Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A blueprint for prosperity



By Stephen Burke and Douglas Macgregor - - Monday, January 8, 2018


ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When a golden spike was driven into the rails connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory on May 10, 1869, interstate railways annihilated distance in the space of one generation and transformed America into a unified nation from coast to coast. The cost for an American to travel across the continent dropped from $1,000 to $150.

President Trump is in the hunt for a new golden spike that will make American infrastructure great again. But the president wants to do more than clean up the “hardened arteries” strangling America’s interior. He wants to administer “bypass surgery.” In the global marketplace of non-stop competition, he knows he needs more than a bullet list for infrastructure development. President Obama tried a piecemeal approach and it failed. The solution is strategic vision to guide capital investment in ways that exploit American market advantage in geography, resources, and governance.

Like the Roman state that shaped and led the political and economic development of the Western world for centuries from its central position in the Mediterranean, America must capitalize on its enviable strategic position straddled by the world’s two largest oceans across which are the Europe and Asian markets. In a world where 90 percent of global exports and imports move by sea, American naval and aerospace supremacy guarantees not only American access to these domains, but access for all nations to the four global commons — the high seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica and outer space.

Beijing wants to build a continental infrastructure of roads, railways, seaports and pipelines through the string of countries along the ancient “Silk Road” route — a noble and praiseworthy endeavor. But conflict, corruption and widespread insecurity across Eurasia pose societal challenges to China’s ambitions. Nation-state interests along the routes will drive up costs.

Unlike the peoples of China, Russia, India and Europe the United States is not threatened by potentially dangerous military opponents in its hemisphere. North America’s interior is secure thanks to the dominance of one people with one language, one culture and one law — namely Americans.

These points suggest a blueprint for U.S. continental infrastructure that rivals the Eisenhower era Interstate system. The golden spike program exploits the trend toward fast and free logistics through autonomous systems, improved power storage (batteries), and “next generation” electric motors. The president can create a new golden spike driven by new technologies that will do for today’s economy what the steam engine did in its time.

This time the golden spike can take the form of a public-private partnership combining capital for innovation with customers dependent on large-scale logistics. This partnership will hasten the “repatriation” of American Manufacturing through the development of intercontinental transport via hyper-efficient sea, air and land-based conveyances that will move goods long distances for pennies per ton. Here is how it can work:

1. Connect major manufacturing hubs at home and abroad with major sea ports and air hubs using a combination of high speed rail, and hyper-efficient ships that lower the cost of travel. Translation: Link Nantes, Bordeaux and Brest with Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong through New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle;

2. Redefine “Just in Time Manufacturing.” Identify and develop critical hubs and terminals in the nation’s interior to cultivate manufacturing and restore American national economic competitive advantages over European, Chinese, Korean and Japanese competitors. The redefinition includes the impact of 3d printing: Large-scale shipments will consist of raw materials used for localized production;

3. Exploit “leap ahead” technologies to leverage autonomous systems that bypass traffic and accelerate movement through the “choke points” inside the America’s commercial circulatory system;

4. Restore America’s leadership as a merchant marine power. Building fast ships that operate under the American Flag. A fleet of fast ships on both coasts would revolutionize transportation, and in time of conflict or crisis, provide additional seaborne platforms that can forward-deploy missiles and autonomous aircraft.

5. Augment high-speed rail and maritime infrastructure by creating heavy-lift airborne freight markets. Airships bypass unneeded middlemen with the fastest and most efficient form of unmanned “port to port/door to door” commerce at a cost that is 30 percent less than traditional air freight. They are ideally suited for remote area delivery. Recent patents issued to corporations like Amazon and Walmart illustrate interest in the idea.

To secure U.S. economic power in the 21st century, Mr. Trump knows he must make our infrastructure great again. America’s rise to global power teaches that American economic prosperity is the foundation for U.S. military power. The Golden Spike Project points the way.

• Stephen Burke is chief executive officer and Douglas Macgregor is executive vice president of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC. Robert Cantrell of Strategy Innovators, LLC, also contributed.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Macgregor Comments on the New National Security Strategy


GENERAL COMMENTS:

1.      The NSS provides no clarity regarding what actions by foreign State and Non-State Actors constitute red lines or a casus belli in U.S. National Security.

a.      Will the United States hold Nation-States accountable for terrorist actions launched from within their borders?

b.      Nuclear weapons prevent total war, but they do not prevent war. What are the strategic aims the NSS deems worthy of sacrifice?

