The Pentagon’s biggest geeks are getting ready to turn you into the ultimate social animal.
Darpa, the military research division that helped create cyberspace, now wants to master meatspace’s tricky interpersonal dynamics. The program is named, innocuously enough, “Strategic Social Interaction Modules.” And it “will provide warfighters with the basic human dynamics skills they need to enter into any social encounter regardless of the culture, group, or situation,” according to a Darpa announcement.
“After such training,” the agency adds, “soldiers will be able to approach and engage strangers in unfamiliar social environments, orient to unfamiliar patterns of behavior, recover from social mistakes, de-escalate conflict, rigorously practice transition in and out of force situations and engage in the process of discovering and adapting to previously unknown ‘rules of the game’ encountered in social engagements.”
I’d love to hear Esli’s take on this.
I spent four long, long years as a recruiter. I’m not a very extroverted person. I’m almost painfully shy, and very reticent. But one of the absolutely key skills for a recruiter is the ability to approach perfect strangers and establish some level of rapport with them. It was a daunting task. And that was in my own culture, with few language barriers, and I was pretty sure whatever antipathy people had to me wouldn’t lead to an IED attack.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am in awe of what the young soldiers of our Army have mastered in this last decade, fighting in two wars, in two very different cultures, and yet learning to perform tasks at the lowest levels that I never even had to consider in all my years of training.
I’m not at all confident that this DARPA program will produce much in the way of a useful tool, but it is nice to see that we aren’t just tossing the troops in the deep end of the pool and wishing the well.