Drawing Simplicity From Chaos

What is the cause of historical events? Power. What is power? Power is the sum total of wills transferred to one person. On what condition are the wills of the masses transferred to one person? On condition that the person express the will of the whole people. That is, power is power.
—Leo Tolstoy,
War and Peace

Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems.
Niels Bohr, Atomic Physics and the Description of Nature

In this paper, we will continue to explore the Battlespace Technology Model from the smallest infinitesimal part to the grandest theoretical level. “War most closely resembles a game of cards.”[1] Clausewitz said. The mathematical science and logic will not find a firm basis in war unless “possibilities, probabilities, good luck and bad” are woven in.[2] In the following section, we will weave in uncertainty and probabilities into the Battlespace Technology Model. We will do so by first constructing a model of the actor with the Clausewitzian Trinity, and then use concepts from quantum mechanics—a scientific study that combines logic and probability at an atomic level—to explain how uncertainty permeate the elements as the actor is situated within the Battlespace Technology Model.

Recall that this is the basic building block of a Battlespace Technology Model: 

This model can be expanded into representations in time and space. 

The above representations assumed a certain level of linearity in order to simplify the introduction. However, every element, decision, and action are fraught with uncertainty, and we will examine how one soldier is affected by uncertainty when he carries out an action in the single block model. To do so, we will model the elements that affect him with the Clausewitzian Trinity.

 War is more than a true chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case. As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone.

The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people; the second the commander and his army; the third the government. The passions that are to be kindled in war must already be inherent in the people; the scope which the play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the commander and the army; but the political aims are the business of government alone.

These three tendencies are like three different codes of law, deep-rooted in their subject and yet variable in their relationship to one another. A theory that ignores any one of them or seeks to fix an arbitrary relationship between them would conflict with reality to such an extent that for this reason alone it would be totally useless.[3]

Our task therefore is to develop a theoretical model that accounts for these three tendencies and the fluid relationships between them.

The Quantum Mechanics Interpretation of the Clausewitzian Trinity

When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.
—Niels Bohr

In this section, we will use the Waldman three-layer interpretation of the Trinity from War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity to construct a model of the actor.[4] The Trinity affects all areas of war, but we will first create a scalable model for an individual actor and then model the environment after the actor model is created. 

In the Waldman three-level interpretation of the Trinity, each tendency in the Trinity (passion, chance, and policy) mainly manifests in a subject (people, the army, and the government) within a certain context. Waldman then represented the Clausewitz Trinity in three levels:

Primary: passion, chance, and policy
Secondary: people; commander and army; government
Tertiary: context[5]

I will use these three layers to model an actor, with each layer representing the elements that affect his decisions to perform a certain action in the battlespace. Although one could categorize deep-rooted information in the actor into each of these layers, a mathematical treatment is still required to handle the varying relationships between each element within and between the layers.[6] In order to fully model all the elements, I will represent the Trinity layers with the atomic orbital model in quantum mechanics.[7] I use quantum mechanics to account for the calculations of the probability because, like war, physics is dominated by probability at an infinitesimally atomic level. Quantum physics is a scientific field where major impact can be generated by manipulating probability and uncertainty.

In the atomic orbital model, each atom has three quantum numbers, each corresponds to an atomic orbital. An atomic orbital is a mathematical function that can be used to calculate the probability of finding any electron of an atom around the atom’s nucleus. The atomic orbitals do not physically exist, but they are merely the probabilistic locations where an electron could be found. The orbitals are energetically distinct from each other, but together they form the atom as a whole.[8]

In this conceptual mapping, each actor will be modeled as an atom and the elements of his decisions as electrons in the atom. The three-level Clausewitzian Trinity can be expressed in the atomic orbital model as illustrated in the following graph. I will refer to this model as the Trilevel Actor Model from this point on.

Each level is formed by all the possible probability states exist in that actor. Each element of a decision has a certain probability to exist in a level, but never cease to be completely separated from the other elements in other layers. For example, in regard to “commander and army” in the second layer, the probability states include all the training the soldier has received as part of the army. As the soldier decides to execute a certain technique in the battlespace, his decision includes considerations from his training as a soldier, his passion as a person, and his understanding of policy as a citizen/part of an organization; all of which are expressed in a particular context. The three levels could be thought of as the why, how, and what of a given actor. Given a certain a priori knowledge of the actor and the environment, the probability of all the elements that form the decision for an action could be estimated.