2.      The NSS tends to treat change beyond America’s borders—change in governments; borders, interests or economic performance—as something to be resisted. The NSS determination to “escalate in order to deescalate” translates into a strategy of “being aggressive everywhere.” This approach distributes U.S. Military Power globally from the Iceland-Greenland Gap to the Kuril Islands.

a.      Seventy years after World War II, it is now self-evident that post-industrial warfare will not require the conversion of major industries from private to public management or the mobilization of millions of Americans in uniform.

b.      These changes demand a shift in U.S. national security strategy away from garrisoning foreign territory. When and how will the Trump Administration adapt to this new reality?

3.      The United States enjoys the freedom of action to concentrate on what is essential to U.S. National Security interests. However, the United States does not have limitless resources to do everything, everywhere all the time; “to ignore what is strategically vital in favor of what is merely strategically desirable.” Frederick the Great’s words stand the test of time: “If you try to hold everything, you hold nothing.”

Strategy is not an ideological wish list. NSS objectives must of necessity be both concrete and attainable. The NSS should account for the interests of other nation-states and peoples; their unique national character, potential and aspirations. There is no evidence that the NSS provides this kind of guidance.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Margin of Victory Review in the Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report/Remarkable-victories-517944

REMARKABLE VICTORIES
BY MARTIN SIEFF
DECEMBER 13, 2017
Douglas Macgregor’s new book draws lessons from five key battles, including the Yom Kippur War
 
RETIRED US Army Col. Douglas Macgregor commanded US armored forces in the Battle of 73 Easting, the decisive tank engagement of the 1991 Gulf War, and is now a leading military tactician.

Macgregor’s groundbreaking books, “Breaking the Phalanx” (Praeger 1997) and “Transformation under Fire” (Praeger 2003) have profoundly influenced thinking about transformation inside America’s ground forces, NATO, the Israel Defense Forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. His books are available in Chinese and Hebrew.

Macgregor is widely recognized as an expert on organizational design and grand strategy. And his most recent book, “Margin of Victory: Five Battles That Changed the Face of Modern War” includes a chapter on Israel’s “come-from-behind” victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Macgregor discusses his latest book’s lessons for the US and Israeli militaries and the factors that were responsible for Israel’s remarkable victories in 1973.

Macgregor is now Executive Vice President of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC in Reston, Virginia.

The Report: What is your book’s message? Macgregor: The message of “Margin of Victory” is simple: Washington and its allies must reorient the US Armed Forces’ (especially the US Army’s) thinking and modernization toward fighting future wars of decision; nation-state wars that are fought against opponents with armies, air forces and air defenses, not open-ended interventions to suppress weak insurgents or build nations where none exist. Wars of Decision are fought with the expectation of eventual conflict termination based on the attainment of a defined political-military end state. These are wars the United States cannot afford to lose.

The hard truth is if today’s US Army Ground Forces were hit and hit hard, if American Commanders faced an air defense threat, rocket artillery, cruise missiles, and a capable armored ground force, these troops and their commanders would be shocked, even paralyzed.

It’s why “Margin of Victory” warns that change inside military establishments before and during war is always painful because adjustments to warfighting organizations and modernization threaten more people and institutions than we can count.

Inevitably, in the fight for badly needed changes in thinking, organization, structure, technology, and human capital, the enemy is not external. The enemy is us.

The Report: In “Margin of Victory,” you devote an entire chapter to the fighting in the Suez region during the 1973 War. Despite the early defeats and the severe air and armor losses, what turned the tide for the Israelis? Macgregor: What reversed the disasters of the first ten days of the Sinai campaign and eventually secured battlefield victory for Israel was Israel’s human capital in uniform.

I explain that Israeli forces prevailed in 1973 because Israeli officers did not send their men into battle; they led them into battle.

As I write in my book, “Senior commanders routinely went to the points on the ground where the action was critical and ensured the Israeli fighting forces received the resources they needed to be successful.

In the Egyptian military such behavior was the exception, not the rule.”

