To exactly no one’s surprise, the Canadian Armed Forces, that is, the division of the Canadian Federal Government that “peacekeeps” overseas, are a lulzy shadow of their former self intent on maintaining the appearance of relevancy with technology. This is very much like the newspaper company that offers digital subscriptions to its publication.iii Though the Feds’ marketing efforts are as strong as ever,iv the reason the CAF still exist in the way that Costa Rica’s military doesn’t is 3-fold. 1) With only a 35% net debt-to-GDP ratio, the Feds can afford it, 2) As the 52nd State, Canada needs to buy its southern neighbour’s refusev to maintain trade relationships, and 3) The Feds have a significant pro-military voter base who are also sufficiently removed from the realities of war that this techno-garbage actually seems like a good idea.
As Fergusonians are currently discovering, having a local police force equipped like a military inevitably leads to disproportionate displays of force and a whole lot of wasted bezzle bucks.vi So while this latest and greatest technotopia of “smart wearables” and “p2p networks” is currently being tested out by the CAF, they can be expected to trickle their way down to the RCMP detachment or local police force near you. Hooray!vii
So for your enlightenment and entertainment, let’s take a look at the latest press release from Defence Research and Development Canada to see what they’re cooking up for its 21st century soldiers:
It is clear that perfect cyber security does not existviii and that centralized communications hubs can be vulnerable to attacks.
It is also clear that modern militaries must either fall into one of two camps: decentralized militias that go for the fucking throat (à la ISIS) or megalithic militaries that go for the fucking throat (à la China). None of these in-between big-but-weak (à la USA) or small-but-weak (à la Canada) alternatives will suffice. Alas, that won’t stop them from trying!
Scientists have been moving closer to a potential solution while trying to answer one of nature’s riddles: “How does a school of fish defend itself from a shark attack?”
Like many seemingly complex natural phenomena, the answer to the riddle is found in a few simple rules, most importantly that each individual in the group only responds to their nearest neighbour. Inspired by the self-organizing behaviour of animal groups such as schools of fish or flocks of birds, professor Richard Yu from Carleton University, Dr. Helen Tang from Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and their graduate students have used recent advances in consensus algorithms to design a mobile network that is resilient to attacks. Consensus algorithms use distributed decision-making where all the devices in a network contribute to agree on the outcomes of calculations in a fashion similar to majority rule, rather than the traditional method of decision-making where a central authority determines which results are valid.
Less than schools of fish and flocks of birds, this sounds a lot like the methodologies employed by the Taliban,ix that is, the ones who just whooped dat CAF ass all over Afghanistan for the last decade. Maybe these Canuckistanis are learning something after all!
“Canadian soldiers operating in the dismounted role cannot be reliant on existing civilian communications infrastructure to support their scheme of manoeuvre,” said Major Cihlar of the Canadian Army’s Directorate of Land Requirements (DLR). Soldiers on the ground, called dismounted soldiers, require solutions that are adaptable to new and dynamic environments. Traditional centralized networks like cell phone towers are vulnerable to single point failures if their central server is compromised by physical damage or a cyber-attack.
“The majority of the places we are sent do not have a communications infrastructure,” said Major Cihlar.
Enter Resilient Tactical Networks (RTNs), a buzzword for advanced mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) that are resilient against cyber-attacks and connection failures. MANETs are an emerging type of wireless networking in which mobile devices are connected on an ad hoc basis. They are self-forming and self-healing, enabling peer-to-peer communication between mobile devices without relying on centralized resources or fixed infrastructure, like cellular towers.
If this doesn’t sound like complete and utter babble, nothing does. This also doesn’t sound like anything that can’t be accomplished with short-wave radio and encrypted walkie talkies, or whatever ISIS et al. are using.x
For example, in a tactical environment without infrastructure, each dismounted soldier wearing a mobile device connected to the ad hoc network would act as a connection point, or “node”, in the network. As soldiers move to new locations, their devices would adapt so that data could hop from one device to the next, around buildings and other obstacles that would typically degrade or obstruct traditional line of sight communications. Even if one or several connected devices fail or lose reception, the remaining devices in the network can adapt, and continue to communicate to keep the network alive.
A nation state’s military cannot work in a manner than emulates a decentralized organization. I tell you it won’t work. Large institutions need to operate like large institutions and the way nations win wars is by being really fucking ruthless and oppressive, pounding their rebel opponents into submission and instilling an insurmountable fear of uprising. It won’t happen through negotiation, much less iPhone apps.
“Wireless is the future. And everything will be connected,” professor Richard Yu proclaimed at a recent workshop at Carleton University that also included academics from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the University of Western Ontario, military members from the Canadian Army and Defence Scientists from DRDC. Organized by DRDC, the workshop aimed to help researchers understand the Canadian Armed Forces’ needs, get input on DRDC’s research, exchange ideas and facilitate further collaborations.
Having a technology professor guide a nation’s military decisions makes as much sense as having a Xerox salesman guide an high school’s extracurricular programs. Having a technical consultant guide organizational policy decisions is a sure sign of institutional rot. Ipso facto, there’s nothing on the inside.xi Lulz can only ensue.