The characteristics of an actor, as modeled in the Trilevel Actor Model, are expressed externally in the physical, mental, and moral realm. These expressions of an actor interact and affect the environment and other actors. The effects in the three realms are modeled as electromagnetic field lines that permeate the environment and the actors within it. The actor’s action in each realm is the combined result of his characteristics in the three levels and the influence of factors from the three realms. The physical, mental, and moral realms are interdependent with predictive relationships, and effects in mental and moral realms can be projected to the physical realm in order to become an observable effect. The magnitude of the effects in the realms on the environment and the actors are based on predictive probability. In the graph below, the single block model is drawn alongside the probabilistic Trilevel Actor Model traveling in the domain under the influence of his characteristics as well as those of the environment.

In the space representation of the domain, the probabilistic nature of an action can be illustrated. In a simple decision of seeking cover and concealment, an actor could travel to the back of the tree, back of the bushes, or the back of the small hill. The decision and the execution of the action are the probabilistic combination of his characteristics in the three levels as expressed in the physical, mental, and moral realms.

Actors can affect one another with their actions in any of the realms, as well as create combinatory effects by sharing the layers with another actor. The collaborative combination could involve solely the tertiary level, the tertiary and secondary levels, and all three levels. As more levels are shared, the energy that it takes for the combination to occur becomes higher. For example, it is relatively easy to share an operating view with another person and execute circumstantial tasks; however, it requires more effort to share the same operating view, standard operating procedure, and primordial passion with another actor. The effects from combining different levels will be different, and should be utilized based on mission requirements.

Simply because we understand the world down to the subatomic level does not mean that we will analyze large building structures with atomic theory. Similar to the transition between quantum mechanics to macrophysics, assumptions can be made to drastically simplify the calculations on the operational and strategic level. However, understanding the battlespace science down to the infinitesimal level allows us to develop a logical congruent theory from the tactical to strategic level.

We will leave the exploration of the exact manner of which combinatory actions can be created to tacticians. However, we will align the Trilevel Actor Model and the time and space representation of the Battlespace Technology Model with classic war theories, operational art, and doctrines.[9-13] Doing so allows this model to be incorporated into existing military operations with minimal disruption.

For logic and science to be useful in the battlespace, one has to first accept the probabilistic nature of all interactions. The Trilevel Actor Model and the Battlespace Model blend science and art from tactics to strategy without prescribing a boundary between any of them. The model and the variables within it communicate with one another such that they can be rearranged in accordance with these theories and all doctrines, operational planning, and tactics that stem from them.

Common-Object Technological Weapon

In the theoretical ideal of a technology-aided maneuver warfare, each action—from tactical to strategic—is optimized to maximize effect and economy of force. In this ideal scenario, each warfighter is enabled to fine-tune his action based on local conditions, and combine multiple tactical effects to maximize the combinatory effect. Realistically, this ideal is extremely difficult to execute. The influx of information and plethora of technology are likely to overwhelm the individual soldier and the military organization. While the friction of utilizing tools to accomplish an action cannot be completely eliminated, the Battlespace Technology Model combined with the Trinity Actor Model can offer some design guidance to ease the integration.

When designing a technology, the less cognitive dissonance it creates in the user, the easier it would be for the user to adopt.[14-15] Technology that is resonant with the core passion of the warfighter and the uncertainty that dictates the environment could enable creativity with minimal friction. In this section, I will propose a framework to design and select battlespace technology. The goal of this design framework is to train the mind to see the potential fundamental values in technological tools, such that we can make quick decisions about the design, modification, and selection of battlespace technology.

Clausewitz said, “war is nothing but a duel on a larger scale.” Technology is one of the tools to expand the scale of this duel, but it should do so by following the fundamental rules of combat. In order to find the threads of design guidance that connect hand tools to technological tools, we adopt the framework of common-object weapons (or improvised weapons) from hand-to-hand combat. The common-object weapons principle starts by identifying groups of objects with properties that are key to standard offensive and defensive actions. In the Krav Maga common object weapon framework, there are six fundamental categories: object, similar to 1) stick, 2) shield, 3) knife, 4) rock/stone, 5) small objects, and 6) chain.[16] These categories are the basic objects used to carry out offensive and defensive actions, each with associated shapes and mechanical properties that facilitate the combat action. When a practitioner is trained to look for and utilize those properties in any object, he can use any found object in the environment to facilitate his fight.

This concept can be modified for use in selection and design of battlespace technology. When a soldier is in a combat situation, he can use technological tools with specific properties that generate the fundamental battlespace effects optimized for the local situation. Modern technology differs from traditional hand tools in that they often offer added speed, range, and magnitude of power beyond natural human capability. In the table below, examples are shown where one common-object weapon category is mapped to three domains at a specific range.

When designing a sequence of action, one can first define the desired battlespace effects and imagine fighting a duel from different ranges and domains. For example, if one were to utilize multiple domains to induce mental paralysis in an enemy with multiple physical attack, one could find tools in the medium range to simultaneously attack with rifles and small drones. This mental framework aids the battlespace technology design and selection process by foregrounding their combat contribution.