Israel’s unified military command structure with supporting general staff ensured that the two-front war did not overtax Israel’s military resources. These actions combined to ensure unity of effort on the strategic and operational levels creating a margin of victory Egypt could not match.

The Report: What are the lessons of the 1973 war for the IDF and Israel’s security today? Macgregor: To survive and prevail in 21st century close combat, the vast majority of Israeli, American and European soldiers must be protected; ideally, mounted in tracked armored platforms equipped with accurate, devastating firepower.

When tightly integrated with Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) and Strike (Stand-off Attack) capabilities, a smaller number of more highly trained mobile armored combat formations manned by intelligent soldiers can accomplish more in the future than the mass armies of the past.

Human capital is a recurring theme in “Margin of Victory.” National culture is responsible for the pool of high-quality soldiers, sailors, and airmen that populate the armed forces and for the emergence of tens of thousands of exceptional leaders at the tactical and operational levels who can analyze, synthesize, and inspire.

Culture is the foundation for human capital.

For example, the quality of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) training together with superior, aggressive leadership compensated for the IJA’s numerical inferiority on the ground in its fighting with the British in Malaysia during 1942.

The Report: Given the weakness and instability in Iraq and Syria and the reemergence of Iran, what should Israel’s military concerns and responses in force planning of force structure and training of units be today and in the immediate future? Macgregor: Israel’s experience in a series of wars has repeatedly taught the critical lesson that “one size does not fit all” – diversity of capability is vital to success.

However, I caution that in a future conflict with the Turks, Iranians or Russians, the exponential increase in the lethality of modern weapons makes light infantry – whether airborne, airmobile, or amphibious – a niche capability, not the foundation for a 21st century ground maneuver force.

IT IS more important to remember that target sets do not automatically equate to strategy or influence. With the IDF’s opponents in Southern Lebanon in mind, I would add the reminder that carefully concealed sites are also notoriously hard to target.

As I write in my book, “Only the decisive use of mobile armored forces in offensive maneuver operations, combined with the striking power of the Israeli air force and high-angle mortar, artillery, and rocket fire, can fix these mobile targets for armor and armored infantry to finish them off.”

The Report: Since 9/11, the global focus has been on counter-insurgency operations rather than land battle and major scale combat operations. Is Israel following this trend and should it continue to do so? Macgregor: If today’s US Army and Marine four-star generals have not figured it out, at least the American people know there is no point in trying to breathe new life into the comatose body of the perpetually failed states that litter the eastern hemisphere with American military power.

This is why “Margin of Victory” argues that the last major war’s technologies, force designs, and human capital strategies are seldom, if ever, perfect solutions for the next major war.

With the enemy at the gates, Israelis understand this point better than most.

The Report: Israel is focused on the Iranian threat. Are there other major conflicts with neighbors such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Russia it should also either a) make provisional plans for, or b) take exceptional efforts to avert? Macgregor: How [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s policies will play out in the shadow of Russian military power in Syria and on Turkey’s Caucasian border is hard to predict. After 1967, the Israelis gave little serious thought to the possibility that the Egyptians would do anything rash like start a war. Tel Aviv should not make this mistake when dealing with the Turks.

Erdogan’s readiness to cooperate with Moscow and Tehran suggest Erdogan is willing to set aside his visceral distaste for Shi’ite Persians and Orthodox Russians in favor of an arrangement that promises to constrain, undermine or destroy Israel and the West.

In addition, unlike the Iranian population that is resolutely non-martial and largely insulated from Iran’s military adventures in Iraq and Syria, the Turkish population is intensely proud of its Ottoman military heritage and stands behind Erdoğan.

Tel Aviv and Washington should also monitor Erdoğan’s close relationship with Islamabad and Islamabad’s potential to assist Ankara with nuclear weapons on short notice. Ankara’s confidence in this relationship is one of the reasons why Tehran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon never worried Ankara.

In summary, I believe that Israel confronts a new strategic environment in which Tel Aviv is unlikely to enjoy a nuclear monopoly.

This development will put a premium on the IDF’s capabilities for high-end conventional warfare to ensure the necessity for nuclear weapons does not arise.

