WHEN IT comes to using artificial intelligence (AI), intelligence agencies have been at it longer than most. In the cold war America's National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) explored early AI to help transcribe and translate the enormous volumes of Soviet phone-intercepts they began hoovering up in the 1960s and 1970s. Your browser does not support the audio element. Yet the technology was immature. One former European intelligence officer says his service did not use automatic transcription or translation in Afghanistan in the 2000s, relying on native speakers instead.
WHEN IT COMES to artificial intelligence (AI), spy agencies have been at it longer than most. In the cold war, America's National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) explored early AI to help transcribe and translate the enormous volumes of Soviet phone-intercepts they began hoovering up in the 1960s. Yet the technology was immature. One former European intelligence officer says his service did not use automatic transcription or translation in Afghanistan in the 2000s, relying on native speakers instead. Now the spooks are hoping to do better. The trends that have made AI attractive for business--more data, better algorithms, and more processing power to make it all hum--are giving spy agencies big ideas, too.
With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance. US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon's team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.
Kanaan is generally very bullish about AI, partly because he knows firsthand how useful it stands to be for troops. Six years ago, as an Air Force intelligence officer in Afghanistan, he was responsible for deploying a new kind of intelligence-gathering tool: a hyperspectral imager. The instrument can spot objects that are normally hidden from view, like tanks draped in camouflage or emissions from an improvised bomb-making factory. Kanaan says the system helped US troops remove many thousands of pounds of explosives from the battlefield. Even so, it was often impractical for analysts to process the vast amounts of data collected by the imager.
File photo - U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment watch as CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade lands after an advising mission at the Afghan National Army headquarters for the 203rd Corps in the Paktia province of Afghanistan December 21, 2014. Warrior Maven: What is the primary purpose of the Army's AI Task Force? Matty: The Army AI Task Force was established with a Secretary of the Army directive in October of 2018. There are four thrusts or top initiatives from the Secretary's directive. One component is we are leveraging AI to help our talent management in human resources.
The leader of an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan who was responsible for a spate of recent bombings that left hundreds of civilians dead was killed in an American drone strike, U.S. officials told Fox News on Sunday. The deputy spokesperson for Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani announced the death of ISIS-K leader, Abu Sayeed Orakzai, a U.S. military spokesman said. Next weekend, a new U.S. military commander will be taking over in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, the former head of Joint Special Operations Command which oversees the elite commando units Delta Force, SEAL Team 6 and the 75th Ranger Regiment. The U.S. military has doubled its air strikes in Afghanistan over the past year and increased them fivefold over 2016 levels.
More than 2,400 AI researchers recently signed a pledge promising not to build so-called autonomous weapons--systems that would decide on their own whom to kill. This follows Google's decision not to renew a contract to supply the Pentagon with AI for analysis of drone footage after the company came under pressure from many employees opposed to its work on a project known as Maven. Paul Scharre, the author of a new book, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, believes that AI researchers need to do more than opt out if they want to bring about change. An Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan and now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Scharre argues that AI experts should engage with policymakers and military professionals to explain why researchers are concerned and help them understand the limitations of AI systems. Scharre spoke with MITTechnology Review senior editor Will Knight about the best way to halt a potentially dangerous AI arms race.
When U.S. Special Forces entered Afghanistan in 2001, Facebook didn't exist, the iPhone had yet to be invented, and "A.I." often referred to an NBA star. Seventeen years later, American special operations forces continue to ride horseback in rural Afghanistan, but information technology has advanced rapidly. Recent breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have captured the popular imagination and prompted sober talk of an impending AI revolution. Yet surprisingly little of that talk has touched on the small wars and insurgencies that have dominated U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. The definitive work on emerging technology and insurgency has yet to be written, but two recent books offer suggestions for how the era of big data and AI will affect the United States' modern conflicts.
Editor's Note: The rapid pace of technological innovation is changing the nature of warfare, and futurists are busy spinning out scenarios of a U.S.-China clash in twenty years involving nano-technology and fully autonomous weapons systems. Yet how will new technologies shape insurgency and counterinsurgency, which conjures up images of guerrillas hiding in Vietnam's jungles? My Brookings colleague Chris Meserole looks at two of the latest books on the subject and assesses how the balance between rebels and government may tilt. When U.S. Special Forces entered Afghanistan in 2001, Facebook didn't exist, the iPhone had yet to be invented, and "A.I." often referred to an NBA star. Seventeen years later, American special operations forces continue to ride horseback in rural Afghanistan, but information technology has advanced rapidly.
KABUL – President Ashraf Ghani confirmed Friday that Pakistani Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah has been killed in a U.S. drone strike. Fazlullah is believed to have ordered the failed 2012 assassination of Malala Yousafzai, who became a global symbol of the fight for girls' rights to schooling, and who later won the Nobel Peace Prize. U.S. forces targeted Fazlullah in a counterterrorism strike Thursday in eastern Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. officials said, without confirming his death. "I spoke with Prime Minister of #Pakistan Nasir ul Mulk and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and confirmed the death of Mullah Fazlullah," Ghani tweeted, adding: "His death is the result of tireless human intel led by #Afghan security agencies." Ghani added the Pakistani leaders had assured him the strike was "a great step toward building trust between the two nations," while urging them to "bring (the) Afghan Taliban residing in Pakistan to the negotiation table."