Artificial intelligence has increasingly been integrated into the weapons systems of the world’s leading militaries, and at least one expert has said the futuristic technology may soon be the subject of a new Cold War.
Will Robots Fight the Next War? US and Russia Bring Artificial Intelligence to the Battlefield
In a piece published Tuesday by The Conversation,’North Dakota State University assistant professor’Jeremy Straub argued that’unlike the nuclear weapons that dominated much of the 21st century arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the use of cyberweapons and artificial intelligence largely remained “fair game,” even as tensions again flared between the rivals. Both countries have invested heavily in developing new tools to wage war on this new front, but Russia particularly has sought to use it as an opportunity to upstage the more conventionally powerful U.S.
“Now, more than 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia have decommissioned’tens of thousands’of nuclear weapons. However, tensions are growing. Any modern-day cold war would include cyberattacks and nuclear powers’ involvement in allies’ conflicts,” wrote Straub, who was also associate director of the university’s Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research, in his article.
As part of an ambitious effort to restore his military to its former Soviet glory and likely beyond that, Russian President Vladimir Putin has prioritized not only electronic warfare, but also the use of artificial intelligence, which he famously called “the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind” in a September 2017’back-to-school speech to students in’Yaroslavl.
“Whomever becomes a leader in this sphere will be the master of the world,” Putin said. “And I would very much like it that there is no monopoly of this in any specific pair of hands.”
Innovations in weaponized artificial intelligence have already taken many forms. The technology is used’in the complex metrics that allow cruise missiles and drones to find targets hundreds of miles away, as well as the systems deployed to detect and counter them. Russia has also used artificial intelligence to build powerful exoskeletons that give soldiers a near superhuman advantage and to develop literal war-fighting robots that can dual-wield guns, drive vehicles and potentially even travel to space.
Artificial intelligence is the weapon of the next Cold War
Jeremy Straub is the associate director of the NDSU Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research. He has received funding related to AI and robotics from the North Dakota State University, the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the University of North Dakota and Sigma Xi. The views presented are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of NDSU or funding agencies.
As during the Cold War after World War II, nations are developing and building weapons based on advanced technology. During the Cold War, the weapon of choice was nuclear missiles; today it’s software, whether its used for attacking computer systems or targets in the real world.
Just like the the Cold War in the 1940s and 1950s, each side has reason to fear its opponent gaining a technological upper hand. In a recent meeting at the Strategic Missile Academy near Moscow, Russian President Vladmir Putin suggested that AI may be the way Russia can rebalance the power shift created by the U.S. outspending Russia nearly 10-to-1 on defense each year. Russia’s state-sponsored RT media reported AI was ‘key to Russia beating [the] U.S. in defense.’
It sounds remarkably like the rhetoric of the Cold War, where the United States and the Soviets each built up enough nuclear weapons to kill everyone on Earth many times over. This arms race led to the concept of mutual assured destruction: Neither side could risk engaging in open war without risking its own ruin. Instead, both sides stockpiled weapons and dueled indirectly via smaller armed conflicts and political disputes.
Now, more than 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia have decommissioned tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. However, tensions are growing. Any modern-day cold war would include cyberattacks and nuclear powers’ involvement in allies’ conflicts. It’s already happening.
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