Quanta of Competition: Quantum Mechanics, Multi-Domain Battle, and the Gray Zone (Part II)

Thinking about conflict in terms of quantum mechanics rather than Newtonian physics will produce more comprehensive grand strategy. Part I of this narrative applied quantum field theory to the “extended battlefield” where joint and multinational forces are quantum fields prone to excitable states. Multi-domain battle and gray zone phenomena are these states in the extended battle and political warfare fields. Part II shows how together they form the competition field. This field is the fundamental starting point for strategy design and systems of systems thinking.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

By Victor R. Morris

Part II: The Competition Field Concept
The competition field is an expansion of the competition continuum contained in the Joint Concept for Campaign Planning. In the joint concept, the continuum consists of three states of relations in a mutual causality model. The three states are conflict, competition, and cooperation.

The competition field consists of multiple domains and systems, cross-domain interactions, the political warfare field, and the extended battlefield as shown in Figure 4. The competition field manifests and correlates information between the fields of the operational environment (i.e., “domains”) and physical systems. The term “correlates” refers to information a system has about another system. Systems are quantized like subatomic particles in the form of centers of gravity, subsystems, critical factors, flows, nodes, and entities. Additionally, the competition field modifies the conflict continuum and contains the competition, armed conflict, and return to competition spectrum. Cooperation is relative to system interactions in the competition spectrum, excluding armed conflict.

OTH, mutli-domain operations, emerging security environment

There is no conflict continuum, just competition which is relative or relational to information. War, the Gray Zone, and peace are contained in the competition field and manifest based on uncertain but probabilistic interactions. The interactions are not deterministic predictions described in exporting security as preventive war strategy and Newtonian physics. Measures short of war and war (violent or armed competition) are interactions in the competition field based on field convergence, acceleration, force, distance, time, and other variables. Systems or things do not enter into relations; rather, relations ground the notion of the system or thing.

A perpetually oscillating physical system competes in the field only when interacting with another system. War, gray zone, and peace interactions are relative or relational to effective and ineffective statecraft or lack thereof. Quantum mechanics does not describe objects, only processes and events. All systems’ events occur in relation to another system and the processes are the passage from one event to another. Competition is measured by the relevant information a system has about another system based on previous interactions and prediction of future interactions and effects.

Since information in nature is always finite, new information results in the cancellation of relevant information about a system. Predictable and unpredictable competition ensures correlations and a continuous feedback loop of finite information based on past, present, and future interactions. Information is the measurement of finite possibilities, so choices of two or more things, propositions, or courses of action are an advantage. This is why physical boundaries and domains were created, but lead to a false sense of correlation management.

Understanding conflict is more than framing the environment and assessing observed and desired systems because the analysis is relational to other systems. Understanding competition and probabilities enables human and machine decision making to create desired effects and learn from those effects.

Competition Equation
Competition = indeterminacy + interactions (time + events + processes) + information (location + possible alternatives) x decision-making x effects x learning

This equation surmises the concept of competition. Essentially, competition is the result of the indeterminate nature of conflict combined with interactions in the form of time, events, and processes and the location and alternatives to available information. Decision making with its associated with effects and learning yields exponential interactions and effects ensuring a continuous feedback loop of finite information relevant or irrelevant to the systems in a single four-dimensional continuum.

Colonel John Boyd, a military strategist, was a student of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz and studied military history to see where concepts overlapped and diverged. He knowingly or unknowingly spoke of quantum mechanical properties when he critiqued Clausewitz’s center of gravity concept. Instead he suggested finding the thing that allows the organic whole to stay connected and breaking down those connections. That “thing” is the quanta of gravity, hypothetically called a graviton. In this assessment, it is the quanta of competition. The quanta of competition are not in competition; they are themselves competition and are described by links and the relation they express. This notion is like spin networks in quantum mechanics.

Information derived from interactions is also a critical factor of the organic whole. In quantum mechanics, electrons do not exist in determined orbits and leap from one orbit to another. Electrons become “real” through a combination of leaps between interactions. They do not exist without interaction. Additionally, what Clausewitz described as polarity, intelligence, and friction is information at the quantum state. Position, momentum, spin, and polarization of entangled particles are measured and correlated. The constant exchange of information are the effects of competition field quanta between cooperation and conflict interactions. Time is relevant to the systems competing in the competition field. However, there is no distinction between interactions and time because the field is part of a four-dimensional continuum.

Competition Field Equation and Framework
The competition field interacts with the physical, information, and cyber and electromagnetic fields. The political warfare field and extended military battlefield are field quanta and reach excitable states due to cross-field synergy and information exchange. These excitable states are unpredictable, yet susceptible to measurement via probability in the competition continuum. The measurements correlate to the information feedback loop of relative and finite information. The feedback loop results from system interactions, decision-making, effects, and learning. Learning or shared understanding drives interactions ensuring information exchange in the competition continuum.

The competition field concept can thus be succinctly described as:

Competition Field = {Extended Battlefield (domains + gray zone + synergy or emergence) + physical systems (COGs + subsystems + flows + nodes + entities)} x information (relevant-irrelevant) x decision making x effects x learning

Domains are land, maritime, air, space and cyber. Other variables include acceleration, distance and time associated with information as it transitions fields and machine and cognitive dimensions.

Admittedly, this article does not address the true complexity and unresolved aspects of quantum mechanics, nor does it contain real equations or complex numbers. There is complex mathematics associated with particle and quantum physics. However, this article does attempt to assess and combine such concepts and apply them to modern challenges in an innovative manner. Previous scientists and strategists imagined the world in certain ways. They strived to confirm or refute those visions based on their experiences and interactions with communities of interest.

In this vision, joint and multinational forces are their own fields oscillating in the political warfare and extended military battle fields to exploit windows of superiority, seize the initiative, and attain positions of relative advantage in the continuum of competition. Interagency and intergovernmental systems are also manifested in granular and relational manners. This is only possible through combination, correlation and information. The competition field attempts to explain the relationship between the holistic operational environment and physical systems using quantum mechanics and geostrategic competition fundamentals. Clausewitz said, “War is merely a continuation of policy by other means.” In the competition field, policy is a continuation of processes between interactions. Lethal or non-lethal decisions and effects are based on the measurement of possible alternatives enumerated by reciprocal information and the ability to learn in the competition field.

Ultimately, using the concepts of indeterminacy, etc. from quantum theory allow us to think about conflict in a more nuanced manner. Considering the conflict environment as a result of interactions of a variety of fields and considering the basic elements (i.e., quanta) of each of these fields gives us a more holistic view of the nature of conflict. Furthermore, the concepts of granularity, relationality, and indeterminacy allow us to examine the nature of conflict in such a way that we simultaneously can accept that the results of interactions are not knowable in advance. Rather, a probabilistic viewpoint allows us to consider alternative possibilities and more easily adapt to the dynamic environments in which we currently operate.

Victor R. Morris is an irregular warfare and threat mitigation instructor at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany. He has conducted partnered training in sixteen European nations, with four NATO centers of excellence, and at the NATO Joint Warfare Center. A civilian contractor and former U.S. Army officer, he has experience in both capacities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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