Social media fundamentally changed strategic messaging, cutting the cost per effect by at least two orders of magnitude, probably more. It has become the most cost effective munition in the global arsenal. Even when it took teams of actual humans to populate content and troll farms to flood social media with messaging intended to result in a desired outcome, for example to swing an election, start a war, damage alliances, break treaties, or generate support for one particular policy, foreign or domestic, or another, it was still a revolution in reduced cost warfare.
Take Operation INFEKTION, the active measure campaign run by the KGB starting in about 1983″to create a favorable opinion for us abroad that this disease (AIDS) is the result of secret experiments with a new type of biological weapon by the secret services of the USA and the Pentagon that spun out of control.”
This campaign leveraged assets put in place as far back as 1962 and eventually consumed the authority of Prof. Jakob Segal as a self-referential authoritative citation. After a little more than a decade of relentless media placements of strategic messaging, even in the United States more than 25% of the population had been convinced AIDS was a government project and 12% had been manipulated into believing it was created and spread by the CIA. This project was tremendously successful despite having to overcome the then standard and generally principled editorial gate keeping that protected “traditional” media from abuse and cooptation by manufacturing plausible chains of authority and fabricating deep and broad reference chains to thwart fact checking.
By the 2016 Election, the KGB’s successors, the IRA and GRU, efficiently and expertly leveraged social media to achieve even more impressive results, possibly winning the most significant military battle in history, to alter the outcome of the US election at a cost of only a few billion dollars and within a mere 2-3 years of effort.
Any-to-any publishing circumvents editorial protections (he writes without a trace of irony). What might otherwise be a limitation of psyop being clearly outside any authorative endorsement, something that required the consumption of an asset like Jakob Segal to achieve in an earlier era, has been overwhelmingly diminished by a parallel effort to destroy trust in institutions and authority creating a direct path to shape the beliefs of targets through mass individualization of messaging unchecked by any need for longitudinal reputation building.
That the 2016 effort still cost billions, requiring a massive capacity build of English speaking, internet savvy teams inducted into “troll farms,” (many ironically located in Bulgaria given that county’s role in Operation INFEKTION) may already be obsolete just 8 years later.
Many have written about ChatGPT representing some sort of existential risk to humanity’s future, some quick resolution to the Fermi Paradox, but the real risk is an acceleration of the destruction of objective truth and the substitution conceptual paradigms that align with strategic outcomes.
As an example, let me introduce to you Dr. Alexander Greene, a person ChatGPT tells us “is a highly esteemed and celebrated professor with a remarkable career dedicated to advancing the fields of green energy and engineering.”
Obviously, it’s hard to really believe Dr. Greene without seeing the man himself, but fortunately we have a tool for that too:
A few images from bing/Dall-E and we can create a very convincing article that would easily pass muster as an authoritative discussion on the benefits of continuing to burn fossil fuels with minimal editing and formatting, just to cut out the caveats that ChatGPT inserts in counterfactual text requests we can have such pearls of wisdom to impart upon the world as:
Access to affordable and reliable energy is a crucial driver of economic development, and historically, fossil fuels have played a significant role in providing low-cost energy solutions. While there are concerns about the environmental impact of fossil fuels, particularly their contribution to climate change, it is essential to understand the benefits they have brought to the developing world and the potential consequences of increasing energy costs.
Read the whole synthetic article in pdf form below and consider the difficulty of finding a shared factual foundation in a world where it is trivial to synthesize plausible authority.