• Hyperwar and its ramifications were the subject of a West 2018 panel comprising (r-l) Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, DIUx; Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition; August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council; and panel moderator Capt. David Adams, USN (Ret.), program manager, Western Pacific Oceaneering.
     Hyperwar and its ramifications were the subject of a West 2018 panel comprising (r-l) Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, DIUx; Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition; August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council; and panel moderator Capt. David Adams, USN (Ret.), program manager, Western Pacific Oceaneering.

Hyperwar Is Coming Faster Than You Think

February 8, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

AI will be the guiding force in future militaries.


Not only will the race for AI go to the swiftest, military superiority may follow suit, according to a panel at West 2018 in San Diego on February 8. Hyperwar, or combat waged under the influence of AI, already is beginning to intrude on military operations. And other nations are devoting huge resources to military AI, which may tilt the balance of conflict in favor of them in little more than a decade.

Hyperwar can take the form of enhancements to existing systems as well as revolutionary approaches to conflict. “The concept behind hyperwar is to consider what happens when AI fuses with the needs of war,“ offered Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition Inc. “The advent of hyperwar opens up the reinterpretation of our geostrategic future.”

Panelists noted that China has claimed it already has a bomber that can conduct missions using AI. The Middle Kingdom has stated publicly that it wants to be dominant in AI by 2030. Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), focused on that issue. “China has devoted $2.1 billion to develop an AI center. Where’s our AI center?”

Husain offered that U.S. efforts in AI will require fundamental shifts to succeed. “We need to fix acquisition,” he pointed out. “AI was invented in America. The U.S. also has the largest number of AI researchers, he added. But if you let those ideas die on the vine, what’s the point?”

August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council, was blunt. “We can’t warn Congress enough of the consequences if we botch this critical moment in technology.”

And the technology already is becoming apparent. The technology of hyperwar is real. It is consumable at any of a number of levels,” Husain said. “We’ve developed a capability that fuses image analysis with language analysis. You’ve removed any bandwidth constraint that comes with eyes in the sky.

“Decision making will become federated, inexpensive, universal and capable of becoming high-minded in swarms,” he continued. “Large-scale, swarm-based AI is the most viable way to deliver these capabilities today.”

Cole was candid about his views on the viability of hyperwar. “The decision-making speed of machines is going to eclipse the political and civilian ability,” he declared.

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"The decision-making speed of machines is going to eclipse the political and civilian ability."—August Cole, Senior Fellow Avascent/Atlantic Council

Note he's prioritizing speed here because he doesn't want to bring up the actual accuracy/usefulness of the decisions themselves (they're often harmful and flat-out wrong without human input, and that won't change). Machines making faster single-valued decisions has been true for decades, and isn't a clever observation or a game-changer.

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