sounds and other resources are shared widely. They are not free-for-all licenses, however they do allow a lot of non-commercial usage of material.

Still, some organisations seem to sue abusively users of material under those licenses, as soon as some conditions are not strictly followed such as attribution etc.

Verch’s scam is a profitable one. He posts stock photography he savvily generates to meet market demand, such as images of “face coverings, test tubes and people wearing masks” that he put on his website at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Then, he waits for someone to slip up on the CC-BY-2.0 attribution. And he pounces.”

This is the behavior of trolls (other exist in the field of patent law – see for example our older post ‘Patent trolls and the end of conventional intellectual property‘ ) and judges seem to be reluctant to follow suit, however this creates a lot of disturbances.

Another proof that even when one tries to develop a benevolent and collaborative approach, some trolls do try to take advantage of the situation. Therefore one should be careful however I am certain society and law will act to make sure this remains marginal and the general intent of collaboration remains.


How Belief in Paranormal Increases

Statistics show a significant increase in the past few years in the belief of paranormal powers, as shown in this very interesting Medium article ‘Hex Factor: Inside the Group Offering $250,000 for Proof of Superpowers‘. The article addresses efforts being made to debunk paranormal power claims.

The fastest-growing religious affiliation in the U.S. are people with no religious affiliation, Bader says, or “nones” in sociological parlance. It’s a broad category that includes both atheists, agnostics, and people whose beliefs don’t fit with any formal religious organization. A large percentage of nones also say they believe in the paranormal. People who accept the paranormal are also more likely than those who don’t to believe in conspiracy theories.”

This trend in an increase of both conspiracy theories and paranormal claims may be linked to an increasing misalignment between people expectations and how they observe the world.

Once those beliefs are there, they are really hard to dislodge. Our brains are exceptionally good at discounting evidence that doesn’t fit with what we already believe, and at prioritizing information that confirms our pre-existing perceptions”. However the article states that most of those claims go mute when requested to be demonstrated (which does not mean that people don’t continue to believe in them).

The increasing belief in the marvelous, the paranormal and conspiracies seem to be a mark of our times where reality becomes more difficult to apprehend in the face of the modified reality presented to us by media and screens.


How 2020s Could Be The Decade of Actual Cyberwar Commencement

Cyberattacks and the more systemic issue of cyberwar is becoming a concern, and some expect that 2021 or at least the 2020s will see the first emergence of visible cyberwar. May elements point to the increased usage of government-backed attacks in the cyberspace: from Russia involvement (read Wired ‘Russia’s global hacking efforts are going to unwind in 2021‘) to a number of events in the Middle East around Israel, Iran and other neighboring countries.

However, as the Wired post explains, the government hand is more and more obvious and the excuse of unknown private hackers is quickly becoming inadequate. In addition, cyber defenses are developed. “The allied objective will be deterrence by denial, raising the costs to the Russian attackers (including identifying the culprits by name) and reducing the value of expected gains. In 2021, we will have active cyber defences of government networks and those of critical national infrastructure to identify hostile penetration attempts.

Cyberattacks have become much more prevalent with Covid confinement and increased remote work, however one can be now be certain that the threat has been identified and as always some form of arms race will happen around cyberattacks.

Cyberwar – with actual impact on infrastructure and physical life – or at least cyberattacks – may become an actual factor of international security in the few years to come.


How Leaders Influence Organisations

In this interesting article ‘Party supporters shift views to match partisan stances‘ a Danish scientific paper is mentioned that studies how the opinion of political party members changed after the leadership of the party changed. They found that opinions could change significantly to match the leader’s.

Supporters of a political party change their policy views “immediately and substantially” after that party switches its position on an issue, new research suggests, a sign that political elites could be shaping the opinions of the voters whos views they are supposed to represent

In general, this is aligned with my experience in (business) organisations: I am always amazed how quickly it is shaped by the leader, and this is particularly visible in good or worse when the leader changes. However it was for me less obvious in the case of a looser setting like a political party.

And indeed it is an interesting question in this case as the political party is supposed to represent the views of its members. Or is it really? Is not more a way to align over a number of main positions to seek power? This certainly provides interesting food for thought about the operation of modern democracies.