Machine Militaries: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and National Security

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By Bailey Piazza

With global superpowers forging the path, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fueling the automated arms race. While still young in its development, AI has transformed the international landscape of security innovation. Russia’s military modernization program triggered heavy investment in the automation of its armed forces. The United States Department of Defense inaugurated the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team in April 2017 to advance AI technologies in the software of machine weaponry. China released a “new generation of Artificial Intelligence development plan” detailing the government’s thirteen-year strategy to “become the major Artificial Intelligence innovation center in the world.” It is no secret that AI has changed the course of national security as we know it.

Machine Militaries

In the future, humans will delegate its most dangerous, war-fighting tasks to autonomous technology. While we already see the replacement of humans by machines in life-threatening situations, like Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) robots detecting and disabling IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, humans are still in control of the situation by maneuvering the robot and making the decisions.

However, AI will eventually transform military forces. Autonomous weapons, vehicles, aircrafts and drones will catalyze a shift from manned to unmanned combat missions. The greater reliance on cyber weapons combined with their rapid development and availability will grant smaller nations and non-state actors with less powerful militaries the ability to defend and demand interests while also carrying greater weight in influencing international policies.

AI will also be critical in the future of cyber security. Countries will use AI to assess and monitor vulnerabilities in computer systems, continually detecting threats and reinforcing strong cyber defense. Cyber offense will also experience a significant improvement by AI. Nations armed with complex AI cyber weapons, like a machine learning Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) cyber attack, will quickly hunt system weaknesses and execute bespoke hacking and attack campaigns.

Ultimately, Artificial Intelligence will usher in an age where military superiority carries no relation to population or economic might.

Artificial Intelligence as National Intelligence

The continued development of Artificial Intelligence will significantly impact the way countries collect, analyze, and even generate intelligence. According to a study by Dell EMC Corporation, the data produced by the digital universe will double every three years. Intelligence analysts scouring this infinite sea of information eventually will be aided, or more likely replaced, by AI machinery.

The capabilities of AI in intelligence collection and analysis will be unmatched by human potential, like the ability to photograph and analyze Earth’s surface daily, examining every square foot of the planet every twenty-four hours.

AI-aided surveillance will also mean the end of guerilla warfare as terrorist groups or other threatening organizations struggle to leave an invisible digital footprint. Machine learning will offer nations the ability to derive and process unstructured sensor data, amplifying the amount of data captured via Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT).

AI will also grant countries the capacity to make hyper-realistic propaganda or execute social engineering schemes, similar to Russia’s social media interference in the 2017 presidential elections. AI-equipped countries will use face and voice mapping, recognition, and editing to create digital puppets. These life-like portrayals of world leaders, diplomats, citizens, etc. spouting engineered messages will continue to make news media indistinguishable from the truth.

Lastly, a far greater reliance on cyber in national security will make protecting and collecting sensitive intelligence dramatically more critical. Actors could launch intricate cyber attacks, aiming to hack, damage, collect, and/or sell government secrets and national safety.

Automated Economies

Artificial Intelligence will thoroughly transform economies as projectors of power. In the future, AI technology will accelerate global innovation and productivity. Scientists from all fields will research, develop, test, and accurately assess hypotheses at a fraction of the time consumed today in the identical process. Machine learning algorithms and mechanical simulations will automatically produce designs, optimizing existing products and creating entirely new inventions.

Innovation will flourish and a plethora of highest-quality devices will pour into the markets, making technology more accessible and increasing computer literacy nationwide. However, as AI spreads deeper roots into national economies, it will force other jobs out of existence, making thousands of occupations obsolete. Humans will not be able to compete with their computerized opposition. If the future of AI continues down this path, technology will reduce the demand for low-skill labor and obstruct opportunities to retrain, posing devastating consequences to countries’ economies and societies.

About the author: Bailey Piazza is a Contributor to Diplomatic Courier Magazine.

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