One aspect of the return of great power competition is the race to develop artificial intelligence, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said at the virtual Joint Artificial Intelligence Center symposium.
Artificial intelligence has the potential to change the battlefield, and the country that’s first to field it will have enormous advantages over competitors, he told participants today.
“History informs us that those who are first to harness once-in-a-generation technologies often have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for years to come,” the secretary said. “I experienced this firsthand during Operation Desert Storm, when the United States’ military’s smart bombs, stealth aircraft and satellite-enabled GPS helped decimate Iraqi forces and their Soviet equipment.”
Artificial intelligence has the potential to be even more far-reaching than those technologies. “Unlike advanced munitions or next-generation platforms, artificial intelligence is in a league of its own, with the potential to transform nearly every aspect of the battlefield, from the back office to the front lines,” he said. “That is why we cannot afford to cede the high ground to revisionist powers intent on bending, breaking or reshaping international rules and norms in their favor — to the collective detriment of others.”
Esper noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin said the nation that leads in AI will be the “ruler of the world,” and Russia has increased investments in the technology. “His intent is to employ any possible advantage to expand Russia’s influence and chip away at the sovereignty of others,” Esper said.