BOOK REVIEW: AI AT WAR

51t5jYIH0uL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Originally Published: April 18, 2021 by Hugh Taylor on Journal of Cyber Policy

AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare

Edited by Sam J. Tangredi and George Galdorisi

AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare, the new book from Naval Institute Press, offers an ambitious discussion about the US military’s adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technology. Edited by Sam J. Tangredi and George Galdorisi, former US Navy officers who now work in naval officer training and strategic planning, AI at War is not a traditional book. Rather, it is a collection of 18 papers on the many aspects of the subject matter.

As one of the contributors put it, soldiers have been wondering what’s on the other side of the hill for thousands of years.

Reading this book is a bit like attending a symposium with 18 panel discussions. Tangredi and Galdorisi have done a great job in curating the material and presenting it in an order that takes the reader through the byzantine collection of interlocking policy issues that surround the technologies. Starting with a quite helpful comparative definition of AI and Machine Learning (ML), the book orients the reader to the underlying technologies, as well as the pre-technology philosophical issues that drove the development of AI and ML in the first place.

This is not a scholarly digression. Rather, as the editors understand, it is impossible to grasp the potential of AI and ML in the military if one doesn’t have a sense of how their foundational ideas have permeated military thinking for centuries. As one of the contributors put it, soldiers have been wondering what’s on the other side of the hill for thousands of years.

The material can be slow-going in places, but this is not a beach read. It’s a serious discussion of what are arguably some of the most significant challenges to have faced the US military in a generation. The book discusses AI and ML as a matter of global great power competition—providing some fascinating insights into the different ways that Russia and China, the USA’s two main adversaries, might use the technologies. In this, the contributors challenge the reader’s assumptions about military use of technology in general. Russia and China have different relationships between their governments and their militaries, so their use of AI and ML will be different. In China’s case, for example, AI is most likely being used as a mechanism to monitor the political loyalty of junior officers.

The book also takes the reader into important dialogues about the realities of developing new AI and ML for the military and implementing them at the level of naval operations. The contributors point out how AI and ML policy will have to navigate the complex institutional and political aspects of the Navy and other service branches. Congressional pork barreling, influential defense contractors and inter-service tensions will very much be a part of AI and ML coming into the mainstream of the Navy. Realism is a must in any discussion of the technologies.

AI and ML policy will have to navigate the complex institutional and political aspects of the Navy and other service branches.

Along the way, the book covers potential AI and ML use cases in the Navy. In this, the contributors highlight areas where AI and ML can make an impact on and off the zone of combat. For example, AI and ML might help with supply logistics, a less sexy but vital area of naval operations that can help win battles. The book also delves into the thorny moral and command issues raised by autonomous weapons.

As the contributors point out, AI and ML are already in use in the Navy. And, new AI and ML tools will be added to the naval technology landscape whether policy planners want them there or not. It’s simply coming in all sorts of new technologies being acquired by the service every year. The challenge will be to identify and pursue a strategically coherent and advantageous overall strategy.

This is a necessary book, because, as the editors explain, there has not been enough discussion of AI and ML in naval circles separate from requests for funding. As the editors and contributors seem to understand, if the matter is not well understood by the leadership of the Navy, the funding of AI and ML research will not be well spent.

Overall, AI at War is a worthwhile and useful contribution to a serious dialogue about the best way to employ emerging AI and ML technologies in the defense of the United States.

A Challenging Future

15doomsday-illo-articleLarge

Earlier this month I reported on the Director of National Intelligence Council Global Trends report, looks far into the future to determine what threats the United States will need to deal with years hence.

The 144-page report is not what anyone would describe as a “quick read.” That is why I wanted to share a very recent New York Times article, “Why Spy Agencies Say the Future Is Bleak,” that provides a concise summary of the report. What is says will worry you – and it should. Here is how it begins:

The latest report, Global Trends 2040, released last week by the National Intelligence Council, finds that the pandemic has proved to be “the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II,” with medical, political and security implications that will reverberate for years. That’s not sturm und drang. It’s the prologue to a far darker picture of what lies ahead.

The world envisioned in the 144-page report, ominously subtitled “A More Contested World,” is rent by a changing climate, aging populations, disease, financial crises and technologies that divide more than they unite, all straining societies and generating “shocks that could be catastrophic.” The gap between the challenges and the institutions meant to deal with them continues to grow, so that “politics within states are likely to grow more volatile and contentious, and no region, ideology, or governance system seems immune or to have the answers.” At the international level, it will be a world increasingly “shaped by China’s challenge to the United States and Western-led international system,” with a greater risk of conflict.

Want more?
Here is a link to the NYT article

Happiness

00YALEHAPPINESS-articleLarge

Most people want to be happy. It is in our DNA. However, with a global pandemic and all that comes with it, sometimes we can use a nudge regarding what things can contribute to our happiness.

