We are in a re-polarising world reflected in a strategic superpower competition between the US and China in an unfathomable cyberspace and digital-economy territory that will give rise to new type of bipolar world. Further, the world economy is going through a new creative destruction driven by things becoming nano, hypersonic, networked and autonomous. These are being developed using new forms of algorithmic intelligence and quantum computing. An unprecedented ability is coming to man with these technologies to synthesize biology, energy and reality. This will give rise to a new wave of innovation which we call the Sixth Wave of Innovation (2020-2045). Since the wars in the sixth wave will be 15-dimensional, national interests, our geo-political, geo-economic and strategic objectives need to be clearly articulated. However, the clarity on the linkages between political objectives in the new world and means to achieve them through war are becoming nebulous. The uncertainty and lack of clarity on national objectives in the 15-dimension warfare exacerbated by the increasing entropy of the world order, technology-driven creative destruction of the economic system and increasing mutations of warfare requires a comprehensive rethink on how to defend and secure the nation.
By 2020, we would have entered the Sixth Wave of Innovation (6WoI). Some experts claim the sixth wave started around 2015. As per Schumpeter’s Cycles/waves of innovation that define the economic system of the world, currently, we are running the 5th Wave of Innovation based on software, digital networks and new media (1990-2020)1. This wave is going to give way to the Sixth Wave of Innovation which will be based2 on (a) Things becoming Nano, Networked, Autonomous and Hypersonic, through (2) Computational approaches based on Algorithmic intelligence and Quantum Computing and thereby providing (3) ability to synthesize reality, biology and energy.
As pointed out by Schumpeter3, the new wave of technological innovation also brings along the creative destruction. He writes, “Process of industrial mutation, incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.
The Sixth Wave of Innovation, however, also is coupled this time with shaking up of the world order. One can say, so were the previous waves – start of 5th wave (1990-2020) was also the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War albeit with a new war in Iraq – the 1991 Gulf War. Similarly, the 4th Wave of Innovation (1950-1990) driven by petrochemicals, Electronics and Aviation started after the colossal World War II.
The first market crash after the word ‘Globalisation’ became a commodity was a clear indication of how complex the world has become…
Globalisation and Anti-Globalisation
Has the world changed more in the last 30 years than it changed in the previous 30 years? Is the new world after the end of the Cold War changing much more rapidly compared to the world that was on a tight leash by the opposing superpowers? From 1989 to 2019, we definitely have come a long way. One may argue that it will always be the case in any 30-year period. Would one say that from 1959 to 1989, the world changed much less than it changed from 1989 to 2019? Or is this question immaterial? Definitely the last thirty years have given us a tremendously fast-paced connected world; some may argue connected dangerously and some may argue pacing dangerously – as some small event in one part may have unprecedented effect on the whole world. The world built on information superstructure that has been in the making for many decades after Second World War, has definitely shaped the world that impacts the whole world in unprecedented ways.
Amy Chuha in her book “World on Fire”4 describes “globalisation creating a volatile concoction of free markets and democracy that has incited economic devastation, ethnic hatred and genocidal violence throughout the developing world.” This is really the other side – the connected in the globalising world becomes ‘haves’ and ‘stronger haves’, leaving the unconnected as have-nots. This is potentially a dangerous disparity that can kill the very roots of globalisation. Borders and cultures still matter greatly. This is the identity that individuals and individual communities want to protect at huge costs. Therein lies the nemesis of standardisation through technology-enabled globalisation. Hence a backlash to globalisation has started in this decade, surprisingly driven by nations who were championing globalisation in the 1990s.
The first market crash after the word ‘Globalisation’ became a commodity was a clear indication of how complex the world has become. Complicated new financial tools outpaced the comprehension of regulators, bankers or customers. In fact, comprehension has gone for a toss – although we are free, we are swamped with unprecedented choices – the explosion of choice is not what the human mind is able to absorb easily. This is the danger of complexity. When globalisation is the focus, complexity increases without warning, and it engulfs the world in dimensions not even comprehensible. How to design globalisation taking care of complexity is what innovation should be focusing on – therein is the play – the globalisation, complexity and innovation as the three-pronged world dimensions need to be taken care of simultaneously.
When Western countries (read US) forced India and other Asian countries to open their markets in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the West believed that they would get large markets for their products as well as cheap labour. They forced economies to open through multiple thrusts and forces that the so-called poor protected economies had no means to push back. The poor relented. In the 1990s, the opening up of the Indian economy was criticised and generated a feeling of fear of new products coming into India thus ending the so-called monopoly of existing players in protected economy.
