Science Fiction Vision, Innovative Application of Existing Tech, Robot with AI Brain
Issue 6, 08 Nov 2021
A small update before diving into military tech and warfare, the latest Takshashila Intelligence Estimate on the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan Taiwan cross-strait tensions is out now. Check it out here.
I. Military and Warfare
Importance of Science Fiction Vision (科幻视野) in war
The article written by Hu Jianxin in PLA Daily urges military theory researchers, military science and tech workers, commanders, and fighters to pay attention to cultivating a "science fiction vision" as an essential part of future informatized and intelligent wars. The key argument is that having a science-fiction-like vision is good for future warfare. They argue that advancement in technology and science fictions fantasies tend to influence each other and every technology has a profound impact on the weapons and equipment, forms of war, and methods of combat. This vision for advanced weapons is not just for developing advanced weapons but also for using them, along with the inspiration and intellectual support. Cultivating such a vision requires efforts in all aspects, but the key lies in studying science and technology, bold imagination, and using technology beyond the limits. The article suggests three ways to achieve this:
Enhance the awareness of scientific and technological coordination
Broaden the forward-looking thinking of the system. It is necessary to conduct "sci-fi" forward-looking systematic research on future wars from the perspective of the interrelationship between reality and science fiction, combat and technology, weapons and tactics, explore the characteristics and laws of informatized and intelligent warfare, and gain insight into the victory of future wars.
Improve the overall degree of integration of technology and military.
Sci-fi technologies mentioned in the article:
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Need to Focus on Innovative application of Technology
This article by Tang Suyan Tang Xueqin from National Defence University argues importance of "innovative application" of technology along with modern technology itself. The rationale behind such an argument is that even innovative use of existing technologies can become an edge needed in war. The examples authors use to present their case are new tactics and combat styles used during and after WWII - like "blitzkrieg" by Germans, US operations during Gulf War, and Operation Orchard.
So how does this apply to information warfare? In the case of joint operations where operations are based on the networked information system, the operational effectiveness of the equipment system cannot be expressed by a simple combination of the capability indicators of each system. The combat capability of such systems will be determined by the optimization of the type, ratio, and allocation quantity of the equipment. The networked systems in the future will connect to form an organic whole with the commanders having real-time inputs from the battlefield for better decision making. For such scenarios, the authors argue that the construction of optimized equipment considering joint operations in the future is important. Lastly, the authors highlight the need to shift from verifying authenticity and effectiveness to falsification. This means using simulations, data analysis, and other methods to find out the redundancies and weak links in the networked systems. Developing a joint system that does not become useless in case a key system fails is also a priority. Hence, according to the authors, it is important to pay attention to the real-life application of the equipment being developed.
AI for Cognitive Warfare
This article in PLA Daily presents AI as a key technology in Cognitive Warfare. The article is filled with a lot of technology and AI-related jargon on how amazing is the application of AI in cognitive warfare. Applications pointed out are again related to decisions making, disrupting and facilitating information on the battlefield, human-machine interaction, etc.
Battlefield Positioning of Army Aviation Combat Force
A PLA Daily article by Wu Tao and Mi Li (affiliation not given) highlights the importance of the Aviation Combat Force in modern high-tech warfare. The role of the Army Aviation Combat Force is highlighted as follows:
To win battlefield information rights in future joint cooperative wars.
To achieve low-altitude air supremacy and as the backbone of multi-dimensional combat space.
To ensure rapid maneuverability on the battlefield and implement full-depth operations.
As a backbone of the implementation of integrated service support and combat support on the battlefield.
II. Non-military Updates
Xiaoke - The Robot with "AI Brain"
Xiaoke, the root using "AI Brain" based on China's and reportedly the world's largest NLP system WuDao 2.0 was demonstrated by researchers of Zhipu AI. The robot can converse, create music, and talk about scientific facts. This is another step in direction of creating "digital humans" that can learn by themselves, have cognitive abilities, and other human-like intelligence. A form of such robots is also being deployed at the Winter Olympics. The virtual human deployed in Winter Olympics can convert the host's voice into sign language in real-time.
The Robot uses the same technology as the Hua Zhibing, China's first virtual student developed by researchers from Beijing Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (BAAI), Tsinghua University, Zhipu Ai, and others. Hua Zhibing was launched in June 2021 with the persona of a virtual student enrolled in Tsinghua University. I have covered the importance of such achievements in an article I wrote for Observer Research Foundation (ORF) a few months ago. Link below.
An excerpt from my article:
"The significance of achieving AI superpower status lies not only in its glory, but it is also a part of China’s ‘Shāshǒujiàn’ (杀手锏) policy, which roughly translates as ‘trump card.’ Despite China’s attempts to modernise its military and increasing its spending, it is still behind the United States (US). However, developing state-of-the-art AI-enabled weapons can significantly reduce that gap. ‘Shāshǒujiàn’ (杀手锏) refers to Chinese strategy to create a set of ‘silver bullet’ technologies that can reduce this gap in the US and Chinese military power. However, China’s AI capabilities haven’t reached the level of sophistication to entirely trump the US’ military advantage over China. Even though Hua is based on an advanced AI model, she is merely an indicator of China’s capabilities; she is not meant for military use…These developments don’t mean that China is shipping out superior AI-powered weaponry. But it does indicate a thriving ecosystem of an important dual-use technology."
Internet Censorship and Allegations Against Zhang Gaoli 张高丽
Last week, China's Tennis star Pheng Shuai wrote on Weibo about assault and later her relationship with former Vice Premier of China Zhang Gaoli (张高丽). Her post was removed and the keywords related to her or Zhang Gaoli's name were censored. Posts discussing the case and details related to the #metoo allegations were also heavily censored. The netizens in China were coming up with new forms and methods to discuss the issue.
This is not new given the nature of internet censorship in China. Much has been studied and discussed the innovative ways in which Chinese citizens continue to evade censorship and discuss sensitive issues. A few days ago, I discussed some aspects of digital activism in China with my colleagues Ruturaj and Arjun on The Takshashila Institution's podcast. The link is given below.
"Yanan", China’s fourth Type 055 destroyer is likely to enter service next month, reports SCMP. This will be China's most advanced and largest destroyer to date. A fifth destroyer, named the Anshan, is also reportedly ready to commission in the first half of next year.
Alibaba's chip designing arm T-Head unveiled a new chip "Yitian 710" optimized for cloud computing services. It has raised concerns about super high-performance chips being used in military applications. This article by Paul Triolo highlights that this powerful chip could end up being used in military applications like CPUs made by Phytium.
China’s J-16D electronic warfare aircraft starts combat training, reported Global Times.
J-16D is electronic warfare-enabled aircraft developed by China. I have covered highlights of J-16D aircraft in an earlier issue of my newsletter. Read it Section II of the first dispatch here.
Betraying Big Brother The Feminist Awakening in China, by Leta Hong Fincher. Penguin Random House LLC.
This is a little off-theme suggestion for this newsletter. But an excellent book to understand the feminist movement in China and the role of the internet in this movement (Chapter 2)