The final three articles in The Economist‘s series on the future of war are all related:
- War at hyperspeed ~ Getting to grips with military robotics ~ Autonomous robots and swarms will change the nature of warfare;
- Stay well back ~ Using clever technology to keep enemies at bay ~ To counter regional challengers, America needs to regain its technological edge; and
- Man and machine ~ Autonomous weapons are a game-changer ~ AI-empowered robots pose entirely new dangers, possibly of an existential kind.
All three articles make a lot of good cases for and against the ever increasing use of technology in warfare.
But, yes and no …
Sailors and soldiers and, more recently, air force members have always looked for an exploited new technology …
… information technology and e.g. artificial intelligence is no more a “game changer” than were the horse, gunpowder and submarine launched missiles. Each was, and IT and AI are, just steps on a long, long road that goes back tens of thousands of years.
The basics of winning wars are still:
- To control the seas;
- To maintain air superiority or, at least, air parity; and
- To take and hold ground by closing with and destroying the enemy.
Each is a very, very human task …
… no matter how much the technology might change …
… or evolve …
… the fundamental business remains the same:
This does not mean that we should not heed the warnings:
- We must, just for example, get AI right or it may do as much harm as good
- We, the US led West, which includes Israel and Japan, must maintain our technological edge ~ and not just in military matters.
- We need to have the right mix of attitudes and education systems that produce both the creating geniuses, the “imagineers” who can see the future …
… and the first rate engineers who can make it happen; and
- We must be masters of the technology, not its servants.
But above all we must remember that it is men and women, not machines, who fight and bleed and die. They, not the technology, will, even in the highest of high tech futures, be the ones who win (or lose) our future wars.