Connected, Continual Conflict: Towards a Cybernetic Model of Warfare




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Academic Publishing



Peer reviewed



“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” (George W. Bush)

The purpose of this paper is to argue that to see ‘cyber warfare’ as a discrete form of combat, or as merely a combination of Electronic and Information Warfare, is a fundamental error. We must see ‘cyber’ as shorthand for ‘cyberNETIC’, and cyber warfare as a form of conflict which operates across all domains, and where action in one domain inevitably influences other zones of conflict. The UK military is seeking to reshape itself according to the concept of Integrated Operating, and this paper contends that such a model is essential. Marshall McLuhan defined World War 3 as ‘a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation’; a cybernetic conflict is infinitely more complex, erasing the boundaries between kinetic and non-kinetic warfare, between civilian and military, and indeed between peace and war themselves. The paper will consider a scenario demonstrating what such a multi-domain conflict might be like, considering the use of non-human combatants operating in cooperation and against human forces, and the impossibility of maintaining a clear division between ‘war’ and ‘operations other than war’. Ultimately, it will contend that the current structures of military forces are too rigid and rooted in earlier eras of warfare to allow us to respond effectively to the conflicts that await us in the all-too-near future. Norbert Wiener sought to avoid applying his knowledge of cybernetics to the military domain; this paper argues that it must be done. It is, in short, the most useful theoretical framework for waging hybrid, non-linear warfare.



Cyber warfare, strategy, hybrid warfare


Scott, K. (2021). Connected, Continual Conflict: Towards a Cybernetic Model of Warfare. Proceedings of ECCWS2021 20th European Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security. Reading: Academic Publishing. [forthcoming]


Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)