More is not same
PW Anderson in his classic paper titled “More is Different” (Anderson, P.W., More is Different, Science, Vol. 177, No. 4047, Aug. 4, 1972, pp. 393-396) stated “The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe”. He further proclaimed, “The constructionist hypothesis breaks down when confronted with the twin difficulties of scale and complexity. The behavior of large and complex aggregates of elementary particles, it turns out, is not to be understood in terms of simple extrapolation of the properties of a few particles. Instead, at each level of complexity entirely new properties appear, and the understanding of the new behaviors requires research (fundamental)”. We are standing at an important point in our history when this century of complexity will lead to extremely large scales systems designed by humans. The scale is the new frontier. These systems called the Ultra Large Scale (ULS) systems, demands unprecedented capabilities from human minds to design, operate, control and manage these systems.
Integration of complex systems – A System of Systems approach
Integration of complex systems as an effective force is the key to future wars. This integration is enabled by the rapid advances being made in the field of Information Technology (IT), Precision Guidance and Surveillance Systems. The impact of these developments on the battlefields of future is so great that military forces are finding themselves amidst a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). This RMA due to large scale integration of various information technologies, force structure, doctrines and precision guidance is leading the military forces of the world towards a Network Centric Force Structures (NCCF).
A future NCCF will consist of nodes for Information Gathering, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Data Fusion, Command and Control (C2), Combat, Logistics and Battle Damage Assessment (BDA). These nodes will be inter-linked through redundant, reliable and fast communications links that should be secure and robust. The underlying network enabling NCCF consists of computing nodes performing or aiding in diverse functions of combat. These functions include surveillance, target identification and acquisition, weapon target assignment, precision guidance, Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), logistics etc. This Network Centric Warfare (NCW) implies that various constituents of Combat and Combat Support Systems (CSS) are networked (See Fig 1.) through IT links, so as to achieve maximum, efficient and cost-effective benefits. NCCF is organized around a network with multiple nodes (elements) for intelligence gathering, data fusion, Command and Control (C2), Combat, logistics, etc. It can be seen that to defeat a NCCF, an enemy will have to destroy the underlying network. However, the enemy may like to destroy the critical nodes or most important nodes of the network first.
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Network Centric Warfare – Studying its nature
The increasing complexity – either natural, artificial or a combination of both – is an important fact of the new world. The increasing scale of networked systems is creating more complexity as is evident in multiple dependencies, connections and unknown network effects the new pace is creating for humankind. Yet there is a hope – it is remarkable how much the human mind has been able to create and synthesize especially in last 100 years or so. In fact, there is no gainsaying that artificial future is more likely than a natural future – at least next 50 years or so. This is possible and thinkable only because of the human mind which has proven to be an extremely robust and comprehensive factory of new ideas, new thoughts and new memes that are successfully implemented to create artifacts, synthetic environments, and robust global artificial systems.
The questions that need to be answered are what are the possible paths that current platform centric combat forces can or will take to transform into network centric combat force. These questions are based on the premise that warfare of the future will be network centric – there is ample evidence in various domains and advances made in technologies besides studies of various forms of Networks already indicates that way we organize – the natural way is network centric. Be this the genome map, or neural networks in the human minds or social networks or business organizations, networks are the most natural way structures evolve.
Another way one can study this is by describing a generic framework of what the Network centric warfare will look like and then develop concepts, needs, doctrines and force structures to take care of these needs. Presumably these will be different from the existing needs.
How does one study the nature of Network Centric Warfare? Since it is still forming, the study needs to focus on the way
* How networks happen naturally or are designed artificially?
* What happens to the elements or nodes of the networks and what are the links of the networks that emerge in time due to natural or artificial processes?
* What happens when the nodes of the network are intelligent themselves and forms the links as per the context or situation? Further * what happens when the nodes are intelligent and learn from past as well?
* What happens when networks have human actors as nodes or even intelligent links between nodes?
* What happens when
- Networks interact with other Networks
- Networks interact with strict Hierarchies
- Networks interact with loosely couples hierarchical networks
- Networks compete with other Networks
- Networks compete with strict Hierarchies
- Networks compete with hierarchical networks
Can one use hierarchy to understand and study Network Centric Warfare?
The way humans have been solving problems is hierarchical. In a hierarchy the lower level feeds into higher levels and the top levels has the impacts of all the lower processes. One such hierarchy of conceptual levels for NCW has been defined as
Level 1: Force Level Characteristics of the NC Warfare – the so called Emergent Properties
Level 2: Decision Characteristics – speed and soundness of decisions are two important parameters
Level 3: Information level characterics – from relevance to accuracy many parameters of data, information and to some extent knowledge also comes into picture
Level 4: Network level characteristics – the way networks function – concurrency, reliablity etc are some of the parameters
Level 5: Physical properties of Networks – bandwidth, etc.
Can one think of another way to study NCW, non-hierarchical way as that is more closer to the natural networked form. Or for example markets forms of organization can help in studying the true nature as exemplied by Starfishes organizations – the so called leaderless organizations. Can networks be used for studying Network centric warfare?