We are moving towards an uncertain, unstable and chaotic state of the world affairs with everyone having mistrust of the superpowers…
Well, two decades later, the story has been turned on its head. It is the hunter who is feeling hunted now. Due to the strong innovation capability in a constrained environment that they are used to, Asian industries have created a much bigger impact due to spreading globalisation for the simple reason that their people are more used to ingenuity in adapting to change. And the change is what has exploded due to the spread of globalisation. In the Connected Age, the early adapters will thrive. The era of lazy, leisure seeking, materialistic, automation-dependent humans in any society either in the US, Europe or Asia is ending. We have entered the age of continuous creative work that will lead to the future under constraints of living as per existing parameters of consuming natural resources. Some years ago, an article in New Yorker said, “When we persuaded developing countries to open their doors to us, we also opened our doors to them. Now they’re walking through5.” Well, when doors are opened, traffic is both ways.”
Rise of China – Strategic Superpower Competition
The Global Order started changing at the end of 1980s and with the demise of the Soviet Union and an unprecedented display of modern military prowess through information technologies and beaming of war operations in our drawing rooms in the 1991 Gulf War, a uni-polar world was announced. A decade later, 9/11 demonstrated that the type of technologies and integration of various aspects of military mission that have been unleashed can be used by relatively small and resource-crunched, but intensely motivated or mind-washed ‘have nots’ of the world to inflict damage through combination of networks, knowledge, motivation and cunning. The US continued to focus on Russia in the 1990s and even early 2000s, and was completely engaged with the War on Terror that it missed the rise of a new power – the People’s Republic of China. In fact, till last decade the Sino-US economies were considered too interlinked that there were some thoughts of a joint Sino-US world economic order
However, this time, the shake-up is happening in the forms that are not well-known i.e. trade war between not-so-sincere and genuine friends – US and China – since 19986 as stated by eminent Chinese Scholar – Yan Xuetong. He further states and predicts that the world is headed towards a bi-polar order that is different from the Cold War of the past in many aspects especially as it is not based on ideology, but on technology and race for national power. However, the most important aspect this “strategic competition” differs is in the form and shape, is taking in an unchartered territory of cyberspace and digital economy. We are moving towards an uncertain, unstable and chaotic state of the world affairs with everyone having mistrust of the superpowers as well as the multilateral treaties and structures.
Cyberspace strategic competition is the new form of warfare in the multi-dimensional warfare…
Definition of Cyberspace
What do we mean by Cyberspace? What about Cyber Warfare? Cyber Security? There doesn’t seem to be a definition that is agreed upon.
‘Cyberspace’ – Definitions Deluge – What it is? Pentagon which can be credited with the creation of ARPANET in the 1970s, a precursor to perhaps one of the greatest disruptions of humanity in the last century, the Internet has provided at least 12 definitions of ‘Cyberspace’ over the years. The latest being the year 2008 definition, “The global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent networks of information technology infrastructures, including Internet, telecom networks, computer systems and embedded processors and controllers”.
Singer and Friedman in their book, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar – what everyone needs to know”7, describe cyberspace as “Cyberspace is the realm of computer networks and the users behind them, in which information is stored, shared and communicated online”.
The book further lists the key features of cyberspace as an information environment made up of digitised data that is created, stored and most importantly, shared. It is not the data alone, but it includes the networks of computers, infrastructure, Internet, Intranets and other communication systems that allow information, organised as digital data, to flow. Since the authors include people/users of the information structures as well, the definition includes cognitive realm, besides the physical and digital spaces.
Cyberspace may be global, but it has its divisions and notions of sovereignty, nationality and property. Cyberspace is “living”, constantly changing and evolving. Unlike geography, the cyberspace geography is much more mutable. Evolving from an initial “expert” only place, it has become the nervous system controlling the economy and has already become the dominant platform for life in the 21st century. The Internet is where we live – a central platform for business, culture and personal relationship. However, it is a place where everyone does not play nice. Increasingly, it has become a place of risk and danger.
Given the above centrality of ‘cyberspace’ in our life, we see the emergence of multi-hued specific context ‘cyberspaces’. These “specific context cyberspaces” would prefer to be disjoint or “air-gapped” from the global cyberspace for different reasons such as privacy, security, niche nature of transactions and/or specific functionality, features or fraternity. Yet these will use and allow the core technologies for the digital data, infrastructure, protocols, software, rules, computers and communication systems that are used to build “the global cyberspace”. We call these special context Cyberspaces as Cyberspace-X.
