August 31, 2020

The Coming Revolution in Intelligence Affairs

How Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems Will Transform Espionage

By Anthony Vinci

For all of human history, people have spied on one another. To find out what others are doing or planning to do, people have surveilled, monitored, and eavesdropped—using tools that constantly improved but never displaced their human masters. Artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems are changing all of that. In the future, machines will spy on machines in order to know what other machines are doing or are planning to do. Intelligence work will still consist of stealing and protecting secrets, but how those secrets are collected, analyzed, and disseminated will be fundamentally different.

The U.S. intelligence community must embrace the RIA and prepare for a future dominated by AI—or else risk losing its competitive edge.

Military futurists have recognized a similar sea change, and some have dubbed the rise of AI and autonomous weapons systems a “revolution in military affairs.” Its analog in intelligence can be understood as a “revolution in intelligence affairs.” Through the coming RIA, machines will become more than just tools for information collection and analysis. They will become intelligence consumers, decision-makers, and even targets of other machine intelligence operations. The ultimate concern of these machines will still be the political, social, economic, and military relations of human beings—but machine-driven intelligence will operate at such speed, scale, and complexity that human-driven intelligence will no longer be able to keep up. There is no stopping the RIA. The forces of technological innovation and competition have already unleashed it on the world. Instead, the U.S. intelligence community must embrace the RIA and prepare for a future dominated by AI—or else risk losing its competitive edge.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.

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