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From the mouths of Babes...

Minecraft and ISR

The Shape of Things to Come?

5GW... What is it (good for)?

Each Week

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Minecraft and ISR


As a father of 4 young boys, most of my waking hours are dominated by the sparrow like squawking of “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad”. Most of the sentences then proceed with some inane comment or observation, but some are startling.

“Dad,” it started, “If light measures time, would time stop in darkness?” (from my 7 year old)

“Dad,” next…. “The moon is much nearer than the stars, that’s why it is bigger.” (5 year old)

SO I have never stopped listening. One Saturday morning came the squawk from upstairs.

“Dad, come and have a look at Minecraft”

Most parents of young children know Minecraft but for those that have not had the pleasure, it is a sandbox computer game in which players can create almost anything using the resource they can find in their world.

I walked up stairs wondering what wonderful new house or new axe the boys had created.

Dad, Look at this..” My 9 year old said excitedly pointing at the TV.

“Watch, watch…”

On the screen a zombie, skeleton, or creeper (I really should know by now) started moving toward the house that the boys had built. All of a sudden the bad thing exploded. Cheers resounded around the bedroom and the boys started celebrating. Not knowing what I had seen, I asked.

“It’s simple Dad,” Said my 9 year old,” We were having problems with Creepers coming to our house and trying to kill us so we set up pressure pads around our house and if a Creeper comes close a light goes on and we can run back and hide in the house. If the Creepers keep coming, they step on a second pressure plate and activate the cannon.”

On the face of it, this is simple and obvious. But I was still amazed that my boys could think clearly about an issue and find a solution. I sat and watched some more as they built and crafted, it was quite humbling.

I went downstairs for a coffee and read the BBC News. The headlines struck me… “Border Barriers”, “Migration” “Europe under Pressure”. Are my kids playing out world events on their computer?

The lengths that my children went to understand a problem and then to fashion a solution has been replicated in human kind since the concept of ownership: I own this land and I will protect it.

And we are seeing a rise in ‘ownership’ and nationalism around the globe as migration: political, economic and humanitarian threaten to change the dynamics of long held constants. In response to the perceived issue of migration many countries are implementing a solution to curb or minimize the impact of the new populations.

Now my kid’s solution was a kids’ solution, and I would not for one moment draw a parallel between a migrant and a creeper nor would I advocate the ‘cannon’ solution. Kids don’t ascribe reality to their games as I do, it is just an analogy.

But still my kids understood a problem and fashioned a detection system, in their case pressure pads and a “FINISH’ solution, either run and hide or use the cannon.

Like so many things in life, our children are often our best teachers as they approach problems without preconception or prejudice. Maybe there are similarities we could adopt from Minecraft to solve our issues.

Would the layered detect and act solution my kids implemented work for us? I think it would - obviously it would. We have been employing layered defence for hundreds of years. But now the issues are more complex…

I went back upstairs to speak to the kids…

“What happens if something that is not a Creeper, one of your friends, activated the pressure pads? Is the response the same?”

My kids looked at me as if I was mad or thick...

“Why would we activate the pads, we know where they are and we can see and avoid them, the Creepers can’t see them.”

Ah, I thought transposing their thoughts to mine: a technological asymmetric advantage that allows my kids to find the Creepers without the Creepers being aware that they have been found; and a system that friendlies can avoid. Therefore, all triggers of the pressure pads are highly likely to be hostile.

Again, astounded at the simplicity I went downstairs.

From the Mouths of Babes

Simplicity is key to effective, efficient operations and we could learn to mimic the simplicity of child’s play. But in doing so we need to be like children:

What is the nature of the target? A Creeper? Wrong. The nature of your target is something that moves, has hostile intent and that cannot detect our technology. Only when we truly understand the nature of the target can we find an effective solution. Once we understand what it is we are trying to achieve, we can then assess what we need to find, then implement ways in which to detect this target signature. Once we have done so we are in a position of intelligence led activity, or as Jenifer Simms would call it, Decision Advantage. We will know that people are approaching our border and we can position aid, support, shelter, media, NGOs or Police in positions most likely to have effect.

My sons implemented an ISR-led operation against Creepers, and they were successful. We will have struggled with border security for hundreds of years and yet we still struggle. So what is the solution?

ISR is the ability to create near real time intelligence specifically tailored to a decision maker or a decision making cycle. ISR planned to create a layered approach, specifically looking to supply the decision maker with intelligence is the key. As they say, it is all about the data.

I went back upstairs again to watch the boys play. They were building their house when all of a sudden a Creeper appeared beside them and exploded causing extensive damage to their new building.

“I thought you had a detections system.” I said

“Yes we do, but sometimes the Creepers can spawn inside of the defenses. You know Dad,” my eldest said with a smile, “No plan is perfect.”

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