Disinformation & Impact on Decision-making: 4/30/20

The presentation began with how actors arrange information to wreck a decision making process–the Observe, Orient, Decide and Act Loop from Colonel John Boyd, US Air Force. When we act as a 1G computer in a 5G world, we become susceptible to fake news and any information that overwhelms one’s search for truth. When we accept only unstructured data, process data into information using one programmed language, and repeat the same tasks, the method of narrative can coopt you into agreeing with a point of view.

When the OODA Loop meets narrative strategy and various types of dis-, mis-, and mal-information, cognitive biases can be exploited to collapse the loop. Official China’s uses of narrative do this in several ways.

We looked at a model of narrative as a radicalizing ideology–a narrative weaponization process developed by Dr Ajit Maan in her work, Plato’s Fear. The four-step model is applied to Chinese and Russian data. Narrative basically weaponizes information to collapse the Observe and Orient phases of OODA into one non-thinking step.

Using the Hamilton 2.0 platform provided by The Alliance for Securing Democracy website, we collect examples into the model. The four steps are the structure of the narrative, re-descripton of the cognitively flawed narrative, internalization that externalizes blame onto others, and prescription of action to be taken.

China’s strategic use of information attempts to crash decision loops though a utopian narrative; a scattered, mass campaign filled with faulty cause and effect, selective evidence, and artificial dichotomies. The story is repeated and inculcated into passive-think targets.

We can apply this thinking to the election process (how secure is how we think about information, not just how secure the voting machines are), supply chains (need trusted information for diversification), and health care (ransomware and other attacks) issues.

The ensuing discussion first asked about how executives ought to think about China when conducting business. Useful questions to ask include, is there deep enough data in the supply chain to determine if you have any alternatives to Chinese suppliers and their network? Are suppliers able to be forthright? Is joining a China group accompanied by incentives that are transparent?

A second question asked about how successful has the US been in countering disinformation and what methods have shown the most promise? The reply was that EU has been more successful with respect to Russian disinformation due websites that expose Russian disinformation (EUvdisinfo.eu). Just countering false narratives is a limited method. We need combined effects broader than combined arms–this requires diplomatic, informational, military, economic and social efforts. We should model our democracy and narrate alternative arguments as a strength not a divisive weakness in accordance with our Constitutional values. For instance, equality of opportunity v equality of result is a legitimate difference of opinion for which we have transparent legal processes and accountable politicians…always debatable!

A final question asked about marketing’s overlap with disinformation techniques. The response was that marketing is ethical and knowing your customers in accordance with rule of law that is openly debated. Crossing over into inaccurate information to incite hate and divide ethnic groups is quite different.