Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Science and Society / Analytical work: the experience of Russian and foreign experts / Other
Spatial cognitive dequalification of statesmen. How politicians' understanding of geography becomes as subjective as history.
Material posted: Publication date: 01-06-2022
In recent years, there have been fundamental changes in the strategy of warfare. It is generally believed that the main reason for these changes is the "digitalization of weapons", i.e. the emergence of new types of weapons (from high–precision missiles to drones), the key element of which has become digital technologies.

However, the "spatial cognitive dequalification" of strategic military decision makers has no less influence on the change in the strategy of modern wars. The reason for this dequalification is the deformation of mental maps in the heads of the LPSVR, as a result of the growth of cognitive distortions that reduce their ability to "think in the space" of the theater of operations (Theater of operations).

The key role of this ability was formulated 80 years ago by Nicholas John Speakman, an American geopolitician, the father of the concept of "containment" and the founder of classical realism in the American theory of international relations.

"Only those statesmen who are able to think politically and strategically in the conditions of a round earth and a three-dimensional war can save their countries from defeat on the far flanks."

These two factors that are most important for the ability to "think in space" – the round earth and the three-dimensional space of military operations - have always been the most important for the formation of the cartographic consciousness of the LSWR. Only a few of them have the inner vision of Clausewitz, who wrote that spatial cognition is a special gift of a commander.

Any of the LPSWR makes decisions based on its mental map of the theater space. At the same time:

  • the only way to interpret geographical information is cartography, which forms the spatial understanding of people;
  • maps reflect a conscious choice to describe and simplify complex reality (because a perfect map is impossible, each map is a simplified two–dimensional abstraction of three-dimensional space);
  • as the great cartographer Marc Montmonier wrote in the monograph "All geographical maps lie", "with maps it is not only easy to lie, but also necessary."

Even the best maps make deliberate and transparent choices, exchanging some distortions for others, such as scale, projection and symbolization. Thus, the cartographer creates a "lie for good". And the task of the card reader is to know what lies the card contains and why.

The "digitalization of war" is expressed not only in the "digitalization of weapons", but also in the "digitalization of spatial thinking" - digital systems everywhere replace analog methods in cartography and navigation.

As a result of this:

  • the interface between human cognition and digital maps is changing dramatically;
  • The "navigation efficiency" is reduced, assuming that the ideal geospatial tool will achieve maximum efficiency without requiring geographical knowledge or critical thinking.;
  • despite all the achievements of integrated sensors and communications in modern military systems, there are growing problems with the decline of spatial cognitive skills in the officer corps due to the use of digital tools instead of analog processes and paper diagrams.

Digital navigation tools give up geographical accuracy and practically do not give the context of the environment.

To understand what we are talking about here, you can use the example of subway cartograms. They allow tourists to easily navigate the subway, abandoning geographical accuracy and removing the entire context of the environment.


RELATED MATERIALS: Science and Society