Network Centric Combat Force (NCCF)
Once the NCW studies have been carried out, various elements of NCCF, its doctrine, its force structure, the way its information flows should be enabled, the way decisions should be explored and actions taken, will emerge. These can then be incorporated into operational concepts development.
Social Networks and NCW
The informal connections formed in a large population leads to emergent structures that sociologists term the formation of social networks. The social network theory has remained more of a curiosity rather than a serious field to pursue, despite the work of Milgram, Granovetter, and tipping point framework offered by Gladwell. Recently, however, the work by Duncan Watts has brought the social network theory to the forefront. The need was also felt as the world has become more connected and hence more networked. The organization structures of the past are transforming naturally into different forms or structures that resemble more of the networked form rather the hierarchical one. Since then various researchers have studied the social networks and tried to distinguish between various types of social networks based on desired response, centrality of the network and the architecture of the network. In one study these networks are classified into three archetypes according to the response delivered. We summarize these three types of social networks in Table 1 on three main parameters – the type of problems and solutions encountered by the networks, the value delivered and illustrative industries where there are likely to be found.
Social scientists have studied three types of networks – the ego centric, socio-centric and open networks. The characteristics of the three types are shown in Table 2.
The shift to network form of organizations has become so prevalent that even historically the most hierarchical form of human organization, i.e., Military structures are now beginning to explore the network form of organizations to take care of increasingly complex situations and foes that these forces are asked to tackle. The Network Centric Warfare as the field is now called is a new form of military strategy, technologies, organization and doctrines that requires more holistic explorations and understanding.
In his paper “A Taxonomy of Network Centric Warfare Architectures (Australian MoD), ” Anthony Dekker describe different forms of network centric warfare architectures that are possible. Table 3 list down these architectures – which varies from centralized, where a central hub controls the network, to a loosely coupled network structure where the elements or nodes come together to solve a problem and then go back or move to next problem – through the process of swarming.
The above discussion points to three key dimensions in which social networks have been studies or classified in the literature. The three key dimensions are – (1) The type of response that these networks generate i.e., what kind of output the networks can generate (three different type of responses are Customized Response, Modular Response and Routine Response, (2) Second dimension is the centrality of the networks – in this dimension also there are three types – Ego-centric (individuals at the center with their network), Socio-Centric Networks where boundaries of the network are clear and finally Open Networks where boundaries are not necessarily clear, (3) Third dimension is the network architecture – where we have four options Centralized networks, Request based networks, Hub swarms and Swarms. Combining these three dimensions one can in principle get 3x3x4 = 36 different Network types. However we have selected finally 5 different types of Social Networks as described on next page.
Customized Response Open Swarms (CROSs): These types of social networks usually do not have any clear boundaries (they are open). They have nearly identical nodes in terms of their capabilities and authority. These nodes come together to respond to problems through a process of creating shared awareness, quickly formulating the problems and solving problems by leveraging each other’s capabilities collectively. After problems are responded to they go to next problems or keep on building their capabilities. These networks typically create customized responses to unstructured problems.
Modular Response Socio-Centric Request-Based (MRSR): These types of social networks have clear boundaries and typically generate solutions through a combination or re-sequencing of components of the over-all solutions. They work in an environment when components of the problems and solutions are known but constructing the solution requires combination of components in a non-trivial way. Further the nodes of these networks have same value but different capabilities and they respond to the problems by requesting each other to provide their unique capabilities to solve problems through modularized responses.
Routine Response Ego-Centric Centralized (RECC): These types of social networks create routine responses to structured problems. There is typically a centralized hub of high value which has low value nodes connected. The centralized hubs of different sub-nets have their own ego-centric networks based on the network of the leader of the hub. However the low value nodes of a subnet do not connect to low-value nodes of other subnets.
Customized Response Socio-Centric Hub-Swarm (CuSHuS): These types of social networks have one or more high value hubs besides large number of nearly equal value nodes. These nearly equal value nodes swarm together for solving an unstructured problem with the high value hubs. Each subnet may have its own high value hub and many equal value nodes that can create shared picture of the problems which gets picked and responded to through swarming in a slightly controlled manner.
Customized Response Open Request-Based (CROR): These types of social networks do not have clear boundaries. However, customized response is created through a request based mechanism.
Network Architecture for NCW
For truly NCW Architecture we should explore Customized Response Open Swarms (CROSs) and Customized Response Open Request-Based (CROR).
Navneet Bhushan (Navneet) is a founder director of CRAFITTI CONSULTING (www.crafitti.com) – an Innovation and Intellectual Property Consulting firm focused on co-crafting Innovation in global enterprises. He is the winner of Indira India Innovation award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Leadership for 2012. He is the principal author of Strategic Decision Making- Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process published by Springer-Verlag, UK, as part of the Decision Engineering Series. Read Navneet Bhushan Profile. Read Navneet Bhushan Columns.