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Synthetic Society explores our future technological society, with each episode featuring interviews with leading experts, political figures, and entrepreneurs, discussing and teaching us about complex issues. Hosted by disinformation researcher Tom Ascott. With a focus on AI, technology and the internet, the show gives insight into many of the legal, social and regulatory problems that we are all facing together. Synthetic Society is part of the #Ai2021 campaign, a public engagement campaign ...
 
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Western Way of War

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Western Way of War

The Royal United Services Institute

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A collection of discussions with those in the Profession of Arms that tries to understand the issues around how to fight, and succeed, against adversaries in the 2020s. We pose the questions as whether a single Western Way of Warfare (how Western militaries fight) has been successful, whether it remains fit for task today, and how it might need to adapt in the future? It is complemented by the ‘Adversarial Studies’ project that looks at how adversaries fight.
 
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show series
 
There is a lot going on with nuclear weapons at the moment - from UK and German announcements, changes in the way China is thinking about nuclear doctrine, and US recapitalisation (including some spoilers about what to expect from the US Nuclear Posture review due out in January 2022). Who better to discuss all this with than RUSI's own doyen of WM…
 
From Sun Tzu to Admiral Hyman Rickover, great military leaders really understood logistics and supply. Yet by outsourcing so much to industrial partners, have Western militaries introduced disproportionate risk to their operations? By rethinking these variables, Joann Robertson talks to Peter Roberts about how logistics could become the elusive adv…
 
Peter talks to the latest RUSI recruit and People’s Liberation Army researcher Sam Cranny Evans about the professionalisation and modernisation of the Chinese ground forces since 1980, their doctrine of strategic attrition and defeat-in-detail, the new Combined Armed Brigade structures, and whether Chinese electronic warfare is as good as that of t…
 
When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, Moscow annexed 20% of Georgia's sovereign land space using traditional military force. Over the subsequent 13 years, however, Georgia has been subject to constant political, economic and societal coercion as Moscow tries to steer Tbilisi into the Russian sphere of influence. The tradecraft used by Moscow might s…
 
Veterans, families, casualties, death and the repatriation of casualties’ remains feature as key themes in a discussion between conflict archaeologist Dr Sarah Ashbridge and Peter Roberts. The key question: is the reverse of the current implicit contract between service personnel and the nation – namely society’s obligation to people in uniform, bo…
 
Peter Roberts talks to RUSI Research Fellow for Airpower and Technology Justin Bronk about the realities of aircraft availability for contemporary operations, and the risk that Western air forces may ‘design themselves into irrelevance’ because of a flawed set of assumptions about force generation for peacetime duties that just don't work in combat…
 
In facing down China, Australia is having to make some audacious decisions. Australian defence expert Malcolm Davis from ASPI talks to Peter Roberts about how Australia has been dealing with economic and political coercion from China’s Communist Party, and what this has meant for military capabilities, alliances and postures as Australia has become…
 
Tom Ascott speaks to Giedrimas Jeglinskas, NATO Assistant Secretary General, and former Vice-Minister of Defence of Lithuania. The pair discuss what role NATO plays in information ecosystems and how NATO can help combat disinformation, as well as how diversity and inclusion can generate new and creative solutions and the importance of diversity in …
 
US Naval War College Professor of Strategy James C Holmes contends that navies are going to have to fight for command of the sea over the coming decades because of China's adoption of a Mahanian strategy and approach to contests. Peter Roberts challenges Jim over whether Western navies have the intellectual capacity to ’reset’ in time, inviting the…
 
Russian theories of war and warfare have never been one-dimensional. In conversation with Peter Roberts, Norwegian researcher Prof Katarzyna Zysk talks about Russian industrial innovation, military modernisation, power projection and political control. Unscrambling some of the nonsense spouted about Russia, Katarzyna deciphers the subtleties of the…
 
