Divided Land – Being a Terrorist in a Megagame

I played the leader of a terrorist organisation in the Divided Land megagame. Divided Land was about the situation in Palestine in 1947, we played from March through to an agreement on partition in August 1947. We then made plans on what would happen when the agreement came into force at 00:01 on 1st January 1948. Predictably there was an Arab invasion….

I was cast as Menachem Begin, the leader of Irgun and a future Prime Minister of Israel. Begin described himself as a terrorist in his autobiography, he made no bones about ensuring a viable Jewish state in the land of Israel. Irgun were extremists, they wanted all of the biblical lands of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (including some of present day Jordan). Begin also blamed the British for not rescuing Jews from the Holocaust by failing to grant visas in sufficient numbers before the war, and failing to act to interdict the railways carrying Jews to be murdered by the Nazis.

Irgun were a breakaway faction and outside the Jewish assembly. The British had a price on Begin’s head of £25,000 (about the same as the US offered for bin Laden). So Irgun are on the outside and hiding. But there are a lot of angry Jews who agree with the view of never again will Jews rely on others for their protection, nor for retaliation against wrongs to the Jewish people.

We started with a brief discussion on policy. We decided that we needed to keep up the pressure on the British, and that we only needed to act against the Arabs in retaliation to attacks on Jews. We had 15 active cells of about 20 people (we recruited women as well as men). We could afford to run half of these every fortnight to give people time to rest between operations. We also needed to find arms and money to sustain operations.

In March 1947 we ran a campaign of bank robberies and also a planned kidnapping of a British Staff officer. The first campaign wasn’t without setbacks, we did do some banks, but some of our guys got arrested. The second was better, we netted an Intelligence Corps Colonel. We decided to pass him on to the Palmach for interrogation because we didn’t have that skillset.

It was about this point that the Jordanians approached us off the record. Through back channels we agreed to work against the Grand Mufti in return for arms and other support. I was suspicious, but the arms were supplied without strings and I had wanted to kill the Grand Mufti anyway.

The British decided almost immediately to reinforce Palestine and started to make arrangements to bring in a Mechanised Brigade. I left my partner in crime to arrange some weapons smuggling from Europe while I went off into Gaza to blow up the railway line and lay an ambush for the repair crews. My thought process here was that if we ambushed them it would increase the impact and make the British deploy more troops on protecting very long lines of communication.

Surprisingly I wasn’t the only one acting against the railway in Gaza. Adherents of the Grand Mufti were also doing the same thing a couple of miles up the track. It also turned out that there were no immediate repair attempts.

ANDR – Autonomous Networked Dynamic-learning Robots

A conversation with my son over a McDonald’s sparked a bit of architecture for Autonomous Networked Dynamic-learning Robots (AKA ANDR) and a short story about their use in a near future counterinsurgency operation. You can read the short story (First Mission ANDR12) on my writing and reading blog.

ANDR Requirements

Military robot being prepared to inspect a bomb
Military robot being prepared to inspect a bomb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being an analyst underneath and having worked on over 50 government projects I started off thinking about the requirements I’d write if I was going to procure some combat robots. Here’s the list I came up with, which uses MoSCoW to prioritise them.

Robots must

  • operate without external control signals
  • be able to go anywhere a human could
  • be resistant to hostile interference or attempts to subvert control
  • follow legal commands and obey rules of engagement absolutely
  • Learn from experience and share that with other units
  • Have a modular construction to facilitate field repair and upgrade to maximise operational numbers
  • retain data integrity to the same tolerance as aircraft black boxes to facilitate lessons even when the robot becomes nonfunctional
  • Have diverse sensors and multiple redundant systems to ensure operation in a wide range of environments
  • be capable of operating without EM emissions and with the minimum IR signature for periods of up to two hours.

Robots should

  • Have a reassuring presence for civilians to facilitate engagement
  • look indistinguishable from human soldiers at a distance to maintain surprise
  • Have secure communications to their home base and blue tracker/IFF capabilities built in
  • Be able to operate the full range of military equipment and weapons that human soldiers would be expected to.

ANDR Architecture

So I’ve got some requirements for my ANDRs. That leads on to a bit of solution design. I’ll be honest here and admit that I committed the cardinal sin of creating the solution and then writing the requirements, but that’s because the conversation with my son involved him asking how you avoid it being hacked.

The best way to avoid something being hacked is to keep it physically and virtually isolated. So that’s what this architecture does.

I can hear you cry ‘Wait! Doesn’t the N in ANDR stand for Networked?’ You’d be correct. The ANDR is networked, but not the decision making bit, and there are various firewalls, encryptions and other controls in place to mitigate some of the vulnerabilities.

The key components are

  • Decision engine (i.e. the brain, this needs to be read/execute only and firewalled from all the other components. Updating the software would need physical access to the ANDR unit.)
  • The mission profile (a small EPROM unit that would store the current mission profile, orders, RoE and relevant int. It would have an explosive tamper trigger to stop it falling into enemy hands. It would probably need a command authority to update and that would be a base job, not something you would do in the field.)
  • Doctrine module. This would be the ‘training’ for the ANDR and it would be divided into two sections. One the legal and absolute restrictions that were read only. It would be isolated from the outside by not being connected to it. It could get an update from the base workshop.
    The other part would be TPPs and SOPs that could be updatable by the machine learning module (see below).
  • Machine Learning Module. This would be able to monitor all of the inputs and outputs of the physical ANDR unit and draw conclusions from the experience. Its connection to the outside world wouldn’t be send only, to share lessons back home (pending a workshop update for other ANDR units if the analysis showed this was a better method). It would be able to update TPP if, for example, it found the current method didn’t achieve the expected results.
  • External HUD. This would be a blue force tracker style update. For firewall and compatibility reasons the ANDR would use visual and audio sensors in the same way as human soldiers would to assimilate data. This would keep them firewalled and also ensure that they had the same info as their human commanders.

The other important thing would be to give the ANDR units an ability to share physically with each other, both modular components to keep them upgradable and maximise serviceability. You’d also want them to have an in field method of sharing lessons, possibly through NFC style readers with physical contact required.

Lastly you’d also give them a hierarchy of trust. It would start with their isolated components, then their physical hardware, validated encrypted Comms and so on down. You’d probably also have some machine learning algorithms for recognising friendly forces and spontaneous chains of command.

ANDR physical attributes

It isn’t strictly necessary, but I reckon you’d want to skin the ANDR units so that they passed for people at first glance. Maybe even at second look too. This would make them a bit less scary, and therefore more useful in dealing with people. They could be really useful as reliable interpreters and also with FR etc in gathering intelligence on who was where.

You’d want to put the brains in the main body, where you could armour it better, and also put the same body armour on as the people had. This would keep your enemy guessing and would also improve the learning capability as it would be less likely to be destroyed. I expect it would be in a similar casing as an aircraft ‘black box’.

How far away?

It’s hard to be sure. There are already reasonable prototypes of a lot of the technology needed. None of them are ready for this yet, but one day they will be. I deliberately didn’t put a date on the story, but I would put a 40% confidence on it happening before 2030 and a 90% by 2050.