The Future of War

The Future of War

A new career path opens for data scientists as the future of war becomes Algorithm vs Algorithm

Sample the following developments:

  • A satellite-controlled weapon system killed the leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh as he was driving surrounded by a convoy of bodyguards on November 27, last year. A total of 13 shots were fired killing him, targeting him with such precision that his wife sitting inches away from him in the car escaped without injuries.
  • A sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used business email software morphed into a global cybersecurity crisis, as hackers raced to infect as many victims as possible before companies can secure their computer systems. The attack came in unstoppable waves affecting more than 60,000 businesses.
  • A group of 26 scientists, science communicators have raised doubts about the origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus. They have questioned WHO’s (World Health Organization) mandate, independence, and access to comment with authority that the virus, which has till date killed more people than WWII, was not manufactured in a lab.
  • In a 44-day war that ended on November 10,2020, Azerbaijan deployed drones of Russian, Turkish, Israeli, and indigenous designs performed both reconnaissance missions to support artillery use and strike missions against Armenia. Unmanned aerial vehicles and loitering munition attacks were able to destroy heavy ground units, including T-72 tanks and advanced S-300 air defences.

These are just a few instances which show the speed at which modern-day conflict and warfare is changing. Britain is cutting down on its fighter planes and tanks and investing in cyberwarfare technologies, drones, and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. China which has made rapid advances in AI warfare calls it the ‘intelligentized war.” The US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) has come out with a startling revelation that the US government still operates at human speed, not machine speed.

Within the next decade, China could surpass the United States as the world’s AI superpower. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has long been hardware-oriented toward ships, planes, and tanks. It is now trying to make the leap to a software-intensive enterprise. Battlefield advantage will shift to those who harness superior data, connectivity, compute power, algorithms, and overall system security to new warfighting concepts. AI will make the process of finding and hitting targets of military value faster and more efficient. It will also increase accuracy of target identification and minimize collateral damage.

AI-enabled systems will optimise tasking and collection for platforms, sensors, and assets in near-real time in response to dynamic intelligence requirements or changes in the environment. At the tactical edge, “smart” sensors will be capable of pre-processing raw intelligence and prioritizing the data to transmit and store, which will be especially helpful in degraded or low-bandwidth environments. Once collected, intelligent processing systems can triage the information, identify trends and patterns, summarize key implications, and prepare the highest-priority information for human review (or flag items of particular interest, based on analyst-defined conditions).

Alarmed by China’s plans to overtake the US in AI capabilities by 2030, NSCAI has come up with a detailed plan to make US ready for a AI warfare by 2025 with an investment of over $35 billion. While preparing the plan, the US authorities have highlighted that severe talent shortage is a stumbling block in achieving its ambitious goals of digital superiority over its arch-rivals Russia and China.

The report states that the AI competition will not be won by the side with the best technology. It will be won by the side with the best, most diverse and tech-savvy talent. The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Intelligence Community (IC) both face an alarming talent deficit. This problem is the greatest impediment to the U.S. being AI-ready by 2025. National security agencies need more digital experts now or they will remain unprepared to buy, build, and use AI and its associated technologies. Digital expertise is the most important requirement for government modernisation, but few parts of government have adequately invested in building a digital workforce.

AI will transform all aspects of military affairs. AI applications will help militaries prepare, sense and understand, decide, and execute faster and more efficiently. Numerous weapon systems will leverage one or more AI technologies. AI systems will generate options for commanders and create battle networks connecting systems across all domains. It will transform logistics, procurement, training, and the design and development of new hardware.

Adopting AI will demand the development of new tactics and operational concepts. In the future, warfare will pit algorithm against algorithm. The sources of battlefield advantage will shift from traditional factors like force size and levels of armaments to factors like superior data collection and assimilation, connectivity, computing power, algorithms, and system security.

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