APL Forum: Biotechnology for the Nation – BioDeployed


Well thank you so much and
welcome back from lunch I’m Christine Fox and I’m the assistant director for
policy and analysis at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory so after a
great morning we’re now going to turn our attention to biotechnology and its
potential implications for the future battlefield and what a future
battlefield that might be in that future battlefield the vehicle rolls down a
road and the weeds along the side nearby change color in a way that is
imperceptible to the native eye but is detectable by airborne sensors a ship
sails through the ocean its route tracked from space as it passes through
vegetation floating on the surface in that world corrosion on an aircraft
fades away after bacteria are applied to the surface and deploying troops take
one pill that makes them immune to all of the major diseases in an infested
region what an exciting future right or is it if even some of these
bioengineered capabilities come to pass how it might have changed the future of
warfare and at what scale if we can engineer plants that sense the movement
of specialized vehicles is this akin to the invention of radar or does the
source of these newer fighting tools manipulated DNA process living organisms
make them fundamentally different from the weapons and military equipment
rolling off of our production lines today it would be a wonderful thing to
turn bacteria into corrosion fighters but could we get that genie back in the
bottle if the bacterias start eating the metal itself and of course every
marvelous military capability would would fall into the hands of our
potential adversaries whether or not it’s through their own aggressive R&D or
through theft if they get them how do we deter them and once again is this really
different than any other transformative military instrument that we have dealt
with in the past or should biotech capability
be treated more like nuclear weapons restricted by practice and treaty but
then maybe that’s not realistic in this century of biology well fortunately for
us we have a superb panel to grapple with these issues today first we have
Diane doulas who is from the National Defense University and Diane is going to
help us understand the state of these technology and their applications to
military warfare then our Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson will
talk about how these new technologies will change the maritime domain thank
you so much John for taking time to be with us today I know you’d really rather
be testifying about shipbuilding on Capitol Hill yeah exactly
next retired Marine Corps General John Allen with his experience commanding
forces in and around Iraq and Afghanistan our will provide his
perspective on the implications for these new capabilities for joint warfare
and finally our former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob work who’s thought deeply
about the changing nature of warfare through his work on the third offset
strategy we’ll talk about the role that biotech capabilities could play in this
changed future world so again panels thank you so very much
for being with us today to talk about this important topic and I’d like with
that to turn it over to you Diane great thank you so much thanks for inviting me
to this terrific conference and I’m very honored to be on a panel with such
distinguished speakers and with that said I have a very hard challenge today
which is to talk about all the exciting biotechnology that represents an
opportunity for defense in only 10 minutes so what I thought I would do
today is talk about a handful of technologies that I think are ready for
primetime or poised to be ready for primetime for the force and then at the
very end I’d like to mention one or two challenges I think we have in the
reality of bringing these kinds of tools to the warfighter so biotechnology is a
really rich landscape you heard about some of that this morning it’s limited
only by our imagination we can talk about bio defense for warfighter
protection for warfighter enhancement we can also talk about a wide range of
tools that Warfighter could use in a number of
different sectors so in bio defense some of you may be familiar with a report
that recently came out from the National Academies that was commissioned by the
chembio defense program and dr. hassel and really the upshot of this report in
looking at synthetic biology in the warfighter was that synthetic biology
can expand the scope of concerns for DoD in the bio threat arena but at the same
time synthetic biology is providing the tools that we need to mitigate those
concerns so in some sense there’s comfort here
because this is familiar territory we know the kinds of things we need to do
to combat rapidly evolving bio threats and they are things like the development
of rapid Diagnostics there’s a technology called Sherlock which can
rapidly screen for genes and pathogens we know we need to make rapid medical
countermeasures it’s a program called prism which is involved with the
creation of medical countermeasure platforms one in particular is using
antibody therapies so they can be tweaked in real-time to respond to a
rapidly evolving threat but synthetic biology also lets us harness the
internal machinery of natural fungi or bacteria that make natural antibiotics
and we can transport that cellular machinery to manufacturing platforms so
we could more rapidly make rapidly and efficiently make antibiotics or we could
make completely novel antibiotics based on CRISPR for example or we could make
novel vaccines based on DNA for example all of these are in the realm of
possibility and on the horizon but we could protect war fighters in other ways
and the example I wanted to mention here is the microbiome you heard about the
skin microbiome this morning I want to talk about the gut microbiome so we know
that where fighters get deployed into places where they can frequently
experience gastric distress and because of the gut brain connection when you
experience gastric problems you can also experience cognitive problems
whether you’re experiencing physical or mental problems you’re out of the fight
right and that’s a problem and we need to fix that so what is the state of the
technology here where there’s a number of companies working on this there’s a
company called rebury biotics which is working on a microbiota restoration
