Monday, December 15, 2014

Weaponizing "Big Data" and the Coming Hyper-Personalization of Conflict

Or guest on yesterday's Midrats, Charles Dunlap Jr., USAF (Ret.) has an article out in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, The Hyper-Personalization of War: Cyber, Big Data, and the Changing Face of Conflict, that everyone should get a cup of coffee and read carefully.

Once the algorithms are there, the economics of duplication & simplification bring about affordability and expendability - the cold logic of progress will take over. 

If you have an opponent who cares little to any for law, your morality, or the legal niceties of civilized conflict (what little there is), then you have a very brave world indeed.

Charlie outlines a capability that everyone should take a moment to ponder.
It is critical to understand that cyberderived data does not sit in isolation from other developing technologies.

One technology that achieved significant prominence in recent years is the use of remotely-piloted aircraft commonly known as “drones” to engage in long-term surveillance of battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and to attack enemy fighters wherever found.
the U.S. military is developing a generation of small drones capable of operating in networked groups, or “swarms.”

Other reports suggest efforts to develop lethal micro-drones that “resemble winged, multi-legged bugs” which “swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines” as they seek their target.

Parallel to the rapid development of drone technology is the swift advance of facial recognition software.

The linkage of the two in the context of “Big Data” was virtually inevitable. In 2013 the Associated Press, in a story provocatively entitled, “Drones With Facial Recognition Technology Will End Anonymity, Everywhere,”
What does this “cocktail” of cyber technologies mean for warfighting? Quite simply, it appears that in the not-too-distant future, the U.S. military - and likely other militaries - will be able to launch swarms of drones equipped with facial recognition software to roam battlefields looking for very specific members of an enemy’s force. These could be officers, but also selected technicians and battle-hardened leaders who possess vital and difficult-to-replace skills.
As he touches on in his article - there is one place this give me the most pause, and it has nothing to do with state-to-state conflict.

We already have small, almost undetectable drones that can sit like insects and wait. They also have the ability to dwell for a long time conserving their power - or with flexible solar cells or other means perhaps even make their own power as they wait in a sunny spot - until the target arrives. Personalized targets via autonomous target recognition software and preloaded courses of action and rules of engagement.

Every place you park your car. Every place you walk your dog. Every store you visit. Every place your kids go to school - any place you show your face could have - attacked to a tree, a wall, a pole, anything - a small drone processing every face, just waiting; waiting for you.

I would argue that you don't even need facial recognition. As any practitioner of the acoustic arts will tell you, every engine has its own specific sound. You can identify ships from another of the same class with the same machinery simply by the different acoustic sounds the small imperfections in each ship's construction give.

Have a nice acoustic signature for your car along with a pattern of your daily life, you don't need a face. Your voice. A decade or more, who knows - your smell.

Your lethal payload? Depends on the precision of your delivery. That is probably the easiest.

Just ponder that ... just ponder.

And in case you think this is a little "out there" ...

Of course, just to save you the trouble of putting it in comments.

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