GSG Wrap — The Future of International Conflict (and Neutral Technology and Systems)
Edition 16, Vol 2, The Week that Was — Grey Swan Guild News Wrap — April 22, 2022
This week’s lead editor is @benthurman and @robtyrie in alphabetical order along with submissions, positive vibes, and deep empathy from the deep thinkers, the writers, analysts and cheerleaders of the Grey Swan Guild, a virtual think tank that does stuff like ponder about the future, the ethics and the human implications of the universe and metaverse.
It’s Friday and people are getting bombed. Cocktails aside, people are being bombed. It’s part madness and part logic. It’s what Churchill said. “If you’re going through Hell… keep going”… for those who possibly can.
There has been plenty of coverage in every moment of the wars going on today and all the other wars and mass migration that they cause. There are killings and deaths all amid shifting pandemic waves, restrictions and innovation. There are injuries and victories in those battles while economies contract and expand, supply chains break and jobs are lost and bosses are fired. The coverage has been every in media, from social media all the way to vanity-driven, book mill-generated, ghostwritten, self-published biopics on paper.
Here, we will step back and look more at the “what” than the “how” or the “why”. The tools of conflict, the new tools and macro-structures that are suddenly being used in international conflict. We look at the possible impacts, the unintended consequences of things available last decades and not used. We will look at new implements of war, weapons, policy, trade, embargoes, boycotts, sanctions and sanction busting. Warning: this analysis can be triggering at once because of the obscene violence and the somewhat dispassionate analysis of “good weapons” that kill with surgical accuracy. Or the sanctions that starve the poor.
After the last war, Germany and Japan were great powers — though they will probably not be after this one. And in the 1930’s the same situation existed which, under the program just outlined, would exist in the future. The League of Nations did suppress a few attempts at aggression by small countries; but its members did nothing to stop the aggressions of Germany and Japan because they were great powers with which it would be probably dangerous, and certainly expensive, to interfere. An attempt to stop them seemed to involve the risk of starting a great war. It was this fear of war on the part of the peaceful countries that chiefly explains the unwilling-ness of the members of the League to take any strong stand against Japan and Germany.
Arthur O. Lovejoy
Professor, Johns Hopkins University
(Published August 1944)
We will look are how things like drones and water may be used in conflicts as much as social media memes and credit cards can be used.
Let’s think about the tech and the policies as apolitical that either side or aggressors could use them in ways that are seen as noble.
This week’s Wrap is our attempt to encircle our arms around emergent structures and devices that are out there in the wild already; identify some of the changes, checkered ethical red flags, systemic risks, challenges and new social norms. These are all being used in conflicts that are so extreme, that warring breaks out between leaders, armies and people.
In this context, the lens of the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Uncertain get stretched because we want to shed light on tools of conflict and the lens passes a kind of judgment on what is obviously a neutral tool. Consider a mobile anti-missile missile autonomous system like the Israeli's proprietary “Iron Dome” which is inspired partly by the US Patriot Missile System and massive US funding. Is it a defensive system, protecting a population or is it the shield to allow for unimpeded strikes on an enemy? Is a flying video drone a sentry or a spotter for an autonomous shooting system? Is the Internet an encyclopedic information knowledge repository or is it an agitprop acceleration and distribution machine?
This Wrap will try to set the context across the lenses, but invite debate and comment because all who wander are not necessarily lost. The discourse is how change may occur. Perhaps, there is a killing weapon like an autonomous drone in the field now, whose technology and capability can be used for the rapid, safe delivery of organs to save a desperately ill human. If we don’t think deeply about the tools, their uses and risks — we cannot stop groups from using them for bad things. We cannot use them for good either if we don’t think and design in ethics and safety. It takes broad and multivariate thinking to devise ways to control the technology with ethical regulation. Isn’t money like a technology device like a gun? In some contexts, it may be the root of all evil, and a killer but, pooled and put to good use, it can be an equitable, universal retirement and health care program. Money is neutral. It's not capitalism. It’s not socialism. It is humanism.
There is It was a proverb of the Buddhist religion. It goes like this.
“To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell.”
What, then, is the value of the key to heaven? It is true that if we lack clear instructions that determine which is the gate to heaven and which the gate to hell, the key may be a dangerous object to use, but it obviously has value. How can we enter heaven without it?
