Military AI Vanquishes Human Fighter Pilot


Slowly then quickly, that’s the story of exponential progression. When you reach an inflection point on the exponential curve, you reach an Acceleration of Acceleration. We have reached a point where Change has never been this Fast – yet it will never be this slow again. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a great example of this phenomenon.

It was 1996 when IBM’s Deep Blue took on Garry Kasparov, considered one of the greatest players in the history of chess. Kasparov won that match 4 – 2. A rematch in 1997 went to Deep Blue. Slowly, then quickly. It was early 2011 when IBM Watson took on Jeopardy champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Watson won that competition fairly easily…slowly, then quickly.

Beginning in 2015, Google pitted AlphaGo against champions of the game Go, which is considered much more difficult for computers to win than other games such as chess. In October 2015, in a match against Fan Hui, the original AlphaGo became the first computer Go program to beat a human professional Go player without handicap on a full-sized 19×19 board. In March 2016, it beat Lee Sedol in a five-game match. Slowly, then quickly.

By 2018, AlphaZero was teaching itself to play and win at multiple games. The system approaches the general-purpose category, as it can work for many two-person games. General purpose is a big deal in the context of the AI journey (see visual and click to enlarge). Per this Article, it was given no knowledge beyond the rules of each game. At first it made random moves. Then it started learning through self-play. Over the course of nine hours, the chess version of the program played forty-four million games against itself on a massive cluster of specialized Google hardware. After two hours, it began performing better than human players; after four, it was beating the best chess engine in the world. Slowly, then quickly.

Today, there is word that the U.S. military’s emerging-technologies research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, staged a matchup between man and machine — and the machine won 5-0. Per this Article, the victor was an artificial intelligence-directed “pilot” developed by Heron Systems. It quickly put the lie to a statement DARPA made just one year ago, “No AI currently exists … that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight.” The simulation happened on Aug. 20, representing a milestone for AI and its potential military uses. Slowly, then quickly.

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