Electronic Warfare and Evolution of Cognitive Warfare
Issue 33, 31 May 2022
I. Military and Warfare
Xu Jun and Wang Jinsong (affiliation unknown) have explained the future direction of Electronic Warfare/Electromagnetic Warfare in an article for PLA Daily.
The opening paragraph of the article itself explains why the authors think electronic warfare is important. It says, "In the information-based and intelligent warfare, the control of electromagnetic power has become a key control power to support and restrict battlefields such as land, sea, air, sky, and network, and electromagnetic superiority has become a prerequisite for comprehensive control of the battlefield." (信息化智能化战争中，制电磁权更成为支撑和制约陆、海、空、天、网等战场的关键制权，电磁优势成为战场综合制权的先决条件。)
Some key points highlighted by the authors are:
For combat, suppressing and intercepting electromagnetic signals are extremely important and a prerequisite to controlling electronic power. In highly informatized conditions battlefield, these traditional tasks have become difficult.
From 'signal to signal' confrontation, the battles in electronic warfare in the information domain have evolved to 'system to system' confrontations. The article mentions, "the normal working information acquisition and transmission system has been developed to attack the key target of the enemy's entire information system and the center of gravity of the combat system." In the future, when there will be highly dense and highly systematic electromagnetic weapons and equipment on the battlefield, it will be difficult to achieve the ultimate combat goal by only attacking a single electronic device or an electronic system that is not connected to each other.
For application in combat, the scope of competition for electromagnetic control has now expanded from the purely electromagnetic spectrum field to the field of computer networks, and electronic information systems have been linked with computer networks to form a networked battlefield electronic information system.
As a form of combat, both attack and deterrence are important in electronic warfare. With the informatization, intelligence, integration, and integration of electronic countermeasure weapons and equipment, especially with the increasing maturity and weaponization of high-power microwave and other directed energy technologies, electromagnetic space operations have become more active, persistent, and hard to destroy. Therefore, in the future, electromagnetic power control operations can not only implement high-intensity electromagnetic deterrence but also implement precise electromagnetic destruction.
For effective combat, both software and hardware can be effective means of controlling electromagnetic power. Both soft kill and hard destruction can be controlled using appropriate control over software and hardware.
Activities Under Electronic Warfare (from the article)
Forcing the enemy's information to be paralyzed
Weakening and destroying enemy's information system and combat system
Cutting off the acquisition of the enemy's electromagnetic information by using various electronic interference suppression and electromagnetic interception methods
Weaken the enemy's electronic reconnaissance and detection systems
Suppress the enemy's missile guidance and aircraft navigation activities
Destroy the normal use of the enemy's underwater acoustic equipment
Intercept and block the enemy's command and control information
Provide highly accurate information for effective firepower assault
Evolution of Cognitive Warfare
What do ants have to do with warfare? Apparently, a lot. This week's article by Chinese scholars Wang Zhe and Nie Xiaoli traces the evolution of cognitive space.
Authors argue that based on proven scientific research, artificial intelligence technology can simulate similar complex behaviors and achieve autonomous coordination between weapon systems or combat units.
Characteristics of cognitive space:
Foundation - The networked deployment of cognitive agents
Process - Differentiated execution of cognitive tasks.
Goal - Consensus building of cognitive outcomes.
Expanding Cognitive Spaces
There are different types of cognitive spaces. Authors argue that continuous development in technology is expanding boundaries of cognition and hence cognitive warfare.
One type is the psychological space of the human brain. It has vague boundaries of ideology, cultural traditions, historical beliefs, etc. This psychological space is synonymous with cognitive space and its unique intuitive impression, experiential thinking, and innovative inspiration have been and still are at the core of the art of war decision-making.
Another type is machine brain-like space. On the intelligent battlefield, when the human brain cannot process the increasing and rapidly changing mass information in time, it must hand over some cognitive tasks to intelligent machines to complete. Hence, the cognitive space of the brain expands to include that of machines, especially when the machine's cognitive functions are similar to that of humans. However, caution Wang and Nie, that cognitive activities in brain-like machine spaces rely heavily on intelligent technologies.
The last type is digital twins space. Digital intelligence twin space refers to a cognitive metaverse space formed between the human brain and the machine relying on technologies such as digital twins, and virtual and augmented reality. This is an extreme expansion of the cognitive capabilities of the brain. This expanded space is the product of the deep integration, coupling, and superposition of human brain cognition and machine cognition.
Changes in Combat Style
Wang and Nie explain that the transformation of cognitive methods and the expansion of cognitive boundaries have pushed cognitive power to gradually surpass information power and mechanical power and become the dominant factor in combat effectiveness, providing opportunities and challenges for the development of cognitive space combat styles. They assert that 'seeking cognitive victory has become the norm of war' since the attack on cognitive space can bypass traditional physical and information space.
Combat styles have evolved as follows:
From "savage power" to "smart knowledge" (作战目标由“野蛮夺力”转向“灵巧夺知”)
In warfare, emphasis has changed from the raw power of weapons to the power of knowledge. The emphasis now is on creating deviation in information to interfere with the thinking mode, consuming the will to fight and disintegrating the cognitive structure. This is done so that the enemy loses direction and gets into trouble, making it difficult to make timely and efficient decisions, and then delaying its actions.
From "extreme consumption" to "invisible penetration" (任务重心由“极端消耗”转向“无形渗透”)
Authors assert that in the era of intelligence, the soft-kill effect on intangible targets such as emotion and will has become more prominent than the hard damage to the active forces of war.
Take an example of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war. News of Russian soldiers not being ready, calling mothers of captured or dead Russian soldiers, trying captured soldiers for war crimes while war is still going on, etc. are all part of a larger cognitive warfare effort to break Russian soldiers and the population’s will to fight and make war unappealing to Russian people. On the other hand, Russian state propaganda has been trying to shield the population from external influences and present a different narrative.
From "linear confrontation" to "non-linear game" (对抗形式由“线式对抗”转向“非线性博弈”)
This refers to changing nature of combat style where linear one-to-one confrontations with clear battle lines and clear targets have evolved into decentralized combat style. The authors have used the analogy of an ant colony here. Just like removing one ant from a colony does not disrupt the normal functioning of the colony, focusing on decentralization in combats removes a 'destruction point' that will hamper the working of the group.
This feels like a repetitive reading of some earlier articles and papers on cognitive warfare. The points on the evolution of combat styles, the human-brain interface, and the importance of cognitive warfare in modern and intelligent wars have been repeated a lot in numerous articles so far (refer to previous issues of China Tech Dispatch). So my takeaway is that these themes are very important for PLA scholars and hence are being reemphasized from time to time.
Stigmergy - Learning from Ants
The term 'stigmergy' referred to as '共识主动' (Gòngshì zhǔdòng) in the article above, was discovered by French zoologist Pierre-Paul Grassé. It refers to a form of self-organization where a group of even low intelligent creatures can organize themselves without a leader or central figure and achieve a complex task.
Pierre observed this in ants, who build impressive structures without a central figure. The key here, in very oversimplified forms, is that a single agent leaves a trace that is picked up by others and affects the behavior of others.
The article by Chinese scholars above uses this principle and its application to intelligent swarm development. They argue scientific research has shown that artificial intelligence technology can simulate similar complex behaviors and achieve autonomous coordination between weapon systems or combat units.
Megha Pardhi is a Research Analyst at The Takshashila Institution. She tweets at @pardhimegha21.