For Washington, the key lesson of the last 16 years is that bungled military interventions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan could distract the warring Islamist parties from their struggle with each other and impart cohesion to the anti-Israeli/anti-Western coalition of Turks, Russians and Iranians
 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

North Korea won't start a war - Trump shouldn't launch an attack

By Douglas Macgregor | Fox News

Listen to the mainstream media and President Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and you would conclude that war on the Korean Peninsula is imminent, right?
You’d be wrong. The only way a war breaks out in Northeast Asia is if Washington starts it. Let me tell you why.
The 50-year war between North Korea and its neighbor South Korea is over. North Korea lost. Dictator Kim Jong Un now presides over a dying society in the North – a prison camp full of about 25 million miserable, starving people masquerading as a country. North Korea lags in economic terms somewhere behind Ethiopia.
In contrast, South Korea is an economic juggernaut; a nation of roughly 51 million with an economy larger than that of Russia, which has a population of about 144 million. In terms of per capita gross domestic product, South Korea ranks 31st in the world, while Russia ranks 68th and North Korea ranks nowhere.
Kim’s armed forces mirror his society’s tragic condition. They are an aging tribute to the Soviet forces of the 1970s. Any attempt to employ them against South Korea’s modern armed forces would end in devastating defeat for North Korea.
Kim also knows that missile attacks launched from his soil against the South Korea, Japan or the United States would result in the immediate and total destruction of his Stalinist regime.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told Kim in very clear terms that if Kim launches an attack on his neighbors or the United States, he is on his own. The Chinese armed forces will stand by and watch as Kim’s regime is systematically annihilated.
To reiterate, the only way war breaks out in Northeast Asia is if the United States starts it. And this insight explains Kim’s strategy. His best chance of survival is to goad President Trump into attacking him. Then Beijing – despite the Chinese distaste for their North Korean neighbor – will be obligated to intervene to defend Kim’s regime.
With this point in mind, Kim has turned to Moscow, not Beijing, for help. Moscow sees Washington’s renewed interest in bringing down Kim as an opportunity. From Moscow’s perspective, North Korea is useful insofar as it can be leveraged in a high-stakes game to bring Washington into conflict with not only North Korea, but more importantly with China.
While China will not support North Korea in a war unleashed by the Kim regime, Beijing has said the Chinese Armed Forces will assist Kim if Washington attacks North Korea.
To promote conflict with China – something President Trump made less likely with his wise diplomacy toward China – Moscow is willing to provide just enough technical assistance to create the illusion of capability in North Korea. 
The North’s recent missile launch is a case in point. The liquid-fueled rocket that North Korea launched into space recently lacked precision guidance, as well as a viable warhead. And, like its predecessors, the rocket broke up on reentry and crashed in pieces into the sea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in summed up the 50-minute rocket test by saying it was not clear “whether the communist nation has in fact built nuclear weapons, let alone perfected its missile technology.”
For Washington, the right course of action is obvious. Don’t take the bait. As former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates warned some time ago: "Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
The sole beneficiary of a conflict between the United States and China is Russia.
Like Serbia in 1914, North Korea is unpopular with virtually every nation in the world, including China. On the eve of World War I, the Guardian newspaper noted sarcastically that “if it were physically possible for Serbia to be towed out to sea and sunk there, the air of Europe would at once seem cleaner.” Most of the world would readily apply this description to North Korea.
Of course, in 1914 not a single European statesman regarded Serbia as a country so important that every major power in Europe – and eventually the world – would go to war over its future. Yet, thanks to Russia’s decision to mobilize its armies and back Serbia, that’s exactly what happened.
My advice to President Trump is simple: Mr. President, Moscow is inciting Rocket Man. Don’t take the bait.
Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, a Ph.D. and the author of five books; his most recent is Margin of Victory (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/12/10/north-korea-wont-start-war-trump-shouldnt-launch-attack.html 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

General: Army Needs More Futurists to Better Predict Conflict

 Douglas Macgregor's comments regarding the article below:

Some observations about General Hix’s assertions in the article at the bottom of the email:

·         Hix is wrong to suggest that Urbanization is a new trend. It’s been going on since the Industrial Revolution. Colonel General Gareev was no futurist, but correctly identified the trend lines in technological development in the late 1970s. Our approach to ‘urban operations’ reflects the heavily politicized approach taken in the permissive environments of the Middle East and Afghanistan. In a future war against a modern opponent with armies, air forces and air defenses, urban combat operations would result in a high-tech version of Aachen in DEC-JAN 1944-45, or Manila in FEB-MARCH 1945. It would still be ugly, dirty and require enormous quantities of firepower and mobile armored platforms. Civilian losses would be very high.

