Emerging artificial intelligence (AI) tools will provide propagandists radically enhanced capabilities to manipulate human minds. Human cognition is a complex system, and AI tools are very good at decoding complex systems. Interactions on social media, browsing the Internet, and even grocery shopping provide thousands of data points from which technologists can build psychological profiles on nearly every citizen. When provided rich databases of information about us, machines will know our personalities, wants, needs, annoyances, and fears better than we know them ourselves. Over the next few years, MADCOMs—the integration of AI systems into machine-driven communications tools for use in computational propaganda—will gain enhanced ability to influence people, tailoring persuasive, distracting, or intimidating messaging toward individuals based on their unique personalities and backgrounds, a form of highly personalized propaganda.

The difficult truth is humans simply cannot compete with MADCOMs, at least not alone. On the digital networks of the next decade, only humans teamed with AI machines can compete with AI machines. Much like the cybersecurity struggle that dominates the early twenty-first century, the Internet will be the battleground for a continual cycle of one-upmanship as technologists improve adversary-MADCOM detection tools, and as propagandists improve MADCOMs to avoid detection. An ideal future, in which MADCOMs are used for the benefit of humanity and not to its detriment, requires the effort of all levels of society, from the international system down to individuals.