Just like the nuclear weapons, terrorism and climate change, the U.S. government believes, quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) pose an “emerging threat” to national security. The government says that the agnostic technologies like encryption, autonomous and unmanned systems, artificial intelligence and quantum computing does more bad than good, and that all can have disastrous effects if used by an adversary.
For example, the government says that, “adversaries could gain increased access to AI through affordable designs used in the commercial industry, and could apply AI to areas such as weapons and technology,” and that “quantum communications could enable adversaries to develop secure communications that U.S. personnel would not be able to intercept or decrypt.”
Several key agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, when polled, indicated they see quantum computing and AI as potential security threats, especially in the near-term. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in a white paper titled "Long-Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States as Identified by Federal Agencies." The agencies expressed fear that, continued advances with quantum computing and artificial intelligence could be used to cause harm, rather than advance society.
But for a fact, quantum computing and AI continues to advance, and this year, for instance, computer technologists set a new speed record for the trapped-ion 'building blocks' (or logic gates) of future-generation quantum computers. With AI, on the other side, studies are underway to assess the extent that AI can understand what it is like to be human.
Many believe that warfare in this day and age has adapted beyond recognition. Nation states are targeting one another with cyber-bombs and disinformation campaigns, “sowing seeds of doubt rather than lobbing bombs over borders.”
“As such, the nature of warfare has evolved to include ‘gray zone’ conflict — defined as the area between war and peace — where weaker adversaries have learned how to seize territory and advance their agendas in ways not recognized as ‘war’ by Western democracies,” the government watchdog wrote. The U.S. was undoubtedly pointing its finger at nations like China, Russia, and Iran, for “pursuing gray zone strategies to achieve their objectives without resorting to military conflict.”
However, the government is very well aware that it has to keep up with the range of threats, or otherwise face weakening on the world stage. “The challenge for the United States and its allies will be to develop responses faster than adversaries through a better understanding of the strategic environment,” the government said. But this is going to be tougher than it seems. Some senior government officials still seem to be stuck and “strategically surprised” by how fast the threats have evolved.