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Video Above: Army Research Lab Advances AI to Land Drones on Tanks

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

(Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md) As rapid advances in AI continue to reshape thinking about the future of warfare, some may raise the question as to whether there are limits to its capacity when compared to the still somewhat mysterious and highly capable human brain.

Army Research Lab - Artificial Intelligence

Army Research Lab scientists continue to explore this question, pointing out that the limits or possibilities of AI are still only beginning to emerge and are expected to yield new, currently unanticipated breakthroughs in coming years. 

Loosely speaking, the fundamental structure of how AI operates is analogous to the biological processing associated with the vision nerves of mammals. The processes through which signals and electrical impulses are transmitted through the brain of mammals conceptually mirror or align with how AI-operates, senior ARL scientists explain. This means that a fundamental interpretive paradigm can be established, but also that scientists are now only beginning to scratch the surface of possibility when it comes to the kinds of performance characteristics, nuances and phenomena AI-might be able to replicate or even exceed.

For instance, could an advanced AI-capable computer have an ability to distinguish a dance “ball” from a soccer “ball” in a sentence by analyzing the surrounding words and determining context? This is precisely the kind of task AI-is increasingly being developed to perform, essentially developing an ability to identify, organize and “integrate” new incoming data not previously associated with its database in an exact way.

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Dr. Nicholas Waytowich, Machine Learning Research Scientist with DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory, told Warrior in an interview how humans can essentially “interact” with the machines by offering timely input of great relevance to computerized decision-making, a dynamic which enables fast “machine-learning” and helps “tag” data.

“If you have millions and millions of data samples, well, you need a lot of effort to label that. So that is one of the reasons why that type of solution training AI doesn't scale the best, right? Because you need to spend a lot of human effort to label that data. Here, we're taking a different approach where we're trying to reduce the amount of data that it needs because we're not trying to learn everything beforehand. We're trying to get it to learn tasks that we want to do on the fly through just interacting with us,” Waytowich said.

Building upon this premise, many industry and military developers are looking at ways through which AI-enabled machines can help perceive, understand and organize more subjective phenomena such as intuition, personality, temperament, reasoning, speech and other factors which inform human decision making. 

Clearly the somewhat ineffable mix of variables informing human thought and decision-making is likely quite difficult to replicate, yet perhaps by recognizing speech patterns, behavior from history or other influencers in relation to one another, perhaps machines can somehow calculate, approximate or at least shed some light upon seemingly subjective cognitive processes. Are there ways machines can learn to “tag” data autonomously? 

That is precisely what seems to be the point of the ARL initiatives, as their discoveries related to machine learning could lead to future warfare scenarios wherein autonomous weaponized platforms are able to respond quickly and adjust effectively in real time to unanticipated developments with precision.

“If there's a new task that you want, we want the AI to be able to know, and understand what it needs to do in these new situations. But you know, AI isn't quite there yet. Right? It's brittle, it requires a lot of data…..and most of the time requires a team of engineers and computer scientists somewhere behind the scene, making sure it doesn't fail. What we want is to push that to where we can adapt it on the edge and just have the soldier be able to adapt that AI in the field,” Waytowich said.

-- Kris Osborn is the President and Editor-in-Chief of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.