therapy and this is actually in phase 3 clinical trials in people right now some
of you may have heard the news from sin logic this summer where they engineered
microbiome components and according to the the news that said they drank a pink
milkshake I don’t know if it was really a pink milkshake but that’s what I heard
and so patients who have a metabolic disease they’re missing a particular
protein they can drink the shake and the microbiome that they ingest makes that
missing protein for them and the disease so we could actually deliver
therapeutics or or medical countermeasures in this way so again any
Inhumans now so they could translate to the warfighter I think a sensors and
materials is a really rich area right now that’s advancing rapidly the example
I like to show one of my favorites is the spider silk bolt threads is making
hats and ties and a moon parka and of course DoD is very interested in spider
silk for a body armor it could be lighter flexible and
potentially have the durability that approaches Kevlar a company name of
vulva I believe is working with the Navy and they’re making a polymer composite
from resveratrol that very cool molecule and red wine that you probably have
heard about but the key here is that this composite is lighter than aluminum
and it’s extremely heat resistant and resists degradation in flame so if you
can think of lighter drones that could carry heavier payloads or you could
think of airframes or shipbuilding material so this is very exciting
and then lastly I’d like to show I’d like to talk about melanin this is the
pigment you know that’s in your skin and this can be engineered into what’s being
called a medical tattoo so you put this melanin on the skin
can tell you about things that a warfighter is potentially exposed to in
the environment or it could tell you things about
molecules that are circulating in a war fighters body okay that’s really
important now personally I think if we deploy this to war fighters it should
look like this that’s just my personal opinion yes sir okay so moving to fuels
energy and power I think this field may be a little
further out maybe we’re looking at more five to ten years out than some of these
other technologies I’m showing but our friend melanin is here as well and could
be engineered into organic materials and batteries many of you have already heard
of the engineering of biofuels in algae and so this is not just for factory
standard vehicles but also for jet fuel potentially and then lastly I like this
little geo bacter organism that secretes these tiny little nano filaments which
are actually electrically conductive so we can engineer these bacteria to
produce things that might go into other kinds of instrumentation so again this
is just a handful of examples that are being investigated by the DoD I want to
just spend my last two minutes talking about a couple of challenges so these
technologies are being developed by the program which is synthetic biology for
military environments you heard from DARPA this morning I’ve already
mentioned the chem bio defense program so many components of DoD are touching
the elephant that is biotechnology in some place so I think it would be great
if we can build a community of interest in DoD that could ask strategic
questions like you know what should be our highest biotechnology priorities and
what are the unique problems that DoD is facing that are best solved by
biotechnology and if we go on to prioritize and acquire those things we
should also be assessing them for their risks and vulnerabilities so if we
decide to have war fighters wearing spider silk body armor our adversaries
are gonna try and find chinks in that body armor in ways that they can defeat
it or degrade it and so all of these technologies could be co-opted in ways
that we don’t want to see and we should be having that conversation jointly as
we develop them and the last thing I will say is that I think that DoD needs
to learn how to be a better customer for the synthetic biology industry I
purposely chose technologies that have commercial applications very promising
commercial applications as well as military applications if we can use
resveratrol polymers in fighter jets we can use them in commercial airlines and
so I think the synthetic biology industry would be anxious to partner
with DoD if we can find ways that make those contracts nimble and agile and
attractive for that community and then we could really put biotechnology in the
hand of every warfighter so thank you very much for your attention and I will
cede the floor to my colleagues Thank You Diane that’s perfect
appreciate that and so now over to you see them all right well first I thought
I was going to uuv conference and so I’m up here just a single-cell protozoa
amongst a carnivorous multicellular field up here on the panel but I you
know as I thought about it you know my first inclination was what I’m supremely
unqualified to be here but you know the oceans are just this vast environment of
biodiversity and we’re you know we’re operating in that environment all the
time and so much may be more familiar with it and that we give ourselves
credit for and the thing that we’ve been working on in the Navy in general is
just trying to keep up with the pace of change technological change change in
the security environment you know things are changing very very quickly yeah and
these are gonna have big impacts on how people interface with the oceans and
therefore how you know navies have to meet that responsibility so I just got
back from Indonesia trip to Indonesia we went to the Philippines Indonesia down
to Australia New Zealand and so we had a chance to spend some time in Jakarta and
I had I could have used some of that pink milkshake actually coming back but
the you know Jakarta Indonesia is an amazing place as megacity 25 million
people in fact the rush hour volume in Jakarta Indonesia equals the population
of Norway all right that many people move in and out of Jakarta each day and
so very very highly coupled with the sea about 31 mega cities a mega city a city
of more than ten million people about 31 of them now in the next 10 years they’ll
be 10 more 41 mega cities in this urbanisation almost all of them near the
sea okay just to give you a sense at the macro level with respect to biology and
the oceans the amount of food that humans are getting from the ocean right