·         Hix is wrong about Ukraine and Crimea. An objective study of history would have shown why Moscow’s seizure of Crimea should not have been a surprise. In addition to figuring prominently in Russia’s wars against Muslim Tatars and Turks from the 11th Century to 1776, Crimea was treated as strategically vital by Moscow in 1941-42. It cost Moscow hundreds of thousands of lives before the war ended. Its symbolic importance with its history and large Russian population made it an ideal target for Putin’s liberation.  However, pushing further East into Central and Western Ukraine would present Putin with the same stiff resistance the Tsars, Bolsheviks and Soviets encountered over several centuries.

·         Hix is also wrong about the US Army’s poor performance at the opening of WW II. Army planners still expected to use horse cavalry in 1941 despite all of the evidence against the idea. (In fact, US Army horse cavalry was used during the Philippines campaign in 1942). He also neglects to note that the ARMY leadership court martialed Mitchell for a range of reasons including arguing that airpower could sink battleships. Officers during the interwar period lived in an environment that is all too reminiscent of the current Army. As Dr. David Johnson noted in his book about the Army during the interwar period.

In a period of fiscal constraint, and in the absence of compelling threats, between 1919 and 1939, the Army’s senior leaders:
    • Focused on traditional roles—re-fought the last “successful” war or, in the British Case, the Empire - constabulary force
    • Tried to advance the Single Service way of fighting
    • Endeavored to preserve status quo
    • Fought for budget share
    • Tinkered on the margins - no real innovation
    • Experimented with the familiar
    • Until BG George Marshall was promoted to four stars and became Chief of Staff, the top leadership cloned itself—officers who did not conform vanished!

·         Today it’s the US Army’s senior leadership that clings to anachronistic WW II-Cold War organizations (Brigades, Divisions, Corps) coupled with a very unhealthy romanticism about the use of wheeled vehicles and light infantry in anything other than a permissive environment. These factors and the deeply held conviction that anything a Four Star does not say must be wrong obstructs the implementation of the ISR-STRIKE-Maneuver-Sustainment framework that the Soviet General Staff identified as the future war-winning capability decades ago. It is the Army’s Four Stars that are actively campaigning against “Integrated, All Arms-All Effects” operations and Joint, Integrated Command and Control Structures on the operational level.

·         A quick glance at contemporary Russian Force Development points to the majority of the fundamental structural and doctrinal changes outlined in Breaking the Phalanx (1997) and Transformation under Fire (2003). In fact, the 15 March 2017 testimony to the Air-Land Committee provides a far more realistic snapshot of future high intensity conventional war than the fanciful conversations held in the conference at the Atlantic Council. http://douglasmacgregor.com/15march2017testimony.pdf

·         SCIFI COMMENT: Liu is typical of Sci-Fi writers overly optimistic and overly stating scientific and technological development. He also has no business stating that history doesn’t predict. Technological progress is evolution and connections. Sci-Fi originated as a story-telling device that is focused less on science and more on philosophy and sociology.

·         Finally, ‘revolutions in technology’ operate differently from the way they are described. The revolutionary impact on society stems from the adoption and incorporation of technology developed over time. It always takes longer for militaries to assimilate new technology than it does to develop it. The first Jet Driven Fighter Aircraft was demonstrated to the leadership of the German Air Force in 1939. Unfortunately, none of the uniformed observers could figure out what to do with the new device. By the time they did, the war was lost. This is not unusual in the history of military establishments.

·         The science historian James Burke who starred in a PBS television series called ‘Connections’ in the late 1970s is much more accurate in his description of how technological development occurs. Unfortunately, too many general officers think that if something can be imagined,  the technology can be made real through sheer effort. This is how we waste vast sums of money on the railgun, EMP, laser cannons, quantum computers, ‘autonomous’ robots, swarms, water out of the air, 3D printers, etc. all of which are overstated/exaggerated.  Many come with physical limitations that won’t make them practical to real world utility. True artificial intelligence—the machine equivalent of the human mind—does not exist. What we see are better algorithms at work, not AI. Paul Allen’s comment is still valid: “Scientists attempting to create AI today are like 15th Century Sculptors trying to reverse engineer a Boeing 707.”


