Information operations · Military Information Support Operations

Removing the Human from IO

Writing Stories
Writing Stories (Photo credit: Kiet Callies)

A lot of money is spent by the US Department of Department of Defense, and IO offices around the world, to ‘do’ information operations.  Sometimes it is called Information Operations, sometimes it is called Strategic Communication(s), International Relations, Public Relations or even propaganda by detractors.

Thousand of manhours are devoted to developing a set of themes and memes which support an overall objective, say, establishing trust in ISAF forces by indigenous personnel within Afghanistan. With that we would have a set of Measures of Effectiveness, hopefully categorized and established even before initial planning kicks off. Oh, certainly these areas are broken into regions and tribal areas and each would build upon and nest within the themes and memes of their next higher headquarters and most certainly would be coordinated for timing, content and reinforcement.  Dozens of teams of IO personnel, regardless their flavor, would work long, hard hours to scan reports, identify ‘immediate action’ drills needed to counter time-sensitive developing situations, insuring these quick turnaround messages fit within an overall series of themes and memes.  The effort needed to generate an overall product and nesting these products within an overall plan is incredibly delicate, exhausting and consuming.

Now it can all be automated.

Newspaper stories have already become automated, relying on algorithms to scour news releases and other sources of stories, creating a synopsis which includes pertinent points – determined by the reporter.  This is already happening today, according to reports, here and here. Imagine an IO or MISO staff supporting downrange operations receiving an automatically generated report that only has to be tweaked and approved?  It’s already happening and this can potentially save millions, if not billions, of dollars and a incredible amount of time and effort.

Now imagine a boss who is a ‘Grammar Nazi’, you know, the kind who crosses out words and substitutes one inconsequential word for another?  The potential for creating a world class product which proofreads a paper and makes intelligent recommendations for improvement so that one’s boss is suitably impressed by all your products?  Already being done, according to a recent New York Times report, here. The potential for these products is only limited by one’s imagination and finding someone talented enough to write the code.

Now imagine these products applied to social media.  DARPA is already studying this problem, according to FedBizOps announcement here. I met with the PM of the program, he was seeking intelligent programs which could automatically recognize developing memes and themes and automatically generate messages which could assist countering those messages on social media sites.  Much of this program is currently theoretical but the technology was all very possible.

The title of this article is somewhat misleading, therefore.  We are not seeking to completely remove the human from the IO process.  We are seeking to improve speed, effectiveness and improve overall IO efficiency.  Our potential, ladies and gentlemen, is nearly unlimited. The future is ours.