Jon Lindsay on Information Technology and Military Power

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In this post, we ask author Jon Lindsay three questions about his book Information Technology and Military Power and his research on military technology.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

It is well known that Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Google began as start-ups in garages and dorm rooms. It is less well-known that the most popular graphical mission planning application across the US military services, known as FalconView, also started in the 1980s and 1990s as an amateur program written by and with the same pilots who used it. FalconView outperformed numerous systems that were designed by defense contractors to replace it, highlighting the important role of warfighter initiative in complex information systems. Organizational practice, not just technological sophistication, makes the difference in modern war.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

I made the classic rookie mistake of trying to pack too much material into a first academic book. This is especially a temptation for a book with a broad topic like Information Technology and Military Affairs. I originally had intended to include a substantive discussion of cyber warfare along with the cases of more traditional combat, but this proved a bridge too far. Even broad topics must have a manageable scope! The book now focuses on the organizational and strategic context of information technology and battlefield operations, leaving the implications for cybersecurity and grand strategy for another work.

3. How do you wish you could change the field of Military History?

I would like to see the field of military history have greater influence on the interdisciplinary field of security studies. In many ways this would represent a return to the roots of the field, drawing on deeply researched historical cases to inform hard questions that emerge in modern practice. History can have as much, and sometimes more, to say about complex, cutting-edge problems as quantitative social science. While the technological, social, and strategic context changes continuously, history can show how the complexity of this context has always been a challenge, and an inspiration, for practitioners and scholars alike.

Jon R. Lindsay is Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Global Affairs at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the co-editor of Cross-Domain Deterrence and China and Cybersecurity. He has served in the US Navy with assignments in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter @jonrlindsay.

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