Active Stocks
Tue Sep 26 2023 15:58:49
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 128.85 1.18%
  1. Tata Motors share price
  2. 619.75 0.19%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,537.65 0.39%
  1. State Bank Of India share price
  2. 594.3 0.03%
  1. ITC share price
  2. 442.4 -0.05%
Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  The Russia-Ukraine war may become a testing ground for AI

The Russia-Ukraine war may become a testing ground for AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) will have a major impact on warfare and geopolitics, with potential benefits including reducing collateral damage, providing detailed strategic targeting information and aiding logistics. AI could also be used in psychological and information warfare, back office activities and cyber attacks, potentially becoming the most dangerous attribute. The Pentagon is urged to refine its implementation of AI in the Ukrainian campaign to fully understand the impact on the conduct of war.

AI, for example, could direct a swarm of drones to deplete enemy defences. (iStockphoto)Premium
AI, for example, could direct a swarm of drones to deplete enemy defences. (iStockphoto)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is, suddenly, everywhere. We are awash in ideas about how we can use AI productively—from agriculture to climate change to engineering. And, equally, there are plenty of cautionary notes being struck about using AI to control societies, manipulate economies, defeat commercial opponents, and generally fulfil Arthur C. Clarke’s visions of machines dominating man in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Thus far, however, relatively little has been written about the implications of AI on warfare and geopolitics. For better and worse, those arenas also lend themselves to a variety of ways in which new technologies can suddenly break apart paradigms. Think of Agincourt in 1415, a medieval battle in which the flower of the French nobility—sporting the key technology of that age, plate armour—were slaughtered at long range through an emerging technology, English longbowmen led by King Henry V. Military technology—submarines, radar, sonar, nuclear weapons—can change the global balance in an instant.

Are we at such a moment with AI? Perhaps. A good point of comparison might be the advent of nuclear weapons, when the most experienced warrior of his age, General Douglas MacArthur, saw the atomic bombs used on Japan and said simply that “warfare is changed forever." Yet the hand-to-hand combat in Ukraine, the dug-in Russian forces in their extensive trenches awaiting the promised Ukrainian summer offensive, and the endless artillery duels between the two sides all seem oh-so-19th century, frankly. How will artificial intelligence completely change warfare?

First and foremost, AI will be a powerful tool for decision makers on the battlefield at every level. I vividly remember when the Vincennes, a US Navy Aegis cruiser, mistakenly shot down an Iranian commercial airliner in 1988. The tactical action officer in the combat information centre incorrectly assessed a hostile Iranian military jet. Nearly 300 civilians paid with their lives.

Had an AI advisor been available, capable of synthesizing millions of data points and comparing the radar picture to an infinite number of similar scenarios, it almost certainly would have identified a civilian aircraft. AI could dramatically reduce “collateral damage" killings.

AI could also instantly provide highly detailed strategic targeting information, giving a decision maker a road map to use precision weapons at the most vulnerable points of an enemy’s logistics chain. In the Libyan campaign of 2011, which I commanded, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization struggled with avoiding collateral damage and less-than-optimal target selection—capabilities AI could have provided.

Another crucial capability of AI is the ability to control massive swarms of drones in synchronized attack formations, much as birds flock together to scare away predators. This kind of mechanical murmuration can be directed with deadly results by low-cost, disposable drones that swamp air defenses. Using AI to direct drones in Ukraine, for example, could allow the Kyiv government to further deplete Russia’s dwindling supply of armour, and cause its forces to waste critical air-defense missiles.

AI could also be a powerful tool in psychological and information warfare. Creating deepfakes could cause mistaken reactions by enemy forces. Consider the image of the Pentagon in flames that spooked markets last week as it went viral around the globe. Ukraine could further the Russians’ sense of a failing war through a flood of AI-generated fake images, false stories and shadow operations.

AI will be very helpful in defensive and back office activities in war. Logistics, as we have seen in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, can be an Achilles heel of militaries. With AI analysing maintenance patterns, suggesting preventative maintenance, detangling combat supply chains, and providing minute-to-minute logistical advice, commanders will have a deep advantage over opponents who have fallen behind in the race to develop these tools.

Finally, the ability to use AI to conduct cyberattacks may be its most dangerous attribute. As militaries continue to run combat operations, logistics, targeting, intelligence and all other aspects of modern warfare with the internet as the backbone, the ability to crack into an opponent’s cyber networks will be crucial. Particularly with advances in quantum computing, superior AI systems will allow overall mastery of the cyber battlefield.

Even as we consider the immense benefits of AI to our societies, we need to have a clear-eyed understanding of just how deep the impact will be on the conduct of war. All the more reason for the Pentagon to refine its implementation of AI in the Ukrainian campaign, which will have benefits for decades to come. ©bloomberg

James Stavridis is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and a former supreme allied commander of Nato.

"Exciting news! Mint is now on WhatsApp Channels 🚀 Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest financial insights!" Click here!

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Updated: 01 Jun 2023, 11:24 PM IST
Next Story
Recommended For You
Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App