AI prowess: A new norm of superiority

Current developments in the field of AI is rapidly growing, having far-reaching consequences for the national and international security and dominant military powers like the USA, China and Russia are harnessing this disruptive technology for their military modernization and defence purposes

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As Alfred Thayer Mahan hinted in the last century that, “whoever rules the waves rules the world”, Russian President Vladimir Putin succinctly puts it now as, “whoever wins the race for AI superiority will become the ruler of the world.”

Emerging technologies and disruptive innovations have been a key influencer of international relations and security, and an integral defining characteristic of the major powers. Incorporation of new technologies in the realm of the military often results in new threats and challenges, which challenge the conventional notions of competition and power, changing the security landscape altogether. Among all emerging technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), although in its embryonic phase, has been most potent and torrential due to its crosscutting utility in military and intelligence affairs. The most obvious application of AI in military and intelligence affairs is its use in developing smart and interconnected systems and its role in decision-making. At one end, AI acts as the status-quo enhancer but on the other hand, it reverses the balance of power. The nascent developments in the field of AI is a major threat to the prevalent nuclear deterrence of nations because ability of AI to make swift analysis, its utility in payload delivery, and most significant one is the use of AI in the robots –which could be used for civilian and military purposes.

Current developments in the field of AI is rapidly growing, having far-reaching consequences for the national and international security and dominant military powers like the USA, China and Russia are harnessing this disruptive technology for their military modernization and defence purposes. The use of AI in intelligence gathering and analysis, logistics, AI based weapon platforms, cyber and information related operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles is a bone of contention in the academia, supranational organizations striving for peace and militaries struggling to safeguard their sovereignty and national interests.

These AI led advances in the domain of military renders the technology as a force-multiplier and heightens the probability of AI exploitation for threatening the adversarial nuclear forces and escalating tensions.

Having its pros and cons, at one end, the application of AI for military modernization allows the weaker nuclear-armed states to overcome the imbalance of power, while on the other side it also exacerbates suspicions that dominant military powers may employ it to further solidify their martial supremacy and engage in actions that are more provocative.

Meanwhile, in the South Asian region, India and Pakistan are progressively concerned about the potential benefits of AI for defence and security purposes. Currently, a debate has started on the opportunities and risks posed by the AI renaissance in the military realm. However, it suffers from large loopholes, particularly in the incipient discussion on the potential impact of AI on strategic stability and nuclear risk in South Asia. A glance at the military modernization plans of India and Pakistan hints that both South Asian nuclear powers are playing catch-up in the world competition on military AI. A comparison of Indian and Pakistani military advances in the realm of military AI with the dominant powers like the US, China, and Russia shows uncertainty and both nuclear archrivals seems to be under-resourced and inefficient in defence research and advance tech industries.

It is evident from the current developments that AI will be an imperative part of military affairs in near future and will have a disruptive impact on the security landscape. Although current military affairs are more automatic rather than autonomous and AI application is limited, such as semi-autonomous or teleoperated robots and UAVs but there is an ongoing global effort to develop such systems for defence purposes such as autonomous tanks, underwater vehicles etc. which in turn is spiraling into an arms race of autonomous systems. It is the need of the hour to put halt to the arms race of autonomy and incorporation of disruptive technologies like AI in military affairs and this is possible through taking confidence building measures and increased engagement of nation-states in multilateral forums and global institutions like UN Group of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems.

Keeping the nuclear peace in a time of such technological advances will require the cooperation of every nuclear power in the domain of emerging technologies especially AI and its use as a weapon. It will require new global institutions and agreements, new understandings among rival states, and new technological, diplomatic, and military safeguards.

 

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