Artificial Intelligence will transform warfare, AFRL scientist says

Steven Rogers, an AFRL senior scientist, leads a team of researchers pushing the advancement of artificial intelligence.
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Steven Rogers, an AFRL senior scientist, leads a team of researchers pushing the advancement of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence will transform national security on the same scale as aviation, cyber, nuclear or bio technology, a leading autonomy scientist says.

“It’s that important,” said Steven K. Rogers, a senior scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson. “If you think about it in that context, you realize that you’ve got to do things in a completely unique way.”

Rogers spoke Wednesday to about 80 people at a Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association meeting at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center.

AFRL researchers have keyed in on three autonomy priorities: Increasing lethality, battle-space awareness; and revolutionizing business processes, Rogers said.

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The senior leads a team of more than 30 researchers pushing the boundaries of military autonomy — or machine learning — at both Wright-Patterson and AFRL’s Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y.

Autonomy, along with hypersonics and directed energy, are key technologies AFRL researchers have prioritized as “game-changers,” as Air Force officials have described them.

The United States faces a high-stakes competition with both Russia and China in a race to dominate autonomy as it evolves through its second wave and heads into a third.

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China has targeted being on par with the world’s best technology by 2020, as a driver of industry by 2025, and dominance by 2030, according to AFRL.

“The point is we have near peers that are taking this seriously,” he said. “That tells you we’ve got to take it seriously.”

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The AFRL engineering group targeting the autonomy challenges is dubbed Autonomy Capability Team 3, from which Rogers said he can pull any government or civilian contractor in the agency to be part of the group.

“In this area we can’t study and do basic science stuff and then eventually figure out where this stuff applies,” he said. “We’ve got to do that on the fly. This stuff is moving too fast.

“… Going from this point forward, most of the knowledge created on the earth will be created by machines,” he said. “That’s our challenge.”