(Stars and Stripes)

The advent of ChatGPT and its successor, GPT-4, in recent months has brought artificial intelligence into everyday use. Far from being science fiction, AI is now a frontier for the U.S. military as it competes with China, Russia and other global adversaries.

In this week’s episode, co-host Jack Murphy talks about how AI will shape warfighting in the future with former U.S. Army Ranger Paul Scharre, executive vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. Scharre’s most recent book, “Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” examines this topic and defines the battlegrounds for AI: data, computing power, talent, and institutions.

AI is already being used on the battlefield for satellite image processing and drone feeds, as has been demonstrated in Ukraine, Scharre said. Scharre opens “Four Battlegrounds” with a scene from DARPA’s AlphaDogfight, a 2019-2020 program pitting computers using F-16 flight simulators against human pilots; the AI beat the human pilots 15-0 in the simulator, Scharre said.

“It learned totally on its own, these head-to-head gunshots when the aircraft are circling each other and there's this kind of split second where they're coming at each other head to head and you can get a shot off,” Scharre said. “It's basically impossible for humans because it requires superhuman levels of precision to do this. And in fact, it's banned in training because it's risky for humans to even try to do this because you might risk a midair collision as the aircraft are racing at each other head to head. Where the algorithm could do that. It can make the shot, it could do it while avoiding a collision. And it learned to do it all on its own by flying these simulations; it discovered this tactic.”

Scharre also talked about how AI will shape great power competition, specifically with China. China has said it aims to be the global leader in AI by 2030, Scharre said. He also mentioned the Defense Department is “five years behind the cutting edge” of AI, but it’s not too late to catch up.

“For both the Chinese and the U.S. military, the problem they have is spinning this technology into their defense organizations because it's fundamentally a commercial technology,” Scharre said. “It's not coming from secret defense labs. It's like the opposite of stealth technology. … It's already widely proliferated. The PLA is going to have access to the same basic AI technology that the U.S. military has. What's going to matter more in terms of a military edge is, who's going to be more effective at bringing that technology into the military?”

You can find Military Matters on Twitter @stripesmmpod.

Follow Jack Murphy on Twitter @jackmurphyrgr and Rod Rodriguez @rodpodrod.

A transcript of the episode can be found here.

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Brian McElhiney is a digital editor, podcast editor and occasional reporter for Stars and Stripes. He has worked as a music reporter and editor for publications in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Oregon. One of his earliest journalistic inspirations came from reading Stars and Stripes as a kid growing up in Okinawa, Japan.

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