December 19, 2019

Artificial Intelligence, Foresight, and the Offense-Defense Balance

By Ben Garfinkel and Allan Dafoe

There is a growing perception that AI will be a transformative technology for international security. The current U.S. National Security Strategy names artificial intelligence as one of a small number of technologies that will be critical to the country’s future. Senior defense officials have commented that the United States is at “an inflection point in the power of artificial intelligence” and even that AI might be the first technology to change “the fundamental nature of war.”

However, there is still little clarity regarding just how artificial intelligence will transform the security landscape. One of the most important open questions is whether applications of AI, such as drone swarms and software vulnerability discovery tools, will tend to be more useful for conducting offensive or defensive military operations. If AI favors the offense, then a significant body of international relations theory suggests that this could have destabilizing effects. States could find themselves increasingly able to use force and increasingly frightened of having force used against them, making arms-racing and war more likely. If AI favors the defense, on the other hand, then it may act as a stabilizing force.

Read the full article in War on the Rocks.

Learn more about the Artificial Intelligence and International Stability Project:

Artificial Intelligence and International Stability Project

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