At The American Conservative, Dimitri Simes Jr. tells readers that the world’s major powers are in an arms race, attempting to develop weapons using artificial intelligence. Frighteningly, Simes concludes that the use of AI in warfare could keep wars going on forever. He writes (abridged):
The world’s major powers are in the middle of an artificial intelligence (AI) arms race. Over the next several years, China expects to deploy a fleet of unmanned submarines in contested waters like the South China Sea. Russia has tested its robotic tank on the battlefield in Syria and is reportedly working on developing autonomous nuclear submarines. For its part, the United States is in the process of testing autonomous swarming drones.
This development has major implications—not just for how wars are fought, but also for the future of American foreign policy. As AI grows into an essential part of modern warfare, it will become more difficult for the United States to exit wars and avoid new ones. In short, the use of AI could very well keep our military trapped in forever wars.
On September 26, 1983, the world came dangerously close to nuclear armageddon. Early that morning, the Soviet Union’s nuclear early warning system reported an incoming attack of five intercontinental ballistic missiles that had been launched from the United States.
Thankfully, the Soviet officer monitoring the system, knowing that an actual American nuclear attack would involve far more than just five missiles, deduced that the signal was a false alarm. Consequently, he chose not to report the signal to his superiors, thereby averting a Soviet counterstrike that could have led to an all-out nuclear war.
As AI takes on a bigger role in the military, it will be asked to deal with sensitive and high-stakes situations like the 1983 nuclear crisis. Given its track record so far, that prospect should worry us. If we rush to embrace AI, we will hand over the power to make decisions about war and peace to rigid algorithms. And that’s exactly the way our “forever wars” will become truly endless.
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