As always, we will have more questions than answers and opinions. And in this case, we have deep concerns for the rights of the many, the rights of the few and the rights of the individual. This is the brilliant work of philosophers, not CEOs of the richest companies in the world. Or so we hope. Semper Fidelis. And now, Let’s Wrap.
The Great 🎯
1.Go big or go home. We will only pick one great thing in this edition, mostly because it is hard to find the “great” in tools that can be used in international, violent conflicts. This group, Norwegian Institute focused on peace is thinking big. It is called CMI for Chr. Michelsen Institute. CMI is embarking on a pyramid of a project that is running for 5 years. It is called “War Fun”. They are trying to analyze the ways we and our communities talk about and think about war. In the past and now, journalists and governments use positive, sporty, and even fun language. Think “Blood Sport or “War Games”. This language is not reality. War is not sport nor games. It is not “the decent thing to do”. There is a challenge to change things and stop euphemisms of conflict like “Special Military Operations” or “Neutralize “that are used to numb us from ethical and moral decisions. Softened language can normalize vile behaviour. What words phrases would you reconsider? Terrorist, Freedom Fighter, Nobel Cause? War Heroes? Liberation?
War Fun has a blog and new section that are a mind-expanding corpus. For example, in this essay from Antonio De Lauri , the project's lead philosopher, he writes about the fact that there is no such thing as a “clean and efficient war”. It is not possible — war is not of that. Dig in or stop using the phrase.
Fun has every shade of connotation, from the most joyful to the most sinister. In the framework of this project, fun represents an entry point into a deeper realm of war and soldiering. An understanding of the complexity of participation in war requires an epistemic change in conventional learning and debate. The overall objective of this project is to offer a new understanding of war and soldiering through a study of the role and implications of fun for soldiers and veterans. WARFUN investigates the plurality of experiences and affective grammars that are generally neglected by normative approaches. Anthropological studies have emphasized the ambivalent sentiments that arise as troubles escalate during large-scale violence and the crucial role that social actors have in determining the magnitude and consequences of conflict.
The Good 👍
1.Change change change. History may not repeat but it does echo. Many people perceive technological change to be accelerating. The 20th century saw at least one military revolution, as a result of which we have nuclear weapons and the capacity to wage war in space. The early nuclear weapons were so destructive and so bad at hitting targets that they acted as effective deterrents and helped usher in this current period of stability, Morris says, but counter-intuitively, we may have more grounds to worry now that they are generally smaller and more precise. Can history teach us anything about the future of war — and peace?
2.The photo above is of a Chinese PLA unit. Across the way in south-central Asia, there is similar kind of weapon. It’s an all-female fighting unit, fighting a revolutionary mission against the government of Myanmar. Killers. Violent resistance. This is different than the shift of leadership in the democratic countries including the Nordics, Canada and New Zealand. Women fighters challenge Myanmar’s gender roles
3. Sometimes the good thing about military power is the absence of war. As noted by the two charts below, until this year, state conflict, and number of deaths from all forms of conflict was on the wane. In part, we have global prosperity, wider education, interconnected economies and the Internet to thank for this bias against conflict. We also may have the force, might and mere potential use of military power to thank. File it under — don’t disturb the hornet’s next or you will get stung. It does also make this most recent Russia-Ukraine conflict different than many others that precede it in that it brings the world’s superpowers in almost direct conflict; something we haven’t seen in the last generation. Let’s hope quiet returns.
The Bad 🤬
1.Tick Tick. Boom Boom. “So-called “Deterrent” ICBMs are back in style. Cold War threats are New Wars realities. Sarmat super-heavy ICBM undergoes the first full flight test. An obvious sign of new weapons is propaganda and counter-propaganda for the power to beat their chests.
“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats, and make those who — in the heat of aggressive rhetoric — try to threaten our country think twice.” — Al Jazeera
2. Wargaming 2030 has cyber in it. The Wall Street Journal: NATO Cyber Exercise Proceeds Against Backdrop of Ukraine War. NATO Cyber Exercise Proceeds Against Backdrop of Ukraine War. This year’s ‘Locked Shields’ war game has participants fighting off simulated hacks on power grids and financial-messaging systems.
