Israel’s Targeting in Gaza Highlights the Dangers of AI-Driven War

Israel’s Targeting in Gaza Highlights the Dangers of AI-Driven War
Palestinian residents return after the withdrawal of Israeli troops to find their homes turned into piles of rubble and ash, in Khan Yunis, Gaza, April 9, 2024 (Sipa photo by Ramez Habboub via AP Images).

When it comes to the quest for decisive military advantage, every generation develops its own supposed miracle technology. Over the past 100 years, tanks, submarines, aircraft and nuclear weapons were each initially presented as possessing unique capabilities that could permanently eliminate security threats.

In the face of another round of technological adaptation in the 21st century, militaries have begun to embrace Artificial Intelligence as the latest silver bullet that can solve every challenge they encounter. This trend, and its pitfalls, has been on prominent display over the past six months in Gaza, where the Israeli military has used AI-driven models for its targeting decisions, with a devastating impact on the civilian population in exchange for limited strategic results. But the origins of AI’s emergence as a false panacea date back much further.

Though public awareness in Europe and the U.S. of the militarization of AI has grown in recent years, wider political debate is still only catching up to technological trends that have been evolving over the past 40 years. From the integration of digital technologies in U.S. and Soviet strategic doctrines to the adoption of data analysis systems such as CompStat by the New York Police Department, efforts to harness computerization have shaped a quest for total security among global powers as well as smaller states since the 1970s. Though Washington, Moscow and Beijing still set the pace in cutting-edge research, every other state with access to an advanced defense industrial base has initiated projects focused on tech innovation in warfare and intelligence-gathering.

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