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How could Technology Development Transform the Future Operational Environment

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System Analysis and Studies

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We are in a time of rapid technology development. Technology leaps like Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) or quantum computers may be, if not around the corner, possible within the next 20 or so years, i.e. within the long-term defence planning perspective. The promises (and fears) of full autonomy both for civil and military applications as well as the developments in synthetic biology and other technology areas mean that both the civil society and the military organisations may stand before enormous challenges within the next few decades. Many nations as well as organisations like NATO and EDA are trying to understand the potential of the ongoing technology development. Areas like AI and autonomy are analysed both from their potential to increase existing capabilities or to shape new capabilities and from their ethical or legal implications. Some countries are looking for regulations while others want to learn more before deciding on such measures. A number of other technology areas such as materials, energy, biotech and sensors promises applications that may benefit both civil society and military organisations, but may also in part be controversial. NATO needs to exploit the opportunities made possible by the technology development to meet future operational challenges and threats in order to improve both effect and force protection. Considering the various emerging conventional and unconventional threats against NATO, which will also exploit the new technological opportunities, the future paradigm for mission effectiveness, force protection, survival and conventional tactics must evolve to respond to new technological developments and be able to counter these threats. Could the technology development even mean that the eternal nature of war could be challenged? Or will the changes rather be incremental, due to cautiousness and limitations in the implementation of certain technologies? It is necessary to not only explore the technology development but also to try to gather more understanding of the potential threats, opportunities and limitations that may occur as consequences of it.


The objective of the activity is to explore the potential consequences of the technology development on the future operational environment in the 2040 to 2050 perspective. This work must start from existing analyses of global strategic trends provided by documents such as Global Strategic Trends 6 (GST 6) from DCDC and the Strategic Security Foresight (SFA) and Framework for Future Alliance Operations (FFAO) from NATO. The work carried out by other NATO activities such as the SAS-123 (Futures Assessed alongside socio-Technical Evolutions, FATE) RTG will also be an important input. The members of the activity will furthermore: - Exchange methodological approaches and results on technology foresight, thus comparing their explorations into the field of future technology development. - Identify such technology trends that might have significant impact on the future operational environment. - Explore impact of technology on the future security environment by describing a number of potential scenarios - Describe potential characteristics of the future operational environment


The following scientific topics should be covered: - Strategic technology foresight - Analysis of the operational environment - Scenario planning - Technology assessment

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