Artificial Intelligence and the impact it is having on modern combat is the subject of a fascinating new book by Paul Scharre titled “Four Battlegrounds; Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.  In his book, Scharre argues that four key elements will define this struggle: data, computing power, talent & institutions.Artificial Intelligence

Scharre is a former Army Ranger who also worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he played a leading role in establishing policies on unmanned and autonomous systems and emerging weapons technologies. He currently serves as Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for New American Security. His award winning Book “Army of None; Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War” was selected by Bill Gates as one of the top five books of 2018.

Much of Paul’s book deals with the potential dark sides of Artificial Intelligence.  One example is the growing sophistication of voice replication technologies that are being used to conduct scams. Another is China’s use of facial recognition technology to subjugate their people. Like any tool, AI can be used for good purposes or evil.

China’s embrace of Artificial Intelligence research and deployment is the subject of much of our discussion. China produces more AI scientists than any country in the world but many come to the US. If China were to move on Taiwan it would significantly disrupt the world economy.

Personally, I always want to have a human being in the command chain somewhere. However, Paul says we are rapidly moving toward completely autonomous weapons systems.  AI tools can be powerful, but they are also still very brittle. Paul cites a somewhat humorous example of how several Marines defeated a “battlebot”.  He also warns about a “race to the bottom” in regard to safety of AI technology.

TAKEAWAY:  One of our greatest disadvantages in this technology race is government bureaucracy. Paul calls it “lethal to innovation.”