now is in the neighborhood of 150 million tonnes a year
okay just protein and carbohydrate and growing of course as people grow and get
closer to the sea and you know the the pace of change at sea in even
traditional areas probably much higher than you might think
shipping you know growing exponentially four times increased 400% increase in
the last 20 years which is something given that people have been going to sea
for 10,000 years and access to resources and and the biology of the sea just
increasing looking forward as I said it’s only gonna get more so the security
environment very very highly coupled with the sea you hear a lot of terms
like the blue economy okay the blue century and so you know I just
come to work each day with a very healthy knot in my stomach about what
this all means for our Navy what we started to do just to give you another
sense of how this fits in we’ve we’re spending a lot of our promising thinkers
out to a place in California called singularity University and singularity
University is run by dr. kurtzweil and the singularity that he talks about is
on these exponential write rates of change you know eventually that rate
goes almost vertical and becomes like a singularity so this this university is
all about trying to discuss and capture the implications of that that pace of
change that’s kind of singularity in the exponential curve and the people that
come but we send folks in it’s a super diverse student body and I will tell you
that when our folks come back the area that is most exciting that they’re
talking about in terms of exponential pace of changes in about this field
right biology biomechanics biotechnology and there is not only a great excitement
in terms of the rate of change but they say that more than any other place that
they talk about whether it’s autonomy artificial intelligence there’s a sense
of confidence in the biotech sector that this will happen right 100 will become
the new 60 all right and it will happen within the next ten years I mean this
there’s just a degree of certainty about this that you know that it really hits
you when you start to talk about these people doing genetic splicing
reengineering your gene erasing genetic diseases combating viruses bacteria etc
what does this all mean for Navis we can’t afford to let this you know go by
without taking a look at the opportunities I know that Admiral
stavridis kind of talked to you about science fiction may have told you you
know that science fiction is an interesting genre when we think about hg
wells and Jules burn and the earliest science fiction writers their time
horizon was generally almost a century in the future right I mean now good
science fiction is really 25 years in the future right I mean the time it just
gives you again a sense for how fast things are changing well we’ve taken
look at this in terms of its implications on the operating
environment you’ve already heard many of those application applications
biology biotechnology is a form of sensing right whether that be algae or
any number the ability to detect DNA as its left behind in the water column
advanced sensors on beachheads micro UAVs that use biomimicry to go forward
and you you know and achieve a level of performance taking advantage of well
evolution right taking advantages of thousands of years of evolution and
using biomimicry we take a look at its impact on our equipment and so you know
self-healing paint for instance which is sort of fueled by a biotechnology algae
that can adhere to the hull and I dynamically dampen sound which is very
interesting to us from another from from a number of areas and then a biotech
that can actually sustain equipment as it’s running right so this is things
that can clean out heat exchangers in real time right prevent fouling from
building up we mentioned the paint there’s a number of things there and
then finally it’s sort of the thing that’s really most captivating from an
imagination standpoint is what could this mean for human performance so we
talked about the how to regulate your gut and what that might mean for
enhancing your sleep right and the impact on sleep and decision-making has
been well-documented biology in the service of increasing our
our ability to concentrate you know again by regulating your internal
biology building resilience we’re using we’re exploring a biotech in terms of
our diving community right and so can we really you know through examining the
photosynthesis process extract oxygen directly from the sea to enhance scuba
divers ability to stay underwater and so that’s you know actually not too
advanced but then you know how do you get the carbon dioxide back out right
what’s that what’s the what can biotech possibly contribute to that so there’s
you know a number of really cool things that we can take a look at i’ve got
about 25 minutes of material just in my opening remarks but i’ll save it for the
questions suffice it to say that we’re investing heavily both the Office of
Naval Research has a number of facets of their their sort of strategic plan in
terms of getting after what basic science and technology might a yield for
us we just recently stood up Task Force ocean which is a dedicated effort to get
us back into a competitive stance with respect to the ocean sciences and all of
this now to give us this you know this advantage whether it’s the through the
third offset strategy or really kind of novice taking advantage of every trick
that we can to remain competitive in this new era of great power competition
because we’re not the only ones that are reading this literature right it is a
competition and we just can’t fool ourselves that were the only ones in
this game so thank you all very much thank you for inviting me to this I look
forward to the questions general well thanks very much for the invitation it’s
wonderful to be here this afternoon and a number of the between Diana and the
and the CNO I think a number of points have been touched I’m gonna try to make
four points and it’s not an advertisement for Brookings but it’s
just to give you a sense of the kinds of things we’re doing every day
two days ago I spent a good bit of time with the Chief of Police of Afghanistan
to talk about the future of that conflict just met with a number of
experts from around the world on girls education in developing countries came
here from a post-mortem of the midterm elections and I go back to talk about
