War Is from Mars, AI Is from Venus: Rediscovering the Institutional Context of Military Automation (Winter 2023/2024)




Lindsay, Jon R.

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Texas National Security Review



For nearly a century, the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution has been just over the horizon, and yet that horizon is always receding. Dramatic advances in commercial AI once again inspire great hopes and fears for military AI. Perhaps this time will be different. Yet, successful commercial AI systems benefit from conducive institutional circumstances that may not be present in the anarchic realm of war. As AI critics have recognized since the Cold War, the complexity and uncertainty of security competition tend to frustrate ambitious applications of military automation. The institutional context that makes AI viable, moreover, is associated with important changes in patterns of political violence. The same liberal order that encourages AI innovation also enables more subversive forms of conflict. Military organizations that adopt AI, therefore, are likely to adopt more institutionalized processes to enable automated decision systems, while military AI systems are more likely be used in more institutionalized environments. Unintended consequences of institutionalized automation include unmanageable administrative complexity and unappreciated human suffering in chronic limited conflicts.

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