Can we make our data stronger, safer, and more secure by pooling it together? This week Tom Ascott speaks to Astha Kapoor, Co-Founder and Director of the AAPTI Institute in India. They discuss how new ideas of data unions, data co-ops and data stewardship are providing a model for how citizens can come together and collectively bargain with the sta…
 
As Western militaries transition their forces towards a posture of great power contests, there will be a temptation to gloss over the last 20 years of combat experience as irrelevant to future fighting. Peter Roberts talks to Indian scholar Anant Mishra about why this would be dangerous. Not only will the combat experience from Afghanistan and Iraq…
 
What is time? This week Tom talks to Emily Thomas, a philosopher of time and travel, about how time and technology interact. They discuss how the timeline affects how we perceive time, if going on Twitter is like going on holiday, and the different ways technology might let us have experiences outside of time. The pair also give an overview of the …
 
Peter Roberts talks to the doyen of urban warfare research, Prof John Spencer, about why strategies of 'avoid and bypass' for urban conflicts just don't work, and why fighting in urban areas is so much more than close-quarters battles and house-clearing drills. It seems Western militaries are going to have to break out of their single-minded focus …
 
Dr Heather Venable, associate professor at the US Air Command and Staff College, offers advice to students in professional military education courses and discusses the challenges of turning great tactical operators into people with useful skills in operational design and grand strategy. The conversation with Peter Roberts also covers the mythology …
 
More than 110 states have now signed the Safe Schools Declaration about protecting educational establishments, students and teachers in war zones. Orlaith Minogue from Save the Children and Professor Steven Haines from Greenwich University talk to Peter Roberts about what this means for operators, commanders and political leaders.…
 
Politician, scholar, diplomat and sometime soldier Rory Stewart joins Peter Roberts for a post-mortem of the West's failed campaign in Afghanistan. Rory laments the approach of Western leaders (political and military) in perpetuating untruths about the art of the possible, as well as the US-led withdrawal under the Biden administration. An extremel…
 
This episode Tom speaks to Areeq Chowdhury, the founder and director of WebRoots Democracy. WebRoots was a think tank focused on progressive and inclusive technology policy which ran for almost seven years. The pair discuss digital voting, facial recognition software and if social media companies should pay a user-based tax to fund digital literacy…
 
In analysing the myths of a Western way of war, historian of colonial warfare and iconoclast Professor Tarak Barkawi from the London School of Economics talks to Peter Roberts about commonalities in the vocation of war between militaries. Using examples as diverse as the battles of Isandlwana and Kunu-ri in Korea, Tarak explains how others might vi…
 
In co-operation with the Irregular Warfare Initiative of the Modern War Institute, Peter Roberts sat down for a conversation with Chief of Staff of the US Army General James C McConville, Laura Jones and Kyle Atwell on where and how the US Army is adapting to new challenges, why land forces are poorly funded between wars, and whether armies of more…
 
Should we treat characters in games the same way we treat real people? Is it ethical to run over someone over in Grand Theft Auto? And what about us, does it say something about our moral character if we spend all day in our underwear playing games? This week Tom Ascott speaks to Sebastian Ostritsch, Assistant Professor at Stuttgart University, abo…
 
Professor Eliot Cohen, the doyen of grand strategy, talks to Peter Roberts about how the Western idea of war and warfare has changed to one with a 'purposive' nature, reflecting a society unaccustomed to the destruction and chaos of combat, and dissects the important questions that political leaders should be posing to military commanders, but rare…
 
What would a world look like if it was made by AI? This week Mitchell Baxter, Director at Lazy Monday Games, explains how AI helps in designing video games. He and host Tom Ascott talk about where the technology is now, the challenges in balancing unique and bespoke art with generative assets, and the assistance that new technology offers to artist…
 
Dr Jenni Cole, biological anthropologist and public health policy guru, talks to Peter Roberts about pandemics, climate change and civil defence. The discussion covers the psychological barriers of the 'Dragons of Inaction', as well as why the military must learn to include better CivPop participation in their exercises. A must for those starting s…
 