tax policy under the Trump administration so I’m living in policy
hell right now and I’m working trying to work my way into something really
important biotechnology I am gonna use the opportunity of being involved in a
public policy research institution to talk about a couple of things that I
think are important that I hope I’m not shooting on Bob’s target here first is
as we think about emerging technologies at Brookings as I think about it as as a
scholar we cannot ignore the inherent and historic relationship and the
equilibrium that occurs between the character of war which is by and large
defined by technologies and the nature of war which is has been traditionally
defined by the human factor associated in conflict and for the vast majority of
our history the two have largely been separate but
in many cases were out of equilibrium where technology would move forward but
the human component wouldn’t fully understand wouldn’t fully grasp the
potential for technology as it relates altum Utley to waging war and being
engaged in conflict and on those occasions often strategic surprise was
the result I think biotechnology is one of these occasions where we have a
crossover actually it’s one of the very few I think in history where not only
will we see enormous movement forward in the character of war as a result of what
can be brought to the table if you will in terms of biotechnology across the
spectrum of conflict but we also have the capability through biotechnology to
change the human himself or herself in the equation of conflict in very real
ways and this I think between that and the potential
value of the potential evolution of artificial intelligence algorithms which
can be conducting autonomous decision-making at some point moving
towards singularity these are real changes in conflict which we as a nation
need to understand that as technology moves asymptotically vertically we have
got to ensure that the human component and the human capacity to understand
this technology is properly bought into brought into equilibrium that’s my first
point the second point is that as we look in the context of public policy on
emerging technologies and in particular in particular this one we apply an
acronym to this work called Elsi Els little I the others are capital
we have to spend time thinking about in the public policy realm of the ethical
components of this the ethical dimension of research and fielding of these
capabilities and Christine mentioned it in her opening remarks there could be
some downside to this in fact there there not only could be there will be
huge downsides to this so what are the ethical implications of what it is we’re
doing in biotechnology and I know ethicists and scientists in many
respects are seized with this issue right now the second area is the L is
what are the legal dimensions and the potential legislative implications as we
move forward in biotechnology but more specifically advanced technologies and
what you have what you have seen on occasions where for example mark
zuckerberg testified on the hill not long ago about facebook was the
collision of an enormous ly sophisticated technological society if
you will in a head-on collision with the traditional forms of government that we
know today Westphalian government versus digital governance and will we will see
as government continues as governance continues an absence of the true and
complete understanding of what the implications are of biotechnology with
respect to legal or regulatory or policy formulation
and in the third area of the s is what are the societal implications of
biotechnology as Christine said the the limitations are it is limitless the
limitations are unbelievable in terms of how much we can achieve and I think the
CNO is correct certainly my grandchildren will almost
certainly live to be a hundred years old I think that that’s almost a certainty
at this point and so we we need to understand what the societal
implications are as we consider the ethical dimensions of what we do and we
consider legislation and policy to govern our actions as we go forward in a
regulatory environment with that I worry a lot frankly about the dark side of
this and how does a nation like the United States and our precious allies in
the community of nations how do we deter in an environment where we are operating
against opponents who are not constrained by the rule of law and a
commitment to universal human rights and to the protocols that we have been
involved in over the years a chemical weapons protocol bio weapons protocol
the Geneva Convention others that we have become signatories to how do we in
fact exist in this environment and how do we deter against it I mean we’ve
already seen and it’s not biological at this point or biotechnological but we’ve
seen the brazen assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim jong-nam
in kuala lumpur using a chemical agent we’ve seen the russians openly using
Novacek again attempting to assassinate a Russian agent in Salisbury in in the
United Kingdom bio technological capabilities gives you that kind of
precision pinpoint capacity to wage biological operations and that’s
potentially in the hands of state actors non-state actors which to the cno’s
point about the mega cities that we’re seeing evolve in the developing world
many of those mega cities are going to have huge components known as mega
slums wherein we have no capacity to see what’s going on in those mega slums and
they are in fact governed by non-state actors and very sophisticated
transnational criminal networks where this this kind of research can occur and
we may not even be able to sense it so I worry about how we deter against
biotechnology in the hands of the wrong individuals and finally again we’ve
touched on many of the components of and Diane’s very useful presentation touched
on many of it but for many for most of us on the ground side and most of us in
the joint force it comes down to basically performance enhancement or
cognitive enhancement neuro scientific enhancement and having been a grunt in
the Marine Corps for many many years the advantages that come from performance
enhancement from biotechnology and sophisticated research that will be
supportive of our bio structures it’s difficult in fact it’s not possible to
overstate how important that will be and Bob is a former is a marine artillery
man I’m a marine infantryman the whole idea of performance enhancement with
