What Can the Picatinny Rail Teach Us About AI?

Recently, on a military base in the Euphrates River Valley, a soldier described to me how he was supposed to defend the base from a small hostile drone, like the ones used by folks back home to take dramatic shots for real estate listings or weddings. On his plywood desk there was an array of laptops and devices, but none of these products were connected or worked with the others. One of the devices chimed an alert occasionally. These alerts were usually false positives, but he still needed to manually check a few of the other systems, one after another. It wasn't clear where he should direct his attention or how he should interpret all the information he was receiving.

As the soldier spoke, I recalled having similar feelings when interfacing with military technology  to target the Islamic State as a marine in 2016: the innumerable hours watching video footage from aerial platforms to see momentary glimpses of nefarious activity, the sifting of endless intelligence reports to characterize the military use of a target, the decisions made with incomplete information.

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