Having the ability to monitor cyber-physical systems for early warning indicators of compromise could give you the home-turn advantage of detecting an adversary preemptively
3.We now live in a world that has to have campaigns to stop killer robots. It’s that final concern that separates the autonomous weapons of today from those we’ve used before: the ability to actively hunt down and attack targets, with no final human, say on pulling the trigger. It’s a question at the heart of the debate around autonomous weapons, as militaries develop them and arms control and humanitarian organizations, like the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots ”Should war robots have “license to kill?” — War is changing. As drones replace snipers, we must consider the ethics of autonomous weapons-making life or death decisions.
Unleashed with no ethical framework: A.I. drones used in the Ukraine war raise fears of killer robots wreaking havoc across future battlefields. A.I. drones used in the Ukraine war raise fears of killer robots wreaking havoc across future battlefields. Fighting in Ukraine hints at how technology may one day pull the trigger.
4. Disinformation. Should it be a type of War Crime? If it was — who judges and enforces the laws in an apolitical way? Each day, thousands of articles, reports and posts are made about the wars in the world. It is the world conflict in history where the size, scale and speed of creating and distributing information are massive, full and complete across the globe. Every second of information about war and conflict and related science, policies and economies are written about, shared and read billions of times a day. This has never happened before. Never has there been instant information out of the hands of gatekeepers and institutions going directly between people who seek to publish anything. It is neutral in the hands of bad actors. We wrote about the dangers of disinformation in January 2021. There are more warning bells that need to ring.
The Uncertain 🧐
1.What tactics will stay? How will the use of conscripts and mercenaries shift? How do modern satellites change where the high ground is. Russia and Ukraine are Super Powers in conflict. Does Putin know it is 2020 and cell phones need towers that are susceptible to artillery misaimed by the mistrained? Putin seems to have learned as little seeing how much he has forgotten. In August 1968, the Warsaw Pact forces entering Czechoslovakia were told by their political officers that they would be welcomed as liberators. They found themselves cursed, out of fuel, and hungry. Morale was shattered. Putin’s control of domestic media can hide the truth from most of the Russian population, but his conscripts, forced now to sign new contracts to turn them into volunteers, are all too aware of the reality. The Atlantic looks at invasions and occupying forces across history to compare to these new actions and reactions— Putin Doesn’t Realize How Much Warfare Has Changed
2. The world economy has already changed. The next question will be “How much more will it change?” because of conflict.
It important to note that some of the deepest and potentially most consequential economic effects are being felt much farther from the theater of battle. Taken together with the uneven recovery from COVID-19, the surge in inflation, and the tightening of monetary policy, the war adds to an already inhospitable environment for fragile, heavily indebted low-income and emerging market economies. For the future shape of the world economy, how the world deals with debt crises triggered by this war in places as far apart as Sri Lanka and Tunisia are likely to be at least as important as Russia’s desperate efforts to circumvent sanctions in its trade with China and India. Rather than fretting about potential alternatives to the currency systems of the West, we should be concentrating on making those systems work.
Using economic sanctions has been steadily increasing over the past few decades in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. And in an increasingly globalized world, they provide a diplomatic alternative to traditional warfare. Given this context and depending how the current war in Ukraine will resolve, these types of sanctions could virtually replace global conflict in the future.
This depends on the outcome of the current conflict in Ukraine. The U.S., G7 nations and the E.U. have all employed economic and financial sanctions against Russia, barring them from foreign investment and international financial transactions to dissuade them from continuing their onslaught on Ukrainian people.
3. War Toys. “Despite their toy-like appearance, the devices leave a lasting impression. In an online discussion on Reddit about EOD support robots (short for explosive ordinance disposal), a soldier wrote, “Those little bastards can develop a personality, and they save so many lives.” Soldiers are giving funeral services to dead robots. Requiem for a War Robot An anthropologist explores the brave new world of virtual warfare — and the fraught relationship between humans and machines as they collaborate.
4. Go Go Gadget GoFund Me Billionaires. What do we think about Zelenskyy directly asking Billionairez to buy his nation some fighter jets at $25,0000,000 each? In 1919,1938, 1965 this was unimaginable. This type of request may have only happened on earth in the other eras of massive wealth inequality where the very few had all the gold — Think Egypt, Rome and Louis XIV France. Aristocrats, and elites had more money than government treasuries, so they could and would bank wars. It's back, and with hundreds of families holding $100B or more in capital, it's not a crazy ask. It doesn't make it right or ethical though.