respect to drug enhancement for pain relief or pain suppression issues
associated with wakefulness issues associated with hyper vigilance disease
resistance the exoskeleton exoskeletal research
that has occurred that will help us in load-bearing cross terrain movement
enhanced protection environmental adaption look we have and the CNO knows
this very well we have sailors and Marines and soldiers serving in over 100
countries right now around the world in some form another many of them special
operators many of them operating in extreme cold weather environments or at
altitude many of them operating in the most extreme desert environments where
temperatures routinely are over 130 degrees Fahrenheit many of them
operating in jungle environments having the capacity through biotechnological
capabilities to both move through those environments and to be
environmentally adaptable to those environments enormous Lee both expands
our operational capabilities but also the protection of the force and so I am
very optimistic about where all this is going and I think it’s going to be
hugely valuable and of course in the area of cognitive enhancement I think
we’ve touched on that as well the enhancements that are associated with
mission accomplishment and post mission recovery but I also think there’s been
very very promising research that has been done frankly on something that we
continued to deal with and it may have been an issue with the most recent
shooting and that’s post-traumatic stress disorder
so Christine I’m very grateful for the opportunity to come and lay some of this
out there are policy issues there are deterrence issues there are historic
issues associated with the equilibrium of the character and nature of war that
will be defined in many respects in the future in the very near future by
biotechnology and I think that the horizon for understanding this is very
very high frankly for most Americans we don’t have a sense of just the potential
that we will experience in this world in a bio technologically enhanced world so
thank you for forming this great to be back Christine I think everybody knows
that as the deputy secretary I spent a lot of time on trying to push the
importance of artificial intelligences of autonomy throughout the department
but artificial intelligence and autonomy is just one side of a two-sided coin so
artificial intelligence machine intelligence is the powerful programming
that imbues machines with the intelligence that is equal to or perhaps
better than human beings and it will allow us to delegate more and more
authority and decision-making to machines and have all sorts of new types
of human machine combat teaming and collaboration but on the other side of
that same coin as biotechnology it is the exact same coin and it is the
convergence of biotech and digitization that allows us to read write and edit
genetic code and use organisms as programmable manufacturing machines so I
hate to go out you know never say never and never say always but I am relatively
certain of three things one genetic genomics and synthetic biology will have
the greatest single impact on life and the human condition in the 21st century
AI and autonomy will have the greatest single impact on the character and
nature of war in the 21st century there’ll be interaction between the two
but I believe that that is the right way to look at it and the third certainty is
both of them will engender the similar intense debates around the ethical legal
societal and I’ll add one more John moral issues on how far do we take AI
and give machines essentially in human-like intelligence and perhaps
super intelligence and how far are we going to take biotechnology now in my
view the Department of Defense has viewed biotechnology through three
phases that aren’t clean have a lot of overlap but the first phase is
protection it’s been the primary focus of the Department of Defense on being
able to respond to virulent diseases and engineered weapons now the basis for
this is we scared the crap out of ourselves when we had our own bio
warfare program in the Cold War so much so that in 1969 when President Nixon
shut down our program we burned all the records because we were afraid that
anyone would get their hands on them because the conclusion of our tests was
that bio warfare was as lethal and a effective as thermo nuclear attack that
was the fundamental decision of our bio being the conclusion of our bio warfare
and in 1975 you can actually read a State Department that says that bio
weapons are as effective and as great a threat as thermonuclear weapons and that
was the year that we signed the biological and toxic weapon convention
where we promised not to do any more research or development of these weapons
but it’s not really enforceable so we were scared the second time when all the
defectors are from the Soviet Union from their bio warfare plant came over here
and said what they were doing they had tons literally tons of anthrax smallpox
and so it’s really something what we would do is we when we were thinking
about bio weapons we wanted to have an effect on the Fulda gap so we had to
have a fast-acting agent so we took a staph infection that was extremely
fast-acting that would knock people out within a couple hours and combined it
generally with tulum area which is rabbit fever that had a 40 to 60 percent
fatality rate now in addition to attacks on humans bio engineered weapons are
very good for attacking agriculture so this explains why protection has always
been the first phase of Department of Defense approach to biotechnology
genomics big data has helped us here there are three billion base pairs in a
human genome on average our guests and our ability to read that is getting to
be very very good and that allows us as you heard this morning in the great
presentations it allows us to ID the varial virulence of the pathogen the
transmission we can characterize it characterize it we can do better rapid
diagnosis and rapid response then we’re ability to write code we’re not as good
as reading code but we’re getting all the time as you heard this morning
so the second phase I think is assist and we’re shifting to do that now and
that’s where you’re assisting humans on the battlefield sensors biomedical
monitoring power foraging things that will help humans on the battle
battlefield and that is ongoing right now in a very robust way you heard many
