| Welcome to Global Village Space

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Artificial Intelligence in military affairs: prospects and perils

The writer explains that though Artificial Intelligence has revolutionized military affairs, if not controlled, might have grave implications for human beings. Thus, international regulation to compel the military AI to follow the human laws and use AI for international peace and security.

Artificial Intelligence in military affairs has changed the nature and scope of combat in exponential ways. Not only this phenomenon has given edge to the states who employ AI to strategically advance their combat but has also given them the lead in the concept of international political security.

Artificial Intelligence is simulation of natural intelligence in machines with the help of algorithms which makes machines capable of thinking and acting like humans. In recent years, AI has advanced rapidly which effectuates digital transformation of the society through its wide applications like speech recognition, customer services, web search, medical, food and farming, and transportation etc.

Moreover, there have been extensive innovations in the field of robotics and faster and efficient robots are being used in industries for packaging and manufacturing. The more information provided to AI will result in more accurate and efficient assessment as well as subsequent actions which will also improve the record of success.

US and China employing Artificial Intelligence in military affairs

The United States and China are leading states in AI and more than 20 countries have announced their AI strategies to take decisive steps in the field as it would contribute in gaining economic and military advantage against their rivals.

According to the New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan announced in 2017, China is expected to become a global leader in AI by 2030 through creating a trillion Yuan. Conversely, the US Department of Defence has decided to allocate $874 million in the AI domain in order to boost logistics, computing, command and control, and deterrence against adversaries like China.

Read more: Artificial intelligence copilot flew a US military plane for the first time

Artificial Intelligence in military affairs a cutting edge concept

Artificial intelligence has also revolutionized military affairs in several domains. For example, accuracy and precision of today’s weapons, and robotic assistance to warfighting without increasing the manpower are advantages of AI.

AI can work efficiently in robotic air-to-air refuelling aircraft and due to its better flight record and operational capacity, it can even operate in such an environment which is unfavourable for a human pilot. Moreover, AI pilots are scoring significant victories over their human counterparts because of more accuracy and precision strikes.

Arena of air surveillance is also getting benefits from AI due to its ability to follow multiple potential targets and using data to predict targets with ever-great accuracy. These facts make it evident that AI has potential to alter the military balances in the international system.

Furthermore, states are using AI not merely in civil domain but also in military domain so it could provide them an edge over their adversary in the battlefield as faster and more accurate machines and weaponry can shift the outcome of war.

Also, reduced human participation and casualties due to AI will make the legitimacy of wars easier for the governments. Besides, it will enable military forces to carry out high risk missions that were not conducted before due to large scale human involvement and expected casualties.

Read more: Can Artificial Intelligence Help us Track China virus?

Downside of Artificial Intelligence in military affairs

Artificial intelligence in military affairs, if not controlled, might have grave implications for human beings. For instance, conflicts fought in populated cities involve a large number of human beings that are non-combatants, but machines and robots will not be able to differentiate between combatants and civilians which could cause a large-scale devastation and bloodshed of innocent masses.

Additionally, there is a serious concern among the researchers and commentators that killer robots do not know the Law of Armed Conflict and cannot apply it. In view of these concerns, Humans Rights Watch has urged not to make fully autonomous AI units that are capable of making lethal decisions.

Military planners need to consider another main concern that these robots, unlike humans, can be hacked by terrorists and non-state actors in ways to attain their desired objectives. Software can also go wrong due to which a state’s robots and aircraft, based on AI systems, can turn into its enemy.

AI can impact the nature of war in the nuclear realm as it can destroy the command and control, and communication assets with its precision strikes. AI can also undermine the deterrence because states might feel threatened and go for counterforce targets, presuming that other states could use AI to interfere with their command and control.

AI poses another challenge to the Always-Never Dilemma which means that leaders want high assurance that nuclear weapons will always work whenever launched and will not work in absence of authorized direction. But AI could lead to accidental use or misuse of nuclear weapons which will have consequences beyond the human imagination.

Read more: Rise of AI: South Asia’s strategic stability in danger?

Conclusively, the development and vast application of AI in the field of military are accompanied by the competition between the states due to its potential to impact almost all domains and all levels of warfare.

There must be some international regulation to compel states who use Artificial Intelligence in military affairs to follow the human laws in order to avoid its harmful repercussions because there is a high possibility that states might engage in AI arms race. Additionally, Research and development in AI should be ethical and subject to the overall interest of human beings to avoid its misuse and abuse. AI should be used to promote sustainable peace and security by the cooperation of the international community, humanitarian actors, and civil society under the ambit of the United Nations.

Read more: Artificial intelligence: Undeniable reality – Dr. Zafar Jaspal


Muhammad Usama Ali is a student of Strategic Studies at National Defence University Islambad. He is working as an intern at Center for International Strategic Studies Islamabad (CISS). He can be reached at ranachanda1180@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.