PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

"Exploit Small Group Dynamics During Analysis to Support the Decision You Want"

I gave the above keynote speech to the 13th NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference last October, in which I described an “analysis process design” game as a thought experiment about how pathologies of small group discussions can be deliberately used to distort decisions following analysis. The thought experiment game can be applied I suspect to any process, including wargames, that includes small group discussions. The paper is downloadable from:
https://www.sto.nato.int/publications/STO%20Meeting%20Proceedings/STO-MP-SAS-OCS-ORA-2019/$MP-SAS-OCS-ORA-2019-KN-04.pdf

Connections US 2020 Wargaming Conference – Call for Presentations

Connections 2020 will be hosted by the Wargaming Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA, August 4-7.

Connections is an interdisciplinary wargaming conference that has been held annually since 1993, with the mission of advancing and preserving the art, science, and application of wargaming. Connections participants come from all elements of the wargaming discipline, and include those in the military, government, academic, private sector, and commercial hobbyist fields. By providing a forum for practitioners to share insights and best practices, Connections works to improve gaming as a tool for research, analysis, education, and policy.

Presentations on any aspect of professional wargaming are welcome. The 2020 conference theme is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Wargaming, and with that in mind, presentations on applying current and emerging AI/ML capabilities to increase the value of wargaming (or using wargaming to better understand the implications of advances in AI/ML) are especially encouraged.

However, any presentations related to wargaming will receive full consideration. The Connections agenda is a mix of content related to the year’s theme and other topics of interest to wargaming practitioners.

Please submit your proposal via the Google Form at the following link (which contains additional information): https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdQtpt0K5bTg-hn4655vzyBmS9k5BQZkW0aVjcbQkiCQGa0gw/viewform

It is by no means necessary to have attended a previous Connections conference to participate as a speaker. More information about past Connections events and current updates on the status of planning for Connections 2020 can be found at the conference website: https://connections-wargaming.com/

For additional information or any questions or concerns, please contact Timothy Wilkie at timothy.wilkie@ndu.edu

Connections US Wargaming Conference 2019 Proceedings

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The Proceedings of the 2019 Connections US Wargaming Conference is now available thanks to Mark Leno, Wargame Analyst, Department of Strategic Wargaming at the US Army War College.

How wargames work and their importance by Paul Vebber

Listen to Paul Vebber, assistant director of wargaming and future warfare research at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Headquarters, discussing how wargames work and their importance to the Warfare Centers, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Navy:

How an opponent wargames is an intelligence collection requirement

In June of this year Mercyhurst University’s Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences held its first “Intelligence Community Forum” focused on Intelligence support for decision makers (https://mercyhurst.edu/icf). At that conference I presented the argument that “How an opponent wargames is an intelligence collection requirement” available online.

The abstract reads:

The answer to “How does an opponent wargame?” supports decision makers when deterring, preempting or reacting to conflict. How opponent decision makers wargame during peacetime, i.e. the methods, techniques and styles of gaming used and the beliefs and psychological biases of the players, gives us insight into how opponent decision makers might operate during conflict. This is in addition to the scenarios, systems and concepts they game which one can credibly infer from the political, economic and military environments. Since studying the performance of individual decision makers during real life planning and conflict tells us something about how those decision makers might behave in future conflicts, then how they behave during wargames might tell us something about how they would perform during the future conflict that they are currently wargaming. Therefore studying the wargaming approaches of an opponent or ally and the wargame performance of selected military and political leaders should be an intelligence collection requirement. In this presentation I propose an analytic framework for answering the wargame intelligence question based on the Purpose of the Wargame and the Characteristics of the Wargamers for each identified opponent group, and propose methods for avoiding such collection on oneself.

Let’s see more wargamers at next year’s Intelligence Community Forum  on June 16–18, 2020, Mercyhurst University, Erie, PA!


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New wargaming book hits the shelves

It’s been a good year for wargaming books.

First was Matt Caffrey’s On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future available as a free download from the US Navy College Press

Now we have from the other side of the Atlantic Graham Longley-Brown’s Successful Professional Wargames; A Practitioner’s Handbook, published by the History of Wargaming Project. There is also a Kindle version available from Amazon.


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Low-Tech War Games Inform High-Tech Decisions

Interesting program using wargaming to educate engineers, scientists, and logisticians in the realities of operational planning to increase their ability to meet the US Navy’s strategic goals. See the report here.

Rolling dice and moving game pieces might not seem relevant to 21st century warfare, but Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is finding this low-tech means of war gaming has the potential to provide increased agility in the high stakes competition of high technology.

War games have been used throughout history to help operational and logistical leaders develop critical thinking and planning skills, determine possible outcomes and keep warfighters proficient in the use of their weapons systems.

The current battle raging across the Pacific Ocean on the tabletop map set up at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport is not being run by admirals. Instead, engineers, logisticians and even Navy Acquisition Development Program (NADP) entry-level employees are fighting the game in order to expose them to the operational and logistical requirements of the warfighters who will be on the front lines in a real conflict.

