18 February 2013
The Information Revolution is quickly transitioning into an Augmented Technological Revolution. The previous ways that humanity interfaces with the world are being replaced with revolutionary mobile platforms. This has profound implications for the international system over the next few decades. Both the way it will soon operate and the autonomy of advanced artificial intelligence will create new dimensions beyond strictly human interactions.
Augmented Reality (AR) is presently extending the Information Age a step further. AR is defined as the real-time digital enhancement of reality. This is currently being accomplished through software applications using cell phones, digital goggles, GPS, video cameras, sensors, microphones, CPU, internet and digital voice assistance in real-time. One’s reality is instantly enhanced by literally adding a digital, or artificial, layer of reality.
One example of AR includes a Heads-Up Display (HUD) which is the process of looking through a transparent surface, like eye glasses, and seeing instant relevant information displayed over one’s vision. Google has been instrumental in developing this process through their “Glass” project which is expected to be commercially available to the public by the end of 2014.
Soldiers using AR will be able to easily differentiate between friend and foe. They will receive real-time information on everything from their environment to mission updates. They will be able to connect with autonomous weapon systems right on the battlefield, working alongside robotic weapon systems.
Diplomats could soon be wearing AR contact lenses or glasses that will translate in real-time a native’s foreign language, presenting the information like movie subtitles on the lens or glass in that diplomat’s own native tongue. They will be able to translate a newspaper in another language with a glance, access data on treaties and current news events while undergoing diplomatic negotiations, or even assess the disposition of a foreign contact by using lie detection sensors and emotional cues—all displayed immediately through the AR lens interface.
The technology has already been used by U.S. Marine mechanics to help them with more efficient repairs. Detailed specifications, for instance, can instantaneously be displayed through goggles when looking over an engine. Other branches of armed forces continue to use and develop new adaptations.
In addition to AR devices, other augmented technologies will include human exoskeleton systems, mechanical implants, and even cognitive interfaces that can mesh technology directly to the brain via an electro-encephalogram (EEG). This process interprets brain waves and translates them to a computer or device without the need of a mouse, hands, or gestures. A growing international market is selling this Brain Computer Interface (BCI) technology to the public today. A growing international market is selling BCI technology to the public today, allowing users to navigate the virtual world, interface with desktop computers, make phone calls, play games, and control robotic machines without any physical exertion.
Domestic and foreign militaries are highly involved in the BCI technological jump. The U.S.'s Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS) enhances a human’s ability to visually detect things what he or she may not even be aware of consciously, using a BCI. The ramifications of this are that a particular human brain signal is effectively being used like a biological machine by a computer. The computer can then display the information to the soldier that would have consciously missed it.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has also reached new heights, replacing the concept of unmanned military drones, which were originally controlled directly by operators on the ground. The present focus of AI allows the military to shift to autonomous drones like the U.S. Navy’s X-47B or the U.S. Air Force’s X-37 space drone. Current AI allows autonomous function in basic targeting or mission commands to the best way to complete the tasks (i.e. take-off, landing, threat assessment, speed variation). The U.S. Army is the latecomer to the game, but concept vehicles, tanks, and even humanoid robots are also being developed for land power operations.
These new robotic systems offer another growing importance of artificial non-human interaction with the world. Thus, an AI dimension in international affairs is increasingly a foundational technology enhancement replacing and surpassing the need for human operators over various social sectors—anything from a simple everyday convenience like Apple’s iPhone personal assistant, SIRI, and AI customer support, to the capabilities of a government’s automated defense systems.
Present and emerging technologies today share an increasing dependency on virtual networks, cloud based systems, and net-centric mobile applications and electronics. They maintain an increasing framework for a globalist infrastructure. Whether giving orders directly through a BCI through voice, or touch-screen—commands and gestures of an AR device—all systems interactions are as fast as or faster than human thought.
The global information system is no longer based purely on human thought processes. It is now a multidimensional complexity, composed of necessary layers of influence and interaction, including nature, the human, the augmented, and the artificial.
Of the dimensions, three of them—nature, the human, and the artificial—will within a decade define the true global environment as causal realms of self-sustaining systems that work independently and cross over with each other in increasingly complex networks. The augmented dimension is not a true dimension but a bridge that links the human to the other three.
The old international relations models relied on the human layer directly above nature only. They understood nature-human, human-nature, and human-human interactions. Each new layer beyond the human or nature dimension will permit a greater amount of non-human and non-nature interaction. The new era predicted long ago is finally now gaining momentum—human-to machine and machine-to-machine interactions are increasing the norms of international relations.
The challenge for societies will be to utilize these technological “augments” the most intelligent way, thereby allowing for the projection of one’s political and social influence in globalist interactions.
Before the machines take over, however, the Augmented Technological Revolution adds further attributes to the potential of deciphering the human thoughts using: faster computer processors, better software predictive models, and individualized brain mapping techniques. With the help of machines, humans may even be able to read minds in the future.
Yes, in the sense of collecting more data on personal preferences and beliefs, instant profile updates, gauging intentions, identifying brain patterns and signatures, and predicting the most likely behaviors of a human actor in real-time.
No, in that the present and emergent technology will not have a perfect representation of an individual’s intentions. Even with a perfect profile, the human remains a black box with potential deviation from or radical random action. Still, neural feedback is not just a one-way communication and BCI devices by the midcentury will not only be able to interpret an individual’s unique signature and waves associating a person’s basic thoughts, but eventually be able to influence them as well. Be sure to purchase the BCI headsets that do not allow incoming hackers the ability to stimulate your nervous system!
Humor aside, the 21st century is not necessarily one ruled by machines, but certainly one that is ruled alongside with them. It is not just the people of the world that will fall behind without adopting augmented and artificial intelligence technologies—governments that ignore them will appear a generation inferior to the ones that intelligently put them to use. Only by considering an international actor’s “perception” of the world, which will also include understanding augmented technologies and non-human agents, will the burgeoning international political system be understood correctly.
Brett Daniel Shehadey is an analyst and writer. His work has appeared in The National Interest, Asia Times, and Eurasia Review. He holds an M.A. in Strategic Intelligence from AMU and a B.A. in political Science from UCLA.
Photo: Alejandro Zorrilal Cruz (Public Domain).