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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Summary The technical and cultural boundaries between modeling, simulation, and games are increasingly blurring, providing broader access to capabilities in modeling and simulation and further credibility to game-based applications. The purpose of this study, carried out by the National Research Council’s Committee on Modeling, Simulation, and Games, is to provide a technical assessment of modeling, simulation, and games (MS&G) research and development worldwide and to identify future applications of this technology and its potential impacts on government and society. Further, this study identifies feasible applications of gaming and simulation for military systems; associated vulnerabilities of, risks to, and impacts on critical defense capabilities; and other significant indicators and warnings that can help prevent or mitigate surprises related to technology applications by those with hostile intent. Finally, this report recommends priorities for future action by appropriate departments of the intelligence community (IC),1 the Department of Defense (DoD) research community, and other government entities. It is the intention of the committee that the results of this study serve as a useful tutorial and reference document for this particular era in the evolution of MS&G. The report also highlights a number of rising capabilities to watch for that are facilitated by MS&G. MODELING, SIMULATION, GAMES, AND COMPUTING Advances in hardware and software for computation provide an essential basis for improving modeling and simulation. Supercomputing performance has increased by 14 orders of magnitude in the past 60 years. The most dramatic increase has occurred over the past 20 years, with the advent of massively parallel computers and associated programming paradigms and algorithms. Moreover, recent years have seen the commoditization of many of these technologies. Instead of the very expensive, special-purpose hardware found in vector platforms, commercial off-the-shelf parts can now be connected with networks to create supercomputers. 1 The IC is made up of approximately 18 entities across the executive branch. A detailed listing of all IC members is found on the U.S. Intelligence Community Web site at http://www.intelligence.gov/1-members.shtml. Last accessed on June 24, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation However, the computing future presents new challenges. As component sizes continue to shrink and the processing speed of central processing units (CPUs) has plateaued, CPU vendors are adding additional processing units or “cores” to a single chip (a form of parallelism) to achieve performance gains that will present significant challenges to the development of effective and efficient scalable software on a node. Next-generation supercomputers will rely on many thousands of multicore nodes working together, presenting numerous challenges in the areas of resiliency, power, cooling, and scalability. Multicore processors and accelerators, including inexpensive and abundant graphical processing units, are changing the landscape of computing through a new era of on-chip parallelism. Also, programming models, libraries and compilers that automate parallelization and threading of sequential code, and a new generation of computer programmers who think and code in a multithreaded parallel way, would open these future high-performance computing (HPC) platforms to a broad set of application developers. Once the purview of technologically sophisticated and wealthy nations, modeling and simulation capabilities are now well within the reach of most state and nonstate actors. Advances in computation, representational algorithms, and the software to harness these advances will continue and will be accessible to all developed and developing societies. However, the increased ubiquity of computing power has lowered the threshold for obtaining effective modeling and simulation capabilities. No state or nonstate actor is likely to maintain a sustainable, strategic, comparative advantage in access to these capabilities. From a national security and an HPC leadership perspective, there will be international competition to develop the capacity for usable exascale2 computing, with specific “breakthrough” points to be achieved. The scientific and systems skills needed to create algorithms that capture the underlying scientific and system phenomena to be represented by models and simulations are important elements of capability. There is a notable lack of highly skilled computational scientists and engineers able to fully leverage the current state of the art in HPC for science-based modeling and simulation (NRC, 2007; WTEC, 2009). New computing architectures for games will continue to lead to new capabilities provided by modeling and simulation, including increased predictive accuracy. As computers have become faster, models have increased in fidelity, causing games to become more realistic and accurate. Second, the increasing fidelity of games has led game makers to seek the manufacture of higher-performance computer chips. As such, the need for a skilled workforce in modeling and simulation, and in simulation-based engineering and science generally, will become increasingly important to national security to take advantage of improvements in computing speed and accuracy.3 GAMES: BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT The games industry has evolved over time from purely commercial entertainment to more recent applications of games by civil, commercial, and military organizations (WTEC, 2009). The games industry and the personal computers industry have provided innovations in graphics and PC hardware that have led, for example, to PC-based simulations. Until relatively recently, most military and government simulations were performed on workstations (i.e., SGI, Sun) and on specially designed hardware (i.e., Evans & Sutherland, Delta Graphics). Evidence indicates that the use of games might have substantial impacts on human and group behav- 2 Systems that can handle a million trillion, or 1018, floating-point calculations per second. 3 The committee notes that a good reference for simulation-based engineering is the National Science Foundation report Simulation-Based Engineering Science, a summary of which is provided online at http://www.nsf.gov/attachments/106803/public/TO_SBES_Debrief_050306.pdf. Last accessed on October 14, 2009.