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The OODA Almanac – 2021 Edition

As a logger and holstein farmer, my grandfather was heavily dependent on the weather for his livelihood. Each year, he purchased a copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac and it was kept in an easily accessible reading spot for reference. Taken on a day by day basis, the Farmer’s Almanac was not the greatest of guides, but if you took it on a month-by-month basis it claims about an 80% accuracy, which was more than enough to guide generalized decisions about logging and farming environments in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

The OODA Almanac proposes to identify those topics and patterns we see having significance in 2021 to guide your short and long-term decision making. Over the course of 2021, we will continue to inject additional observations on these topics into our analysis or as stand-alone tidbits of observed intelligence (OODINT).

This Almanac is imperfect by design and designed to provoke discussion and planning at a strategic level.

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

As we’ve stated in previous analysis, we expect 2021 to be a shift year for cryptocurrencies and blockchain, meaning that the technology shifts from being experimental and aspirational to being foundational.

Bitcoin has emerged as a store of value as corporations move cash balances to Bitcoin. We saw this trend fully emerge in 2020 with a high profile announcement from Microstrategy that was followed by numerous other companies looking for alternative reserves not encumbered by the national debt. Entering into 2021 over a dozen major firms had announced major purchases of Bitcoin as reserves, with perhaps the largest being Three Arrows Capital, which disclosed holdings of 36,969 bitcoin, worth about $1.1B in early January. The old crypto punk rallying cry that “Bitcoin is the new Gold” is becoming a reality. Want proof? Bitcoin is now number 11 on the list of all top assets in the world by Market Capitalization (see companiesmarketcap.com). It has a larger market cap than Berkshire Hathaway, Samsung, Visa, Walmart, and a larger market cap than every bank in the world.

As Marc Andreessen has noted, “software is eating the world” and blockchain technologies allow that to be further realized. This move to distributed, trusted finance and computing has just begun but there are already many notable impacts on business models. Through 2021 we expect to see a continued transitioning of multi-party business, legal, and monetary transactions to new trusted distributed business models.. One need only sit down with a blank sheet of paper to easily brainstorm the industries that will be disrupted as a result.

Observations:

  • Additional regulatory initiatives could hamper growth and fiats try to roll-back some of the momentum already established
    Bitcoin can still be a store of value.
  • Almost every nation will develop a fiat-based cryptocurrency, but the true potential and value lies outside the state.
  • Blockchain technologies that enable distributed computing, like Ethereum, Chainlink, The Graph and others, will enable impacts on a wide range of business models and will be a key component of OODALoop.com reporting in 2021.

The Quantum Gray Rhino

Quantum is the Gray Rhino that we know is coming, but aren’t adequately addressing within our organizations.

The OODA approach to quantum and other emerging transformative technologies is to study enough of their essence to enable intelligent assessments, and we recommend the same approach to any business leader seeking to understand how technologies will impact their business models and markets. In the case of Quantum, the science is absolutely counter intuitive. The reality at the super small scale of Quantum does not match the world humans observe. But quantum science is powerful and is having an impact on business today.

Throughout 2021 we expect to see Quantum Computers continue to advance, including perhaps the first real demonstration of use cases that can be used in industrial design applications. Designing better chemical manufacturing processes will likely be another early use case. Already quantum effects are being used to improve encryption and there are solutions in the market today that can be leveraged by enterprises to protect secrets.

Our recommendation is that all organizations consider the future value of your encrypted data. Because of the coming power of quantum computing, data encrypted with common methods will soon be at risk. Now is the time to consider implementing quantum safe protections. All businesses should also think through how new quantum computing capabilities can improve your business models. Our special report on the executive’s guide to Quantum computing can help you do just that.

Cyber Diplomacy

Almost three years ago, we published analysis entitled “Putin’s Cyber OODA Loop is Tighter Than Yours” that spoke to how Russian would continue to push the envelope on cyber operations until some sort of norms and expectations of behaviors and targeting were determined. The SolarWinds attack is a perfect exemplar the types of large scale attacks that will lead to a more vibrant diplomatic process around cyberspace.

While the U.S. certainly garners some advantage to being able to engage in comparable operations of our own, it is time to fully realize the consequences of unchecked cyber-espionage on private sector business interests.

