With Artificial Intelligence, Future Wars Will Never Be the Same as Today

October 27, 2023

While some consider Artificial Intelligence (AI) a step forward, it brings dangers and threats to the global community. Specifically, the implications of AI in the military domain seem to lead to more devastating wars and atrocities that militaries have to prevent. Before moving forward and reflecting on the issue at hand, it is essential to identify what AI inherently is.

The International Telecommunication Union defines Artificial Intelligence as a set of disciplines and methods .. (as well as) technologies and techniques which (1) enable self-learning and (2) are used to complement traditional human attributes[1]. In other words, it recalls a computer network which can substitute a human who is doing research, intelligence, data analysis, etc. It is salient to stress the attention on the word substitute; it will further bring the main argument.

The sudden rapid rise of AI in recent months has symbolized a new era in human history. Following the emergence of ChatGPT and other AI-driven tools, the tasks people usually spend hours on can now be done in a few minutes, increasing productivity and saving precious time.

Nevertheless, military experts argue that in the modern world, full of wars and interstate conflicts, AI may mostly lead to more problems. In this regard, they refer to the so-called AI-driven military revolution[2]. But what is an AI revolution about? Briefly, it is a considerable change in the conduct of war with lesser involvement of people.

Yet before examining the possible implications of AI within the military, it is worth giving special attention to the military revolutions that happened in the past, which is vital for further understanding the devastating nature of the AI-driven one.

Concerning this very issue, Mr. Andrew F. Krepinevich, who is now a defense policy analyst and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments[3], conducted the research and identified the main periods in history when military revolutions took place.

Mr. Krepinevich recalls as many as ten revolutions[4]. But we will look at three, which provide an essential background to understand the concept of a military revolution.

Artillery Revolution

This revolution happened in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Once states unleashed the great potential of artillery to win battles by degrading opponents’ defenses, it led to a significant increase in investments in this type of weaponry. As a result, the character of the war changed dramatically, as everyone started to rely on artillery as a decisive advantage.

The Revolution of Sail and Shot

In brief, following the artillery revolution there was a big shift in fighting at sea with the emergence of sailing ships that substituted oar-driven ones. It eventually allowed the sea powers to exploit the accomplishments of the artillery development at sea; as such, the focus of the war shifted from the continent to the ocean.

Nuclear Revolution

This is the brightest example, since the development of nuclear weapons significantly changed the entire structure of international security. The understanding of instant death changed the way states thought about the war and forced them to adapt their military postures. It led to adjustments of the states’ military budgets and the emergence of new strategic concepts, e.g., deterrence.

But what are the main characteristics of the AI-driven revolution, and why is it significantly unique compared to the ones mentioned above? First and foremost, let us identify the main components of the military revolutions of the past. There are two: (1) the revolutions were driven by the intent to be more efficient, and (2) despite any change people faced, the man remained the core.

The (1) is reasonably applicable to AI. AI-driven autonomous weapon systems are a good sample. Roughly speaking, they are an analogy to fighter jets yet do not require a human to operate the system. It eventually costs less and is easier to exploit making it a favorable military tool.

Military market share of AI in the Asia Pacific in the 2020s

Respectively, the graph presented demonstrates the tendency of increasing the importance and military market share of AI in the Asia Pacific in the 2020s[5].

But what is exceptionally controversial and unique is the (2). Here is the main idea of why the AI-driven revolution is a completely different shift that people have ever faced. From the military perspective, for the first time in history, it is possible to substitute people. For instance, militaries can use drones to observe a territory or target an object with no human operators involved.

This also distinguishes AI from information warfare that may come to your mind. Information Technology has not replaced humans. It has become an accompanying tool that people embedded into the existing weapon systems. For example, militaries still use military planes with satellite links for easier and faster communication. Eventually, what AI does is minimize the role of people in military decision-making processes and devalue human life.

Indeed, a traditional war has always been about the people who fight each other, causing thousands and millions of deaths. Such significant losses affect the minds of those who decide to send people to an early grave. Regardless of the military revolution, humans have always been the ones bringing the responsibility to choose between life and death. Significantly, it has been the predominant constraint for waging wars.

With AI, future combats will never be the same. Military leaders will no longer stake a soldier’s life. Instead, there will be machines fighting each other. However, this future is even more frightening. What about the unintended deaths of civil populations? Who is accountable in this case, if not people? Can you blame the machine? The list of questions is infinite, and they raise ethical issues and call for particular regulations of AI within the military domain.

[1] Artificial intelligence for good // International Telecommunication Union. URL: https://www.itu.int/en/mediacentre/backgrounders/Pages/artificial-intelligence-for-good.aspx (accessed: 23.10.2023).

[2] How AI Will Revolutionize Warfare // Foreign Policy. URL: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/04/11/ai-arms-race-artificial-intelligence-chatgpt-military-technology/ (accessed: 23.10.2023).

[3] An independent, non-profit, US-based think tank specializing in US defense policy.

[4] Krepinevich A. From Cavalry to Computer: The Pattern of Military Revolutions // The National Interest. September 1, 1994. URL: https://nationalinterest.org/article/cavalry-to-computer-the-pattern-of-military-revolutions-848 (accessed: 23.10.2023).

[5] Artificial Intelligence In Military Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Offering, By Application, By Technology, By Platform, By Installation, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 – 2030 // Grand View Research. URL: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/artificial-intelligence-military-market-report (accessed: 23.10.2023).

Key words: AI; Global Security