Quantum computing and artificial intelligence set to revolutionize ISR :: NATO ACT

Sep 30, 2022


by Strategic Alternatives Directorate, Strategic Plans and Policies

The crisis of the next twenty years

Consider the following scenario: Classified intelligence indicates that China is close to fully integrating quantum-enhanced AI into its nuclear command and targeting systems. Following a series of cyberattacks believed to originate from Macau and Vladivostok on US and NATO missile defense systems in South Korea, Alaska and Romania, Washington is raising the bar on DEFCON. Accordingly, the US President is calling for an emergency CAN meeting to discuss the rise of a multipolar nuclear deterrence environment and how NATO’s deterrence policy must now adapt.

Traditional perspectives on the application of emerging and disruptive technologies (EDT) in nuclear deterrence are generally considered the work of science fiction, ranging from The Terminator at Dr Strangelove. Reality, however, is likely to get stranger than fiction. TDEs have already transformed thinking about nuclear deterrence, and future technological developments and applications involving quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to revolutionize aspects of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) intrinsic to nuclear deterrence. The impacts of quantum ISR and AI on nuclear decision-making are less explored and may pose significant risks due to opportunities for escalation, misinformation and cognitive enhancement, which could lead to changes in the way escalation management is approached. In this scenario, one could envision that nuclear decision-making, the logic behind nuclear policy-making and “single-use” nuclear deterrence, has failed, triggering a fundamentally important conversation about whether the existing policy and knowledge of key decision makers is resilient enough to deal with such circumstances. This is especially true for NATO nuclear decision-making, a multi-step political process aimed at managing escalation between NATO and its adversaries through the use of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangement. .

NATO faces a unique challenge posed by technologies such as quantum and AI due to the possibility that an entire state’s defense network or critical infrastructure could be attacked, destroyed or disrupted., including its nuclear arsenal. The challenge therefore becomes a race to harness technologies that increase resilience beyond your opponents’ offensive capabilities. Encouragingly, NATO’s technological innovation is at the forefront of development, giving NATO the opportunity to be the first to weaponize these emerging and important technological advances. The game-changing impacts of quantum and AI will likely drive game-changing reassessments of what NATO might be capable of in the future and fundamentally shape the future operating environment.

Quantum represents the biggest leap forward in computing potential and power, and the first player to successfully develop a versatile quantum computer will immediately become incredibly influential. From a general point of view, the development of quantum communications will revolutionize the protection of distributed data systems, as quantum cryptanalysis has the potential to prevent transmission interception and data decryption. Indeed, any transmission that is not protected by post-quantum cryptography runs the real risk of having its classified information compromised. This is already forcing a reassessment of how information is protected and highlights the vulnerabilities inherent in the growing interconnectedness of critical infrastructure. Likewise, advances in quantum sensing have the potential to obtain positional data from all aircraft and submarines that would provide transparent skies and oceans facilitate rapid support for decision-making thanks to a better understanding of the operational environment in real time. Although quantum maturity remains decades away, if NATO is able to win the race to adopt and integrate military capabilities, NATO will gain strength by having the wealth of knowledge needed to successfully deal with any emerging crisis while researching new technologies. However, the reverse is also true as potential adversaries could use this technology to find and exploit any vulnerability within the Alliance. Therefore, the race for a versatile and integrated quantum capability represents one of the most important steps for the future.

AI is already integrated into some civilian and military spaces. Applications of AI have focused on the machine learning aspects of the technology, applying these ideas in decision making at the strategic level enables rapid modeling of multiple outcomes to determine the best courses of action for decision makers.. Yet AI has fueled deep fake videos as part of disinformation campaigns by adversaries in hopes of manipulating popular opinion of the Alliance and putting pressure on governments. From an operational perspective, rivals could plant false and erroneous information into systems while obscuring the real information gathered by the sensors, thus compromising the information needed for decision-making. Although countermeasures to detect deep forgeries and other misinformation exist and are capable, misinformation will likely spread faster than corroborated truth and may not be discovered until too late. AI combined with quantum computing raises additional considerations, ranging from quantum-powered AI to make hypersonic missiles harder to take down with traditional missile defenses to increasing missile defense capabilities through more targeted efficient. Thus, the coupling of these two technologies offers the Alliance the possibility of major advantages in the accomplishment of its essential tasks, in particular if one considers the dimensions of nuclear decision-making and deterrence.

The AI ​​and quantum impact network is vast and has the potential to revolutionize NATO’s thinking about its core tasks. Indeed, the combination of these two technologies will disrupt the security environment and pose unique challenges that need to be understood, especially in the context of nuclear decision-making. If the Alliance succeeds in harnessing these technologies to achieve its own goals, quantum and AI will enhance deterrence in the same vein as the nuclear sharing agreement, making the Alliance safer and more capable in a security environment. evolving.

Want to know if EDTs have the potential to be Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and what this means for the NATO Combat Synthesis Concept (NWCC)? Follow this link: Future of Emerging Disruptive Weapons of Mass Destruction Technologies

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