How is artificial intelligence (AI) affecting conflict and its resolution? Peace practitioners and scholars cannot afford to disregard ongoing developments related to AI-based technologies – both from an ethical and a pragmatic perspective. In this blog, I explore AI as an evolving field of information management technologies that is changing both the nature of armed conflict and the way we can respond to it. AI encompasses the use of computer programmes to analyse big amounts of data (such as online communication and transactions) in order to learn from patterns and predict human behaviour on a massive scale. This is potentially useful for managing corporations and shaping markets, but also for gaining political influence, conducting psychological warfare and controlling populations.
According to some, artificial intelligence (AI) is the new electricity. Like electricity, AI will transform every major industry and open new opportunities that were never possible. However, unlike electricity, the ethics surrounding the development and use of AI remain controversial, which is a significant element constraining AI’s full potential.
This week’s featured graphic provides an overview of the number of air passengers flying to Switzerland, 2009-2018. For an analysis of what new technologies mean for border controls in Europe, see Julian Kamasa’s recent CSS Analyses in Security Policy here.
Hypersonic flight is not new. The V-2 rocket and the vast majority of the ballistic missiles that it inspired achieved hypersonic speeds (i.e., speeds faster than the speed of sound or Mach 5+) as they fell from the sky, as did crewed aircraft like the rocket-powered X-15. Rather than speed, today’s renewed attention to hypersonic weapons owes to developments that enable controlled flight. These new systems have two sub-varieties: hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles. Glide vehicles are the cousins of ballistic warheads: they are lofted on high velocity boosters, separate, then use momentum and control surfaces to skip and glide through the upper atmosphere before crashing onto their targets. The cruise missiles use an advanced propulsion system (a SCRAMJET) for powered flight. While the descriptions are straightforward, the engineering needed to accomplish the guidance and maneuvering (not to mention survivability) of these weapons is far from clear.
Scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations are often subject to public discussion about their capacity to affect international security, either by their military exploitation or their uptake and re-appropriation through non-state actors and terrorists. While accompanying proliferation and militarisation concerns are not new, the challenge of governing emerging technologies is as much about their often-unknown technical affordances as the way in which they capture the imagination of innovators, policy-makers, and public communities.