The general-purpose Cyberspace-X may include, but is not limited to strategic cyber space (e.g., MNCs, large enterprises, national governments), politico-military/military cyber space, governance cyber space, open market places/e-commerce/auction exchanges, social networks, and vehicular, say in a train or a ship.
Definition of Cyberspace-X
The specific context cyber space (calling it Cyberspace-X) is information, communication, computing and decision environment where digital data is created, stored, exchanged, flows and updated for assisting, enabling and making various actors (automatons and humans) enact their roles, perform their functions and achieve their objectives over the computer networks. Networks and cyberspace are potentially vulnerable to unauthorised actors who may have opposing objectives to the actors belonging and authorised to the cyberspace. These objectives may include disrupting, degrading, damaging, destroying and even demolishing the components, capabilities and infrastructure of the Cyberspace-X. Cyberspace strategic competition is the new form of warfare in the multi-dimensional warfare. As I mentioned in my previous article8, we have identified 15 dimensions of warfare including the Cyberspace and Economic Warfare. Further, we are witnessing a change in the character of warfare in these dimensions along with strategic switching from one dimension to another as an offset strategy. Cyberspace Strategic Competition in a digital economy that is transitioning to the sixth Wave of Innovation through creative destruction of established economic systems is a sure shot recipe for increasing entropy of the re-polarising world.
It is essential that we develop our solutions, systems, force structures, doctrines and combat capabilities for the 15-dimensional warfare in the Sixth Wave of Innovation…
Goals and Objectives of 15-D warfare in the Sixth Wave of Innovation
The truism captured in the dictum “war is politics by other means” needs to be re-looked in the “new” warfare, with a caveat warfare indeed is either new or different from what we have seen or known before. War has always been one of the means to achieve political goals. The nature of war as a violent means to inflict damage or cost on the adversary for diplomatic, political, economic reasons or ownership of resources, has remained the same. The question to be explored, analysed and perhaps understood through a potentially new framework of warfare how much and in what form the political goals that have historically driven wars between nation states has changed, mutated or will evolve in the new dimensions that have emerged or may emerge in the future.
Indian Defence Capability for the Wars in the Sixth Wave of Innovation
Creating the defence forces, their doctrine and their equipment for this Sixth Wave of Innovation are questions that we need to answer. These force structures, systems and doctrines need to respond to threats that will also be evolving in the Sixth Wave of Innovation. The starting point is to clearly understand the goals and objectives of India in an emerging world that is displaying upheavals or instability in the emerging strategic landscape of potential bi-polarity which will be stable, with technology-driven creative-destruction of the established world economic system where the means of production and skills needed to operate are substantially being transferred to non-human systems. Further, the opaqueness of the substrate on which our human oriented conflict-dynamics played historically, is changing rapidly into interconnected and interdependent systems of unprecedented complexity. We are truly perplexed to operate in this substrate of man-made dimensions.
While we do need to change military structures, the political requirements for going to war need to be seen – are these changing? Thus, what will be the political aim – defend the territory or destroy the enemy? Is India going to fight an adversary who has military or will it be non-state actors or surrogate organisations designed for hybrid or asymmetric wars with asymmetric instruments of war?9 Manoeuver aims at the enemy’s mind as against the physical destruction of men and material in attrition war. In the 15-D warfare what will be the manoeuver – will it be multi-dimensional pain-inflicting capability or will it be encirclement, dimension by dimension? What will defeat the enemy? Physical casualties or total disruption of the systems of administration and governance? What will be defeat or victory? Are we moving towards a continuous orientation of resources and switching of conflicts in these dimensions? These aspects will dictate the force structures and weapons systems required. The war ends when one government accepts defeat/ceasefire. Are these changing? Perhaps we are moving to an era where wars will co-exist with peace, only the eclectic mix will have characteristics that will vary dimension to dimension? We are not going to kill each other in millions as we did in 20th century wars, but will we not be continuously, comprehensively and certainly at the throats of each other, an era of multi-level mistrust between global and regional powers or even at the levels of smaller nations? These questions do not have straightforward answers.
