Nathaniel L. Moir
Technology cannot overcome human judgment and relationships.
Google’s recent “Quantum Breakthrough” is great for American science but irrelevant for foreseeable conflict. It is ironic that “quantum supremacy” emerged in late October while America conceded its small but stabilizing position in Syria. The Syria decision is understandably construed as unwise because it relieves pressure on ISIS, forfeits a presence now occupied by Russia, and it provides Iran a corridor to Hezbollah in Lebanon. As it currently stands, the U.S. may possess the most advanced computing power known to humankind. Still, none of it ensures commitment to allies, such as Kurds forsaken by the United States, let alone the formation of wise foreign policy elsewhere. Quantum supremacy, A.I., and other technological advancements will not compensate for commitments and partnerships we abandon.
The dissonance between advancing technology and retreating political commitments to allies should buzz between the ears. The problem is also embodied by the fact that, while the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) poses over a dozen essential and enduring questions on A.I.’s future, the most basic components of warfare — political rationale for operations and partnered cooperation — are kicked to the curb. How can we square the circle when the problem is more like a parallelogram?
It is good to answer the National Security Commission’s questions concerning A.I. But it is better to recognize that, with ISIS, the United States confronts Revolutionary Warfare. It is not just an insurgency of a perpetual or global character. To understand this, it is best to internalize the idea that Applied History is the most suitable means to understand this form of conflict. Even if ISIS is eventually defeated, we will encounter similar warfare elsewhere. Despite all the advancements in A.I., quantum computing, and hypersonic weaponry, technology is insufficient to confront, let alone comprehend, what the United States faced in the past, what it confronts today, and what it will encounter in the future.
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