Blog: Future of Defence is Artificial Intelligence – New Delhi Times
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is rapidly proliferating, largely because of the growth of computer-processing power that has enabled improvements in machine-learning (ML) techniques and the mining of ‘big data’. These technologies, coupled with advances in cloud computing, has led to a wider shift towards AI. As such, security experts contend that AI could be next disruptive defence technology.
Aspects of AI, also known as ‘Algorithmic Warfare’ could potentially replace major structural concepts such as network-centric warfare (NCW) concepts and these could lead to enhanced information gathering and processing capacity.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) has outlined the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) as the focal point for carrying out its AI strategy. The centre was formed in June 2018 and will oversee about 600 projects. As well as enabling consistency of approach, technology, and tools, JAIC’s work will complement efforts by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), DoD laboratories, and other entities focused on longer-term technology creation and future AI research and development.
As well as fusing AI with human intelligence, there are varied views on the uses of AI – depending on personal, cultural, and geographical influences – and whilst in the near term it will aid in trawling through large datasets and rules-based tasks for algorithm warfare, there is not yet the level of trust needed for autonomous weapons. AI may not only be transformative but likely key in delivering an advantage to those who embrace the technology. Investment from countries including France, Germany, India, South Korea and the UK has been growing. However, most spending on AI has come from China, Russia, and the US, with all three competing in AI development.
The three countries have declared strategies to achieve ‘offset advantages’ through robotics and AI. In July 2017 China announced plans to become the world leader in AI by 2030, and create a USD150 billion AI industry by 2030. Russian President Vladimir Putin noted on 2 September 2017, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world”. AI can be used for a range of military applications, although its likely near-term benefit is to quickly and efficiently process large volumes of data to aid military personnel in making decisions derived from the identified patterns, relationships, associations, and correlations.
Each AI system is likely to have unique characteristics, capabilities, advantages, and vulnerabilities, as some will operate in a physical environment, while others will be virtual and the related data might be structured or unstructured. Attempts have been made to use AI with ‘swarming’ attacks to overwhelm adversaries. Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles have the potential to co-ordinate with one another using AI. They offer the ability for large-scale intelligence gathering and to scale physical mass and battlefield points of presence, increasingly independently of the numbers and locations of human combatants.
Combat vehicles are also using more automation in terms of navigation. The more autonomy that a vehicle has, the less human operation it needs. Autonomy can also decrease the demand for bandwidth, which is a key issue for remotely operated vehicles. The more automation a vehicle has, the more likely it can operate in areas with a contested or congested electromagnetic spectrum.
Robotic and Autonomous Systems are expected to use AI for route planning, perception, tactical manoeuvre, and communications. As such, the Pentagon hopes they can become teammates rather than tools. However, AI will face many challenges in adapting to defence related needs. At the foremost is the issue of cybersecurity as most equipment would be software driven. Another possible challenge is the skill shortage.
As AI expands, the demand for professionals has increased and may not keep up with the pace of innovation and discovery. There could be disequilibrium between supply and demand, and a possibility that demand falls short of supply.
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