The Pentagon’s AI Chief Prepares for Battle
Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan doesn’t want killer robots—but he does want artificial intelligence to occupy a central role in warfighting.
Nearly every day, in war zones around the world, American military forces request fire support. By radioing coordinates to a howitzer miles away, infantrymen can deliver the awful ruin of a 155-mm artillery shell on opposing forces. If defense officials in Washington have their way, artificial intelligence is about to make that process a whole lot faster.
The effort to speed up fire support is one of a handful initiatives that Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan describes as the “lower consequence missions” that the Pentagon is using to demonstrate how it can integrate artificial intelligence into its weapons systems. As the head of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, a 140-person clearinghouse within the Department of Defense focused on speeding up AI adoption, Shanahan and his team are building applications in well-established AI domains—tools for predictive maintenance and health record analysis—but also venturing into the more exotic, pursuing AI capabilities that would make the technology a centerpiece of American warfighting.