Leveraging Human–Machine Teaming

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Interdependent human–machine teams will be a key component of future Western efforts to deter great power war and, if deterrence fails, win.

In this policy guide, the authors argue that advances in human–machine teaming will be crucial to delivering effective offsets to adversary advantages. To execute an offset strategy, militaries will need to develop technology and dedicate significant resources towards the development of new concepts of operations and approaches that treat the combination of human judgement and technological capabilities as central to success. This will be key to leveraging enduring organisational advantages.

This paper aims to serve as a primer and policy guide for policymakers, outlining the ways in which HMC and HMT make use of the specific approaches harnessed by Western states for technological change in service of these countries’ asymmetrical advantages. Read the full report.

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Overview

The context in which decisions about human–machine teams and related technology are made is one in which the UK and the US face competitors that could reach parity in qualitative terms, and which possess selective advantages in mass stemming from both their industrial capacity and proximity to likely theatres of conflict, and from operational concepts specifically designed to target and defeat Western capabilities.

Despite these unprecedented challenges, the UK and the US possess considerable operational and military–technological asymmetries as a consequence of their democratic institutions, longstanding organisational biases, and experiences that are difficult for their competitors to deliberately replicate. Both countries trust their militaries to adapt and innovate at the lowest level. They have experience in combined arms operations, including in expeditionary environments. And neither country suffers from authoritarian pathologies such as endemic corruption, loyalty-based promotions or heavy censorship. Using these traits to shape the way the UK and US militaries develop, deploy and use capabilities will make it difficult for competitors to replicate Western countries’ performance, even with the same underlying technology.

As part of a broader offset strategy informed by these asymmetries, the UK and US militaries should use human–machine collaboration (HMC) and human–machine teaming (HMT) to: demonstrate the potential to decrease the military, economic and political cost of war for the US and the UK and increase such costs for their adversaries; achieve decision advantage and impose dilemmas on adversaries; and generate awareness in denied environments. Given competing demands for finite resources, the US and UK militaries should focus, in the near term, on developing, acquiring and fielding a specific group of HMC and HMT capabilities and enablers necessary for accomplishing these goals. Such capabilities would be selected in terms of enabling activity within anti-access area denial bubbles. This specific task can be broken down into a number of sub-activities, including improving sensing, analysis, planning and decisionmaking, developing lower-cost and more attritable forces, uncrewed sustainment for expeditionary forces, enhancing deception, and leveraging HMC for predictive maintenance.

There are, however, caveats. First, unlike in the precision revolution, the West will not enjoy an obvious, persistent technological advantage in AI, autonomy, computing, and other militarily relevant science and technology fields. Second, a number of barriers that prevent the adoption and scaling of innovations will need to be overcome if the military potential of emerging technology is to be realised.


WRITTEN BY

Dr Sidharth Kaushal

Senior Research Fellow, Sea Power

Military Sciences

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Justin Lynch

Former Senior Director for Defense at the Special Competitive Studies Project.

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Juliana Suess

Research Fellow, Space Security

Military Sciences

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Jung-Ju Lee

Former Director for Defense at the Special Competitive Studies Project

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Luke Vannurden

Director for Defense at the Special Competitive Studies Project

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Ylber Bajraktari

Senior Advisor at the Special Competitive Studies Project.

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