examples of that this morning the next phase I’ll call restore and
repair and it’s of the human and you heard about that for prosthetics and
electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves for PTSD we’re moving into pre
deep 3d printing of organs there’s a nice thing out out there where we’re
looking at the bio inks that will allow us to print skin and print livers and
you know be able to restore and repair and you’ll also be able to hurt you
heard the CNO talk about maybe going after corrosion or rust or taking care
of you know restoring and repairing heat exchangers and then the fourth phase
which is a simple move across from restoring and repair is human
modification and enhancement and that is the one that is going to cause the most
debate on when and how far we go now an interesting connection between the one
side of the coin ai and the other side of the coin biotechnology is brain
computer interface where you connect the two so you have human in the loop we
talk about that and that is a human who is making positive decisions on the loop
there are no decisions delegated to machines machines pass information the
human makes the decision then there’s human on the loop decisions have been
delegated to machine and you command by negation the human interjects when a
decision has been made that human doesn’t want I’m trying to come up with
the name of what happens when the human is physically connected to the
Loup and can conceive of the decision as the machine is making it men it’s hard
to think but I think it leads to hyper war which John has written about very
eloquently over a long period of time now the thing that I’m most interested
in exploring now and we’re just getting into it is synthetic biology we figure
out how nature makes things and then we create a living organism as a
programmable manufacturing system computers move bytes proteins move atoms
we know the code we can program the code we’re getting pretty darn good at it
we’re gonna write and edit the code we can do it at nanometre precision atom
level and we can do it at continental scale you can literally conceive of
growing a new Amazon basin somewhere you could actually grow a jungle so nano
precision continental scale it’s boggles my mind so Stanford I know
took 23 genes from five different species popped it in yeast and it
manufactures opioids that’s happening today
you could do a combination of use to yeast and e-coli and they can create
flavors and fragrances I found out that peach is very hard to make well it isn’t
hard by combining these things plants they use a lot of nitrogen we build a
lot of fertilizer fertilizer extremely energy intensive we can create plants
that make their own nitrogen and get rid of fertilizer maize needs a lot of water
well we’re gonna probably be able to bioengineer it so it doesn’t and you
heard about new new materials like spider silk so this whole thing of
synthetic biology and programmable machines
I mean programmable manufacturing there are people who say we will grow
buildings living buildings I want to see that future and I hope they get to 100
within the next five years instead of 10 so I might see it now I always talk
about competition China has
this is this is China leader the United Kingdom made the Industrial Revolution
the u.s. led the digital resolution China will own the biotechnical
revolution it is one of their top priorities
along with AI it’s part and parcel of China 2025 they’re building enormous
infrastructure they have the largest library of sequences right now they
invest in 40 percent of all US biotech firms they are buying out u.s. Payoh
tech companies and look the winning country in this competition will set the
rules their needs will drive the pharma and the use rules will generally be
dominated by the lead country the United States does not want to lose this
competition we want to at least have parity but as everyone said there’s a
double-edged short-sword to this you probably saw on 5 November there’s
Washington Post article of a DARPA program called insect allies and it
talked about how a crop would be infected and be in danger of being wiped
out and insects would go out and implant the remedy within the same single
growing season five researchers in Europe Europe said this is a bio weapon
and it is prohibited by treaty so I’m sitting on one side I’m saying
man it would be great with all of the population growth that we would be able
to make sure there’s enough food for every human being on the planet and
biotechnology will allow us to get there but if we consider it a weapon well
that’s a bad thing so I’m very much looking forward to this debate and I’m
very glad as always that APL JJ hua PL is kind of in the forefront of getting
the government to think about these things it’s an exciting time thank you
thank you so much all of you for your fantastic
marks it is certainly a very challenging set of issues and so now I would like to
invite our audience to participate in our discussion and invite any of you to
ask questions of our fabulous panelists have a question from slide Oh for the
panel do you think that the current division of forces Army Navy Air Force
Marines is the best structural arrangement for DoD to dynamically
respond to rapid technology changes given that they all cut across missions
capabilities and challenges I think that the CNO and John are perfectly ready to
answer that question I’ll take a stab at it I think you would have to be have
your head completely in the sand to say that we’re optimally organized right now
we just aren’t these things have you know the scale of these things not only
this technology but so many technologies are there they’re cross-cutting that a
universal they have to connect across all services and we don’t have
organization the organization right now is not optimized to to do that things
are done more in kind of silo sirs is the word that comes to mind we’re
getting better and we’re kind of on you know we’ve got an understanding of the
problem definition but this is I think one of the fundamental challenges that
we have to get right otherwise we’re just going to try really hard to move
faster and we’re gonna struggle at it and we’ll fall further and further
behind I agree completely with the CNO I think the entire national security
mechanism needs a good top-to-bottom look because warfare that Bob used the
term if we move into an environment of hyper war which is war moving at speeds
