The advantage of AI in warfare

Fascinating rundown of the advantages of AI in warfare by Paul Scharre in War on the Rocks.

“When an AI fighter pilot beat an experienced human pilot 15-0 in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s AlphaDogfight competition, it didn’t just fly better than the human. It fought differently. Heron Systems’ AI agent used forward-quarter gunshots, when the two aircraft were racing toward each other head-to-head, a shot that’s banned in pilot training because of the risk of a collision. One fighter pilot characterized the AI’s abilities as a “superhuman capability” making high-precision, split-second shots that were “almost impossible” for humans. Even more impressive, the AI system wasn’t programmed to fight this way. It learned this tactic all on its own. AI systems’ ability to perform not just better than humans, but to fight differently, is a major potential advantage in warfare.”

However, AI is not good at everything:

“The final version of OpenAI Five played over 7,000 games on the internet, racking up an impressive 99.4 percent win average against 15,000 human players. But the model was not as robust as these numbers might suggest. Every time that the Dota 2 game was updated by its developer, such as adding new characters, items, or maps, OpenAI researchers had to perform what they termed “surgery” on the AI model to adapt it to the new environment. The researchers similarly had to perform surgery if they made available to the model a new action or item, as they matured the model’s capabilities and introduced it to more complex environments.”

It seems the impact of independent AI driven platforms will be biggest in the more simple domains – air and space. Maritime will be somewhere in between, and armies of land based killer robots is some time away. Land warfare is just too unpredictable for these systems to understand what’s going on.

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