An Intelligent Future
Changes in technology have occurred in some profound ways over the last fifty years. What has also changed however, and undoubtedly of more significance, is the rate of that change which has increased significantly even over the last five to ten years. In our view, the single most important factor in the intelligence agencies armoury and their successful prediction of exponential technological change, is measurement. Click here to read more about measurement and its impact on the future of intelligence.
The sheer computational power available to us now is vast and the implications of a change of speed in this power will be influential on the intelligence gathering community, not in five years, but within the next two. A child in Mumbai, for example, now has greater access to data and cross-referencing power than even President Clinton had at his disposal. In effect the result is a democratisation or a means of levelling the playing field like nothing we have experienced before. With this in mind, as the Chief of MI6 has said, there will be two types of intelligence agencies in the near future. Those that understand and prepare for the exponential growth in certain technologies (such as AI, automated cars, 3D printing and robotics), and those who do not. If SIS and other allied agencies are going to be successful in combatting any form of terrorism or threat against our nation, it needs to stay ahead of the exponential curve. Read More.
Exponential Technological Growth
"Exponential Intelligence" is a term used to explain the relationship between Exponential Technological Growth (including concepts such as Singularity and Predictive Models), and Secret Intelligence. Exponential Intelligence sums up some of the key developments within the IC (Intelligence Community) and most importantly, some pointers as to where it will be heading. In the interests of discretion this is unlikely to contain too much detail here however, the predictive impact of exponential technology on the IC and global industry, HAS to take a 'holistic approach'. It is not sufficient to allocate this to one department such as GCHQ or the 'Q's' of this world, Psychological development and its combination with biological, chemical and technological developments will unite to have a profound impact. Becoming myopic is a danger and the policy advisors or decision makers at MI6 or equivalent, will have to ensure that key personnel are in the right position to oversee development as a whole, and keep the exponential train on track
So, grasping the 'nuts and bolts' so to speak, the crux of this subject is the efficient and meaningful application of what has so far been a predominantly theoretical offering. An offering put forward by modern day marketeers, said to talk on behalf of those representing the top echelons of the social, academic and corporate elite. Whilst Mr Diamandis et al have no doubt had a significant effect on making sense of a non-linear concept explained in a linear way using very linear examples such as history and fact, the targets have tended to be corporate beneficiaries where the currency of success is measured by just that, currency. How does this model translate when applied to an agency such as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) or the CIA? This section builds on topics already discussed, namely the development of Exponential Organisations over the last fifty years and the digitized growth over the last ten. These are accepted and do not warrant further coverage here. The objective of this article is to explore 'real life', practical implementation of exponential technological growth, and critically, its measurement thereof, for UK and allied Intelligence Agencies..
AI is without doubt a key influence and has been for some time now. The use of AI is, within reason, limitless and will remain a tool for propagating the growth of Exponential Intelligence. So far this has been most likely applied to Money Laundering and Targeted Intelligence gathering which is faster and more efficient than the targets (subject of interest) own organised development or, neural and bio-chemical integration within the brain (specifically the Amygdala). Although a relatively well covered subject, this area is still fascinating and full of potential. The use of AI in predictive modelling is also without question of paramount importance. As these articles have mentioned several times, riding on the exponential curve is one thing, staying ahead of it is another. So, how important, or indeed practical, is it for SIS to keep reinventing the wheel or becoming captains of innovation? Well, it would be nice of course, but in the real world that is unlikely. Copiers of technological innovation who jump on the band wagon are often in a more beneficial position that the innovators themselves. Why? Because the infrastructure (or template) has already been developed and no doubt at great expense. The costs of start-ups will inevitably be higher than the imitator. This then ties in with the work of the Singularity University and the 6 D's, specifically Democratization. i.e the playing field levels itself as more participants enter the market to the point where eventually it satisfies the definitions of democratization. Then the cycle begins again and so on. Since subscribers to Keynesianism and Adam Smith long ago discussed concepts such as equilibrium and the power of market forces to essentially describe what Diamandis calls 'democratization', there has been a notable change. That change is the speed or rate of development i.e exponential growth. As discussed below and further in these articles, measurement is vital. It has to be accurate and able to have some way of monitoring the actual pace of growth and not just by using economic or quantitative models. In doing so it will show that the speed at which the wheel of innovation, imitation and new entrants turns, is now substantially quicker.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is clearly going to play a huge role, not just in the future of the Intelligence Services, but technology and society in general. To a large degree this has already started and other examples of exponential technological growth such as facial recognition and biometric data gathering are already widely used.
