Note: This item comes from friend Andy Maffei. DLH]
The Next Big War Will Turn on AI, Says US Secret-Weapons Czar
By PATRICK TUCKER
Mar 28 2017
The first day of the next major conflict shouldn’t look like war at all according to William Roper, who runs the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO. Instead, imagine a sort of digital collection blitzkrieg, with data-gathering software and sensors setting of alarms left and right as they vacuum up info for a massive AI. Whoever collects the most data on Day One just might win the war before a single shot is fired.
“My prediction for the future is that when we go out to fly planes on the first day of battle, whether they are manned or unmanned, that the purpose of the first day or the second day will not be to go out and destroy enemy aircraft or other systems. It’s to go out, collect data, do data reconnaissance, so that our learning system gets smarter than [the enemy’s],” Roper said Tuesday at an Air Force Association event on Tuesday. “Every day you fly, you get that exponential increase in sophistication.”
As head of the SCO, Roper helps the services turn existing technologies and weapons into surprising new capabilities…fast. He is the military’s foremost go-to guy to figure out how to use advances in technology to secure military advantage and how the enemy might do the same. (Think, perhaps, of the title character in 1964’s Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove.) Roper says that the United States’ most important and overlooked asset is probably the digital information it produces in terrific abundance. Every second, data is pouring out of planes, satellites, and sensors related to targeting, machine performance, mission success, intelligence, and more. The military, he says, treats that data cheaply.
“We’re still focusing on data in a 1990s way: something you use to go into a fight and win and after that, the data, its raison d’être is over,” he says. The Air Force, in particular, is a “service that generates a lot of data and that goes into mission planning.”
That’s not how the commercial world values data, and particularly not companies like Facebook and Google. Many Silicon Valley companies are charging ahead with deep learning to create new products, services, and ways of outmaneuvering competitors.
“To them that data is…oil,” said Roper. “It’s wealth and fuel. Your data keeps working for you. You stockpile the most data that you can and train that to teach and train autonomous systems.”
Roper hopes to spread this notion throughout the Pentagon.
“Almost nowhere do I see a technology that’s current that offers as much as autonomy,” he said. “We’re working very hard to produce a learning system.”
He said the military had several “pathfinder” initiatives underway but could not go into detail.