‘Invisibility Cloak’, Operating Mechanisms of Cognitive Warfare, and Realistic Battlefield Metaverse
Issue 27, 18 April 2022
I. Military and Warfare
Operating Mechanisms of Cognitive Warfare
The article by Gao Kai (affiliation unknown) in the PLA Daily defines what is cognitive warfare and explores the operating mechanisms of Cognitive warfare.
The author explains cognitive warfare as, "Cognitive warfare takes human will, spirit, psychology, etc. as the target of attack. Through actions in the physical domain, the use of the information domain, and the attack and defence of the cognitive domain. It constantly destroys the enemy's cognitive foundation and achieves the strategic goal of attacking and winning the heart."
The author has explained the following operating mechanisms of cognitive warfare:
Finding and changing material conditions that can affect the cognitive capacity of the opponent.
Using information medium effectively
The attack value system of the opponent
Destroying the will of the opponent
Changing material conditions
The author explains this as finding and changing material conditions that can affect the cognitive capacity of the opponent.
Look at this quote from the article,
"With the continuous improvement of the intelligence, accuracy and lethality of weapons and equipment, the probability of high-strength attack and destruction of the material conditions supporting combat cognition is increasing, making cognitive warfare more prominent in modern warfare." (随着武器装备智能化、精准性、杀伤力的不断提升，支撑作战认知的物质条件受到高强度打击、摧毁的概率不断加大，使得认知战在现代战争中地位更加突出。)
The premise that changing surrounding conditions will affect cognitive capabilities is correct from a practical perspective. The author has mentioned that aim is to "change the basis of the enemy's public opinion, and then shake the determination of the enemy's political leadership, military command and decision-making."
Even if it means using physical destruction of surroundings. Here, the author is referring to the following activities:
Actual military operations and physical strikes in the fields of land, sea, air, and sky.
Creating a huge shock to the enemy's cognitive capacity.
Launching a continuous psychological and public opinion offensive.
Using Information medium
Material transformation needs to enter cognition through information means. Thus various information media naturally become the intermediate link of cognitive warfare. The prevalence of modern information and communication technologies and data being generated provides "data ammunition" which can be utilized in cognitive warfare. Authors emphasize that commanders must not only be good at using information means to control the enemy but also be good at controlling information means to prevent enemy countermeasures.
Attacking value system
The author emphasizes that by analyzing the opponent's political, military, cultural, and historical heritage, as well as the opponent's historical character, one can find out the fundamental value that affects the opponent's combat perception, attack, and break its value system. Thus, affecting opponents’ rationale behind continuing and fighting a war. The author suggests using a "series of actions in the physical domain and relies on the circulation of the information domain" to achieve these results.
As outlined in the article, Cognitive warfare is supposed to destroy the spiritual core of the enemy's personnel, so that there will be no war or it will be a small one. The aim is to induce a sense of helplessness and powerlessness in the enemy. Again, the emphasis here is on "efficient and quick actions intangible combat domains" of land, sea, air, and sky. Thus, it will create strong psychological pressure on the enemy, will quickly dismantle the enemy's will to resist, and the enemy will be unwilling to fight again.
Note that the author emphasizes the use of actions in the physical, information, and cognitive domain for cognitive warfare. This means the author here considers any action that can affect an adversary's cognitive functions as a suitable form of cognitive warfare. Throughout the article, the author has emphasized using both physical activities and information domain activities to carry out cognitive warfare. These activities include typical physical domain activities carrying out physical strikes.
Does that mean all physical actions can be categorized as cognitive warfare?
If we extend the logic of physical destruction to all actions during the war, every action can be categorized as cognitive warfare, which would be incorrect. The distinction between activities that can be categorized specifically as cognitive warfare is that, such actions are specifically designed to affect the psyche of opponents. On the other hand, in physical warfare, the physical destruction is aimed to capture land, push back soldiers from the frontline, and cutting off supply lines.
Moreover, the "cognitive foundation" (认知基础 Rèn zhī jīchǔ) is an interesting term. Here, it refers to the foundational knowledge that consciously or subconsciously forms one's worldview.
Although this is a debated topic. Let me know what are your thoughts.
Creating a Realistic Battlefield Metaverse
PLA thinkers have been conceptualizing applications of a metaverse on the battlefield. This article is the latest in a series of such exploratory articles. You can refer to the previous issue of China Tech Dispatch where I have covered the 'battlefield metaverse' (战场元宇宙 Zhànchǎng yuán yǔzhòu) as conceptualized by a writer from China's Academy of Military Science (AMS).
In this article written by Hu Jianxin and Li Xinglei, the authors have offered suggestions to make a realistic battlefield metaverse. The key takeaway is that creating a realistic and applicable "battlefield metaverse" requires overall design advancement and step-by-step advancement. The authors emphasize the need to build a network "metaverse" that simulates future battlefields and to create a simulation training base that combines virtual and real, Internet of Things, human-computer interaction, and supplemented with consistent warfare training. Such simulations should have simulated land battlefields, simulated sea battlefields, and simulated air battlefields.
This article indicates that the talk of building a metaverse for the military is not just a fantasy. The PLA scholars do understand the difficulty in creating such technology and what is needed to overcome such difficulties. For example, the article in one place mentions that,
"Even if the objective conditions such as technology and material resources are not available and perfect for the time being, the existing training venues close to the actual combat scene can be selected according to the actual combat training requirements" (即使技术、物力等客观条件暂不具备和完善，也可按照实战化训练要求，遴选接近实战场景的既有训练场所).
Also, this paragraph from the article sums up the view on applications of technology as conceptualized by many PLA scholars so far.