This week Tom Ascott talks with Kate Devlin a Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King's College London and author of Turned On. The pair discusses the ethics and morality around sex robots and they touch on artificial intimacy, algorithmic attraction, and tackles the thorny question of should you say thank you to Alex…
 
Platforms could replace their metrics based on engagement and growth with metrics based on happiness, community strength and wellbeing. In this episode, Tom Ascott talks to Christine Jakobson, a tech ethics researcher, and consultant, about how platforms can respond to the growing issues of disinformation and online hate to create a more friendly t…
 
Islamophobia has been wielded as a weapon to draw support from right wing actors as well as to disenfranchise Muslim populations. In this episode Zahed Amanullah, a Resident Senior Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, explains how Islamophobia has been refined, amplified and duplicated into a process that is being used globally. He and h…
 
It’s taken us ten weeks but it’s finally time to address the elephant in the room: cryptocurrency! This week Erica Stanford, founder of the Crypto Curry Club and author ‘Crypto Wars: Faked Deaths, Missing Billions and Industry Disruption’, talks Tom Ascott through everything crypto. The episode starts with the basics of Bitcoin and ramps up to comp…
 
WWOW host Peter Roberts covers the five big themes of Season 2: The American Way of War – what went wrong and course corrections; continuity of concepts rather than radical change; systemic challenges in constructing concepts of fighting; how adversaries are preparing to fight wars; and the problems in ending conflicts. There is more optimism than …
 
The internet has been a platform for creating new tools and engaging platforms. But these innovations are also being used by those who would seek to perpetrate violence against women. In this episode Vaibhav Sahgal, a Senior Manager at The Economist Intelligence Unit, explains the problems that women face online and what solutions are on the horizo…
 
RUSI Land Warfare scholar Jack Watling talks to Peter Roberts about the conclusions from his paper on the challenges facing Special Forces over the coming two decades. With the threat from state competitors now exceeding that of non-state actors, he explains that Special Forces will need to adapt their ways of operating, missions and tasking. This …
 
Many governments watched the display of US military power in 1991, and again in 2003, and were awestruck. For some, this was a wake-up call that had far reaching consequences. Elsa B Kania, China military expert at the Center for a New American Security, explains the significance to Peter Roberts in terms of People’s Liberation Army modernisation a…
 
In a future where it is increasingly difficult to tell authentic from synthetic, Anna Bulakh, Policy Advisor at Reface, gives a thoughtful roadmap to upcoming digital policy. She highlights the importance of baking safety and security into apps to future proof against any malicious use. Follow Synthetic Society on Twitter. Follow Tom Ascott on Twit…
 
The Russian military’s build-up around Ukraine between February and April 2021 was the topic of much media speculation. Russia analyst Michael Kofman and Peter Roberts pull apart the military timelines and deployments, drawing insights to better shape the Western way of war for the future.By The Royal United Services Institute
 
This week host Tom Ascott talks to Walter Pasquarelli, AI Readiness & Data Policy Lead at Oxford Insights. Walter is the lead author for the ‘Government AI Readiness Index’, and the two of them discuss what it takes for a government to be AI ready, whether AI is levelling the playing field for less developed countries and if we governments should b…
 
Lockdown has seen a surge in conspiracy theories, and as the world starts to emerge from another lockdown Katy Murray talks to Tom Ascott about what we can learn from conspiracy theories. She breaks down how a conspiracy theory forms, how they function and how they get in to our information ecosystem. Follow Synthetic Society on Twitter. Follow Tom…
 
As modern military systems increasingly rely on software coding to achieve virtual effects, the question of how one knows whether these weapons work becomes more difficult to answer – at least when compared to the old physical testing that validated weapons systems. Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Archer Macy talks to Peter Roberts about testing and e…
 
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