NATO: Cognitve Warfare: “individual cognitive abilities will no longer be sufficient”

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Executive Summary:

As written in the Warfighting 2040 Paper, the nature of warfare has changed. The majority of current conflicts remain below the threshold of the traditionally accepted definition of warfare, but new forms of warfare have emerged such as Cognitive Warfare (CW), while the hu man mind is now being considered as a new domain of war.

With the increasing role of technology and information overload, individual cognitive abilities will no longer be sufficient to ensure an informed and timely decision-making, leading to the new concept of Cognitive Warfare, which has become a recurring term in military terminology in recent years.

Cognitive warfare has universal reach, from the individual to states and multinational organisations. It feeds on the techniques of disinformation and propaganda aimed at psychologically exhausting the receptors of information. Everyone contributes to it, to varying degrees, consciously or sub consciously and it provides invaluable knowledge on society, especially open societies, such as those in the West. This knowledge can then be easily weaponised. It offers NATO’s adversaries a means of bypassing the traditional battlefield with significant strategic results, which may be utilised to radically transform Western societies.

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The instruments of information warfare, along with the addition of “neuro-weapons” adds to future technological perspectives, suggesting that the cognitive field will be one of tomor- row’s battlefields. This perspective is further strengthened in by the rapid advances of NBICs (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Sciences) and the understanding of the brain. NATO’s adversaries are already investing heavily in these new technologies.

NATO needs to anticipate advances in these technologies by raising the awareness on the true potential of CW. Whatever the nature and object of warfare, it always comes down to a clash of human wills, and therefore what defines victory will be the ability to impose a desired behaviour on a chosen audience. Actions undertaken in the five domains – air, land, sea, space and cyber – are all executed in order to have an effect on the human domain. It is therefore time for NATO to recognise the renewed importance of the sixth operational domain, namely the Human Domain.

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The Human Domain of operations could tentatively be defined as:

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“the sphere of interest in which strategies and operations can be designed and implemented that, by targeting the cognitive capacities of individuals and/or communities with a set of specific tools and techniques, in particular digital ones, will influence their perception and tamper with their reasoning capacities, hence gaining control of their decision making, perception and behaviour levers in order to achieve desired effects.”


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h/t Anon Braveheart


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