Recent well publicised critics of these developments, have used emotive and sometimes extremely concerning examples of how the use of these technologies mark the end of the "private generation', instead giving rise to a big brother style of governance where individual privacy is destroyed. Of course, we cannot predict the future with 100% certainty and although the objective of governments, agencies and corporate firms is aimed at increasing the probability of predicting exponential growth, it is nonetheless an understandably difficult task.
In many fields, especially for example, the analysis of human patterns of behaviour or financial markets and their various fields of technical analysis, past performance is often used as a guide to predict future performance. Certainly from a mathematical or statistical perspective alone there is weighty evidence to support this approach. However, others argue that where exponential technology is concerned, past performance by definition, precludes any meaningful role in predicting the future. This is open to debate and depends on where the argument is pitched. Our opinion is that all past behaviour can be used regardless, it is how this data is utilised that is the more salient point
Before moving on to the scientific focus of this subject which is after all the main concern here, it might be worth putting rest to some ideological or sociological concerns. Or, at least open an alternative view. If mankind has taught us anything (apart from, in the words of Mr Corleone et al, anyone can be assassinated), it is that people always find a way and, more pertinently, they find a way to freedom, ergo privacy. Of course, AI and other technologies will continue to pressure public privacy, and here the alliteration is not suggestive of apathy or distain as Larkin might have pondered. It will continue to do so. Equally, people will circumvent control in favour of finding ways of preserving their privacy and overcome the hurdles as and when they occur. That is human nature. The decision we have to face at any point in time (or the immediate future) is which is the lesser of two evils? Without wanting to sound flippant or devalue the importance of the argument, is privacy good to a person if they are dead or imprisoned? How about a race of people? Whist there are individuals prepared to sacrifice the lives of innocent people in the name of their extreme views or even just in the name of profitability and criminal activity, then the success of countering those people comes at a price.
So, although the likes of Mr Assange may have ideological and well meaning motives, the Intelligence Services are understandably more concerned with REALISTS not IDEALISTS. That being the case, the Intelligence Services can only deal with problems that are put in front of them, using methods that are made available to them, to achieve their objectives. The bottom line is, Mr Snowden and Mr Assange are critical and express their arguments, how? It might be more prudent to simply reflect on the fact, that they can. They are fortunate in that respect and whilst they fight their battles according to redefined rules, countless millions before them have not had that luxury. It is not the role of the Intelligence Services to help shape public opinion or represent a political stance as they are apolitical organisations. For that reason, let us consider the specific role Artificial Intelligence does and will play in the area of Intelligence.
Accepting Exponential Technological growth is important and recognising the 6 D's is key, yes. But Measurement is singularly the most important factor in the future of any Secret Intelligence Service. This includes not just the measurement of changes in exponential growth and its supposed eventual drive to Singularity, but measurement of the rate of change and the unit of measurement itself.
There is contradictory explanation of the 6 D's and the 'path' of movement ot singularity, or exponential growth at least, in what is essentially a linear approach. One D, leads to the other, which in turn leads to the other and so on, until we reach a point of democratization at which point we start the process again within the 'exponential galaxy'. Think of each exponential galaxy as a never ending growth cycle within each industrial, commercial or equivalent field, constantly reaching a plateau of perfection before recalibrating itself to the start. In theory a infinite cyclical journey. The contradiction? Analysts do, and some will say have no other choice but to, describe a non-linear concept in precisely linear terms. How else can we begin to contemplate the prediction of events unless we have a set of tried and tested rules with which to start? In my view, the answer is NOT like we already do. If we are to think outside of the box, then surely the most logical action is to get rid of the box altogether. Learn a different language. Use a different currency.