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation ior, encouraging skill development and facilitating new approaches to how to communicate, organize, and act in ad hoc collaborative environments. However, given the early state of growth of these “serious” applications of games, sufficient research has not been done to permit definitive conclusions about the scope and nature of these potential impacts. Measuring the emotional, psychological, and societal effects of broad applications of games may never be precise, but the potential of games is clearly worthy of consideration by DoD as both a tactical advantage and a tactical threat. The committee has identified many global industry trends in games and included them in this report, including: The rise of massively multiplayer online games; The intersection of productivity and games (e.g., prediction markets); The intersection of social networks and games; Mobile games platforms; The microtransaction-based business model; and Highly realistic three-dimensional modeling and representation of Earth and real geographic locations (e.g., Google Earth, DARPA’s RealWorld, Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, first-person shooters). Beyond these, there has been a notable increase in the development of serious games, which have a purpose beyond entertainment, such as skill development or improved physiological and psychological health. They can be original programs created for a specific utility or programs repurposed from existing entertainment-focused games. The acceleration of serious gaming is fueled not only by the gains made in video game design, audience reach, and technology but also by the underlying advancement of core technologies such as the Internet and social networking, and the gains described by Moore’s law and Metcalfe’s law. The progression of game design and game capabilities as a result has yielded increased interest in applying those capabilities in support of nonentertainment purposes. APPLICATIONS TO DEFENSE Complex networked systems of systems can be effectively designed and tested only with the help of modeling and simulation (Brase and Brown, 2009). Adding games to this set of capabilities permits better modeling and understanding of human behavior as well. As the two have become connected, games have taken on new relevance for defense analysis. Modeling, simulation, and games relating to complex systems will become increasingly important to the United States and its adversaries. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The findings and recommendations given below emphasize that modeling, simulation, and games are evolving rapidly and merit attention by the IC. Finding 2-1: “Cache-friendly” algorithms have been developed, but many take longer to run than “non-friendly” algorithms. For intelligence analysts responsible for technology warning, a major breakthrough in memory speeds would be a game changer and have significant national security implications. One area showing promise is three-dimensional packaging of the memory and CPU, which provides for more pins, and thus higher bandwidth, to be connected between the two devices (Kogge et al., 2008). Rather than monitoring advances in processor speeds, tracking improvements in memory speed could provide earlier warning of the next step change in capabilities.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Finding 2-2: Exaflop-level computing is expected to be aggressively pursued by the United States, Europe, and Asia (WTEC, 2009). Areas for intelligence analysts responsible for technology warning to watch that could facilitate a breakthrough for usable exaflop computing include technologies that: Significantly reduce memory power consumption; Dramatically increase memory-to-processor communication speed while reducing latency; Dramatically increase processor-to-processor communication speed while reducing latency; Dramatically reduce part counts through integration or packaging that will increase the mean time to failure; or Automatically generate scalable code. Finding 3-1: As game development further becomes its own formal discipline taught in universities and is merged with existing modeling and simulation programs, the result will be a generation of practitioners more apt to apply innovations from game design and development to the larger modeling and simulation community. Finding 4-1: Improvements in and the deployment of agent-based simulation technology—that is, technology that simulates the actions and interactions of autonomous characters and/or systems such that an understanding or a view into the simulated behavior or system can be obtained—as the underpinning of game artificial intelligence systems could be a source of significant vulnerability to the extent that the United States falls behind in this area. Agent-based simulation technology provides a computational analytic framework by allowing the exploration of potential outcomes such that an analysis can be performed for a system for which no easy, closed-form analytic solution is possible. Recommendation 4-1: Military war games should exploit the significant growth and lessons of serious games to leverage experiential aspects of large multiplayer joint war games. A more real-time, immediate-feedback exploration environment can then be assessed using rapidly updated algorithms, parameters, and coefficients that reflect behavioral and policy implications. The use of serious games to explore strategy or technology implications can be valuable to strategic and long-range concepts of operations, weapons system acquisition, and threat assessment and response and far more effective in providing constant assessment of new technology and CONOPs opportunities, as well as more real-time threat warnings to those who consistently monitor for these issues. This same virtual sandbox can provide rapid assessment of these capabilities in a more affordable virtual method and reduce the manpower-extensive planning, logistical, and cost requirements typically required by large war games that only occur on a two-year basis. Finding 4-2: While the United States continues to leverage superior training as part of its ability to maintain asymmetric advantages over potential adversaries, these same potential adversaries may develop the ability to train and adapt CONOPs based on prolific access to Western game genres and actors. Finding 4-3: In the global war on terrorism, American forces have frequently prevailed in direct-fire exchanges, often attributed to better squad coordination and training—a skill commercial multiplayer gamers practice and develop virtually and routinely. Though it is not expected that this advantage will be maintained when engaged with a sophisticated potential adversary in the field, the United States is at risk of losing its advantage due to the advanced training environments and distributed nature of simulation and online gaming available either currently or in the near future.
