RPA

Integrating Humans and Machines

Integrating Humans and Machines

The military holds an enduring an interest in robotic capability, and teaming these early robots with humans. From the use of remote controlled boats by the Germans in the First World War, unmanned, tracked Goliath robots filled with explosives used in World War Two, through to contemporary EOD robots and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, military organizations have long sought to leverage robotic capability. At the highpoint of the Iraq War in 2006, the U.S. military fielded over 8000 robots in theater.

This article is the second of three that examines three aspects of human-machine teaming. In the first, I examined the rationale for human-machine teaming through ‘seven propositions’. This article examines key elements military organizations might adopt in a closer integration of humans and machines. It is proposed there are three areas upon which might be constructed a competitive strategy for future operations. The three areas provide background information, analysis and the possible applications of human-machine teams. 

Drones in Counterterrorism: The Primacy of Politics Over Technology

Drones in Counterterrorism: The Primacy of Politics Over Technology

Waging counterterrorism operations is not just about having the right inventory of weaponry and the latest technical tools. Neither is simply marshaling the political will of the American population sufficient for undertaking counterterrorism. Wherever the US government wants to wage sustained campaigns with drones, it needs the buy-in of local actors but the interests of many of the actors fundamentally do not align with those of the US. This inevitably boils down to constant bargaining and deal-making with local actors. Politics, thus, retains the final say on how counterterrorism campaigns unfold.

The Human Factor in the “Unmanned” Systems of the People's Liberation Army

The Human Factor in the “Unmanned” Systems of the People's Liberation Army

What does the PLA’s approach so far to the humans behind their unmanned systems reveal about its potential engagement with the challenges associated with the highly automated and autonomous systems it is currently developing? Despite the myth that such systems tend to replace humans, requiring smaller numbers of combatants with lower levels of expertise, there is clear evidence to date that the human challenges of such systems are considerable, often requiring higher levels of specialized training. In this regard, PLA’s active focus on the development of personnel to operate UAVs could constitute an early case that demonstrates that the PLA will likely confront considerable challenges in the process of learning to use such high-tech systems more effectively.

Red Robots Rising: Behind the Rapid Development of Russian Unmanned Military Systems

Red Robots Rising: Behind the Rapid Development of Russian Unmanned Military Systems

It is clear Russian development of military unmanned systems, in conjunction with ongoing modernization of its armed forces, will result in a qualitatively different and capable force. Should Russia’s ongoing successes in Syria embolden it to act elsewhere  in a similar fashion, then U.S. and Western planners may not be the only ones flying a constellation of unmanned systems or directing swarms of ground vehicles and high-tech weapons. This calls for a re-evaluation of the current defense posture and review of technology development and acquisition cycles, a process that has been ongoing in the United States for some time.

Building a Future: Integrated Human-Machine Military Organization

Building a Future: Integrated Human-Machine Military Organization

At some point in the future, historians may look back on the current era as the dawn of a human-machine revolution or perhaps even the beginnings of the sixth revolution in military affairs. Williamson Murray notes in The Dynamics of Military Revolution that such things are rarely apparent in advance, and only obvious in retrospect and in the wake of remarkable battlefield success. While certainly the societal, technological, political, and military ingredients of such a revolution are present, whether this consists of a revolution in military affairs will be left to future historical debate.

Looking Back to the Future: The Beginnings of Drones and Manned Aerial Warfare

Looking Back to the Future: The Beginnings of Drones and Manned Aerial Warfare

Making predictions about the future is an impossible task, in particular when the focus is on technologies at their beginning. History is riddled with false prophecies, be they either exaggerations or understatements: from predictions that a technology will end war once and for all—like the telegraph or nuclear weapons—to such understatements as Watson’s famous prediction that there was a global market for only five computers. It is tough to judge whether changes are ground-breaking, or only appear so from the close proximity of a contemporary. At the same time, people throughout history have ignored fundamental changes happening before their eyes, as changes took time to unfold or initially only concerned a limited area.

Introducing #WarBots

Introducing #WarBots

While it took centuries to move from Da Vinci’s vision to the Wright Brothers’ reality, the flash to bang on drones and beyond is rapidly shrinking. Whether we are still on the cusp or already tumbling down the rabbit hole, such technology will continue to combine in wonderful and terrible ways. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed putting it together. More importantly, we hope it forces us to think about the future of warfare in new and uncomfortable ways.

Airpower Beyond the Last Red Button

Airpower Beyond the Last Red Button

The alternative to a good theory of causality is not the lack of a theory of causality, but a poor or ill-considered theory of causality. Unfortunately, such a theory of causality has made it remarkably difficult for airmen to explain and advance what air, space, and cyberspace do for the joint community and national objectives.  We’ve spent the last decade disrupting threat networks from the air, but without the language of causality, we’ve analytically relegated these actions to the realm of support instead of claiming the mantle of airpower. A water-thin theory of causality leaves us all scrambling for the prize real estate on the “tip of the spear,” while a better theories of causality allows us to appreciate how the diversity of airmen’s contributions actually complement each other.

Drones and Complement

Drones and Complement

Whether you call them drones, remotely piloted vehicles, or unmanned vehicles, they’re all just tools of warfare. And forgive the banality of the point, but tools of warfare are used by humans who seek to maximize violence against their adversary, and that requires complement rather than replacement. Most importantly, we should also recall that in non-linear positive-sum games, as combat is exhibited as, the interaction of people and weaponry leads to a cumulative advantage if used asymmetrically. As such, the vast balance of history teaches us that we will continue to perceive technological/tactical cycles as something of a progression of coordination (synchronization), to cooperation (integration), and then ultimately, to a combination for strategic effect (convergence). We’ve only just begun to conceive of drones in the proper terms of complement, and it is past time to do so.