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Deterrence in the Age of Thinking Machines

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Technical Report

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RAND Corporation Santa Monica

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Artificial intelligence AI and autonomous systems have the potential to change the future of warfare. The increased use of unmanned systems on the battlefield, breakthroughs in commercial AI, and interest that many countries now have in AI and autonomous systems for military applications make it likely that such systems will be widely used in future conflicts. Yet what happens to deterrence and escalation when decisions can be made at machine speeds and when states can put fewer human lives at risk In this exploratory report, we discuss key deterrence concepts, offer a brief background on AI and autonomy, identify key factors that may shape deterrence and escalation as use of these systems increases, present a wargame in which several countries with AI and advanced autonomous systems confronted one another, offer potential implications that these technologies have for deterrence and escalation, and identify areas for further research.

Subject Categories:

  • Cybernetics

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