A Matter For Machines

Executive orders from the White House so far appear to be the readiest arrow in the Trump administration’s quiver for hot-button, high-stakes political issues like Middle East refugees and cutting federal red tape. Fired recklessly and without counsel or apparent expert advice they are sure to sow chaos and discord, likely by design. What will happen when the administration’s missives start to address the outstanding military and strategic questions about game-changing battlefield advances like AI and robotics? It is worth re-reading the Politico story from late December, “Killer Robots Await Trump’s Verdict” that tackled this question before the tumult of Inauguration Day and the reshuffling of the National Security Council that favors politicking over military and intelligence acumen (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence are no longer deemed essential to meetings of top officials during a crisis but top political advisors are.) Read the Politico story.

As I said in the story, “We’re on the doorstep of what armed conflict looks like in the 21st century” and robotics and autonomy are going to play decisive roles in the air, on the ground, under the sea and in cyberspace. What that role is depends in large part on the initiatives of the Trump administration — or how they respond to other nations and groups who use these capabilities first.

During a recent podcast with Army Capt. Jake Miraldi of West Point’s Modern War Institute about future conflict, we got into a range of future-conflict questions from who will lead innovation around AI/autonomy, what will we do with bad advice from machines, will technology disruption shock the US military, and whether an algorithm might one day be writing my novels for me (and doing a better job…). Listen to the MWI podcast “Autonomy on the Battlefield.”

Medium: The view from Beijing

In polite company, sex or politics or religion are generally not to be brought up at the dinner table. For world leaders, that would not leave much else to talk about. But there are taboo topics still, particularly between President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping: cybersecurity.

Here is an excerpt from an essay of mine at Medium, a new Web site that gives writers both a community and a platform.

“As President Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping get together this weekend in California for a much anticipated summit, the two men were expected to have a tough exchange over the future of another economically critical and formidable expanse of territory: cyberspace.

In confronting President Xi over Chinese hacking of defense targets, President Obama was no doubt prepared to use the moral high ground staked out by the U.S. His case was buttressed by recently leaked reports that laid bare the dozens of frontline American weapons programs and technologies penetrated by Chinese cyberspies.

Then came revelations this week in The Guardian and The Washington Post that revealed the extent of U.S. government surveillance of Internet activities around the world. From Skype calls to e-mails to texts, all is apparently fair game through what has been reportedly described as direct access to the servers of leading online service providers and technology giants such as Google and Microsoft, among others.

It is an unprecedented level of government monitoring that may even surprise, or regrettably impress, President Xi. It will certainly be familiar to him as Chinese citizens already live in a world where the wonderful spontaneity of electronic communication carries an undercurrent of potentially devastating liability.

For Americans it is a disappointing coda to a decade of wartime. America’s defense and intelligence bureaucracy, which began to drown in data during the 1990s, is so big that simply collecting more information is an operational and organizational goal in and of itself.”

Read the rest of the essay at Medium.