Conclusion, No conclusions, but there are Questions
To close off, this emergent set of risks of creating structures with unknown ethical frameworks should concern you. Just because humans can do things and create new places where we interact, we should not throw laws or human rights out or skip thinking about and considering moral dilemmas. Although war can big a concrete but whacking big abstract, it needs constraints just like in the cyber world. Some constraints have to be new and novel because the decisions and structure are new and novel. There have got to be better ways.
We are reminded of the peaceful words of M.K Gandhi. The lawyer, after a 20-year career in South Africa, came back to his birth country and led followers and fellow citizens to independence from colonial Britain.
This salt is for the soul and the conscious. He says,
Non-violence works in a most mysterious manner. Often a man’s actions defy analysis in terms of non-violence; equally often, his actions may wear the appearance of violence when he is absolutely non-violent in the highest sense of the term and is subsequently found so to be. All I can then claim for my conduct is that it was, in the instances cited, actuated in the interests of non-violence. There was no thought of sordid national or any other interest at the sacrifice of some other interest…
For me non-violence is not a mere philosophical principle. It is the rule and the breath of my life. I know I fail often, sometimes consciously, more often unconsciously. It is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart. True guidance comes by the constant waiting upon God, by utmost humility, self-abnegation, by being ever ready to sacrifice one’s self. Its practice requires fearlessness and courage of the highest order. I am painfully aware of my failings.
But the light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through truth and non-violence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has got to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom… Not violence, not untruth, but non-violence, Truth is the law of our being. A non-violent man will instinctively prefer direct participation to indirect in a system which is based on violence and to which he has to belong without any choice being left to him…. I belong to a world which is partly based on violence.
If I have only a choice between paying for the army of soldier to kill my neighbours or to be a soldier myself, I would, as I must, consistently with my creed, enlist as a soldier in the hope of controlling the forces of violence and even of converting my comrades.
All the wonders of the zeitgeist get selected filtered, upvoted, downvoted, retweeted and deleted. This is a set of things that are floating at the surface related to this week’s topic. This of the opposite of sweeping things under the rug.
Map of the Week
As of this writing, approximately 5mm refugees have fled Ukraine. In the immediate term, this poses logistical challenges for countries like Poland as they try to feed, clothe, and house vast numbers of people. The long-term picture is murky. Will people choose to stay once the conflict is over? How will the world economy respond? We saw rich countries hoarding vaccines at the expense of lower-income areas of the world — at great expense to everyone when new variants emerged. Does the world need to worry about radicalized refugees a generation from now — similar to what happened with Afghanistan in the 80s?
DRONES and Natural Security based on local vendors
Are there exploits built into foreign drones or is competitive security buy-American marketing to scare military organizations and governments? Or are they just poor quality drones that are hard to fly (because they were designed as low cost toys for hobbyists?) — WSJ
Flickering Lights to Binge
Forget watching the detective. Watch Love, Death and Robots. It predicts the #Future of robots — some will be used for war even though they were designed for domestic use.
Book Shelf Virtually Speaking
Published — April 2022 War Virtually is the story of how scientists, programmers, and engineers are racing to develop data-driven technologies for fighting virtual wars, both at home and abroad. In this landmark book, Roberto J. González gives us a lucid and gripping account of what lies behind autonomous weapons, robotic systems, predictive modelling software, advanced surveillance programs, and psyops (psychological warfare) techniques that are transforming the nature of military conflict. González, a cultural anthropologist, takes a critical approach to the techno-utopian view of these advancements and their dubious promise of less deadly and more efficient warfare. Note the front cover has both a Terminator and Boston Robotics Robot on it.
Video Prayer of the Week
Alan Watts, the philosopher, deconstructs war. Four well-reasoned minutes of thought bombs.
Long-Running Impacts of War
War doesn't end after the people come home. If there is Long Covid, there is Long War Induced Disease
Meme of the Week
When R.E.M sang, “I am, I am, I am Superman, and I can do anything…” Elon Musk wasn’t a thing. These days when he’s not smoking weed with Joe Rogan, or planning hostile corporate takeovers, he takes time off to thwart Russian hackers trying to jam Starlink. The system was back up in a day. We think this is fantastic, but what does the privatization of war mean for the future if super villains… er… billionaires choose themselves over the common good.