Military.com

6 December 2017

General: Army Needs More Futurists to Better Predict Conflict

By Matthew Cox

Army officials, analysts and authors met Wednesday to try to improve the U.S. military's poor track record of predicting future conflict.
Maj. Gen. William Hix, director of strategy, plans and policy for the office of the U.S. Army's Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, said, "Prediction is fraught with danger," at the Atlantic Council's U.S. Army Futures Forum.
Throughout history, there have been many "sad examples" of the tendency of people to optimistically embrace the idea of decisive opening strikes and quick finishes for war, Hix said.
"Most often, those predictions have been hugely wrong and, in some cases, resulted in catastrophe," he said.
A large part of the problem is the failure to anticipate social and political change, as well as technology revolutions, Hix said, citing America's experience in the Civil War.
"Most of our officers were trained in Napoleonic methods, and we missed the fact that the industrial age was maturing," he said. "And the casualty rates that we suffered on both sides of our Civil War are indicative of the fact that we missed the importance of relatively small things like rifled muskets, artillery that fired indirectly, repeating arms, the railroad and the telegraph and what that meant to the speed of war at that time.
"Today, our failure to watch for those types of signals has led to strategic surprise in the Russian actions of Crimea," Hix said. "The Ukraine, in many respects, is a harbinger of future war ... and the long-term rise of China and the autonomy -- I think the world economic forum calls it the fourth industrial age -- suggests a potential shift in the character of war that is as profound and fundamental as the transition from the 19th to the 20th century."
Urbanization, speed, lethality, autonomy -- many things that used to be science fiction are rapidly becoming reality, and some of America's adversaries are moving quicker in these spaces than the United States, he said. 
Unfortunately, the U.S. Army has a bad habit of failing to anticipate how advanced its adversaries are and then coming up short in the opening days of conflict, Hix said.
"Our record in the opening stage of most major conflicts we have been in has been poor," he said.
The U.S.' success in Operation Desert Storm is not the norm, Hix said, adding the normal experience is Kasserine Pass in North Africa -- a major defeat for the U.S. Army in 1944 during World War II.
"We have to learn what parts of war are going to come with us in the future, and what pieces we are going to have to discard, and what pieces we are going to have to embrace," he said.
But Ken Liu, author of "The Paper Menagerie, The Grace of Kings," cautioned against the tendency to rely on history to predict the future.
Mankind's addiction to stories and storytelling is often the reason why it fails to predict the future correctly, Liu said, describing this as a cognitive bias for the species.
"We literally cannot understand the world as it is; we understand the world [by] making a story out of it," he said. "The universe is irreducibly random, but we cannot seem to accept that, so we have to construct a narrative about why things are happening."
Liu, a science-fiction author, has made a study of this with a particular focus on why most sci-fi authors "have been terrible at predicting the future."
"We have a tendency to do the following: When you are in the moment, when you are looking toward the future, the reality is -- for any problem that you are trying to solve -- there are multiple teams round the world trying to tackle that from multiple directions, and the possibilities for the future are endlessly open," he said, citing the history of touch screen interfaces, a technology the world has been trying to perfect since the 1960s.
"In the moment, when you are looking forward, it is very hard to know which of these approaches will succeed and dominate the future," Liu said. "The problem is, once you are past that point and you are looking backward -- the iPhone came out, it is very tempting, almost inevitable for everybody who lived in this situation to construct a narrative for why that particular breakthrough was inevitable. This is the way history is written.
"We like to tell history as a series of stories of plots, of causes and effects, of inevitable lines of evolution," he said.
When humans look backward, it is very easy to construct a narrative saying, "Why did everyone else miss that this was the only path that could have succeeded?" he added.
"That is not true," Liu argued. "Actually, history is all of these random reasons why one particular approach succeeded over others, and it's very, very tempting to say, 'We should be able to predict the future because if you look at the past there is a clear narrative about why we ended up here.' "
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.