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Finding Competitive Advantage in a Technology Equal World

SRI is proud to welcome all the attendees of the annual Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Mad Scientist Conference to SRI headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. The theme of this year’s conference, “Bio Convergence and the Soldier 2050,” will address emerging and future scientific advances and technology developments to improve capabilities and reduce threats to the soldier of the future.

We look forward to thoughtful presentations and spirited discussions on the future of warfare and the contributions from fields such as biotech, AI, robotics and other emerging science to strengthen warfighters of the future.

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Now is a perfect time to have these discussions, as U.S. national security leaders and planners must account for the accelerating pace of technology development, most of which is happening outside of the government and even outside our borders.  For decades the U.S. defense community led the invention, development, and deployment of most new technologies, including trauma medicine, precision weapons, space, stealth and many others.  The U.S. government controlled over 2/3 of global R&D funding.  The government was not just the market leader, it was the market!

Today, the U.S. military is not the primary driver of invention and technology development.  Commercial companies and international players are inventing, developing and deploying advanced technology as rapidly (and sometimes well before) the U.S. government does.   Given the demographics and economic growth of international players, the gap between U.S. national security needs and innovation may widen.

If we assume our future adversary will have access to the same technology as us (or even more advanced), how do we create a competitive advantage for U.S. forces?  Soon, we will find ourselves combatting fully autonomous weapons capable at operating at “machine speed” and other technologies we have not yet seen.  Complete U.S. technology overmatch is no longer a given.

What does that mean for the American soldier of the future?

We look forward to discussions of these important issues.  Understanding bio convergence is critical, as future battlefield success will not come from technology dominance, but the ability of soldiers and military leaders to quickly understand and adapt to technology surprises and operate in full partnership and understanding of our own technical forces.  For the soldier of 2050, the ability to seamlessly cooperate with humans, machines, and combinations of the two may indeed make the difference between winning or losing.