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Cognitive War and AI: The Little-Known Weapon That Will Change Everything

June 3, 2024Evan Robert

The Unfulfilled Promises of World-Changing Claims

When people claim something will “change everything”, skepticism understandably abounds. How many ads, political messages, or corporate slogans have been thrust upon us that contain the core message that “this ___ will change the world”?

A lot. And a lot fewer of those products, agendas, and companies actually follow through on that claim. But there seems to be no doubt in anyone's mind that artificial intelligence is a technology that is already changing the world and stands to completely alter the way humans conduct business, govern, and fundamentally function in society. 

AI’s Role in Modern Warfare

In a previous post, we compared AI to the wheel. It is a tool that can be used for growth or destruction. And, much like the wheel has been used in warfare in many iterations throughout history, AI is just beginning to make its mark on the battlefield– and not always where we would think.

Cognitive warfare uses the dissemination of information to influence or manipulate a given target to create confusion, division, and conflict. This method of war is accomplished through the use of propaganda, disinformation, and psychological operations, among others. A NATO Review article says it simply: “In cognitive warfare, the human mind becomes the battlefield.”

The Perfect Fit: AI and Cognitive Warfare

AI is perfectly built for these tactics. With the rise of AI-generated content on social media, from text to image to video, AI models and cognitive warfare are a perfect fit. Because of the access to demographic information and the segmented nature of the internet, targeting a group, country, or other entity for manipulation is not only easy but is already happening

It is only a matter of time before AI is central to most if not all cognitive war efforts. Then comes the question of what online information can be trusted if any given post can be a sinister ploy to indoctrinate the everyday social media user. 

Navigating the New Information Environment

Yes, the combining of cognitive war efforts with AI will change everything. But it does not have to be for the worse. It is possible for these methods which are intended for division to have the unintended effect of increasing the desire for understanding the stories at a deeper level, analyzing who is pushing them and why, and coming to a more comprehensive understanding of the information environment. 

If the mind is the battlefield in a cognitive war, then narratives are the weaponry. By understanding how narratives come about, their proponents, and their effect on industry, public policy, and wars, organizations can have the ultimate defense in the growing cognitive war. More than defense, once the state of a narrative is properly analyzed, it becomes easier to engage and release new narratives that counter false and divisive information. 

Narrative Intelligence: A Winning Strategy

Narrative intelligence is a key to this winning strategy. Simply put, narrative intelligence analyzes text, video, photographs, and other media to detect viral narratives, identify which entities are proliferating the narrative, and contextualize the conversations. Just as cognitive wars and AI are a powerful combination, at EdgeTheory, we recognize AI and narrative intelligence to be even more potent. 

First, tracking and organizing massive swaths of data mitigates the potential for adversaries to successfully wage a cognitive war. Pinpointing a narrative to its point of origin, how far it has spread, and which networks and platforms have reiterated it sheds light on what could otherwise be a black box of largely disparate online content. Making this data easily accessible and perceptible allows stakeholders to be informed of threats quicker and gives insight into how to respond to attacks in the cognitive space.

AI enables all this work to happen in a fraction of the time, instantly doing the work of filtering and categorizing data into that which is most pertinent for decision-makers. But not all AI programs are created equal. AI that is platform agnostic can easily structure data into visuals and text, making an analyst's job easier. The quicker an AI platform can give an organization the bottom line of a narrative, the more prepared that organization will be in the information war.

EdgeTheory’s AI-native narrative intelligence products are designed to give organizations and governments decisive insights into the most important narratives that affect their mission and industry. From high-level executive summaries of ongoing global conflicts to obscure networks that tout harmful and manipulative content, EdgeTheory has the capabilities to trace these narratives and provide data that is critical to winning a cognitive war.

The current information environment is littered with distractions, disruptions, and discord. Any organization wishing to succeed in these circumstances needs tools that provide clarity on the myriad narratives that can have a serious, society-level impact. Such tools are our only defense in the growing battle for the mind. 

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