"The changing nature of conflict will require new tactics and strategies, and a willingness to adapt and evolve." - Leon Panetta, former US Secretary of Defense
The battlefield is getting hazy and blurred. It is becoming difficult to say who is a friend or enemy…
The nature of warfare is changing. Gone are the days when wars were fought to acquire land or hold ground. Modern warfare will involve a very dangerous cocktail of – nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science.
That’s just a part of the total surprise as the target in the future battlefield will be the brain of the enemy. The prime objective in future will be to manipulate the brain and make the enemy think, act and behave – the way we want.
Nations who win future wars will not be those who have the biggest guns or armies but those who manage to influence the enemy and control their thoughts. There will be not many casualties or blood loss as the outcome of future wars will be decided without fighting the war…
“The brain will be the battlefield of the 21st century” Dr James Giordano, Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at Georgetown University shocked everyone when he made this statement while addressing the cadets at the United States Military Academy. Obviously, there was pin-drop silence…as no one believed that such a thing which was only possible in science fiction would become a reality so soon.
Neuroscience is one of the most rapidly advancing fields in medicine. The objective of this field of study is to focus on the structure and function of the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Over the past few decades, scientists have tried to understand the brain and study how it works at the cellular, molecular, and systems levels.
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Researchers are burning the midnight oil to give shape to an entirely new kind of combat called cognitive warfare. Their prime objective is to find ways to hack or exploit the vulnerabilities of the human brain through a sophisticated process called social engineering. The objective is to not only change what people think but also how or when they think and act.
NATO has classified this new kind of combat as Cognitive warfare or ‘Battle for the brain’. The brain is the predominant player in this cognitive warfare which seeks to find new ‘ways of harming the brain’. Cognitive warfare has been classified as the sixth level of warfare – the other five being – land, air, sea, space, and cyber domains. Its objective is to sow dissonance, instigate conflicting narratives, polarize opinion, and radicalize groups.
Cognitive warfare is a kind of hybrid warfare. It’s a totally new concept and an interdisciplinary field of research covering nine aspects:
- Understanding the brain
- Protecting the brain
- Monitoring the brain
- Injuring the brain
- Interfering with the brain
- Repairing the brain
- Enhancing the brain
- Stimulating the brain and
- Arming the brain
The brain is the decision-making hub and the seat of intelligence that controls all senses, as well as the body’s movements, and behaviour. It is the most complex part of the human body and functions even while we sleep – just like a cell phone.
Cognitive warfare is not just a fancy word or another name for information warfare. It is an all-out war to design and develop new weapons to harm or manipulate the functioning of the captive brain.
Cognitive warfare is endless since there can be no peace treaty or surrender for this type of conflict. It also does not have any geographic borders or a time limit. This battlefield is global – wherever the internet is available. There is also no beginning and no end, in this conflict 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The worst part of the story is that anyone — not just the combatant but political leaders, media persons and university professors who can influence people’s minds — could be potential targets in this cognitive warfare. Any use of information technologies is likely to be compromised.
When asked to comment on NATO’s new combat philosophy, U.S. Major General Robert H. Scales, summarized, “Victory will be defined more in terms of capturing the psycho-cultural rather than the geographical high ground.”
Cognitive warfare is a new type of hybrid warfare and the most advanced form of manipulation seen to date. It’s a war where you fight without weapons.
Victory in the long run solely depends on the ability to influence, affect, change or impact the cognitive domain.
The ultimate goal is not only physical control of the planet but also control over people’s minds.