A Unified Approach - The Population
Possibly at nearly every point in human history one will have heard someone saying in some form or another that we are going through difficult times and that the decisions we make now will have a fundamental impact on future generations. The tudors, the victorians, the Chinese dynasties, mans' evolution, the Nazi's, Vietnam and the cold war, were all difficult times and frankly, what we face now is no different. Since the beginning, man has always been a species with a terrifying taste and predilection towards conflict and war. This is of course well known. What is less well known now however, is who our enemy actually is. For almost the first time in history, we cannot sit behind the front line and spy on our foe behind a well armoured infantry, or send a drone to 'take out' precise enemies with precise coordinates. Historically, wars are politically hugely important and make even the great political fund raisers pale into insignificance with the impact they can have on the popularity of the leadership at that moment in time. Patriotism sets aside political differences in favour of a national pride and feeds our inevitable desire to be part of the pack, and team up to fight our common enemy. These are of course all well known, tried and tested human attributes. War is a time of joining together, picking up the slack, backbone, defiance, justice and immense courage and a time where we tend to see the very best as well as the very worst of humanity. The effect can be significant and is instrumental in providing society, during post war recovery, with an identity and commonality we all desire.
But what if we fight a war where we do not see, or do not know who our enemy is? What happens to that human desire? Moreover, what happens to our identity? These are weighty topics indeed and somewhat outside of the scope of this analysis, however as we see the information rollercoaster flatten out borders and boundaries across the globe, are we also seeing a dilution in the national spirit and national identity which provides the very infrastructure of a well rounded, democratic and civilised world? In essence, without an actual enemy to fight, and without the benefits derived from that unity, are we being left feeling impotent? The absence of the enemy, it could be argued, therefore goes beyond just making the fight more difficult, it actually wears away the fabric of national consciousness and pride. So, for the first time in history, this is now happening and we are in somewhat unchartered waters looking for an enemy in a chaotic, 'pacman-esque' fashion which serves little to no purpose.
What we are left with now is a society disjointed and feeling left out, impotent and unable stand behind the aforementioned front line of 'infantry'. To put it plainly, the spies are by definition unseen and their work is unacknowledged and fighting an enemy who is on their doorstep for a second, but far away the next. There has always been an understandable buffer between the intelligence services and the general public i.e. the people it serves to protect. Of course that is understandable. This has always been the case. The difference in times gone by however, is that operating alongside secret intelligence was the traditional, visible, military machine of our armed forces or the political power of our leaders. That was enough to keep the 'average joe' happy and to make him or her feel they were 'doing their bit' for Queen and country. Not so now. What should actually happen now, if our experiences in the past are anything to go by, is to include the public in the fight as much as possible. Think about it. When there has been a war, what did the men do? They 'joined up' or joined the reserves. The women picked up the slack and made the bullets or built the ships. It was always the case, whether fifty years ago or five hundred years ago. So what happens now? We can hardy expect Jim the builder to down tools and head off to Vauxhall to join Section 6, or send our farmers to Langley to learn the CIA ropes. They are redundant, impotent and therefore we are being hit from TWO angles now. The fear and uncertainty of a new warrior, as well as the effects of a serious negative impact on morale.
Speaking as a UK citizen, not a member of the military or a member of an intelligence service, I can only take the repetitive advice from National Rail to remember the 'three S's' so far. Sure I can SEE it, sure I can SAY it, and yes I can SORT it, but where do I join the queue to fight Al and his friend Qaeda? It is that feeling of ineptitude and disillusionment that has to be managed in todays modern war if we are to keep the 'hearts and minds' ticking over. If we are to learn anything from history then there will be another catastrophic event on a much larger scale than witnessed before, which will act as a watershed and necessitate a different course of action for our intelligence services to take. In conjunction with our politicians or course. The checks and balances, whilst sometimes understandably criticised for their lack of checks and distinct lack of balance, are nonetheless there for a reason. In such a 'post watershed' world, should it happen, there will have to be an increased unity between Government and the Intelligence communities and the Military, but there will also have to be a method of including the people in the fight. Yes, of course, a battle can now be carried out by a teenager with a decent processor and internet speed, a couple of terra-bytes and a reasonable grasp of social media to effectively make any notion of using troops or physical assaults absolute nonsense. You only have to read the transcript of Alex Youngers' speech at the University of St Andrews in December 2018 to know that. The mind boggles at what the likes of Kim Philby et al would have made of a tweet or a poke, but it is safe to say both Facebook and Twitter are probably equally as reliable and trustworthy. I digress however.
