Saturday, February 1, 2014
Beyond Atlantic Storm: Emerging Technologies in Bio-War Game Construction
"On 14 January 2005, ten heads of government from Europe and North America and the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO; Geneva, Switzerland) were scheduled to meet for a ‘Transatlantic Security Summit' in Washington, DC, USA, to discuss the threat of international terrorism. On the eve of the meeting, news broke that citizens from several European countries appeared to have become ill with smallpox; shortly thereafter suspected smallpox cases appeared in the USA. Although the assembled leaders did not know it at the time, a radical terrorist group had obtained seed strains of Variola major—the virus causing smallpox—and deliberately released the virus in a number of main transport hubs and sites of commerce throughout Europe and North America. On 14 January, the heads of states who gathered in Washington were confronted with one of the worst nightmares imaginable: the use of contagious and deadly disease as a weapon." See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1369238/
Atlantic Storm revealed gaps in global public health infrastructures. For an interactive video on Atlantic Storm See: http://www.atlanticstorm.org/flash/flash.htm
Atlantic Storm is an example of a well constructued table top, scenario based war game. Emerging technology is likely to change how we consider threat and risk. Developing wargames which pull in advanced technologies will open the field and shine light not only on existing gaps in our public health architecture, but to diverse ways in which such technology might be used by terrorist states. Protecting technology is istself a science and one could imagine micro drones that employ DARPA's VARP (Vanishing Programmable Resources) called 'transient electronics' programed to disintigrate at a given moment. In fact in 2012 the Army War College hosted an Australian consulting firm, Noetic, which ran a wargame called Next Tech. Next Tech explored a range future technologies that could potentially be used by the Pentagon to counter future threats. According to Noetic the first wargame session focused on the science behind five new technologies: drones, software, directed energy, biological enhancement and 3D printing. See: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/08/future-warfare/all/
"The experts and event organizers consistently reminded the gamers to consider 'second and third order effects' that is the unforeseen and sometimes terrible consequences of unleashing a new technology on human societies unprepared to handle them. 'The human mind thinks in linear terms, but most technolocal change happens exponentially.' see: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/08/future-warfare/all/
In June, 2013 I wrote an article on Hezbollah's potential to employ drones in a swarming scenario see:http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/140408/sec_id/140408
In the scenario I posit that Hezbollah, who has already acquired drone capability could arm such weapons with a biological agent and using a swarm configuration successfully deploy a biological agent along the border of Israel. But what if instead of employing larger drones, Hezbollah or other state sponsored terrorist organizations were to employ micro drone technology with the capacity to disintigrate after an attack. It may seem an impossible technological threshold for a terrorist organization but not one supported by major state sponsors with their own advanced weapon research laboratories. Biological weapons are extremely well suited and compatible with micro drone technology, particularly in the case of highly tranmissible and virulent pathogens, where small doses and more limited herd exposure would be enough to create second and third waves of infection.
In considering technologies of the future and specifically technologies effecting biological defence such as synthetic biology, advances in 3D bio-printing and vanishing technologies, bio-defence wargames are likely to undergo significant alteration, which will change how we plan for countering future biological warfare.