Militarisation of the artificial intelligence?
BY any specific definition, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the theory focusing on the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translation between languages.
The computers of fifth-generation use AI technology that includes: Development of expert systems, Game Playing, Robotics, Natural language understanding and Neural Networks.
Needless to say, with its expanding multidimensional impact in modern technology, AI has become an evolving tool in military and nuclear technology — vindicated by the fact the Pentagon is likely to form an ethical AI army, albeit a mammoth task.
The phenomenal AI renaissance has resulted in making two remarkable technological developments of machine learning and autonomy.
Machine learning—at the core of the renaissance—is an approach to software programming that now enables the development of increasingly capable AI applications.
By and far, AI has the potential to disrupt military Intelligence, surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
“Artificial Intelligence is advancing exponentially,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications.
Unquestionably, there is a delicate balance between this approach —of maximizing AI and minimizing risks.
From a technical perspective, it is beyond dispute that the AI renaissance will have an impact on nuclear weapons and postures.
Advances in machine learning and autonomy could unlock new and varied possibilities for a wide array of nuclear force-related capabilities, ranging from early warning to command and control and weapon delivery.
With the support of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Pakistan has established a National Command Centre (NCC), which has a fully automated Strategic Command and Control Support System (SCCSS) that enables the decision makers at the NCC to have round-the-clock situational awareness of all strategic assets during peacetime and especially in times of crisis.
AI systems are already in use at strategic domains for security purposes: using thumb impressions, digital retina scans and facial recognition software to restrict access to sensitive high security installations in Pakistan.
The AI has been exponentially used in fourth and fifth generation warfares while it will be continuously used in synchronizing military weapons, including the nuclear force architectures.
The risk assessment and mitigation remains a very important tool since AI could pose existing vulnerabilities and delinquencies in global defence systems.
Speaking at the Air & Space Power Conference in 2020, Air Vice-Marshal Lincoln Taylor, chief of staff capability at the UK RAF’s HQ Air Command, said that ‘exploiting artificial intelligence offers choice to commanders and governments’.
And yet, AI’s impending impact on nuclear stability, deterrence and escalation has to be determined as much by a state’s perception of its functionality than what it is capable of doing.
Hence, in the case of nuclear policy, deterrence and strategic calculations more broadly, the growing perception of an adversary’s capabilities and intentions seems as important as its actual capability.
In addition to the importance of military force postures, capabilities and doctrine, the effects of AI will be nonetheless critical, increasing the risk of inadvertent escalation as a result of misperception and misunderstanding.
Futuristically, military AI will include a fair degree of human agency, especially in the safety-critical nuclear domain.
Currently, in a joint effort by EPEL’s Swiss Plasma Centre (SPC) and AI Company Deep Mind, scientists makes a breakthrough in the field of Nuclear Physics as it controls the plasma movement in a nuclear fusion experiment.
However, the increasing speed of warfare will also undermine strategic stability and increase the risk of nuclear confrontation.
Whereas given the interplay between an ongoing arms race and the perceived strategic benefits of AI powered weapons, it appears logical that the AI tools will attract states to compete for a technological supremacy over their rivals.
Meanwhile, the increasingly competitive and contested nuclear multipolar world order will compound the destabilizing effects of AI and, in turn, increase escalation risks in future warfare between great military powers—especially the United States, China and Russia.
Moreover, the potential operational and strategic advantages offered by AI-augmented capabilities could prove irresistible to nuclear-armed strategic rivals.
In addition, AI may help reduce toil across the Navy give autonomy with unmanned systems, and software codes may increase the speed and quality of human decision-making, according to Brett Vaughan, the US Navy’s chief artificial intelligence officer at the ONR.
While military strategists are planning to leverage the computer vision capability of artificial intelligence— to hunt down submarines, detect an enemy intrusion or decode messages using machine learning abilities— several countries around the world have given nod to using drones in the name of national security.
Consequently, military groups worldwide are seeking systems that can operate autonomously in highly complicated, disputed and congested settings like GPS-denied areas or military camp areas protected by severe electromagnetic interference.
This has forced the national defence bodies to turn to startups for gaining technical support.
In the current scenario of the Russian-Ukraine Conflict, the Pentagon has developed Autonomous Drone Swarms, 1,000-Mile Cannon, in this way, the US military has new technology on the drawing board in response to the newly evolving warfare trends.
Russia also applies the AI tools in its sixth generation warfare of hypersonic weapon technology.
Beijing has declared that China’s ‘Space Dream’ is to overtake all nations and become the leading space power by 2045.
China has already installed its Robot army on the Ladakh border. Notably, the Pentagon is engaged in researching war scenarios in which AI is permitted to operate on its own after receiving commands from a human.
Today, we need AI to be bias free, ethically transparent, responsible and explainable.
Though given the high probability that our exposed AI systems could be attacked and the current lack of resilience in AI technology, the underlying core areas to invest in military Artificial Intelligence are those that operate in uncontested domains.
Thus, artificial-intelligence tools — closely supervised by human experts or that have secure inputs and outputs— may provide value to the military while alleviating concerns about vulnerabilities.
In his agenda for disarmament, Securing Our Common Future, UN Secretary-General António Guterres advocated, “Arms control has always been motivated by the need to keep ahead of the challenges to peace and security raised by science and technology” and emerging means and methods of warfare.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.