October 19, 2021 –
Artificial Intelligence (AI) could lead to “Hyperwar”—a type of conflict and competition so automated that it would collapse the decision action loop, eventually minimizing human control over most decisions. America’s challenge is to encourage the organizational transformation necessary to adopt safer, more explainable AI systems to maintain our competitive edge, now that the technical transformation is at our doorstep.
On December 16, 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) program hosted a speaker session with General John R. Allen, USMC (Ret) and Mr. Amir Husain (Founder & CEO, SparkCognition) as part of its SMA INSS/PRISM Speaker Series.
The potential for blending the character of war (the types of technologies used in war) and the nature of war (the human domain) is increasing as autonomous systems are used more frequently on the battlefield. There is also increasing likelihood that the time required to complete the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop will be reduced to near zero in a “hyperwar.” Gen Allen defined “hyperwar” as the acceleration of conflict through the emergence of advanced and advancing technologies. Gen Allen stressed that quick movement through the OODA loop should be critical in US leaders’ strategy, especially when a new technology is introduced. This rapid motion will force United States’ opponents to close their OODA loop to zero, leading to a moral collapse. As hyperwar becomes more common, the United States must look to become an early adopter of these technologies in order to gain the advantage of speed. Although there is a moral dilemma surrounding the use of automated and autonomous weapons in war, US adversaries are already investing heavily in these systems. Thus, the US will make decisions less quickly, be more susceptible to strategic surprise, be slower to adapt, and have less target accuracy than its opponent if it lags behind on implementing these technologies in a conflict. History has shown that this is the case, and the autonomous wars of the future will be no different.
Mr. Husain illustrated what hyperwar will look like and outlined the implications of using artificial intelligence (AI) on the battlefield. SparkCognition uses practical vignettes in order to model what some of these scenarios will look like in a hyperwar. Through these vignettes, Mr. Husain has learned that: a) efficiency in operations will be tied in large part to AI; b) advanced technology (e.g., software that enables deep learning) has already proliferated widely; c) the winners of a hyperwar will balance cost and competence; d) platforms enablers should be the focus, as opposed to the platforms themselves; e) unmanned systems are where most of the weapon-making industry’s future innovation is focused; and f) new partnerships of all types are poised to impact the world geopolitically, but they are also a source of technology competition. An increased focus on the use of real intel-based programs, the correlation of forces, and sensor fusion is also critical in order to identify enemy capabilities and those capabilities’ penetration ability. To conclude, Mr. Husain stressed that deeper applications of AI need to be explored by US decision makers in the dawn of hyperwar.
John R. Allen is the president of the Brookings Institution, a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general, and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A).
Amir Husain is a Pakistani-American artificial intelligence entrepreneur, founder of the Austin-based company, SparkCognition, and author of the book, The Sentient Machine.