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AI in Warfare: A Race the U.S. Can’t Afford to Lose

By Sean Gourley
Posted July 22, 2022

AI is rapidly changing how wars are fought. Winners of the AI arms race will become the world’s dominant military powers. Here’s what’s at stake.

Primer CEO Sean Gourley testified at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce AI Commission on July 21, 2022, about the global AI arms race — and what the U.S. and our allies need to do next. Below are his testimony notes. 

“The stakes are high, and the winner of this AI arms race will become the dominant military power in the world. It is a race that we cannot afford to lose.”

-Primer CEO Sean Gourley

Testimony by Primer CEO Sean Gourley 

Thank you Congressmen Ferguson and Delaney, members of the Commission. 

While there is a huge amount of discussion about the impact of AI on our society, the biggest impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have in the next decade will be in warfare, where advanced AI will fundamentally change the way wars are fought. The impact of AI on warfare will be akin to that of nuclear weapons, where AI is a technology so powerful that the country that wields it will quickly defeat any opponent who does not.  

Artificial intelligence represents what is known as the “third offset,” a set of technological capabilities so advanced that it gives whoever wields them an advantage so large that the opponent without the technology is effectively defeated before a conflict even starts. 

“AI is a technology so powerful that the country that wields it will quickly defeat any opponent who does not.”

-Primer CEO Sean Gourley

The first offset was nuclear weapons, which ended the Second World War. The second offset was stealth weaponry and precision munitions, which resulted in the U.S. defeating the Iraq army — which at the time was the world’s 6th most powerful army — in less than 72 hours during the First Gulf War. The third offset is artificial intelligence. And it will have as profound an impact on warfare as any of the previous two offsets combined. 

This is not a hypothetical discussion about something that might happen in the future. Today, we are already seeing the impact of AI on the battlefield in Ukraine. From computer vision being used with commercial drones to identify camouflaged Russian vehicles, to AI that listens to radio communication and triangulates these with videos from social media to track Russian troop movement and intention in real time, through to AI being deployed in the information war to attempt to manipulate the narrative and win over the enemy population. 

These changes are happening rapidly. But Russia and Ukraine are not widely regarded as AI superpowers – it is China that we need to turn our attention to. 

We need to acknowledge that we are currently in an AI arms race with China. The stakes are high, and the winner of this AI arms race will become the dominant military power in the world. It is a race that we cannot afford to lose. 

The United States and its allies come into this arms race with a considerable set of advantages, but speed is going to determine the winner here — and China is moving fast.

To read more, download the full testimony here.