To conclude the workshop, Christopher Barrett summarized the key points he heard over the 2 days. A salient theme that emerged within every workshop presentation was the idea that there are individual and tactical decisions that must be made inside of a world full of geopolitical complexity. Specifically, social systems, governance, organization structures, human involvement, and individual actions should be considered in tactical decision-making/design of decision support technology. For example, Barrett noted his surprise at having heard of the geopolitical considerations involved with the deflection of asteroids. Barrett mentioned the importance of understanding how broader strategic considerations can constrain or define the value of tactical individual decisions.
Barrett also observed that data collection on rare events can be challenging because the systems of study and the sources of the rare events themselves are often co-evolving. An example of a co-evolving system is the human interaction associated with viral variants. When humans stress a virus (say by vaccines or therapeutics, which could restrict its transmission, and thus threaten its survival), it mutates into a new virus, which, in turn, changes the way humans behave in reaction to the variant. Thus, human behaviors co-evolve with the viral mutations. Barrett thus emphasized that collecting data to predict a world that is co-evolving with human responses needs deep consideration and focus.
In some cases, Barrett explained, research needs to adapt a “digital twin” style approach to research in order to get an idea of what the data should focus on and what should constitute the data in order to guide decisions and processes in this setting. Within this focus, there needs to be a determination of what are the appropriate data to measure—What are the appropriate tools and methods to obtain this information, and Whom will they ultimately support? It needs to align with processing information for decision-making and policymaking. Within this focus, there also needs to be included considerations of tactical and strategic organizations, enterprises, governments, societies, global populations, ecologies, economics, and the planet itself.
Barrett emphasized that the way we collect data should ultimately be informed by the type of deliverable that could benefit organizations and agencies like the DTRA and the Intelligence Community. This would be in the form of computational information technology, including AI and deep learning as well as advanced modeling and simulation approaches. This also would require a rethinking of how to convert current approaches in order to create platforms that would be most useful to such organizations. Such approaches would also need to embrace and aid analysts.
Barrett also highlighted the importance of the concept of “data commons,” where data across different organizations could be shared and leveraged. As an example, Barrett suggested that there are relationships and connections
across all various sub-communities associated with the analysis of weapons of mass destruction, their deterrence, their analysis, and the basic posturing and positioning with respect to them that could be leveraged.
Barrett concluded his remarks by noting that the importance of organizational evolution, especially in organizations engaged in intelligence preparation, is often underestimated and deserves more emphasis. Barrett listed the U.S. government’s response to the pandemic as an example of normalizing the public institutional need to focus on pandemics and large-scale epidemics. Barrett noted that within this normalization there was a reorganization and an increased rate of government learning that happened as a reaction to COVID-19.
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