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Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh on outline map
Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh on outline map

The First War Using Modern AI-Based Weapons Is Here

Most introductions of new technology in warfare will ultimately be canceled by counter-technology. But in the meantime…

AI weapons are being used in the border war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. And the results are not pretty:

Israel may halt commercial weapon sales to Azerbaijan, Armenian Ambassador to Israel Armen Smbatyan told The Jerusalem Post, as fighting intensified for the ninth day between the two countries…

Last week, Armenia recalled Smbatyan for consultations to protest the sale of Israeli made weapons, including drones, to Azerbaijan, which have been used against its forces.

Tovah Lazaroff, “Israel may halt its weapons sale to Azerbaijan, Armenian ambassador says” at The Jerusalem Post (October 6, 2020)

The most chilling—readily achievable—AI weaponry is a swarm of armed drones. Drones are inexpensive and easily deployed, and if only a few drones make it through enemy fire, they can still wreak havoc:

No swarms have been reported as yet but the armed Azerbaijan drones are stealthy and effective. They can be heard but are hard to see. The LA Times quotes Ashot Sarkissian, a 51-year-old artillery operator fighting for Armenia. “If we can see it with the eye, we shoot at it. If not, we hide.”

Most introductions of new technology in warfare will ultimately be canceled by counter-technology. Think of the tank, introduced in World War I. A countermeasure was the bazooka, an anti-tank rocket launcher first conceived by famous rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard. Likewise, aerial reconnaissance made secret troop maneuvers behind the lines in land wars a largely obsolete tactic. Soon afterward, WWI combatants were engaging in aerial dogfights.

However, before the development of countermeasures, the destruction wrought by new technology can be devastating. Ashot Sarkissian pleads “We need new technology. We need new weapons to fight the drones.”

Anti-drone technology exists. Israel’s own anti-drone technology includes “lasers, bullets and nets.” But Armenia does not have Israeli technology. Oil rich Azerbaijan, on which Israel depends for 40% of its oil, now does.

The AI weapons Azerbaijan has purchased from Israel include loitering anti-radiation missiles. These missiles loiter (fly around) until illuminated by radar. The missile then detects the source of the radar and takes out the radar installation. Anti-radiation missiles can operate in a totally autonomous mode.

In short, the dawn of the new age of AI warfare has arrived. Those who innovate new weapons and develop countermeasures will prevail. As Russian president Vladimir Putin said “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Be sure to check out Robert J. Marks’s The Case for Killer Robots. Find out more about the book and its resources here.

Also: Russia is systematically copying U.S. military AI robotics. In Russia’s topdown system, the military and corporations are essentially part of the same enterprise. Russian warfare expert Samuel Bendett explains, “Why reinvent the wheel? You can just borrow proven concepts and apply them in your own unique fashion.”

Robert J. Marks II

Director, Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Besides serving as Director, Robert J. Marks Ph.D. hosts the Mind Matters podcast for the Bradley Center. He is Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Marks is a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America. He was Charter President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He is coauthor of the books Neural Smithing: Supervised Learning in Feedforward Artificial Neural Networks (MIT Press) and Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics (World Scientific). For more information, see Dr. Marks’s expanded bio.

The First War Using Modern AI-Based Weapons Is Here

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