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By Annika Mehta

“The potential benefits of artificial intelligence are huge, so are the dangers”

Technology has become the key driver of the pace of societal evolution and it redefines social parameters with unique outputs. The incarnation of AI is motivating global powers to prepare themselves to control and maneuver advanced technologies to establish their dominance in the global power play. The superiority of artificial intelligence is the new paradigm of power between superpowers. Technology is becoming the most important factor in determining the effective power of a nation in modern military warfare. It enables the military to encounter complex challenges through effective and innovative methods and will be a key component for future wars. Global military institutions and countries are trying to identify areas where this ‘metallic intelligence’ could plug in with regular military operations.

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Artificial intelligence is a rapidly developing capability. Extensive research by academia and industry is resulting in shorter training times for systems and increasingly better results. AI is effective at certain tasks, such as image recognition, recommendation systems, and language translation. Many systems designed for these tasks are fielded today and producing very good results. In other areas, AI is very short of human-level achievement. Some of these areas include working with scenarios not seen previously by the AI; understanding the context of the text (understanding sarcasm, for example) and objects; and multi- tasking (i.e., being able to solve problems of multiple types). Most AI systems today are trained to do one task and to do so only under very specific circumstances. Unlike humans, they do not adapt well to new environments and new tasks.

Artificial intelligence models are improving daily and have shown their value in many applications. The performance of these systems can make them very useful for tasks such as identifying a T-90 main battle tank in a satellite image, identifying high-value targets in a crowd using facial recognition, translating text for open-source intelligence, and text generation for use in information operations. The application areas where AI has been most successful are those where there are large quantities of labelled data, like ImageNet, Google Translate, and text generation. AI is also very capable in areas like recommendation systems, anomaly detection, prediction systems, and competitive games. An AI system in these domains could assist the military with fraud detection in its contracting services, predicting when weapons systems will fail due to maintenance issues, or developing winning strategies in conflict simulations. All these applications and more can be force multipliers in day-to-day operations and the next conflict.

AI through years in warfare:

Drones have been a key part of warfare for years, but they have generally been remotely controlled by humans. Now, by cobbling together readily available image recognition and autopilot software, autonomous drones can be mass-produced on the cheap.

Today, efforts to enact a total ban on ‘lethal autonomous weapons, long demanded by human rights activists, are now being supported by 30 countries. But the world’s leading military powers insist that is not necessary. The U.S. military says concerns are overblown, and humans can effectively control autonomous weapons, while Russia’s government says true AI weapons cannot be banned because they don’t exist yet.

But the facts on the ground show that technological advancements, coupled with complex conflicts like the Syrian and Libyan civil wars, have created a reality where weapons that make their own decisions are already killing people.

“The debate is very much still oriented towards the future,” said  Ingvild Bode , an

autonomous weapons researcher at the University of Southern Denmark.

Dangers of AI in warfare:

The use and proliferation of autonomous weapon systems appear likely soon, but the risks of AI-enabled warfare are understudied and underfunded. Autonomous weapons and military applications of AI more broadly (such as early-warning and decision-support systems) have the potential to increase the risk factors for a variety of issues, including great power war, nuclear stability, and AI safety. Several of these issues are potential pathways towards existential and global catastrophic risks. Autonomy in weapon systems, therefore, affects both the long-term future of the world and the lives of billions of people today.

Although “killer robots” feature in the popular imagination, and some prominent organizations have taken up and promoted the cause, autonomous weapons remain a neglected issue for three reasons. First, the largest organizations focus mostly on humanitarian issues, leaving strategic threats relatively neglected. Second, those who do study risks beyond “slaughter bots” are few and receive even less funding; there is a talent shortage and room for funding. Third, the most widely-advocated solution — formal treaty-based arms control or a “killer robot ban” — is not the most tractable solution. Thus, philanthropists have an opportunity to have an outsized impact in this space and reduce the long-term risks to humanity’s survival and flourishing.

AI in Future War:

Artificial intelligence will undoubtedly have a role in future military operations. AI can enhance productivity, decrease user workload, and operate faster than humans. The research will continue to update its capability and resilience. The military must have the upper hand on the AI they are using. However, we must try not to abuse or rush into using it. Vulnerable AI systems can cause disastrous outcomes when making critical decisions. So, for now, humans must remain responsible for making crucial decisions. 

Enemies will most likely attack Exposed AI systems. And the current lack of AI technology resilience is a point to study. The military should invest in AI that operates in uncontested domains. Highly monitored AI tools can add value to the military while easing concerns about vulnerabilities. Such systems include medical tools, maintenance and failure prediction tools, and detection programs. These tools will limit the risk of enemy attacks, partial data, and more. These are not the flashy use we often hear about but are more likely to happen soon.

Applications of AI in warfare:

AI can benefit the military in numerous ways including: 

 Warfare systems

 Strategic decision making

 Data processing and Research

 Combat Simulation

 Target Recognition

 Threat Monitoring

 Drone Swarms

 Cybersecurity

 Transportation

 Healthcare

Military applications of AI have become a crucial part of the military’s functioning.

Awareness of the potential of AI is vital to leveraging it for modern military operations.


In modern warfare extensive strategic intelligence is required with a more sophisticated integration of technological components to deal with the situational requirements of war theatres. War zones are one of the areas where each discrete event is overloaded with a high volume of unstructured data. Artificial intelligence could create taxonomies of events from available data sets for integration and structuring of data, thus aiding real-time decision support. As wars become driven by information, AI can provide or recommend valuable options to the commanders that the human brain may not be able to assess on account of the volume or decision time stress. Global military powers are smartly working towards modelling a common platform to handle the context-based challenges from the sea floor to space, using the convergence of disruptive technologies, combined with different tools enabled by AI. This entire processing is making wars knowledge-based as opposed to traditional quantity driven – a radical shift from attrition and destruction-based approaches to one based on effects and outcomes. The fusion of old war skills with AI technology is driving the evolution of a new doctrinal concept of war that is based on rapid and accurate decisions, deployments and destruction of the adversary’s ability and will to fight – instead of one based merely on the targeting of enemy armament and arsenal. 

Physical bravery on the battlefield as we know it, has now an additional dimension of courage in cyberspace, with the advent of digitized warfare.

Artificial intelligence is the next-generation weapon required to transform how armed forces operate, train and fight – right from the barracks to the trenches. Models based on AI are necessary for each country to demystify and structurally address hidden war behaviours of the enemy. Accurate decisions supported by AI could create an exponential impact on the conduct and outcome of wars.

Another dimension to this is the possibility of tweaking existing algorithms from

commercial applications and finding use cases for these in the military domain.

This requires a broader understanding of technology and a deeper understanding of the entire battle design framework. A silo-based approach would be highly expensive, time-consuming and only duplicate algorithms that are already residing in other domains.


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