That’s why I was drawn to an article in the New York Times entitled, “Over 3 Million People Took This Course on Happiness. Here’s What Some Learned.” Here is how it began:

“It may seem simple, but it bears repeating: sleep, gratitude and helping other people.”

“Everyone knows what they need to do to protect their physical health: wash your hands, and social distance, and wear a mask,” she added. “People were struggling with what to do to protect their mental health.”

“The Coursera curriculum, adapted from the one Dr. Santos taught at Yale, asks students to, among other things, track their sleep patterns, keep a gratitude journal, perform random acts of kindness, and take note of whether, over time, these behaviors correlate with a positive change in their general mood”.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Looking to the Future

09JARVIS-SHORTLIST-COMBO-articleLarge

National security and defense officials have begun to recognize that, while it is impossible to accurately “predict” what conflict will look like in the future, one way to avoid assuming that the next war will look precisely like the last one is to mine works of fiction. In novels, authors can spread their wings unencumbered by existing doctrine.

This fairly new phenomena has been dubbed “FICINT,” as it combines fiction writing with current intelligence to envision future warfare. This writing is strongly grounded in reality and not fantasy and that is what makes it so valuable.

While anyone can write FICINT, periodically, one or more writers with the strongest possible “street creds” produce a work of fiction that imagines war in the future. 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis is one such work – and one that was recently highlighted in the New York Times Book Review “Shortlist.” Here is an excerpt:

This fast-paced military thriller details the horrifying aftermath of a mistaken encounter between an American naval patrol and a potent Chinese weapon. The weapon’s power — to destroy all computers on board the American ships, rendering them utterly isolated — works as a kind of metonymy for the book’s argument about America’s waning global influence. The military’s isolation finds a twin in the novel’s political problem, in which American operators must reimagine their allies not as helpers to boost their might but as saviors.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

A More Contested World

contested world

Every four years, the National Intelligence Council, the public-facing arm of the Director of National Intelligence Council and the 16 intelligence agencies under her stewardship, issues its Global Trends report, looking far into the future to determine what threats the United States will need to deal with years hence.

The just-released Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World is the seventh such report issued by the NIC. It differs from previous reports in many ways, most notably in that it addresses the still-evolving changes wrought by the current global pandemic and, while it does talk about traditional warfare, it has a strong focus on social issues. Here is how a report in the New York Times begins:

U.S. intelligence officials warned in a report issued on Thursday about the potential fragmentation of society and the global order, holding out the possibility of a world where international trade is disrupted, groups of countries create online enclaves and civic cohesion is undermined.

The report, compiled every four years by the National Intelligence Council, mixes more traditional national security challenges like the potentially disruptive rise of China with social trends that have clear security implications, like the internet’s tendency to exacerbate political and cultural divisions.

A previous version of the report, released by the Obama administration in 2017, highlighted the risk of a pandemic and the vast economic disruption it could cause — a prescient prediction in hindsight.

The new report said that the coronavirus pandemic showed the weakness of the world order and that the institutions devised to face past crises are inadequate to coordinate a global response to new challenges like the spread of Covid-19. The failure of those institutions deepened public dissatisfaction and further eroded faith in the old order, the report said.

Want more?

Here is a link to the NYT article

And here is a link to the National Intelligence Council Report

 

Economy Booming?

13up-optimism-print-articleLarge-v3

Do you feel confused about the economy and whether we are in a boom or bust? It is likely that you do, as there is vastly more heat than light regarding where the economy is going. Depending on what news media you pick and when you engage, you might see unbridled optimism or impending doom.

That’s why I was drawn to an article entitled: “17 Reasons to Let the Economic Optimism Begin.” While I wasn’t looking for a warm fuzzy or a security blanket, this piece did tease out the reasons that the trend lines (trends – not guarantees) are heading in the right direction. Don’t plan that Paris vacation yet, but lean into living life again. Here is how it begins:

But strange as it may seem in this time of pandemic, I’m starting to get optimistic. It’s an odd feeling, because so many people are suffering — and because for so much of my career, a gloomy outlook has been the correct one.

Predictions are a hard business, of course, and much could go wrong that makes the decades ahead as bad as, or worse than, the recent past. But this optimism is not just about the details of the new pandemic relief legislation or the politics of the moment. Rather, it stems from a diagnosis of three problematic mega-trends, all related.

There is not one reason, however, to think that these negative trends have run their course. There are 17.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Meet me at The BookFest: Spring 2021 – April 17 & 18

book fest

The BookFest is free to attend. Just go to the website and check out the live stream to watch panels and conversations. Sat. April 17th is dedicated to readers, and Sun. April 18th is dedicated to writers.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords; prolific New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry; Patrick M. Oliver founder of Say it Loud!; and skeptic, author and thinker, Michael Shermer, are doing conversations during the two-day online event. These intimate one-on-one talks give attendees the opportunity to learn more about each individual, and to take a deep dive into the topics discussed.