We propose the following three initiatives for Indian defence and security establishment to develop and create for warfare in the Sixth Wave of Innovation:
Develop a New Theory of War, Warfare and Combat for the Sixth Wave of Innovation (2020-2045), Systems Approach to discover, define, describe, develop, design and deploy and operate the new forces and also how will India fight these wars and political reasons or goals that will need us to go to war in a dimension against a particular adversary.
The theory of war, warfare and combat, as defined in the previous centuries are based on Clausewitz and two specific approaches to combat – attrition and manoeuver in the general sense. Combined with Boyd’s OODA loop and dismantlement of Clauswitzian centre of gravity of the opponent, the theory has remained deeply ingrained in the defence structuring and development of the nations at large.
The first two decades of this century however, have revealed the inadequacy of the theory to explain the type of wars and the changing character of war that has emerged. Nations and powers are playing war in all the 15 dimensions that we have identified. The Chinese Unrestricted war proposed in 1999 and Russian Hybrid war since 2006, has also become multi-domain war/operations including the so-called information domain. The 7th Revolution in Military Affairs10 called the Autonomous/Robotic war will become increasingly pronounced as we move to the third decade of the 21st century. India should develop the new theory of political goals, objectives and drivers and war, warfare and combat as the Clausewitz “nature” of war that has remained invariant, is already undergoing a change.
New Methods for Defence and Security Systems in the Sixth Wave of Innovation
The globalising innovation complexity of the 21st century has given us and is demanding systems that are ultra-large-scale systems11. Further complexity of such system of systems at internet scale has started demanding mechanisms that are becoming harder to surface for the users to comprehend. For example, what is cyberspace really? This dumbing down of human operators and users in the explosion of technological complexity requires us to find new approaches to understand, operate and build such systems. Further, the chances of such systems failing humanity and national infrastructures that are being built on them, are increasing in an opaque manner. We need new approaches for such systems, what methods we use to design a building cannot be used to design a city. Scale requires new approaches for defending and securing such systems in an increasing complexity of the globalising world.
Thinking for Warfare in the Sixth Wave of Innovation
We have been using analytical and logical thinking for solving problems and developed comprehensive toolsets, procedures and methodologies for applying such thinking to fulfill our needs, capture opportunities and solve problems. We also have experimented with value thinking, inventive thinking and systems thinking, although not to the extent of analysis and logic. The new wave however, is demanding us to develop and apply new forms of thinking in four new dimensions – Scale thinking12, Computational thinking13, Algorithmic thinking (Pentagon already has an algorithmic warfare cell14) and Network thinking15. It is essential that we develop our solutions, systems, force structures, doctrines and combat capabilities for the 15-dimensional warfare in the Sixth Wave of Innovation using SCAN thinking besides utilising the analytical, logical, value, inventive and systems thinking that have helped us to respond in the previous waves.
Creating an Indian Capability for Warfare for Sixth Wave of Innovation
We are in a re-polarising world reflected in a strategic superpower competition between the US and China in an unfathomable cyberspace and digital-economy territory that will give rise to new type of bipolar world. Further, the world economy is going through a new creative destruction driven by things becoming nano, hypersonic, networked and autonomous. These are being developed using new forms of algorithmic intelligence and quantum computing. An unprecedented ability is coming to man with these technologies to synthesize biology, energy and reality. This will give rise to a new wave of innovation which we call the Sixth Wave of Innovation (2020-2045). Since the wars in the sixth wave will be 15-dimensional, national interests, geo-political, geo-economic and strategic objectives need to be clearly articulated. However, the clarity on the linkages between political objectives in the new world and means to achieve them through war, are becoming nebulous. The uncertainty and lack of clarity on national objectives in the 15-dimension warfare exacerbated by the increasing entropy of the world order, technology-driven creative destruction of the economic system and increasing mutations of warfare requires a comprehensive rethink on how to defend and secure the nation. Our forces and our defence capabilities need to be developed using the tools, concepts and thinking for the Sixth Wave of Innovation. We propose that a new theory of political objectives and comprehensive detailing of national interests should be developed along with new theory, new methods and new thinking to create defence capabilities for wars and warfare in the upcoming Sixth Wave of Innovation. A tall order indeed, alas, it is necessary now!
The author is deeply indebted to the editorial comments from the Indian Defence Review (IDR) chief editor and also guidelines for increasing the scope of the article.
- https://www.economist.com/special-report/ 2014/08/11/catch-the-wave
- https://link.springer.com/chapter/ 10.1007/978-3-540-77028-2_3