Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Think Tanker Behind Huge DoD Robot Arms Race

A former top think tank official is behind the US Department of Defense's huge push into the robot arms race and what is known as centaur warfighting.

Here is more from The New York Times:
Almost unnoticed outside defense circles, the Pentagon has put artificial intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the United States’ position as the world’s dominant military power. It is spending billions of dollars to develop what it calls autonomous and semiautonomous weapons and to build an arsenal stocked with the kind of weaponry that until now has existed only in Hollywood movies and science fiction, raising alarm among scientists and activists concerned by the implications of a robot arms race.
 “China and Russia are developing battle networks that are as good as our own. They can see as far as ours can see; they can throw guided munitions as far as we can,” said Robert O. Work, the deputy defense secretary, who has been a driving force for the development of autonomous weapons. “What we want to do is just make sure that we would be able to win as quickly as we have been able to do in the past.”
Mr. Work, 63, first proposed the concept [of centaur warfighting] when he led a Washington think tank, the Center for a New American Security. His inspiration, he said, was not found in typical sources of military strategy — Sun Tzu or Clausewitz, for instance — but in the work of Tyler Cowen, a blogger and economist at George Mason University.
In his 2013 book, “Average Is Over,” Mr. Cowen briefly mentioned how two average human chess players, working with three regular computers, were able to beat both human chess champions and chess-playing supercomputers.
It was a revelation for Mr. Work. You could “use the tactical ingenuity of the computer to improve the strategic ingenuity of the human,” he said.

Although the article does not mention it, Think Tank Watch should point out that Tyler Cowen also hails from the think tank world, as General Director of the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center. 

As for Mr. Work, he still has extremely close ties to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and speaks there from time to time.  Robert Works' biography can be found here.

Michele Flournoy, who is Hillary Clinton's likely pick for Defense secretary if she becomes president, is Co-Founder and CEO of CNAS.  Her think tank biography can be found here.