battling existential threats: Mutually Assured Deception (MAD)

Once the first atomic bomb was detonated, the world moved into a new reality, with the existential threat of nuclear war. As countries raced to create weapons, others worked to understand how global powers could co-exist in a world where a single device could kill hundreds of thousands of people.

The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) represents some of RAND’s most impactful work, and the combination of game theory and strategic analysis helped to ease tensions and avoid a nuclear holocaust.

Today, misinformation and disinformation is turning into another existential threat for humanity. The digital revolution has enabled drastic changes in speed and scale of communication, and provided capabilities – such as deep fakes – that has never before existed. As governments struggle to deal with social media toxicity, hacking, and digital disinformation campaigns, it is clear that we need a new framework for better understanding the problem space, so we can prototype possible remediations.

Analogies often provide a strong starting point for conceptual modeling, so inspired by previous RAND work, we would like to develop a new form of MAD – Mutually Assured Deception. The initial approach will be to “port” the old concept to a new area. This is an imperfect process, but often yields insights into how to craft a useful conceptual model.

This also plays the narrative card – if I can name it, I can then start to describe it. And if that name is thought provoking, then people may engage. Where the concept will end is unknown, but if we knew the answer it wouldn’t be a very hard problem…

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