A Discussion with JJ Snow

This is part of a series of blog posts in which I will be asking innovators three important questions.  If you would like to participate in the conversation, shoot me a note on LinkedIn.

The views expressed in the below statements are those of the individuals and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

jj snow

JJ Snow is the SOCOM Donovan Group Innovation Officer working with SOFWERX. SOFWERX was created under a Partnership Intermediary Agreement between Doolittle Institute and the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Located in Tampa, FL, SOFWERX has a very dynamic environment designed to create a high rate of return on collision for all participants. Through the use of our growing ecosystem, promotion of divergent thought, and neutral facilitation, our goal is to bring the right minds together to solve challenging problems.


Graham: What are you currently working on that you think others would find interesting?

JJ: We are currently standing up a new 40,000 sq ft hackerspace to support U.S. Special Operations Command, the Strategic Capabilities Office and Interagency Partners in the areas of drones, big data, AI, machine learning, advanced robotics, novel space solutions, cyber, and biohacking. This addition to the SOFWERX family will provide additional creative collision space to foster government and technology community interactions in a public non-governmental facility. Our first initiative for the new facility, ThunderDrone, seeks to bring in drone and drone related technologies for review by the command and interagency partners who seek to leverage these capabilities to solve a variety of wicked problems including communications for disaster recovery, search and rescue, austere medical support, de-mining operations, logistics, training  and battlefield operations.

Graham: What is one application of an emerging technology that makes you excited or concerned or both?

JJ: The growing accessibility of advanced bio-technologies like CRISPR/Cas9 is a big concern. Not only are the regulations lagging in this area, but these capabilities are easy to procure via online sites in a ready to use format for under $300. They also require a significantly lower level of skill to successfully employ than previous techniques which necessitated advanced degrees and years of laboratory experience to “get it right”. While the Bio-Hacker community has done a fantastic job in establishing strong ethical and safety guidelines for their efforts, some nation state actors and non-state actors continue to forge ahead on initiatives of concern. The creation of Chimeric organisms, the application of CRISPR to human embryos and the potential for CRISPR to be leveraged to create modified biological agents of concern, whether intentionally or out of ignorance, are critical topics to address. CRISPR has the potential to be a tremendous life giving tool that can cure many diseases. But without open discussion and collaboration, the potential for misuse resulting in dangerous effects casts a long shadow over the many positive benefits.

Graham: What is one way that you think people will need to adapt given new technological and cultural contexts?

JJ: One of the more interesting developments is the legitimization of corporations and non-state actor groups as part of global governance structures. The new Technology Ambassador in Denmark, the Dutch government’s responsible disclosure policy which invites hackers to help inform government and address critical gaps, and the growing use of bug bounty programs to find and fix vulnerabilities by both government and corporate entities are all early phases of this process. Self Regulating Communities like the hackers, makers, bio-hackers and trans-humanists are already independently identifying problem areas in which the government lacks the access, expertise or capacity to successfully address problems and are leveraging technologies to find rapid fixes.  In the future, these unconventional networks will play a much larger role in governance at all levels so discussing how to best incorporate them and team with them today is very important. This is a topic the USSOCOM J5 Donovan Group is teaming up with the World Economic Forum and NATO SAC-T on to help define what the next generation of governance might look like.