Paper #42. AI-assisted Cooperative-Physical Strategies: Human-directed Insights from Savant X Seeker

  • Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D., Brig Gen USAF ret.
  • Commercial, Cyber, Security, Strategy
  • No Comments

The Strategy Cuboid introduced in Paper #39 offers eight basic combinations of strategy in three dimensions: cooperative-confrontational; psychological-physical; and preventive-causative. We focus here on the two combinations that are cooperative-physical (preventive-causative), such as defense and economic infrastructure. As an exploration of competitive strategies, we’ll use the Savant X Seeker hyper-dimensional relationship analysis platform introduced in Paper #41 to analyze text in security-related articles and reports.

The text corpus consists of publicly available reports from the Atlantic Council, Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, RAND Corporation, and the US Institute of Peace.

The first step in the search was to register on Savant X Seeker’s website, which can be done with a social media account. Next, I uploaded the reports in .pdf or .docx format with the Upload tab, then opened the Search tab. As the initial query, I entered words to represent the three dimensions of the Strategy Cuboid: cooperate, confront, physical, psychological, prevent, cause.


Viewed in the SmartNav tab, this search produced 1000 results of highlighted words, sortable by Phrases, Terms and Concepts in the Smart Filter.


From the list of Phrases, I selected “Supply Chain.” This reduced the 1000 results to 21. My thinking was that Supply Chain phrases would relate to cooperative-physical strategies that produce something tangible.

Figure 1: SmartNav Text Search & Filters

The content of the results comprised the following issues:

  1. Critical raw materials
  2. Trustworthiness of suppliers
  3. How to manage risk to increase resiliency of supply
  4. Use of AI to improve supply chain efficiency and security
  5. Changes to Export Import Bank procedures to compete with government subsidized supply chains
  6. Supply chain fragmentation which increases the cyber attack surface
  7. Bilateral and multilateral working groups to eliminate dependence on untrusted competitors
  8. Increased sharing of intellectual property as the price to gain access to China’s domestic market
  9. Industrial and technical sector supply chain interdependence
  10. Impact of Brexit on UK defense supply chains
  11. Vulnerability of island-based supply chains
  12. Effects of industry consolidation on supply chain security

In the background of these issues is the question, what is the basis for cooperation? For instance is cooperation based on transparent and enforced rules or is it based on non-transparent distribution of rewards—under-the-table payoffs? The answer to that question shapes the competitiveness of cooperative-physical strategies.

Each issue above can lead to a discussion of cooperative activities (rules-based or payoffs-based) that influence the will (such as incentives) and capability (such as return on investment) of actors to provide physical products. To develop and adapt a competitive cooperative-physical strategy, we need to determine how the issues are relating to each other. For instance China demands that foreign firms share their intellectual property to gain market access (#8) is a form of subsidizing national supply chains (#5), which affects the trustworthiness of suppliers (#2), risk management options (#3), and supply chain interdependence (#9).

I searched for relationships among issues using other Phrases and selected some based on hypotheses about strategic effectiveness, but will not address those here. An example is, supply chain fragmentation in a non-transparent market is associated with corrupt cooperation.


Next, I searched the Terms in the Smart Filter. Of the terms, I sequentially selected “cooperation, “technology,” “development” and “capabilities” as most representative of cooperative-physical strategies. This provided five, then three, then one result. That last result was a discussion of acquisition strategies of cooperative innovation in certain sectors with a limited number of trusted allies.


Finally, I searched the Concepts (paired terms) in the Smart Filter which generated as its top result, “cooperative strategy.” The gist of the passages in the text was threefold: (1) trust and risk management strategies for acquiring technology; (2) how to institutionalize cooperation via norms of transparency and accountability; (3) calls for non-partisan solutions from democratic legislatures and rotating executive branch leaders.

Overall, SmartNav was quite useful in finding examples related to phrases, terms and concepts related to competitive strategies in a large set. I could stay in SmartNav and research the corpus for hidden relationships. However this challenge, and that of competitive strategies in general, is the dynamic interconnectness of relevant issues. To help visualize connections, Savant X Seeker provides HyperNav.


In the HyperNav tab, the original search revealed the following relationships:

Figure 2: HyperNav First-order Relationships

The density of nodes and linkages can be adjusted using the Node Control setting. Figure 2 above is set at approximately mid-range. The size of the nodes reflect the strength of the Phrase, Term or Concept — the words used to filter the data and information in the SmartNav tab.

For the next search, I selected three of the displayed nodes with the intent to stay focused on cooperative-physical strategies: cooperation, capabilities, and development. From there, I explored Seeker-generated insights and passages from the text. Selecting a node activates the “INSIGHTS” button and the “RESULTS” tab.


The INSIGHTS feature produces magenta nodes that suggest further, actionable relationships. The machine-learned visualization simplifies and reveals complex, higher-order relationships via automated hyper-dimensional link analysis. The magenta terms inspire thinking about indirect links among the selected terms. They represent connections that are statistically significant above chance. Used proactively, INSIGHTS can help investigate nth-order relationships that are deliberately hidden.


The RESULTS tab provides passages from the corpus according to the search selections.

Figure 3: HyperNav Second-order Relationships and Third-order Insights

The results led to examples of cooperative activities. Then I selected the nodes of “development,” “partnership” and “capabilities,” which generated INSIGHT nodes. The most interesting of these magenta nodes were “energy” and “intelligence.”

