Today’s rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could disrupt and destabilize the existing military balance—and not necessarily for the reasons that have captured popular imagination. The potential realization of Artificial General Intelligence or “superintelligence” merits discussion, but it remains a relatively distant possibility. Yet advances in AI have already started to provoke fear, and often hyperbole, about the threats of “killer robots,” a looming Terminator Dilemma and the risk of an AI arms race. Earlier this month Elon Musk even tweeted, “Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 [in my opinion].”
These fears may be premature, but AI’s disruptive potential is real. The recent progress in AI has primarily involved machine learning and particularly deep learning techniques, such as the use of deep neural networks, across disciplines including computer vision, pattern recognition and natural language processing. Since 2016, several critical milestones have revealed the rapid pace of advances and potential real-world applications. In 2016, the victory of “Mayhem” in DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge demonstrated the potential of autonomous detection and patching of software vulnerabilities to transform cybersecurity. With the computer program AlphaGo’s historic defeat of Lee Sedol in their 2016 match and subsequent victory over Ke Jie, the world’s top Go player, AI has achieved mastery of the game of Go, which requires complex strategizing, at least a decade earlier than expected.
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