The use of technology to modernize and strengthen NATO 2030: How the Military Metaverse can support NATO?

Ioanna Georgia Eskiadi

Technology can be a key aspect of modernizing NATO amid the 2030 Strategic Concept because it can help to shape a more up-to-date strategic plan based on the needs of NATO members in the digital age.

The term “Metaverse” refers to the series of interconnected and immersive virtual worlds that afford their users a sense of presence via agency and influence. Metaverse can contribute to creating types of immersive experiences that can drive presence and lead to a range of technologies. According to Mystakidis, the metaverse is “the post-reality universe, a perpetual and persistent multiuser environment merging physical reality with digital virtuality.” Given this basic conceptual definition, we will investigate briefly how it developed and what technologies are driving its continued advancement.

Military Metaverse

As a subset of the larger Metaverse exists the Military Metaverse, which refers to a newly established concept used by defense industry to modernize NATO. More specifically, the Metaverse can become of the newest buzzwords to hit the Beltway. A Military Metaverse for NATO military personnel can be used to train them for the battlefield by simulating war scenarios and tactics and also as a vehicle more effective for intra-military communication and exchanges. It is possible to argue that the armed services have been employing various version of the Metaverse, albeit clunky and siloed ones, for years. The military has been stitching together virtual worlds for the purposes of training since the 1980s when it first created SIMNET (similar networking), which was the first demonstration of an extensive simulator network for collective training and mission rehearsal.

The military personnel of NATO can be trained through a synthetic training community to a distant future, where warfighters can seamlessly train in a realistic immersive world. NATO can educate its military personnel by providing opportunities to draw on some of the mixed-reality advancements in education like simulations, wargames, and the use of augmented-reality technologies that allow soldiers to better visualize a multi-domain battlespace. In this way, a defense Metaverse may be able to provide comprehensive and continuous learning outcomes.

War in the Metaverse and Video Games

An example of wars in Metaverse is GameFi, a play-to-earn gaming destination that combines video gaming, blockchain technology, and decentralized finance. This new way of gaming could replace physical wars where nations can battle in a virtual environment. As a result, this could force actual loss onto players when they could “die” and lose all their cryptocurrencies and non-fungible token (NFT) assets. But this can alter the balance of superpowers. A nation’s status would no longer be determined by its resources and manpower, but by the gaming abilities of its people. Also, if there is no governing control mechanism or rules of control created over Metaverse wars, it could lead to economic repercussions and may encourage cyber-terrorists to engage, where they would hack and infiltrate systems to steal resources. China is actively focusing on a series of measures aimed at using political power to control the incipient Metaverse.

Video games can be used to provide new recruitment incentives. As new forms of financial transactions and virtual goods emerge, like NFTs, the Metaverse may offer new incentive options that appeal to warfighters who are used to operating and socializing in the digital domain. A military Metaverse can also provide an alternative pathway to identify military leaders uniquely suited to the future fight. For instance, the Air Force Gaming community has already taken a first step towards connecting distributed airmen in a digital environment through video games, providing opportunities for leadership development, teamwork, morale building, and support for the mental health of servicemembers, particularly those in the 18 to 30 age range who grew up as avid gamers. A military Metaverse could serve as an extension to this community, bringing in other non-gaming activities and connectivity.

NATO 2030 and A Military Metaverse

As it regards the NATO 2030 Strategic Concept, the military Metaverse provides new concepts such as cross-domain, multi-domain, or all-domain operations, which seek to capture military advantage by synchronization and integration across domains. Experimentation of a Military Metaverse in the NATO 2030 Strategic Concept allows warfighters and decision-makers to transcend their current realities and ideally imagine new concepts of operations or force structures. A defense Metaverse can make the “cycle of research” a reality. A military Metaverse can provide opportunities for social and human interaction where people can have deeper and broader discourse, forge new relationships, and ideally enhance the social elements of their lives.

Wars in the Metaverse

War in the Metaverse is a new form of combat that would add an extra layer of safety for humanity. In the Metaverse, almost everything can be simulated. Many of the common intentions behind global conflicts can be enacted within a digital environment. Lands, territories, structures, and even human beings in the form of avatars can be minted as NFTs. Fighting virtually allows for the removal of the fatalities and human casualties from the equation of war. The big business of war and military spending can continue transferring ‘war games’ to where it belongs, in the Metaverse, where it’s much more human and safer due to a significant lack of bloodshed.

Policy suggestions - Conclusions

NATO could facilitate this change and the wars in the Metaverse by providing the space for international consensus by establishing a mutual desire to eliminate violence through virtualized warfare. Emerging and disruptive technologies (EDT) are having a profound impact on security, while innovative technologies are providing new opportunities for NATO militaries, helping them become more effective, resilient, cost-efficient, and sustainable. NATO can develop responsible, innovative, and agile EDT policies that can be implemented through real, meaningful activities. By working more closely with relevant partners in academia and the private sector, NATO can maintain its technological edge and military superiority, helping deter aggression and defend allied countries. Promoting transatlantic cooperation on critical technologies is a vital component of that work.