Once again, we present to you the annual OODA Almanac which is intended to be a quirky forecasting of themes that the OODA Network think will be emergent in 2022. You can review our 2021 Almanac here and we think last year’s version hit the mark for the most part. If you absorbed it, you had some great frameworks for understanding the year ahead.
The theme for this year is surviving and thriving in an age of exponential disruption.
It seems that everything is getting disrupted; national security, economic security, technology, culture and media. New ideas are old and old ideas are new. Please let us know what you think and we look forward to tracking these thematics in our analysis.
Cybersecurity Reckoning for Web3 and Cryptocurrency Projects
Et tu, Brute?
Web3 and cryptocurrency projects have seen a mass acceleration in 2021 and that will continue into 2022, however, many of these initiatives will encounter consequential cybersecurity issues in 2022 that will impact public adoption and invite increased regulatory pressure. While Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other technologies allow for true decentralization, there is a middleware ecosystem emerging in the form of marketplaces and exchanges that are based on Web2 technologies that are being deployed without proper consideration for cybersecurity best practices. Headlines like these will become even more commonplace:
These are areas where traditional cybersecurity practitioners and specialized red teaming can help, but are rarely being engaged.
Conventional Conflict Resurgence
Plowshares into swords
During the Cold War, US, Russian and Chinese troops very rarely exchanged fire. Chinese and Russian ideology and lack of symmetric strength led them to seek non-combative ways to expand influence, which led to more hybrid warfare and war by proxy instead of direct military conflict. After the Cold War, the high tech strength of the US military (especially as demonstrated in the Gulf Wars) and the opportunities presented Russia and China with the rise of the Internet led to more emphasis on war via hybrid approaches that do not lead with direct conflict. Now the equation seems to have shifted in a way that may cause both China and Russia to recalculate the odds of their success in direct confrontation with the US. While we assess the odds of direct conventional conflict between great powers to be low, there are many scenarios that could see escalating tensions and if history is a guide it tells us the unfolding of miscalculations could lead to situations no one wants. We will continue to track and assess the potential for this resurgence and capture the gist of this at our Geopolitical Risk Sensemaking page.
Is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?
Our 2021 Almanac predicted a strong surge around metaverse related initiatives, and the culmination of that prediction is best personified with Facebook changing their name to Meta and focusing corporate initiatives with an “all-in on metaverse” approach. While the metaverse holds great promise we are likely still at least over half a decade away from the persistent adoption of immersive worlds. That said, we are preparing for metaverse to become a contested domain on multiple fronts to include:
- Corporate competition to create the default metaverse for user engagement.
- National competition around metaverse platforms based on security concerns similar to the friction we’ve seen over 5G technologies.
- A focus on decentralized metaverse approaches linked to blockchains and NFT technologies.
- Strong concerns over metaverse privacy protections given that these platforms allow for incredibly granular user tracking including where and what users are looking at.
For more analysis see – What To Know And Do About The Coming Metaverse
Cyber as a Great Power War
There’s a war out there old friend
In 2021 we saw increasing pressure on “cyber-mercenary” groups as companies like NSO Group saw regulatory and legal pressure impacting their business operations. Groups like NSO had filled an interesting niche in the cyber power domain by providing significant nation-state like tooling and capabilities to countries that could not obtain these capabilities on their own. As the NSO Group model starts to fail, robust cyber-attack capabilities will become more exclusively the domain of great cyber powers with internal vulnerability development programs. We will also likely see the strengthening of black market activities and NSO Group style companies operating in countries with appropropriate regulatory arbitrage.
Despite Russia’s capability, the lack of longer-term planning has us wondering whether the great cyber power conflict is exclusively between the U.S. and China?
Cognitive Infrastructure Failure
Not with a bang, but a whimper
In 2019 we began working in the national security sector to raise awareness on a concept called Cognitive Infrastructure. US movement in protection of this infrastructure has been slower than we would like, perhaps due in part to the uniquely American distrust of anything championed by authority or pushed by the government. Whether it is recognized by DHS as a critical infrastructure or not, it is one of critical importance to the private sector, in our view firms that understand the strengths and weaknesses to their own Cognitive Infrastructure will have advantage over those who do not. It is also in all of our interests to continue to track the major bi-partisan initiatives in this domain like the Aspen Disinformation Commission Report (featuring insights from OODA Network Expert Will Hurd):
Handing over the figurative and literal keys
Every year more robots enter our businesses and private lives. One of the most visible examples of advancing automation is Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) capability, which leverages advanced computer vision, machine learning, neural networks and control of a self contained electric vehicle. Other emerging examples include a humanoid robot called digit from Agility Robotics that is designed to work with humans in factory or retail environments. The rise of smart cities is fueling more connections to physical systems such as automated traffic flow and water and power management. AI and machine learning is also automating data analytics and improving IT based workflows and we expect improved support to automated workflows by complex physical and tech systems.
Simultaneous Crisis Mode
Overwhelm the system with everything hitting at once
In 2022 our national decision-making apparatus will be significantly stressed as the U.S. tries to manage multiple simultaneous crisis. A new Covid variant, January 6th investigation, China and Russia regional power projection, supply chain, cyber, and economic issues will create an opportunity for adversaries to push the envelope in hopes that capacity is diminished and distracted. Organizations will have to build decision, crisis, and operational resiliency informed by strategic forecasting.
Don’t tread on them
During one of the OODA Network Expert meetings, it was proposed that non-sovereignty is a general trend and worth noting in the Almanac. Non-sovereignty covers several separate threads to include:
Individuals and communities developing greater affinities for corporations instead of governments. This was highlighted early in the Covid pandemic as large tech companies quickly moved to work from home, created grants for local businesses, and implemented employee bonus programs.
The cryptocurrency and blockchain communities identify digital self sovereignty as major thematic goals within many of their programs whether it is decentralized finance or creating Digital Autonomous Organizations. For example, the Ethereum Name Service created a DOA to govern the management of the name space for .ETH domains and a DOA raised tens of millions of dollars for a failed attempt to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution. The Sovereign Individual book written over 20 years ago has seen a resurgence in popularity and currently ranks #1 and #2 on several Amazon bestseller topical lists. As this community looks to go where they are treated best, some are renouncing U.S. citizenship and moving overseas while others are establishing footholds in states like Florida and Texas.
Lastly, non-sovereignty issues resonate within the American political divide which we provocatively called the Second American Civil War in last year’s Almanac. These issues have only become more inflamed over the past year with tensions over vaccine mandates, infrastructure spending, and hearings on the events of January 6, 2021.
Opportunities for Advantage
All of this exponential disruption means we must make focused efforts to gain advantage. Stay informed on a variety of these critical issues at OODAloop.com and during our monthly OODA Network meetings and Salons.