The Pentagon’s new artificial intelligence strategy shows how the military is shifting from old-school heavy-metal hardware – tanks, ships, planes – to a world where software makes the difference between victory and defeat. And the bigger this shift becomes, several experts suggest, the bigger the role for Special Operations Command in pioneering new technology. Then the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center can cherry-pick the successes and scale them up for wider use.
Sure, SOCOM has a long tradition of innovation in general, but with a $14 billion budget, it can’t build aircraft carriers or stealth fighters. (It gets its aircraft from the larger services and modifies them for special missions). What SOCOM can test-drive for the services is the smaller stuff, from off-road vehicles to mini-drones to frontline wireless networks – but in the information age, the small stuff is a big deal.
We’re not talking killer robots here, but intangible algorithms that help humans make sense of masses of data. (Much of that data, admittedly, is gathered by drones and other unmanned systems, but most are unarmed and even the armed ones can’t fire without a human command). What SOCOM and DoD’s AI Strategy as a whole are looking for, fundamentally, is AI software that can rapidly process vast amounts of information on everything from threats to targets to logistics, provide recommendations to commanders, and maybe take instant action against split-second threats like hacking and jamming, but leave life-and-death decisions to human beings – who remain, as the strategy says, “our enduring source of strength.”
Read the full article and more in Breaking Defense.