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13 September, 2029
Today, DR. LORELY GONZALES of NATO joins Sgt. Martin Ahava in studio to talk about the latest in cutting-edge military science, from the recent round of 2nd generation UAVs to the top secret Project THEIA, in an exclusive MODERN WAR INSTITUTE interview.
MODERN WAR INSTITUTE: Hello, Dr. Gonzales, lovely to see you again.
DR. GONZALES: And so soon! It’s been what, a week?
MWI: Yeah! Last Sunday we both ran into each other at [__________]. Ah, shit. We’re going to have to edit that out.
DRG: Thought you’d be better at this, you old hand.
MWI: Opsec doesn’t really come naturally to my generation, what can I say?
DRG: You’ll learn.
MWI: [laughing] I suppose so. [pause] Well, let’s get into it! What can you tell us about your work, herr doktor? [laughing]
DRG: Um, right now I just started a new position as Intelligence Fellow at SHAPE, on loan from the DoD for the next few months. For a department I can’t tell you about the existence of. [laughing] And beyond that, my team at HACI (the Human and Autonomous Cooperation Institute) up in Pittsburgh is putting the finishing touches on a suite of software improvements for the Pigeon that we’re all really excited about.
MWI: The Pigeon! I caught one of the first gens of those back in 2022. Died [clears throat] uh, was taken out by an IED on the Luhansk Highway two days before my tour was up. Heartbreaking.
DRG: What did you name yours?
MWI: “Henry”. Don’t laugh.
DRG: It’s good! Cute.
MWI: Lot of other people would call theirs these big, gruff names, like “Mastiff” or “Thor”...
DRG: Well, that’s a bit ridiculous. Thing is called a Pigeon, for christ’s sake.
MWI: I know! Like naming a poodle “Hitler”.
MWI: But anyway, back to your new position at SHAPE. Can I ask what you’re working on?
DRG: Sure! I’ll get as specific as I can, anyway. It really is kind of, hmm, I guess some type of ‘umbrella’ project, I’d say. Part of this overall ISR push that until now has been kinda, well...let’s say ‘scattershot’.
MWI: Interesting! So by umbrella, you mean what exactly? I can’t imagine an ‘Intelligence Fellow’ is working on doctrine or anything like that.
DRG: No, you’re right. Really, it’s kind of trying to answer the question that, if we have all these disparate systems, how do we get them to talk to and develop each other? And then, once we do that, how do we keep that communication system secure?
MWI: That sounds like a big ask.
DRG: It is, of course. The main thing isn’t even answering question one—if anything, the military has always been good at standardization, and we aren’t trying to resurrect the clockwork army here—it’s about keeping that machinery free of ‘malicious peer intrusion’, to use the buzzword.
MWI: And how exactly do you do that?
DRG: Well, it’s actually funny. All the rhetoric lately about abandoning A2/AD kind of is only happening in space. In cyber, it’s more important than ever. Zero-porosity intrusion routines basically demand that the firewall out-thinks the would-be invader. That’s the key there: the system has to be the most intelligent system possible. Work smarter, not harder.
MWI: Can I ask how you’re doing that, or is that getting too specific?
DRG: If you have to ask…
MWI: I knew the answer already. [laughs] Let me try another tactic: can you give me a future scenario with this, uhh, ‘umbrella’ system?
DRG: We’ve been calling it Theia. ‘The AI’. Also a goddess or something.
MWI: Very good.
DRG: Anyway, yeah. And let me preface this by saying our intention here is fully to keep all combat decision-making on the loop. Really where Theia would shine is with logistics—the boring stuff. Maybe in the future being expanded to something more like what you’d see with Black Eagles, Pigeons, maybe even Anzu loiterers, as in picking out targets and asking for approval. But for now, we’re giving Theia limited control in those spheres, but she’s really taking off. There’s also this underlying architecture that we’re really excited about, this kind of, well, I’ll just say it, ‘modular non-linearity’.
MWI: [laughing] You know I don’t know what that means.
DRG: All it means is that we can plug in other systems to Theia, essentially at will. Anything! Even stuff like expanding the system to handle basic communications between offices, even between people in the same office. That’s our goal. Once we can get this system to that level of expansive oversight, I’ll be happy. And everything NATO, everything military, will only be accessible to the people that need to see it.
MWI: There could, of course, still be analog leaks…
DRG: I doubt it. Scope is crucial here. Analog leaks and so on only occur because an individual workstation is too dumb to understand files are being dropped into insecure locations, either that or dumb enough to let the human operator enough leeway to do it anyway. What I’d like to see is that potential to route around get removed. Theia, at the end of the day, is about total integration, down to the file, down to the routine, down to the device.
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