Artificial Intelligence At War: AI Technology To Give American Military An Edge In The Future? Fears Over AI Exaggerated

399192 06: The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
399192 06: The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)


Can artificial intelligence (AI) be used as a defense armor? Well, the Defense Department of the United States is reportedly seeking entrepreneurial Silicon Valley bigwigs to build out the future of defense with the help of AI technology.

With the emergence of artificial intelligence, Washington has sought the expertise of Silicon Valley’s technology leaders. In fact, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter visited the Valley for the fourth time to talk about the importance of incorporating artificial intelligence in America’s warfare weapons, New York Times notes.

Pentagon’s Strong Interest In Artificial Intelligence

Two decades had passed ever since a defense secretary had visited the Silicon Valley. But on Wednesday, May 11, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter made an appearance in a research facility near Google’s headquarters.

Carter’s visit was reportedly part of the “Third Offset” strategy the 61-year-old defense secretary pronounced last fall. Carter said sophisticated and artificial intelligence-driven weapons would give the American military an edge in the future as China and Russia reemerged as military competitors.

The ‘Third Offset’ Strategy

America’s “Third Offset” strategy refers to two earlier periods when Pentagon planners sought technology to compensate for a smaller military. The first “offset” occurred in the ’50s when 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower emphasized nuclear weapons as a deterrence to larger Warsaw Pact armies.

The second “offset,” on the other hand, happened in the ’70s and ’80s. In this era, military planners turned to modern technology in traditional weaponries to compensate for smaller quantities. But today, Carter admitted America is facing major challenges in decoding civilian innovation into a military advantage, acknowledging the fact the nation will neither control nor determine artificial intelligence’s path.

“That’s different than 30 or 40 or 50 years ago when we expected to control the pace of technology,” Carter at the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental facility aka DIUx. “That’s not true anymore, but we still can stay the best military with respect to applications of A.I.”

The Concept Of ‘Centaur Warfighting’

Carter’s speech came weeks after Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work incessantly stressed the significance of artificial intelligence-related technologies in helping create an innovative group of armed forces equipped with increasingly intelligent weapons. Work also advocated the concept of “Centaur Warfighting,” the system that combines AI and humans’ capabilities of humans to deliver faster response compared to what humans alone could achieve.

Why Artificial Intelligence Application In The Military Worries Other Silicon Valley Execs

As Pentagon pushes to develop artificial intelligence applications in the military, other Silicon Valley executives and tech experts are worried that the line separating smart weapons’ offensive and defensive uses will be difficult to maintain.

“We need to figure out where to draw the line and we need to stay on the right side of it,” University of California, Berkeley AI specialist Stuart J. Russell said.

In addition, experts are also wary about the moral dimensions and unintended consequences of turning over killing decisions to machines, as per another New York Times report. The move is also thought as an invitation to a new and potentially hostile arms battle.

Fears Over Artificial Intelligence Exaggerated?

Meanwhile, the threats of artificial intelligence has reportedly divided the Silicon Valley. But according to Time, IBM senior manager and research scientist Murray Campbell stressed humans have no reason to worry about AI’s existential threats, saying the reason to fear AI was overblown.

“I definitely think it’s overblown,” Campbell said. “Because the benefits are so huge, that if we don’t use AI technologies we’re going to be losing out on all of these beneficial effects in health care, in self-driving cars, in education.”

In terms of AI’s effect on the job market, Campbell emphasized artificial intelligence only aims to make jobs easier and not to eliminate them. Speaking of IBM, the company will also collaborate with eight leading universities to train its cloud-based AI-driven Watson computer system to tackle cybercrime, Times of India reports.