But the professor also cautioned, “Security is a challenge and we need to be aware of the Army’s requirements.”
Because MANETs have no central security authority, the research teams are developing new security methods so that each device in the network knows which of the other devices can be trusted, by calculating trust values for each device and verifying their identity, amongst other techniques. To calculate trust values for each device you can monitor their activities for unusual behavior and apply consensus algorithms. And to verify a device’s identity you can analyze each device’s unique radio signature. Due to slight differences between every microchip, buried deep within the signal of each radio transmission is a unique pattern which means that each device has its own “fingerprint”.
Calculating trust and identity… Sounds suspiciously like the WoT, neh?
Major Janus Cihlar discussed the Canadian Army’s requirements at the workshop in great detail. “The modern battlespace is an irregular one, against a tech-enabled enemy, within urban environments and/or complex terrain,” said Major Cihlar during his presentation.
Using numbers to overpower your adversaries and slugging it out is an outdated strategy. “The battle of the future is dispersed in time, space and purpose,” said the Major.
Hey Major, tell China’s 400 mn man army, when they come knocking on Vancouver, that numbers are “an outdated strategy.” If you can make that the one Mandarin phrase you learn, maybe they’ll even let you live.
“Fighting smart, out-deciding the enemy is what wins battles now. Small groups will disperse and then commanders can aggregate tactical information and instruct their troops to make a unified and decisive action to deliver effect and force an outcome.”
Here’s where the broken brain of socialism really starts to shine. Military strategy exists, to be sure, but pretending that what the Canadian military lacks is any kind of technology other than a pharmaceutical agents that makes them ruthless, vicious, hungry, and as merciless as the Hashashinxii is just plain wacko. Pharmaceuticals that accomplish this task would be very valuable indeed because goodness knows how soft a military gets when it’s been 70 years since its last major conflict.
Every fight is different, and requires adaptable capabilities. But each new capability, like the new tactical radios being developed through the Canadian Army’s Integrated Soldier System Project (ISSP), brings with it new challenges, both technical and human related. “There are only so many men and women in the Army,” said Major Cihlar. “And there are limits on what each soldier can do within a given period of time, so any new system cannot be a burden to a soldier’s cognitive load.”
A new system can’t be a cognitive burden on someone with an IQ wavering in the low 90s? That’s sort of limiting things to Tinder and Clash of Clans, it seems to me.
Major Ryan Grant, a signals officer for the Directorate of Soldier Systems Project Management, emphasized the Canadian Army’s requirement for ease of use. “The intent is not to have the soldier interact with the network. It’s not the soldier who enables the network, but the network that enables the soldier,” Major Grant said during his presentation. “The soldier just turns it on and starts using it.”
Don’t you just love words? “It’s not the soldier who enables the network, but the network that enables the soldier” makes about as much sense as “It’s not the farmer that grows the vegetable, it’s the vegetable that grows the farmer!” This sort of metaphisica belongs in the monastary not the battlefield. Have you ever seen a monk with a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher? Me neither.
DRDC’s cyber operations team continues to work on the security techniques that need to be built into ad hoc networks so that enemy devices cannot pretend to be friendly devices and intercept information or bring down a network. They intend to produce a prototype device to evaluate the validity and robustness of the new techniques.
The 21st century Canadian Armed Forces have it all: smartphone-addled wimps, US enslavement, and no enemy to call their own. A shadow of their former glory, their attempts of relevancy are completely off the mark.
And so it goes.
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- Yes, we talk about more than Bitcoin in #bitcoin-assets [↩]
- Just like a friend of mine who, in our youth, took a hit of the (very legal) Salvia and could only muster “What is up?” This was less of the Budweiserian “Wazzuuuup!” and more of the “What is this concept you call ‘up’ and how does it purport to function?” [↩]
- For news, it’s online and free or physical and paid for. [↩]
- This marketing comes in the form of Canada Action Plan signs and Remembrance Day ceremonies. [↩]
- Eg. Single-engined F-35s that cost trillions, can’t make it across the Arctic, and won’t last 30 minutes against the Chinese. [↩]
- Actually, bezzle bucks spent on military gear are far from wasted, they kind of keep the whole charade going for one day more. This is incidentally why, for the USA at least, cutting its military spending is tantamount to cutting its own throat. [↩]
- For the lulz, very much like the lulz of drones. [↩]
- No shit, Sherlock. [↩]
- The “Taliban” are no more uniform in their organization nor identity than Americans are. Sourtherners are not Californians are not Dakotans. This blanket term came about merely for the convenience of lazy journalists and a disinterested public ignorant of foreign affairs but nonetheless opinionated. [↩]
- As if Canada could emulate such techniques if it wanted to any more than a cat could bark. [↩]
- Like Gob’s model home. [↩]
- The Hashashin were 11th-13th century contract killers, from whom we derive the word “assassin,” and who were composed of drugged-up jihadis with visions of heavenly virgins. [↩]