Machine Speed Strategic Analysis – Using AI to unlock information advantage

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Rory Maxwell | Senior Defence Specialist

Date: 15 October 2021

“Machine Speed Strategic Analysis” is a constant and top-level requirement within the MoD, but what exactly does it mean?

Machine speed analysis is the ability to process vast amounts of data to examine or determine their relationship or value much quicker than could be done by humans and to produce a statement of findings.

The strategic analysis relates to how it drives and informs decision making at the highest levels of government and command.

What do we use machine speed for?

It is estimated that it would take over 18 million person-hours to match what one computer system could analyse in a year (8,760 hours). A question to be asked is whether you need the ability to rapidly process vast volumes of data for:

  1. Shorten the time used to analyse a certain volume of data, for example, in a fast-changing situation needing a rapid response with swift data processing.
  2. Increase the volume of data that you can process in a certain given time. For example,  a multi-faceted, difficult problem may require a comprehensive analysis of interrelated issues, including diverse, sensitive and nuanced handling. The emphasis here is on the volume of data rather than the speed of reaction.

Machine Speed Strategic Analysis in Context

The following scenarios will illustrate the needs outlined above in context, and shed light on the interplay between machine speed analysis and human decision making.

Scenario 1A capital asset, such as an aircraft carrier, is conducting a freedom of navigation operation in contested waters.

Consider the case in which the carrier is accompanied by a guided-missile destroyer fitted with a defence suite capable of targeting and firing missiles autonomously when entering contested waters. The ship’s radar picks up an object travelling at a hypersonic speed approaching the aircraft carrier on a collision course.

Using machine speed analysis, the defence suite identifies this as a threat and analyses that the object will hit the aircraft carrier unless destroyed.  The analysis also identifies insufficient time to alert the ship’s crew to the threat and have them decide what action to take.  Autonomously the ship’s defence suite decides to fire a missile to destroy the incoming object.

This process takes a few seconds thanks to the machine speed analysis provided by an AI solution; however, these are not strategic decisions but tactical ones.

In this context, the human-led strategic decision was to conduct a freedom of navigation operation in the contested waters knowing that it may provoke an attack.  The operational decision was to enable the autonomous defence suite.

Here machine speed analysis is focused on shortening the time of response to the threat.

Military Ship

Scenario 2:  The stability of a Commonwealth country is rapidly deteriorating.

Now consider the case in which the UK government wants to explore options to improve and prevent total government breakdown of a commonwealth country that is rapidly deteriorating.

The MoD has been asked to review the situation and make recommendations on potential courses of action to respond to:

  • Falling Employment
  • Scarce food supplies
  • Increasing incidents of violence/lawlessness

This case presents a problem that will need sensitive and nuanced handling. The better the MOD can understand the situation and all the interrelated issues, the more likely they are to develop a plan that improves the situation rather than one that exacerbates it.  This is particularly true in the human environment.

Failure to fully understand the myriads factors involved means that any plan produced is destined to fail.

In this case, the MOD will deploy machine speed analysis to gather and process a large volume of data from different sources. Therefore, the focus is on increasing the volume of data to process in a given time instead of shortening the time of reaction toward a threat.

The strategy and decision-makers will then access a more comprehensive picture of the situation and, therefore, deliver better informed strategic decisions.

Trilateral Research’s focus

At Trilateral Research, we focus on the machine speed strategic analysis that is more aligned to the second scenario.

We have developed an application called HAMOC, which provides an AI-powered analytics capability for machine speed strategic analysis of the human environment.  It supports the understanding of the human environment providing access to large volumes of data, understanding what is important and enabling analysts to integrate this understanding into decision-making swiftly.

Alongside machine speed strategic analysis of the human environment, Trilateral Research provides the Data Service. We use social and computer science methods to create novel data sets for client use. This service addresses an old, common problem; it doesn’t matter how “smart” your computer is, the old adage of Garbage In Garbage Out still applies.​

For more information contact our team:

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