Why Cognitive Warfare?

NATO Innovation Challenge

NATO’s Allied Command Transformation and Innovation Hub in Norfolk, Va., are hosting an important competition in Ottawa, Canada: The Allies are looking for ways to defend the cognitive dimension against adversaries who are rapidly deploying into that space.

NATO’s “shark tank” Innovation Challenge intends to develop tools that help Allied nations anticipate, detect, and block comprehensive attacks designed to manipulate public opinion.   With real-time or even advance knowledge, authorities can warn the public and prepare a response.

Cognitive warfare has gone by many names and incorporated many concepts throughout history.  Propaganda, psychological and hybrid warfare, information operations, active measures, misinformation, disinformation, and Fabian strategy all contain elements of the cognitive dimension.  Each has the same goal: to defeat the enemy not by physical destruction but by destroying the will to fight.

The cognitive dimension incorporates all of these antecedents but applies them to the information age.   Smart phones have replaced television, radio, and newspapers by putting the entire world in your pocket.  This unprecedented access to information brings with it the threat of manipulation on a mass scale at the level of the individual, combining big data, open sources, social media, mass surveillance, facial recognition, geolocation, artificial intelligence, and hacking.

NATO is held together by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that treats an attack on one ally as an attack on all.  But that is not NATO’s only utility.  Article 3 obligates Allies to identify new threats and adapt quickly to the changing security environment.  While not yet designated a formal domain of warfare – joining air, sea, land, space, and cyber – NATO recognizes the cognitive space as an area of intense interest to allies and adversaries alike.

NATO today defends nearly one billion citizens in 30 of the world’s leading democracies – including against outside manipulation. We must and will be ready.  That is why this Innovation Challenge is so important.

Please join us today! More at https://www.innovationhub-act.org/challenge-intro