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Innovation Principles in War

| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 1974
Posted by: Jack Hipple
Posted on: Friday, 21st January 2011

Two recent technology and news developments have highlighted the use of TRIZ inventive principles in warfare. Let me explain.

One of the predictive tools in TRIZ are the lines of evolution. Now TRIZ experts love to argue about how many of these there are, but I prefer the high level original list which includes the field evolution line and the general “systems become more dynamic and responsive” line. The first simply says that systems progress along a line starting with mechanical fields, move to thermal and acoustic fields, then to chemical fields, then to electronic fields, and finally to electromagnetic and optical fields. The everyday examples that all of us have seen in the last 100 years include communication systems that have moved from tom-tom drums to wireless cellular phones, pointing/indicating systems that have moved from stick pointers to laser pointers, and imaging systems that have moved from stick drawings on cave walls to electronic photography.

We used to fight wars by beating each other with sticks. Then we discovered fire and chemicals. But in a recent case still somewhat shrouded in secrecy, we have heard about the insertion of a computer virus, a wireless electronic communication format, into uranium hexaflouride gas centrifuges, that not only caused misoperation of the sophisticated machinery but presented a “we're OK” image to the operators running the machines, allowing the centrifuges to continue operating in a faulty condition, causing additional damage. News reports have said this might slow the development of concentrated nuclear materials by two years or more. This example also illustrated the use of another TRIZ principle, “making copies”. See the NY Times on January 17 for a fascinating summary. Not a shot is fired, but an enemy is delayed by 2 years. Interesting. We worry about the same kinds of terrorist threats infecting utility or computer networks.

In another example just reported today (, BAE Systems and an unnamed Swedish company are developing technology to make invisible tanks via an “eCamouflage” system that essentially makes the tanks look like their surroundings and changes this image continuously via highly sophisticated electronic sensors. This is dynamic and responsive camouflage. The technology is reported to be similar to that used in Ebooks, but much faster and responsive. Do you see the same principles as in the other example plus the use of the dynamism principle?

Now, I am not trying to be morbid here, but just trying to illustrate that the same principles that we see in the industrial innovation area apply just as equally to military applications. I am not sure whether I am more in favor of losing computers and electricity vs. fires and explosions, but the lessons of history and invention tell us that's exactly where we're headed, and current events only reinforce this view. Two of the most fundamental lines of product, system, and process evolution are field evolution (mechanic, thermal/accoustic, chemical, electronic, electromagnetic/optical) and dynamism/responsiveness. If we don't actively think ahead along both of these lines, we will be surprised by others who are doing just that.

Message: 1976
Posted by: Michael Lyubomirskiy
Posted on: Sunday, 23rd January 2011

there is nothing new about the notion of weapons being a technical system, development of which obeys the same laws as that of any other technology. The TRIZ community was quite aware of it from the start and there are many weapons examples in TRIZ literature (at least the Russian language books). AFAIK this point was somewhat deemphasized when teaching TRIZ in the West because a certain percentage of the audience there is known to have a quasi-religious aversion for all things war-related.

Message: 1977
Posted by: Jack Hipple
Posted on: Sunday, 23rd January 2011

Thanks for your input and you are certainly correct as I can testify from my own learnings of TRIZ from Boris Zlotin and others. Every once in a while, however, it's good to go back and look at the big picture to reinforce an analysis in an area that is in the news that can reinforce basic learning principles.