Developing artificial intelligence to support robotic autonomous systems in the battlespace

Developing artificial intelligence to support robotic autonomous systems in the battlespace

Rounding off the event was an insightful Q&A session where the audience was invited to interrogate our presenters. The below is a summary of the discussions.

Q&A session

How does AI apply in highly regulated areas?
If the use case exists to use data, you should use it – even if the platform/system is highly regulated.

There is much hype about the applications for AI, and rightly a lot of excitement for what the future holds. However, just because we want AI to be a success, doesn’t mean we should be afraid to say “No”. At this point in time, we need to take each AI use case proposal and approach it with the right mindset – what is the outcome you’re looking to achieve?

Are we in an arms race with China/Russia?
Technology doesn’t always give you the advantage. War is very complex and different countries approach it with a different mindset. For example, in the West the primary unit is focused on the individual. Whereas in the East, the primary unit is the State – which is why they will sacrifice vast numbers of people to protect the mother country.

In many ways it comes down to ethics. In the UK we have what’s referred to as ‘The Daily Mail Test’ – essentially if something goes wrong will it be splashed across tomorrow’s headlines? It’s the media and the general public that set the ethical bar, and then the Government’s aversity to collateral damage that will determine how AI is accepted in defence. And ultimately, AI will always be judged to a higher standard than humans are – it’s part of the challenge our sector faces.

How far is fiction in the development of science?
Today’s AI isn’t advanced enough to allow us to delegate too much responsibility to the technology. The applications are too narrow, which makes the technologies prone to adversarial attacks where bad actors attempt to ‘trick’ the AI, for example painting a tank to look like a tree so it’s not detected. Additionally, poisoning attacks, where data is injected with vulnerabilities, can affect the accuracy of the outcome.

Follow a design-led process, and you build resilience into the development so you reach a point where you know the output can be trusted, because you have implemented specific controls along the way.

What education do we need around AI?
One of the most dangerous ideas we need to get under control is the perception that AI technology is like magic and can solve any problem. We even hear politicians make statements like ‘blockchain can solve Brexit’s border issues’. And it comes back to the problem highlighted at the beginning of the lecture:

What is AI?
Thankfully the industry does have influence on what the politicians do with AI through groups, like the BCS AI community interest group and AI expert groups in Brussels. If we can help the lawmakers to get the fundamentals right, we’ll get everyone speaking the same language and more progress can be made.

Who has the capacity and skill to deliver AI in defence? And do we have the right people?
BCS has run its AI community interest group for 40+ years, but we can’t ignore the war on talent. New graduates emerging from university are in such high demand they can name their price, which is typically far more than the defence sector can afford.

Therefore, we need to be creative in how we approach future talent. If you can find people with more generic IT skills – like testing, infrastructure, systems architecture, and design-led principles – you can train them to understand how the military works, and train them in how to understand AI so they can speak the language with confidence. Rather than look to hire in specific skills, which are then difficult to retain, we need to invest in creating the right environment to support and upskill people. Find out more about BCS AI Certifications.

BCS offers a range of certifications in AI to help your teams level up. As well as aligning to SFIAplus, a globally recognised skills framework, you join a global community of 60,000 members who are committed to advancing our industry. As a member of BCS you can also join specialist groups and branches, gain access to mentoring, and we provide everything you need to facilitate continued professional development.
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