Defining Technical Requirements within the Battlespace Technology Model

Once we develop a library of technological tools that are made based on the intuitive fundamentals of combat, we need to develop a process to determine when these tools could be used. Recall that this is the augmented Battlespace Technology Model, which accounts for the effects technological tools create in the actor’s ability to carry out an action.   

The below process is a standard weapons and tactics requirement development procedure adopted to be used with the Trilevel Actor Model within the Battlespace Technology Model. This process illustrates how warfighters can establish distributed control of the technology development process by expressing intents in a language understood by technologists. Step 1 to 5 set the battlespace requirements, which state battlespace needs without specifying how the needs need to be met. Step 6 should be a collaborative process between warfighters and technologists such that they can fully understand each other’s’ intents and constraints. Step 7 and 8 should be performed by technologists independently with periodic check-ins with warfighters.

Continuously identify gaps in tactics and technology. Improve tactics and augment with technology if necessary. Design chain of tactical actions to achieve desired effects when needed. Train, rehearse, iterate. Sunset ineffective and outdated tactics and technology as needed.

A simple example is used to illustrate how this process could be used to fill in battlespace technical requirements within the augmented Battlespace Technology Model. In this illustrative scenario, a specialist is required to acquire a solution to detain a person of interest en route to a rendezvous point before a team of operators can establish control of the scene.  The above procedure is used to populate the model with technical and battlespace information.

Although only a single action is shown in this example, multiple actions can be linked to generate more complex effects. Since each action has a certain probability of failure, actions should be developed into sequences where either each action in the chain is primarily used to set the stage but also generates friction in the opponent (e.g., the boxer’s “jab, jab, cross” approach), or building the chain with actions that set the stage for another attack if the enemy changes course (e.g., the jiujutsu transition from Kimura grip to Scissor choke approach). Both types of solutions have merits based on the situation and many chain of actions are a blend of both.

The purpose of this process is not to encourage micromanagement or overthinking, but to encourage flexibility by training the mind to see the common elements in warfighting and weapons selection. When technological tools are designed with aligned purposes in all three Trinity level of the warfighter, the augmentation provided by the tool to battlespace action can be maximized.


War might have its own grammar, but not its own logic.[17] The shared logic is the vein that connects war to political aims, the people, and the science that govern technological tools. Actions and reactions, position and momentum, energy and time: all are predictable with probability but not with certainty. If those chaotic variables are to be controlled and their combinatory effects harvested in the battlespace, then they will all have to speak the grammar of war.

Clausewitz says, “The art of war...cannot attain the absolute, or certainty...With uncertainty in one scale, courage and self-confidence must be thrown into the other to correct the balance.”[18] In this paper, we used theories that have been tested by time—from those that explain the holistic picture of war to those that focus on the duel between two people—and provide invaluable guidance to science such that it can manage uncertainty. In the next paper, we will examine how the probabilistic science of war can serve as a scaffold such that courage and military genius can take flight, thus empowering the tactical edge to write the new chapter in modern warfare.

Joanne C. Lo is the CEO and founder of Elysian Labs, a military-focused organization that provides warfighters with leading edge technologies for modern warfare. Prior to founding Elysian Labs, Joanne was a Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Labs and researcher at Google ATAP and Adobe Research. She has a PhD and MS in Electrical Engineering and a BS in Biomedical Engineering.

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Header Image: Raevsky Battery during the “Battle of Borodino” painted by Franz Roubaud (Wikimedia)


[1] Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Princeton University Press, 1976), 86.

[2] Ibid, 86.

[3] Ibid, 89.

[4] Thomas Waldman, War, Clausewitz, and the Trinity (Conventry: University of Warwick, 2009), 19.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Clausewitz, 89.

[7] Tipler, Paul A., and Ralph Llewellyn. Modern physics. Macmillan, 2003.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sun Tzu, The Art of War (London: Amber Books, 2011), 57

[10] A. H. de Jomini, The Art of War, (New York: Wilder Publications, 2008)

[11] T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Ware: Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1999), 132.

[12] JP 5-0, Joint Planning, (Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2017), IV-6

[13] ATP 3-21.8, Infantry Platoon and Squad, (Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2016), A-4

[14] Kay, Alan C. "A personal computer for children of all ages." In Proceedings of the ACM annual conference-Volume 1, p. 1. ACM, 1972.

[15] Feldman, Stuart, and Alan C. Kay. "A conversation with Alan Kay." ACM Queue 2, no. 9 (2004): 20-30.

[16] Avi Moyal, Using Common Objects for Self-Defense, International Krav Maga Federation, https://www.facebook.com/notes/international-krav-maga-federation-ikmf/using-common-objects-for-self-defence-by-krav-maga-master-avi-moyal/157841157576280/.

[17] Clausewitz, 706.

[18] Clausewitz, 86.