where in the human in the loop by a to beyond the loop or in the loop or
insinuated in the loop this is going to move warfare at speeds we can’t even
begin to imagine I don’t know whether the services necessarily need to change
but I believe our operating forces certainly we certainly need two three
think the way our operating forces have the capacity to both be strategically
flexible agile and strategically deployable let me add one more thing
there there is a private sector component of this that we have yet to I
think fully understand first of all for the private sector it’s very difficult
to do business with the department defense very difficult the latency
associated from concept to deployment is a very long time relatively speaking
and if warfare is going to move into speeds that we think it will we need to
perhaps rethink the blending of the private sector and the public sector in
this concept in ways we have never thought of before we simply can’t be
behind the power curve on this I would say that I think the CNO and John are
right but more importantly is we’re not organized for experimentation
we have no slack in our force structure to do experimentation like we did in the
interwar period where we know that aviation is changing at a rapid pace and
we know there are new sensors like radar and sonar we know there’s radio and
unless you experiment with it you just have no idea what the next concept of
operation is so conceivably we could be organized okay in the for services but I
know we haven’t done enough joint experimentation to determine if the
capabilities we have are really going to lead to the transformation that I think
we need that’s where the private sector comes back in that’s where the whole
concept of how we judge obsolescence is extraordinarily important and the idea
of automated motto built model building and automated experimentation that can
keep the speed of concept going as systems become obsolete because the
movement and the speed of technology on the other side is moving at rates we
can’t even imagine at this point if I could just may it’s just such a rich
question I would say that you know what I said doesn’t mean
necessarily that the role of the services or the services as an
organizational construct as Donna you know there’s there’s physical domains
and those give rise to things and so these natural divisions are going to
persist but in the area and I would also say that the operational services are
doing a tremendous amount of experimentation in the field right that
sort of thing is happening in fact I just have to
I’d be happy and proud to show you the experimental program in the Navy and
we’re making more room for it that’s a matter of prioritization as much as
organization but in the way that we prototype discover acquire mature and
and field technologies and this was just not serving us it’s just not serve us 20
years ago u.s. government-funded research had a much greater component of
true basic science I see this now talking to Chinese colleagues at
meetings that any novel ideas not so much aimed at at utilitarian research
but true basic research still gets funded there was a point 20 years ago
when the Department of Defense funded the Human Genome Project
when basic research was more a component of NIH as close to today where the
mandate is much more about translational medicine to go from lab bench to bedside
is this something that the Defense Department could pick up this slack that
has been I think lacking in American basic in American research over the last
decade or even maybe two decades sure so I I have sort of two reactions to what
you’re saying in the basic research realm I think that in a lot of the
biotechnology that we’ve been talking about and I had emphasized how a huge
portion of that is being subsumed by this this growing industry this growing
bio economy where a lot of this research is
getting done at companies right and so technologies that we want to harness are
growing in the industry space so that’s so that’s one piece of it but but I
think we need to recognize that what’s happening now and that what is somewhat
different about biology now is the digitization of biology and I think
that’s changing the fundamental research picture as well right so there is a lot
of fundamental research going on but it’s about understanding what we need to
understand to digitize to get to all these cool bio technologies that
industry wants to build right we can’t build things unless we know what genes
are responsible for how they behave I mean one of the biggest utilities of
CRISPR when it when it came out is that it’s going to be able to do a ton of
building understanding in the basic research community about what genes do
how they behave metabolomics proteomics all the different omics you know are
being revealed so so as that as that knowledge base grows it’s feeding the
digitization of biology that enables all of these other tools so so I think I
think that’s shaping the picture of the change in the balance of how much basic
research is going on although I have heard from the NIH side and you know I
came from NIH before many many years ago that that that the synthetic biology
basic research at NIH is small compared to others so I do think there’s
something to what you’re saying so I think we have time for one more question
and I’m going to steal it and I’m going to ask you all a question
there’s something that we kind of all each of us have talked about but so
biotechnology has the potential to really completely change the way that we
think about detection sensors operating environment and coupled with AI you
start to get an even bigger change when you put the two together just as you
talked about Bob yet today in the department where we are on a path to buy
things that evolved from the thing before it and if we can’t really take a
strategic pause and say I’m going to throw all that out and I want to start
new with AI and biotech in the future of war
how do we go from where we are to where we could be without and have a
completely different paradigm for what we’re going to do and how we’re going to
operate I think until we figure out how to make that transition we’re gonna
continue to have this promise but be kind of stuck in the current legacy
paradigm and we’ve all thought about this and I don’t have an answer either
but I’m just curious what your thoughts are and what you’re seeing is