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation Recommendation 4-2: DoD should strongly consider migrating at least one of its Title 10 war games to the emerging architectures of the commercial gaming industry. The computational power in mobile devices is rapidly increasing due in part to the popularity of mobile gaming. Additional increases in cellular infrastructure and cellular network speeds are happening at a faster clip outside the United States. This country may soon find itself living with an inadequate cellular infrastructure due to events taking place in the commercial cellular market. Aging and outdated digital infrastructure is already showing signs of hindering progress. At the 2009 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the U.S.-based company announced multiple features and capabilities for the iPhone, such as Multimedia Messaging Services and tethering, that will appear outside the United States (on 22 major carriers), only to possibly later appear within the United States if the U.S. carrier allows making those features possible. The delay, based predominantly on concerns about supporting increased bandwidth requirements and billing plans, underscores unpreparedness for dealing with a rapidly changing technology and the increased pervasiveness of ubiquitous mobile computing. Additional technologies and capabilities thought to have the potential to greatly impact MS&G and related fields are called out in Box S-1 and expanded on via charts in this report. Simulations in the context of computing are often thought of as running an executable to compute something on a macro or nano level. In contrast, games are meant to involve the player and to incorporate human behavior in a system. Using modeling, simulation, and games in tandem may facilitate better innovation, better accessibility to actors around the world, and better models of human system dynamics for commercial and defense systems. BOX S-1 Technology Forecasting Methodology in This Report The report Avoiding Surprise in an Era of Global Technology Advances (NRC, 2005) identifies a methodology for the intelligence community (IC) that has been widely accepted as a tool for finding and recognizing potential future national security threats from different emerging technologies. This methodology, described further in Appendix C, provides the IC with a means to gauge the potential implications of emerging technologies. Specific technology topics addressed in the current report via the technology forecasting methodology include: Chapter 2: Collapsing the memory wall (a counterforce to Moore’s law) Software for massively parallel architectures Chapter 4: Automation of verification, validation, and uncertainty quantification Vulnerability of physical assets given open-source software and information Reverse engineering software Cyber warfare through virtual worlds Presimulated automated computer attacks Behavioral modeling and political manipulation through virtual environments
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The Rise of Games and High-Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation REFERENCES Brase, James M., and David L. Brown. 2009. Modeling, Simulation and Analysis of Complex Networked Systems: A Program Plan. Livermore, CA: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Available at https://wiki.cac.washington.edu/download/attachments/7478403/ComplexNetworkedSystemsProgram-final.pdf?version=1. Accessed November 12, 2009. Kogge, Peter M., Keren Bergman, Shekhar Borkar, Dan Campbell, William Carlson, William Dally, Monty Denneau, Paul Franzon, William Harrod, Kerry Hill, Jon Hiller, Sherman Karp, Stephen Keckler, Dean Klein, Robert Lucas, Mark Richards, Al Scarpelli, Steven Scott, Allan Snavely, Thomas Sterling, R. Stanley Williams, and Katherine Yelick. 2008. Exascale Computing Study: Technology Challenges in Achieving Exascale Systems. Atlanta: Georgia Institute of Technology. Available at http://users.ece.gatech.edu/~mrichard/ExascaleComputingStudyReports/ECS_reports.htm. Accessed June 22, 2009. NRC (National Research Council). 2005. Avoiding Surprise in an Era of Global Technology Advances. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11286. NRC. 2007. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11463. WTEC (World Technology Evaluation Center). 2009. Sharon C. Glotzer, Sangtae Kim, Peter T. Cummings, Abhijit Deshmukh, Martin Head-Gordon, George Karniadakis, Linda Petzold, Celeste Sagui, and Masanobu Shinozuka, panel members. International Assessment of Simulation-Based Engineering and Science. Baltimore, MD: WTEC. Available at http://www.wtec.org/sbes. Accessed June 22, 2009.