"In the face of the rising wave of new technological revolution, military can only continue to develop and advance only by adhering to integrity and innovation. Keeping up with the pace of development of the times, keeping an eye on the frontiers of scientific and technological development, constantly absorbing the latest scientific and technological achievements, and applying them in a timely manner in the practice of military reform and preparation for military struggles are the only way and effective measures to win future wars." (面对汹涌澎湃的新技术革命浪潮，军事建设只有坚持守正创新，才能不断发展推进。紧跟时代发展步伐，紧盯科技发展前沿，不断吸收最新科技成果，并及时将其运用到军事变革实践和军事斗争准备之中，是打赢未来战争的必经之途、管用之招。)
It would be interesting to see if such talk is also followed with action.
This law is from the branch of psychology called psychophysics. It applies to all of our senses like touch, smell, hearing, and taste. The law measures magnitude of consciousness or sensations.
Gustav Fechner, a German psychologist, and physicist, basically devised a formula that links psychological sensation and physical intensity. In other words, his formula links 'subjective experience' to 'changes in physical intensity'. This is Fechner's Law as described by American Psychological Association (APA).
Fechner gave this formula as,
S= k logR Where, S= subjective sensation or subjective experience, k =Weber^′ s constant (depends on the sense), and R = physical intensity of the stimulus.
I am not a psychologist and neither a physicist, so do refer to this video on how Fechner's law works. Weber's constant here is derived from Weber's law. Again, this and this video on Weber's Law do a better job of explaining key concepts and it describes our day-to-day actions.
Chinese Military Scientists Claim to have Created an ‘Invisibility Cloak’
Stephen Chen of South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Chinese scientists from Air Force Engineering University claimed to have created an 'invisibility cloak that can hide equipment from radar satellites.
What do we know as of now?
Name of scientist leading research: Xu He-Xiu
Affiliation: Air Force Engineering University, Xian, Shaanxi province
Journal: Journal of Infrared and Millimetre Waves
One-line description: A new cloth-like material created by the Chinese scientists can help make the object nearly invisible to radar satellites.
Thanks to Stephen Chen, I have the full text of the paper in Chinese. Unfortunately, there is no authoritative English version of the paper.
How does this invisibility cloak work?
This new material is a stretchable cloth-like cover, but with 3D printed circuits and different materials.
Top layer - Thin fabric carrying many printed circuits that can manipulate electromagnetic waves
Meta surface layers - Layers of plastic and thin metal. It can change the direction of a return signal to mimic the radar signature of flat land.
I made this diagram as an extremely simplified version of how this 'cloth' is supposed to work.
How is this different from current stealth technologies?
As also noted by Chen in the SCMP article, stealth technologies that hide airplanes and fighters from radars already exist. But the weapons and equipment on the ground can be detected by spy radar satellites. The cloth-like material created by Chinese scientists would allow the on-ground material, like tanks, to hide.
This highly sought-after area has intrigued scientists. A Canadian company, Hyperstealth Biotechnology, also announced the creation of an invisibility cloak a few years ago. The Telegraph covered it in 2019.
Moreover, researchers around the world have created 'metamaterials' capable of creating invisibility cloaks before, but the team of Chinese scientists claimed that other materials do not offer the flexibility of the cloak they have created.
Why is this claim important?
Radar satellites can detect equipment on the ground even at night. Being able to hide from radar satellites would increase the stealth capability of the on-ground equipment of the military.
According to a source quoted by SCMP, this is extremely important since "camouflage technology can protect more than 80 percent of the military targets from being destroyed by missiles."
The 'cloth' does not work as a stand-alone item. As per the researchers, it must be paired with other methods to increase stealth capability. Like heat reduction, optical camouflage, and decoys.
This means that just covering a tank on the ground with this cloth won't make it 'invisible'; other measures to make it undetectable to sensors would also be necessary.
China's Quantum Communication Leap
Last week, scientists from China's Beijing Institute of Quantum Information Science announced that they have achieved a new quantum direct communication system with phase quantum state and timestamp quantum state mixed encoding, with a communication distance of 100 km. The results of their experiment were published in the journal "Light: Science and Applications." The results of the study were announced jointly by the team Professor Long Guilu and Professor Lu Jianhua from Tsinghua University. Long Guilu is also vice president of the Beijing Institute of Quantum Information Science.
This is important since it is the first time scientists have achieved communication over 100 km as per Science and Technology Daily, a newspaper published by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). This is an improvement from the previously achieved distance of 18km.
The study achieved a transmission speed of 0.54 bits per second, slow as compared to conventional communications systems. However, this speed is still good enough for basic communications over text and audio calls to some extent.
Also Read, Holly Chik's article on the same for South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Why is this announcement important?
One, this study has proved that point-to-point quantum direct communication between cities is feasible using existing mature technical means. Thus, reducing the burden of complete system overhaul compatible with quantum communication.
Two, this achievement is the first such in the world, as claimed by state media, and it indicates China's continued growth and leadership in quantum technologies over other countries. I have previously written about the importance of quantum technologies for China in one of the articles for NewsTrail - "Quantum computing: China ahead, US plays catch-up". I am pasting an excerpt from my article here,
"The development of offensive and defensive cyber capabilities is an important part of Beijing's plan of modernizing the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Chinese scholars have written a lot about their vision of futuristic warfare. From developing integrated battlefield command systems and unmanned combat systems to intelligent warfare, robust and impenetrable communication will be essential to prevent interference from hostile actors."
Three, this is likely to be a foundation for the goal of building an intercity quantum demonstration network based on a safety relay. The objective to achieve an intercity demonstration network was laid down in the Beijing's 14th Five-Year Plan for the Construction of the International Science and Technology Innovation Centre during the 14th Five-Year Plan (北京市"十四五"时期国际科技创新中心建设规划) released in Nov 2021.
IV. Before You Go
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