A Robocop army taking over major military missions around the world is still far from being a reality, but that does not mean that the world’s military powers are not working hard to make that scenario into reality as soon as they can.
If you think that remotely controlled or semi-autonomous vehicles are too much to take, wait and see what the future of AI and IoT will deliver to those who seek to fight the battles of the future with “thinking machines”.
A recently published study, produced for the United States Department of Defence, explains that “there are both substantial operational benefits and potential perils associated with the use of autonomy.”
In a nutshell, AI gives the military an upper hand over its enemies, as long as those enemies do not have the same or more advanced technological capabilities, of course.
On paper, having an AI military force provides advantages such as a reduction in the number of humans who may be in harms way – tell that to the unknown victims of US drone operations -, increased speed in the completion of those missions, and undoubtedly, autonomy.
It is not surprising that the study carried out by Craig Fields, Ruth David and Paul Nielsen, calls for the DoD to “accelerate its exploitation of autonomy—both to realize the potential military value and to remain ahead of adversaries who also will exploit its operational benefits.”
The authors emphasize on the fact that their recommendations attempt to boost trust autonomous systems while seeking to accelerate DoD’s progress in operating this kind of technology.
Among the potential uses of autonomous technology, authors include:
- Autonomous agents to improve cyber-attack indicators and warnings
- Onboard autonomy for sensing
- Time-critical intelligence from seized media
- Dynamic spectrum management for protection missions
- Unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) to autonomously conduct sea mine counter- measures missions
- Automated cyber response
- Cascaded UUVs for offensive maritime mining
- Organic tactical unmanned aircraft (UA) to support ground forces
- Predictive logistics and adaptive planning
- Adaptive logistics for rapid deployment
But this technology is not limited only to military applications. Instead, the authors also propose that AI technology be used for tracking… well all of us:
- Early warning system for understanding global social movements
- Autonomous swarms that exploit large quantities of low-cost assets
- Intrusion detection on the Internet of things
- Autonomous cyber resilience for military vehicle systems
- Autonomous air operations planning
So car companies won’t be the only ones collecting information from drivers. Insurance companies won’t be the only ones searching for and storing data on their clients, because the military will be right there, sniffing and taking it all in via the Internet of Things.
Recommendations for both military and civilian applications are based on the traditional “there is a boogeyman out there who may get to it before us” type of mentality. In the summary of their recommendations, the authors say that “allies and adversaries alike also have access to rapid technological advances occurring globally.”
They emphasize that the DoD must seek access and perfection of AI technology to develop tools that will make the United States faster and more effective in its warfighting capabilities. That is because, they believe, such an advantage would allow the US to sustain a military advantage over allies and adversaries.
According to the study, the concept of autonomy, although broad in scope can be defined as “the delegation of a decision to an authorized entity to take action within specific boundaries.”
Current applications of AI in technology include data mining, as in NSA data mining, data analysis, as in creating profiles of people based on the information that they, knowingly or not, provide to data miners, web search, recommendation engines, and forecasting. The authors are shy to recognize that nowadays autonomous systems “are now required to find trends and analyze patterns”.
Among some examples of commercial utility of AI systems, we can find:
- Automated video content analysis software searches long videos for key events and can incorporate human facial and gait recognition.
- Monitoring of U.S. credit, debit, and prepaid card industry at a rate of about 1,200 transactions per second.
- Google’s authentication system, that uses elements such as IP, physical addresses, geolocation, login times and others to allegedly handle user privacy.
Authors project that the use of sensors along with the capability of reasoning and learning along with an improved ability to move will make AI technology invaluable for military purposes.
The use of technology has gone from being a defensive affair to becoming an offensive one. Even as military application of AI systems appear to be in their early stages when it comes to warfighting, all efforts seem to be concentrated on enabling technology that would not only prevent attacks from alleged adversaries or even allies, to setting up attack systems to preempt those adversaries.
“The U. S. will face a wide spectrum of threats with varying kinds of autonomous capabilities across every physical domain—land, sea, undersea, air, and space—and in the virtual domain of cyberspace as well,” warn the authors.
“Providing battlespace awareness to the warfighter in potentially far-flung and congested battlefields is an increasingly complex problem, with a solution that is increasingly multifaceted.” According to them, having a strong presence in the AI battleground will require everything from improved sensors and organization to stronger communications capabilities and data security.