With the currently unprecedented pace of technological innovations, we humans, now as always, something which history well testifies to, will eventually weaponise also these new contraptions. From where does this compulsion to constantly seek to improve our capacity for destruction come from? Is there some perverted inclination to develop arms of everything we can get our hands on, or it possibly just our deep-rooted survival instinct at play, triggering an urge to make sure we are at all times better armed than seemingly threatening tribes? Regardless of reason, we can now but notice how also this generation of technical milestones are being weaponised, and much whether we like it or not, it heralds yet another new era of warfare. This also include the innovations in artificial intelligence, which are one of the most talked about but probably least understood of the emerging new technologies.
From our traditional split of armed forces; army, navy, and from the early 20th century onwards including air force, over the last couple of decades, the capability to also engage in digital warfare can be added. Thus, questions need to be asked, do we as humans really know what we are doing when we now are weaponising artificial intelligence? Is it holding the propensity to change warfare in a way we fully have not been able to fathom yet? Are there unpleasant surprises of a collateral damage nature lurking? How exactly do artificial intelligence applications and tools introduce unique capacities that can be deployed in a military capacity? These are queries being pondered upon by war scientists in academia and war strategists in the armed forces throughout the world. It is to say the least a frontier science where most queries are open ended but are of such vital importance that they beget answers. When its potential capabilities have been fully ascertained and understood, it might come with profound insights that will change our perspective on warfare for the foreseeable future.
But before seeking to answer these questions, it is maybe be useful to take a few steps back. The proverbial father of modern warfare, Carl von Clausewitz, immortalised through his still widely read work On War that dates back two centuries, is most known for his broad brushed strategical advice, narrated through a political perspective. His strategies have been generic enough to have stood the test of times (which is perhaps the reason), and quite naturally have included a wide range of interpretations. Hence, modern strategic approaches have and are still taking cues from his writings. One of these were Blitzkrieg.Blitzkrieg is an interesting concept, the origins of the word is somewhat controversial, but its deployment was pretty straightforward, albeit for the time unconventional. It was a mixing and matching of armed capabilities seeking to optimise its force, often against a superior opponent, by finding the opportunity to break through a weak point in the defense line, schwerpunkt, thereby achieving victory quickly and decisively. Speed and the element of surprise were key factors in seeking to create a sensation of chock which would break the enemy’s will to fight. Thus, psychology played a decisive part in whether such audacious venture would be successful. It is interesting to note that in our times, it is not the exclusively the capacity of a military arsenal that decides the outcome of armed conflicts. A case in point are the nuclear deterrents that simply have become politically impossible to actually use, that also goes for more conventional approaches such as carpet bombings, a preferred tactic during World War II and the Vietnam War. Instead, over time, the reliance on non-military means seeking to gain an advantage over an adversary, and ultimately forcing him to surrender have advanced considerably. Many of these tactics are collectively labelled as psychological warfare. In essence, psychological warfare seeks to, through the utilisation of a variety of means typically in combination, break down the enemy’s will to act and defend himself. Usually, the creation of confusion and chock are the effects sought after to make resistance appear to be a futile endeavour. With artificial intelligence tools becoming increasingly advanced, and in many cases more humanlike, their potential in psychological warfare are being recognised, which means digital warfare can move beyond just shutting down IT systems into more all-encompassing hybrid war strategies. There is however a profound difference between the wars of yesteryears which were mainly interstate affairs, today these are notably rarer, instead there are proxy wars, grey zone conflicts and undefinable blurred criminal activities cum warfare, where commercial entities in a larger degree are being affected. This have made the dichotomies war-peace, and friend-foe much harder to establish. What are you to do if an enemy you do not even know you have covertly start to engage in hostile activities? A war against you can be lost even before you even knew it started. Scenarios falling far outside known rules of engagements, but which have become increasingly frequent. And as any senior executive in any industry in any country will tell you, attacks and threats in the digital sphere top the list of risks they worry most about, no doubt having rendered them many sleepless nights. The digital capabilities to cause damage and destruction have taken us to unchartered territories, how can we defend ourselves against an invisible and unnamed enemy with the advantage of having both the timing and maybe the tools on his side? It has become a business-critical concern that can irreparably destroy an otherwise flourishing firm in an incredibly short time. This brings us to the gist of this book, namely how the weaponising of artificial intelligence can and will change how warfare is being conducted, and what impact it will have on the corporate world.