‘Our adversaries are investing in AI’, warns military intelligence chief

Written by Sam Trendall on 14 September 2020 in News
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Russia and China are increasingly operating in a ‘grey zone between war and peacetime’, according to the government

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The UK’s most senior military intelligence officer has warned that the UK must keep up with investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning technology made by adversaries such as Russia and China.

In a first-of-its-kind event, the Lt Gen Jim Hockenhull last week briefed journalists at the Cambridgeshire headquarters of Defence Intelligence – an agency of the Ministry of Defence. According to the government, the event addressed issues such as how warfare is changing “in ways that will challenge the west to keep pace with adversaries who do not play by the rules”.

Such changes have expanded the potential battlefield to include outer space and the cyber realm. It has also resulted in “global players such as Russia and China continually [challenging] the existing order without prompting direct conflict, operating in the expanding grey-zone between war and peacetime”, the government said.


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Lt Gen Hockenhull said: “Whilst conventional threats remain, we have seen our adversaries invest in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and other ground-breaking technologies, whilst also supercharging more traditional techniques of influence and leverage. As we have seen in Salisbury, hostile states are willing to take incredible risks. We must make sure that we have both the intent and the capability to ensure that such wanton acts of irresponsibility will not go unpunished.”

Defence Intelligence employs 4,500 people, around two-thirds of which are military personnel. It is an organisation which, the government said, has been “traditionally more comfortable in the shadows… [but has] been brought to the fore by recent developments”.

In addition to monitoring military threats to the country, the organisation also observes geopolitical instability and human rights violations. It has also, via the UK’s only “strategic medical intelligence capability”, recently been tasked with “assessing the UK’s overseas medical capabilities and understanding bio-hacking, [and] assessing the current and future threat posed by Covid-19”.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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