From Heroes to Machines? The History and Cultural Politics of AI Enabled Command in the United States | Ian Reynolds

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William J. Perry Conference Room

About the Event: There is a currently a great deal of momentum behind the integration of AI enabled technologies into the U.S. military. This includes desires to leverage the technology for purposes of command and control. Efforts, such as the Department of Defense’s Joint All Domain Command and Control, are predicated on dreams of AI and machine learning enabling U.S. commanders to make better decisions at a faster pace. However, this ongoing incorporation of AI into military decision-making processes promises to delegate elements of decision-making away from humans. This phenomenon challenges long-standing military traditions emphasizing the heroic archetype of the ‘decisive’, ‘intuitive’, and ‘audacious’ commander. As such, Ian Reynolds' research seeks to address how, in the face of these competing perspectives, did the prospect of delegating decisions in war to ‘intelligent machines’ gain its current momentum? He argues that this puzzle is resolved through particular visions of war that emerge in the post-WWII era, specifically related to the themes of speed and knowledge in American military thought. Reynolds' research investigates shifts in how members of the U.S. defense architecture conceive of and prioritize speed and knowledge and their relationship to war, suggesting that these changes serve as a form of ‘cultural resources’ in debates over the merits of AI related to command decisions. His findings point to the ways in which shared beliefs about how militaries should fight wars link to visions of technological capacity, having practical implications for important military practices such as command.  

About the Speaker: Ian Reynolds is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow as Stanford CISAC and HAI as well as a PhD Candidate at American University, School of International Service. His broad research interests focus on the intersection of science and politics as well as digital technologies and international security. More specifically, his dissertation work explores the history and cultural politics of artificial intelligence and its relationship to military command and control practices in the United States.

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