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This Is Not How ‘Skynet’ Begins, Air Force Says of Artificial Intelligence Efforts
A top Air Force commander has assured reporters that no, the military's experiments with artificial intelligence are not the first step toward “Skynet,” the evil defense network in the “Terminator” movies that tried to wipe out humanity.
Google recently announced that it will not work with the Pentagon beyond its 2017 contract on Project Maven, an effort to have artificial intelligence help analyze footage from drones.
Speaking at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on Thursday morning, Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said that the purpose of Project Maven is to determine whether “machines can learn to do the things that people are doing.”
Holmes went on to explain that the Air Force does not have enough people to watch all of the full motion video taken from drones, so airmen are using so-called “learning algorithms” to teach machines what to look for in the endless footage.
“The way we’ve been doing that kind of the same way I watch 3-year-olds learn things on their iPads“,” Holmes said. “Pick all the green things. Is that green? No. Is that green? Yes. So you do the same thing with a machine.”
When machines recognize something important in the drone footage they can alert intelligence analysts, Holmes continued. Having machines do the repetitive tasks frees up people to “focus on things that people do best” and allows decision-makers to get important information quicker.
A related effort is Air Operations Center Pathfinder, in which coders and operators work together to quickly develop software that reduces the time needed to plan mission, task aircraft, and develop targets.
The Pentagon’s interest in artificial intelligence has raised concerns in Silicon Valley. Executives with Google, a subcontractor for Project Maven, said in June 7 statements that the company “would not support the use of AI for weaponized systems,” though it would continue to work with military on cybersecurity, recruitment, veterans’ healthcare and search and rescue.
Holmes said he is confident that the Air Force can continue to work with Silicon Valley to develop artificial intelligence technologies that can deter wars by making sure that enemies know that any attack against the United States is doomed to fail.
“What I would like to do is convince people that we’re all in the business of avoiding major war,” Holmes said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re going to have to rely on our industrial capabilities that are on that business and AI side if we’re going to do that. So how we can work together to set a rule set so we can go forward?”
But for decades Hollywood has been warning us that artificial intelligence will inevitably go rogue. So, naturally, Task & Purpose asked Holmes directly if Project Maven is the first step toward Skynet.
“I certainly hope not,” he replied.
To ease concerns about a possible robot insurrection, Holmes pointed to the fact that, although learning machines have beat experts at chess, Go, and other games, they are far less effective without the assistance of experienced human operators.
“We’re going to have to work through as Americans our comfort level on how technologies are used and how they are applied,” Holmes said. “I understand the views of the people there. It goes into being a member of the military: I wield some pretty impressive technologies and our job is to make sure that we use them for good and in accordance with the rules that are laid out in the Constitution.”
“These are all complex issues that we’ll have to work through, but I’m not worried yet about AOC Pathfinder taking over as Skynet,” Holmes added.
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.