As I increased the nodes, selecting and de-selecting them for investigation, the entire set of relationships became more symmetric in shape. This pattern is shown by the following three pictures of minimum, medium, and maximum number of nodes:

Figure 4: HyperNav Minimum Nodes Picture
Figure 5: HyperNav Medium Nodes Picture
Figure 6: HyperNav Maximum Nodes Picture

The largest nodes were United States, Force, Military, Partners, and Operations. I interpret this as the predominant relationships of US military forces conducting operations with partners. This corpus is US-centric, with smaller nodes and relationships filling out what becomes a spherical shape.

Data, Space, Cyber and Electronic Warfare

The INSIGHTS of ”energy” and ”intelligence” led to capabilities and partnership-related passages that comprised four areas: data, space, cyber and electronic warfare. Each area is contested by general (“great”) or niche powers. While recognizing the fundamental need for energy and intelligence, here are some strategy-related relationships in each category:

  • Data — a data strategy expands security partnerships by providing information superiority and intelligence, and R&D to produce competitive capabilities
    • Rapid innovation of data fuels the development of AI and Robotic and Autonomous Systems
    • Partnerships for physical data-sharing include China and One Belt One Road countries, and the data port between China and the Philippines
  • Space — US space strategy exhibits the persistently idealistic separation of peace and war defined by violence, and the pursuit of unspecified “stability”
    • “DoD will deter aggression and attacks in space and, if deterrence fails, be capable of winning wars that extend into space. Additionally, DoD will take actions that enhance domain stability and reduce the potential for miscalculations.”
    • US partners‘ space situational awareness faces threats to critical satellite communication links on which its defense and cyber forces depend; at the same time China’s “space information corridor” initiative seeks to displace US-centered cooperation in satellite launch and services
  • Cyber — the need is multi-edged: secure and resilient on a global scale
    • Domestic priorities are to prevent foreign interference (democracies) and maintain internal control (authoritarians)
    • Digital defense technologies reflect different domestic priorities — China’s “5G Pioneer” ZTE is part of developing a “digital silk road” (that’s a narrative) and international industry alliance for social control
  • Electronic Warfare — democracies seek advantage over adversaries in wartime; authoritarians seek peace-war control over information
    • NATO: focus is on forward presence and air defense for wartime scenarios
    • China: anti-access area denial capabilities and “seize the right to control information”
    • Russia: modernization of EW capabilities encompasses narrative, psychological and unconventional operations

Vulnerabilities and Opportunities

This AI-assisted analysis of cooperative-physical strategies led to vulnerabilities and opportunities across the domains of space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum, and the information environment (includes data). Framing the search in terms of the Strategy Cuboid provided a broad perspective with which to consider competitiveness beyond a C2 dashboard.

Competitors exploit others’ narrow strategies to their advantage, effectively placing their targets inside the range of singular-use weapons. What causes this predicament? At a tactical level of analysis, an analyst’s or operator’s focus on particular ways and means cedes the use of alternatives to one’s adversary. At a strategic level, China’s data, space, cyber and electronic warfare strategy is comparatively unrestrained by international norms of peace v war, human rights, and liberal economic competition. Because these issues are outside anyone’s particular job jar, democracies face asymmetric vulnerabilities. These are authoritarians’ opportunities.

The following vulnerabilities or opportunities are most relevant to cooperative-physical ends, ways and means. The ways in which democracies approach each of these concepts are exploited by authoritarian systems.

  • Security: defined by democracies as de-escalating violence against threats, threats that are defined by level of violence
    • This strongly held constraint on “security” produces cooperative-physical strategies with infrastructure that’s vulnerable to “non-violent” attack
      • Threats: kinetic and non-kinetic information attacks such as Russia-proxied cyber disruption, and Russia and China disinformation and grand-info theft campaigns
  • Stability: when it’s specified, stability often relates to sustainable economic development and maintaining a military and diplomatic presence
    • This definition of stability relies on supply chains — air, maritime and ground infrastructure
      • Threats: China and Russia’s breaches of Japanese and Korean airspace; obstruction of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (China) and Kersch Strait (Russia); territorial invasion and occupation of South China Sea (China) and Ukraine (Russia)
  • Cooperation: its expansion requires more information-sharing and for most actors, avoiding large power rivalries
    • This requires a secure, resilient information infrastructure based on internationally accepted and enforced technical standards
      • Threats: Chinese technical standards of surveillance systems that inhibit social, political and economic freedoms
  • Economic Advantage: in the intermediate to long term, this shapes cooperation, both domestic and international
    • Such as Germany’s cooperation with Japan being limited by German-China economic relations
      • Threats: authoritarian China’s increase in economic influence has led to (a) diplomatic intolerance of criticism, and (b) military and para-military territorial expansion


Cooperative-physical strategies require the provision of rewards and it’s a competition in several key respects:

  • Defending infrastructure against violent and non-violent attacks
  • Protecting and asserting territorial integrity
  • Constructing reliable and responsive supply chains
  • Establishing an information infrastructure that enhances societal goals
  • Facilitating the pursuit of economic wealth

In that competition, cooperation depends upon secure, trusted data. All-domain strategies that attempt to do this are subject to all-effects threats claiming to be cooperative. Our next Paper uses Savant X Seeker to explore such confrontational strategies.

Author: Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D., Brig Gen USAF ret.

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