possibilities I’m curious on your thoughts how I got this leading role
junior person on stage I think be well I will tell you this so I don’t stavridis
gave a little bit of a glimpse of this through the science-fiction lens for
whatever reason I’ve been reading a lot of apocalyptic literature lately okay
and sometimes as I picked me up and and you know one of the things you know and
they’re always some kind of you know post-disaster whether it’s a nuclear war
we talked about that whether it’s some kind of a plague you know biotech gone
wrong and humanity is beat down into some you know a small representation of
itself and then has to come back right I mean it’s it’s it’s an it’s a common
theme and so you got to think about well if you could do something right now I’d
put it in a time capsule so that when humanity came out of Plato’s cave again
and started to repopulate right what would you want in that time capsule and
so there’s some interesting conversations about that and so one you
know most of them have something of a religious nature right the Bible or
something like that the Torah Quran but the other one that’s
pretty compelling is somehow put the scientific method in that that time
capsule and so as we think about moving forward and if you think about you know
if you want a new idea read or know a good an old book we’re going to
experiment our way forward and I think we are uniquely postured well we’re
uniquely responsible maybe if we take the security of our nation seriously
which we do you know it’s it’s hard to take a leap of faith into that because
you really you have to be move forward on an evidence-based basis and so now we
kind of get that engine spin it at a higher rpm right I mean that’s just kind
of goes back to my comment about organization so I would say that you
know that’s the way forward a lot of these revolutions the history is is
oversimplified right so we can talk about let’s say blitzkrieg which
somebody alluded to and you know there’s an awful lot of experimentation that was
done to perfect maneuver warfare on the European plains before world war ii
broke out and it actually you know happened
same with carrier aviation right it didn’t just sort of spring on us after
Pearl Harbor and the battleships were sunk we had 20 years of experimenting
and carrier aviation on which to fall back and I think that
it’s gonna be sort of the same going forward we’re gonna have to move forward
on evidence because it’s just too important to business to take a leap of
faith I see you knows exactly spot on here I think the couple a couple of
points and the question about our organization was really an important
question it goes to the character and the nature of war we have the capacity
as as the human component in conflict to be able to foresee in ways perhaps we
couldn’t with previous ways of waves of technology where this could take us and
we have to begin to think at the deep horizon right now about where all this
go what the implications are but again to the issue of are we sufficiently
well-organized at the governmental level to be able to do this and I would say we
just aren’t we can’t Jim mattis use the term speed of government the speed of
government is too slow right now for us to embrace the full potential of how
these technologies are coming out and we do have we’ve brilliant folks within the
services and at places like here and the Office of Naval Research and DARPA etc
who are looking for leap ahead opportunities so we’re not sort of
plotting our way through a whole series of linear innovations we’re looking for
that leap ahead technology but we’ve got to be organized in a way to take
advantage of it that’s the human factor associated with the character of war my
fear is that we are not fast enough of the speed of government as compared to
others who are dealing with the same technologies who may be faster than us
and when we get out of that equilibrium goes back to Pearl Harbor goes back to
the impact of the blitzkrieg goes back to the massive defeats of certain armies
in Europe because they could not envisage what the strategic implications
were of technologies that were becoming available I think that’s the biggest
challenge we have right now not the technology it’s our capacity to envisage
the potential of technology with the governmental apparatus second move fast
enough ultimately to employ it I would say that the United States has always
been a technological leader especially in the military sphere it’s been the
foundation of our national military strategy since the end of World War two
we are now in a technological competition with a competitor that the
United States has never seen before and they are intent on displacing us in the
technological realm in these very critical technologies biotechnology AI
etc so back to your question we are not organized as a nation to respond we
haven’t had our Sputnik moment yet we haven’t created an Apollo program which
really as an example of civil-military fusion
and private fusion we are not spending enough money on basic research the last
time I checked in IH was had about 9% of what they were spending in 2001 most of
the research in the Department of Defense is developmental research to get
a program across the line and I was talking to a very smart person last
night that said when you have 10 priorities in your research and
development program what you’re doing is you’re fighting really hard to be number
2 in all 10 we have to pick the ones that are really going to have a
dispositive change on the department and I would say that biotechnology and AI
are the ones we say as a military we have to understand how this will change
war as we conceived of it and start to experiment and working against this
we’ve been at war for 17 years I mean if you go back to the interwar period when
the Navy was doing its fleet problems if we had been at war 17 years during the
interwar period I guarantee you the Navy would not have had the slack to do fleet
problems and they wouldn’t have been ready for World War two the fact is they
had a lot of slack so they practiced every year and they experimented on all
sorts of stuff we’ve got to build that slack in so the joint force can
experiment together and really determine what future we want to develop and then
we’ll find out if we’re organized correctly that’s great thank you thank
you so much please join me in thanking this fantastic