Delivering the opening keynote for The BookFest Spring 2021 is author of the #1 Amazon bestseller The Art of Hybrid Timber Framing, Bert Sarkkinen. As the founder of Arrow Timber, Sarkkinen takes attendees on a journey to find long-term happiness.

Plus, panel discussions include an array of writers, literary professionals, and experts discussing the books we read, relevant topics of our times, the art and craft of writing, and more.

Check out the Live Author Chats and the BookFest Spring Picnic Giveaway on Sat, April 17th.

On Sun, April 18th writers will get a chance to network and ask their burning questions during the Ask the Industry Experts Anything: Live Q&A for Writers of Every Level.

To stay informed on everything BookFest-related, and to get a free Virtual Gift Bag emailed to you after The BookFest Adventure, sign up for email alerts: https://www.thebookfest.com/signup/

www.TheBookFest.com

#TheBookFest #TheBookFestSpring2021

Best Sellers

merlin_169057257_df9efce6-b252-4486-bb49-db54187857ab-articleLarge

Asked the question, “Who is the most powerful person in publishing,” most would not guess correctly, but they would likely assume that it was a man – and they would be wrong. That honor goes to Madeline McIntosh, the U.S. chief executive of Penguin Random House.

I was taken by a recent article describing her accession to this position – at an atypically young age – because it did a deep dive into her career path, while also addressing the important question regarding book sales. The title of the piece, “Best Sellers Sell the Best Because They’re Best Sellers,” sums up the business side of the article.

What surprised me is that her climb was not a straight climb up the corporate ladder, but rather a series of twists and turns, zigzags and lateral moves, many of them quite risky, but all of them invaluable in preparing to lead the biggest of the big-five publishing houses. Indeed, Penguin Random House is larger than the remaining top four publishers combined!

You will find her story fascinating and enriching. Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Remembering a Justice

18Ginsburg-video-promo-fix-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600-v10

The world is flooded – appropriately – with tributes to the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. As the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions earned her late-life rock stardom.

While there have been many detailed and thoughtful commentaries on her life, I was drawn to one in the New York Times that, for me, captured the essence of what she contributed to the Court and the Nation.

Her late-life rock stardom could not remotely have been predicted in June 1993, when President Bill Clinton nominated the soft-spoken, 60-year-old judge who prized collegiality and whose friendship with conservative colleagues on the federal appeals court where she had served for 13 years left some feminist leaders fretting privately that the president was making a mistake. Mr. Clinton chose her to succeed Justice Byron R. White, an appointee of President John F. Kennedy, who was retiring after 31 years. Her Senate confirmation seven weeks later, by a vote of 96 to 3, ended a drought in Democratic appointments to the Supreme Court that extended back to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s nomination of Thurgood Marshall 26 years earlier.

There was something fitting about that sequence because Ruth Ginsburg was occasionally described as the Thurgood Marshall of the women’s rights movement by those who remembered her days as a litigator and director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s.

 

Want more? You can read the full article here

Should You Write?

Writing Techniques

Why would anyone want to write anything today longer than a tweet? Why indeed? And why labor away trying to write for a mainstream audience? Perhaps the best way to capture that is to quote my friend Norman Polmar, who is fond of saying. “History is what the historians and writers say it is.” Norman has published over forty books on naval history and most consider him the authoritative source on the subject. Someone has to write down what happens…and that becomes ground truth.

Here’s another way to look at it, and, I trust, will help you understand that writing stories isn’t some odd thing that only a few people do. In “Book People” John Sutherland put it this way, “Storytelling is as human as breathing. Literature, since it emerged 4,000 years ago, has shaped the lives of most humans on planet Earth. We are what we read.”

One of the best answers to the question, “Why Write?” comes from my friend and co-author, Dick Couch. Here’s how he put it in an article in our alumni magazine some years ago:

For me, I gotta write, and it’s the adventure of it that’s hooked me. As the writer, I can do it all. I get to be the National Security Advisor who recommends the action to the President who must commit the forces. I’m the senior officer who sends his men into action and who feels the pain if they don’t make it back. I’m the enemy and the defender; logistician and staff planner. But most of all, I’m a young man again, that fresh lieutenant who must lead his men into battle.

Some men want to die with their boots on.  When I cash in my chips, I want to be slumped over the keyboard. And they can plant me with my word processor. I may wake up and want to write about it.

Finally, we all recognize we live in a highly technical world. But that often makes us turn to data as the king of the hill. It isn’t. Here’s how Michael Lewis put it in, The Undoing Project “No one ever made a decision based on a number. They need a story.”

Want more? Check out my blog for dozens of writing tips