Weaponizing Memes — MIT War & Peace
“Importantly, as memes are shared they shed the context of their creation, along with their authorship. Unmoored from the trappings of an author’s reputation or intention, they become the collective property of the culture. As such, memes take on a life of their own, and no one has to answer for transgressive or hateful ideas.” — [Ed. Excellent framing of memes as agitprop]
Lexicon — Words Matter
XM157 Fire Control System — variable optic scope with 1x8 magnification that includes a backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, intra-soldier wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay.
In the 1300s, English longbows made horse-mounted knights (who were basically like tanks with 2 modes of movement) fear for their lives. Longbows gave the English advantage in the 100 Years War. So much so, in conflicts, captured English Bowan had their index and middle figures cut off to keep them from future bow-aggression. Hundreds of years later, radar helped win the Battle of Britain. Let’s hope the next wave of innovation stabilizes and deters, and doesn’t lead to super soldiers that can kill like the Predator. Where’s Arnold Schwarzenegger when you need him?
Abstentions — Neutral or Negotiation
20 Lessons — Rules for Citizens to Consider for The Future of Conflict — Tim Snyder
These are like a guidebook in this context. What do we do to react or to avoid serious international conflict? Synder wrote these lessons for an individual after studying autocrats including the rise to power of Putin and his inner circle. He is now banned from entering Russia (note, he is a historian not an oligarch):
- Do not obey in advance
- Defend institutions
- Beware the one-party state
- Take responsibility for the face of the world
- Remember professional ethics
- Be wary of paramilitaries
- Be reflective if you must be armed
- Stand out
- Be kind to our language
- Believe in truth
- Make eye contact and small talk
- Practice corporeal politics
- Establish a private life
- Contribute to good causes
- Learn from peers in other countries
- Listen for dangerous words
- Be calm when the unthinkable arrives
- Be a patriot
- Be as courageous as you can.
War is not more than Heaven and Earth in the seasoned opinion of the Guild. Here is what’s coming 👁
Why not join us on Sunday, April 24th at 8am (PST) 11am (EST) / 4pm BST We’d love to hear your thoughts on this wrap, so why not join us on Clubhouse this Sunday the 24th of April 2022 at 8 am PST | 11 am EST | 4 pm BST | 5 pm SAST to make sense of it all?
Have your say, and engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors:
Doyle Buehler, Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Louise Mowbray, Ben Thurman, Antonia Nicols, Esmee Wilcox, Geeta Dhir, Gina Clifford, Su McVey with Clubhouse Captains Howard Fields, Scott Phares, and Lindsay Fraser.
Upcoming Guild-building, brain-expanding Events in April and May
Onboarding New Member Regatta — April 27
A new start, a new ambition, tabula rasa, let’s go! Welcome to the Guild. Our regattas allow our members to speak directly to the Guild’s founders. They also allow our newest members to learn about our mission, vision and purpose. We’ll also inform you of the latest and greatest and how to get involved right out of the box. Importantly, it will allow you to understand who else is getting involved too.
Guild Activities — Feature City of the Month
Los Angeles, La La Land itself.
Join in the discussion Wednesday, April 27th 12pm PT
Welcome! You are invited to join a meeting: Grey Swan Feature City Town Hall — Los Angeles. After…
We’ve chosen City of Angels as our Guild-wide profile city of the month for April Let’s convene online as a city cohort…
And on our Craft-Building Series #24 — Change & Transitions
And our Craft-Building Series #25 — Creativity & Imagination
Clubhouse Friday, April 29th 1pm ET https://bit.ly/gsgcreativity
Day of The Swan II — May 26–24 Hrs , Dozens of sessions and podcasts.
May 26, 2022–27–8AM EST to 8AM Day of the Swan — 24 Hours of Unconference — Looking Back to Look Forward. It’s Live, Virtual Sensemaking and ThoughtTasting. Its a celebration of the second anniversary of the inception of the Grey Swan Guild. Join us for the day or for an hour.. Present a session or comp participate, converse, listen, learn, educate, reflect, think, make, do. Join us.
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