AI Battles

Humans are quickly becoming inadequate competitors for advancing AI initiatives and the emerging trend will be to pit AI versus AI. One noted example we highlighted in 2020 was a DARPA project that pitted AI against AI in simulated air to air combat, and then took the winning AI and had it compete in a simulation against one of the Air Force’s best fighter pilots. The AI won. Now imagine the use of AI like this in business scenarios.

Post Pandemic Society – Acceleration of Virtual Worlds

2020 was a glitch year as we moved permanently off-frame. An increase in localized tourism travel as we’ve learned to appreciate the space outside our homes, but a decrease in business travel seems inevitable over the near term. Given that events and conferences can often be a combination of the two, they are likely to make a comeback in the form of subsidized escapism as we seek refuge from our current Zoom reality. Many forward thinkers have been promoting the concept of virtual reality as a means of escaping, but the state of this technology is still a bit early. The hardware of the latest Oculus Rift and Playstation devices are capable enough, but the choice of software for VR vacations is really wanting, thus VR is most likely to displace business travel.

This year we expect a rapid ramp up to real world travel towards the end of the year, while behind the scenes software creators will play catch up to help VR solutions mature.

Distributed enterprise and zero trust security

The enterprise is no longer dependent on an office or a headquarters which will drive new segments of the economy and impact domestic and global immigration patterns, We’ve seen this with the movement of tech workers from California to Austin, Denver, and Nashville and initiatives like Finlands 6 month worker program. As a result, this corresponds with a need for new security models and the acceleration towards zero-trust.

Space Disrupted

This decade will be viewed as a commercial space pivot point.

When viewed from the lens of a couple of decades, the commercialization of space seems to have been slow and methodical, starting with government designing requirements for all space systems, transitioning to government contracting for best designs that meet needs, then encouraging commercial innovation for satellite systems and eventually launch. The gradual transition has reached the point where the government’s biggest role now is funding big projects (like Artemis) and providing security. We fully expect that innovation in space is at an inflection point– a classic “hockey stick” moment where new capabilities will come at breathtaking speeds.

For insights into what may come next see our Space Innovations Sensemaking page where we provide focused reporting on everything we believe executives need to know about innovation in space.

American Civil War

We raise this thematic, not because American citizens will engage in a full fledged civil war, but to highlight the toxic political extremism that will be a defining narrative of the next decade. With open calls for violence by public figures with millions of followers and Q-anon conspiracy theories finding large audiences, we could be entering a new era of domestic terrorism with whimsical fluidity in the targeting based upon trending issues. In an environment when a reasonable public health measure like wearing a mask is politicized, rocky roads are ahead.

Of particular concern are the micro-societal effects and we are actually extremely concerned with the disruption of social integrity at a hyper-localized level. It is the confrontations like this that happen over and over again and lead to violence, the localized incidents of racism, the constant framing the world in an us versus them context. It is not a formula for national resiliency. It is likely that adversaries and allies alike are now war -gaming the impact and opportunity of an American decline.

Leveraging This Almanac

A key premise behind the OODA Loop construct is an understanding that no course of action is right more than once. No matter how good your approach is, it needs to be evaluated based on changing conditions. The OODA team will track changes to the many topic areas above and keep this Almanac updated for your reference, so bookmark it and be sure to leverage it to inform your strategy as needed. We will also be reporting on these trends in the OODA Daily Pulse. Be sure to subscribe if you are not already on distro.

For more specific insights into these and related topics visit the exclusive member only research on our site. We organize this content into topical sections in our Member Resources page and also pull together all long form research and daily reporting into Sensemaking pages. Our sensemaking series includes overviews of research reports, the latest news and analysis from our daily reporting, and, when relevant, links to other sites that have information we consider to be reliable and authoritative. We recommend members review these pages in advance of a need to familiarize yourself with the content:

Advanced Technology Sensemaking
Global Risk and Geopolitical Sensemaking
Technology and Cybersecurity Due Diligence Sensemaking
Operational Cybersecurity Sensemaking
Artificial Intelligence Sensemaking
Covid-19 Sensemaking
Space Sensemaking

Matt Devost

Matt Devost

Matthew G. Devost is the CEO & Co-Founder of OODA LLC. Matt is a technologist, entrepreneur, and international security expert specializing in counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, intelligence, risk management and cyber-security issues. Matt co-founded the cyber security consultancy FusionX from 2010-2017. Matt was President & CEO of the Terrorism Research Center/Total Intel from 1996-2009. For a full bio, please see www.devost.net