The Future of Wargaming: Brain Probes, Crocodile Clips and Drugs

I was recently asked by Ed McGrady to create an outline for a story about the future of wargaming (not to be confused with wargaming the future) as part of his working group on the subject. So, here is my outline for a science fiction story about the future of wargaming. I believe there is much to be gained from expanding the boundaries of wargame player manipulation, specifically the effects that directly manipulating players’ brains using electrical stimulation and drugs can have on game play and analysis.

The term “science fiction story” has three parts; “science”, “fiction” and “story”. In this short outline the fiction is underpinned by credible modern science. It remains to be seen if the “fiction” becomes fact. Given that my proposed future science of brain manipulation for game purposes is a credible forecast from current research, I suspect it will. I have not added references to current research results to this short piece, you can find those in my other writings.

The Motive

People playing a game know the game is not real life, and we know from psychology and social science research that decisions they make during the game are influenced by this knowledge. We also know from psychology and social science research that a risky shift and dishonesty shift occur during group discussions that take place during both games and real-life decision making. Players’ critical faculties generated by their frontal lobes take into account the conscious knowledge “this is a game” and are influenced subconsciously by the two shifts. Therefore we have a problem using decisions made during a game as proxies or predictors for decisions the same players would make during the real-world situation the game is exploring.

The “science” part of the “science fiction story”

When dreaming (during REM sleep) blood flows to the cortex (which provides content) and the limbic system (which processes emotions) both of which light up. However the frontal lobes (which direct our critical faculties) remains quiet. The result is that we usually accept the content and emotions of a dream (during it) no matter how weird.

Anesthesia research shows that anesthetics make us “unconscious” by disconnecting different parts of the brain’s macro-systems from each other, thus breaking the brain-wide integration that current research claims leads of self-awareness. Some anesthetics leave the person aware of the pain but experiencing a rolling amnesia – they feel the pain of the surgery but forget that fact from moment to moment.

Medical research shows that people with damage to their emotional response system, of the kind that results in them not experiencing emotions, have difficulty making decisions even when they are smart enough to know the answer and it is objectivity important for them to do so. They lack the motive to make the decision. Star Trek and Conan Doyle got it wrong with Spock and Sherlock.

Herodotus tells us that the ancient Persians made important decisions after they had discussed the situation twice, once sober and once drunk, presumably in an attempt to analyse situations both critically (while sober) and emotionally (while drunk). I don’t know for sure, but I would assume the order of the two sessions might have an effect. I will have to experiment and report back to you later.

The “fiction” part of the “science fiction story”

We will develop techniques using anesthetics and electrical stimulation to selectively suppress the limbic system and frontal lobes in wakeful subjects, and using drugs to suppress or boost the body’s production of hormones related to stress and emotion.

From the credible science and realistic projection we can now propose the likely impact on wargame techniques in the future. We will game a topic with different parts of the players brains “switched off” or “switched on” depending on the phase of the game’s move. During those phases of each move that require analysis we will suppress the entire limbic system (brain and body). We can then explore totally rational analysis driven by the frontal lobe generated critical faculties of the players and in the absence of any emotional processing.

The problem here is the likely difficulty of getting emotionless people to make decisions when it is “decision time” in the game – for example when it is time to select a move or COA from a set that has been discussed and explored during the planning phases of the game’s moves. So, during the phases when the players are called on to make decisions, we will boost the limbic system to turn decision-making motivation back on. In other words we pulse the limbic systems of the players in phase with the tasks required during the game; suppress for analysis, boost for decision making.

Alternatively, taking a leaf out of the ancient Persian’s playbook, by simultaneously boosting the limbic system and suppressing the frontal lobes we can explore wildly off the wall ideas while completely suspending disbelief. We can also, by incrementally turning the limbic system up or down, explore decision making under different levels of emotion.

The “story” part of “science fiction story

How will such a world play out? When proven successful by the Military (and it will be), this technique will move into the mainstream and be used by any profession that involves both analysis and decision making by the same people about extremely important situations. For example by judges, doctors and surgeons, airline pilots, nuclear power plant operators, senior military officers in charge of our nuclear triad (this latter is exciting, you can see where this is going!) etc. Given humanity’s desire for silver bullets, the techniques develop and proliferate rapidly and are embedded in all critical areas of the global system before the downsides are discovered (of course, why change the habits of many lifetimes?) The intellectual elites of society who combine analysis and decision-making powers over the rest of us start suffering debilitating psychoses and hallucinations caused by the technique’s interference in their brains and sleep patterns. The world descends into chaos as the senior leaders, decision makers and analysts in our legislature, judiciary, medical facilities, military etc. cycle between manic depression and emotionless psychopaths.

Conclusion

Given the history of using drugs and electrodes to experiment on people’s minds I suspect the above outline is a realistic projection of implementation by governments, business and academia. The possible benefits that result from widespread successful implementation are so great that such implementation will certainly occur despite the possible downsides explored by the story.


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