If the Intelligence Services are to bend the exponential curve in their favour, these thoughts are critical in shaping how the future battles are likely to be fought. There is of course a familiar parallel with the use of propaganda and media utilisation to boost allied morale and dent enemy will, and in some ways the above arguments could well be simply a modern day manifestation. To a certain extent that is true. That doesn't mean it is now wrong to consider a hybrid version of that time tested weapon which has been used in wars through the centuries. Al Qaeda and IS and their various off-spring are doing the same thing as we speak, and one only need ask the Russians about their experiences in Afghanistan or US Army in Vietnam, to know how important winning the local hearts and minds through a well oiled propaganda machine can be. The point however is that whilst we acknowledge the importance of such methods, we are now in a different environment and cannot employ those same methods to utilise our population to assist us in defeating the enemy. That is something that together the intelligence services and governments will have to work on to find a modern day equivalent.
At the moment, thankfully, the 'virus' is contained, but if we have learnt anything we have to acknowledge that at some point it will not be. Maybe that is why Mr Younger and his teams are changing tact and becoming more vocal publicly and more inclusive in their use of the general public. If that is the case and this is simply the start of a well thought out campaign with a clear objective then it has to be the correct course of action. It is the way to go. If, however, there is a seismic event which creates that watershed moment, then the general public will have to be used in force and the governments' and intelligence agencies will come under extreme pressure. As we often hear people say, we do not hear about the successes of our secret intelligence services, whereas the failures become all too public and well known. It is an unfortunate but inevitable consequence. As time goes by and the threat of an event which sadly may well make 9-11 pale into insignificance becomes increasingly likely, in such a scenario, the pressure on SIS and allied intelligence agencies will become immense and public pressure will demand inclusion in some form or another. This is one likely consequence of the current trajectory of terrorism and although there are many more, it is something we need to plan for now.
At the very least, prepare a contingency so that the public, or selected sections of the public (call them 'representatives' of a Union of sorts), are given roles and appointed to feel as though they are contributing in some way. This is only a patch and will not work longer term, but it would be enough to buy time. Of course, anyone reading this, may be justified for asking if this is really important at all? The public have their place after all and we have a highly experienced intelligence machine, a splendid military and a well organised political structure. Surely Sir Humphrey and his civil servant friends would sneer at the very thought. The simple answer is that, in this writers view, history can often be used as an accurate indicator of future events. And if history has taught us anything, it is that a unified, well motivated army, is more often than not a highly successful one, even when faced with a new and uncertain enemy. To reiterate, it might be a coincidence that recent events have seen MI6 and MI5 align themselves more closely with the public. I suspect it is more than simply a marketing ploy designed to win some sort of political favour. Rather, it is more likely part of a move to include the public as mentioned above. The recent campaign to focus on the recruitment of ethnic minorities and women, the strategic advertising on Mumsnet for example, or the targeting of teen creative social media types, is probably an indication that this is more than just political. The fact that Mr Younger chose to deliver this speech at St Andrews is perhaps a slightly ironic nod to the old school to let them know all is well and the proverbial 'tap on the shoulder' method of recruitment is still alive and well. Baby steps yes, but steps nonetheless.
Politically Exposed Persons - Automated Data models and Exponential Technology
In the section describing Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), we outline who in theory these individuals (or relatives and colleagues of the individual might be), but stumble somewhat on the precise definition of a PEP. There is still an important gulf between the concept and the detail, and this is where institutions such as MI6 have to apply their own systems to apply their own definitions. Of growing importance in this specific area is the use of computer modelling using various complex algorithms and variable to identify, assess and alert organisations to potentially PEP's and patterns of behaviour that might present a risk.