Why the Future of Conflict Will Not Be Data-Driven

Data is the future. Few tropes receive more uncritical acceptance. Pick any rubric of military assessment– take PMESII (political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure) and DIME (diplomatic, informational, military, and economic) as obvious examples– and you will find analysts, operators, commanders and civilian authorities, convinced the key element of future operational and strategic efficacy lies with harnessing data. Gathering, collating, analysing, and acting on data, more efficaciously than the competitor, is central to institutional expectations of the digital age in just about any contemporary field of endeavor– military or otherwise.

As conflict in the ‘grey zone’ has blurred traditional boundaries between cooperation, competition and conflict, compressing time, space, lines of effort, phases, and domains, increasingly we are certain victory lies in connecting bridges across data streams. Lieutenant General John Shanahan, former Director of the U.S. Department Of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has previously warned against being left behind by competitors in this race to mine military advantage from the data. Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed these assertions in his vision for Australia’s economic future. Few question the assumption that data is the key to unlocking strategic success. 

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