Large language models may soon help military analysts and commanders make decisions on the battlefield.

What’s new: Palantir, a data-analytics company that serves customers in the military, intelligence, and law enforcement, demonstrated its chat-driven Artificial Intelligence Platform (AIP) performing tasks like identifying enemies in satellite imagery, deploying surveillance drones, and proposing battle plans.

How it works: In the demonstration, an intelligence analyst uses AIP to react to a fictional scenario. The system integrates large language models including Dolly-v2-12b (12 billion parameters), Flan-T5XL (3 billion), and GPT-NeoX-20B (20 billion) fine-tuned on an unspecified dataset.

  • Having received an alert that enemies had moved into friendly territory, the user enters the prompt: “Show me more details.” AIP displays satellite imagery and uses an unspecified object detection model to locate an enemy tank.
  • The user prompts AIP to deploy a surveillance drone, which streams video to the screen.
  • Having confirmed the tank’s presence, the user prompts AIP to generate three courses of action. The chatbot suggests sending a fighter jet, engaging the tank with long-range artillery, or deploying an infantry unit equipped with shoulder-launched missiles.
  • The user sends the suggestions up the chain of command for review. The commander approves sending in troops, and the system generates a battle plan including a route to the tank. The commander orders an electronic warfare specialist to jam the tank’s communication equipment.

Behind the news: Military forces are experimenting with AI for executing combat tactics.

  • The United States Department of Defense is testing a system called JADC2 that will process early-warning radar information to identify possible threats across the globe.
  • The Israeli Defense Force revealed that it had used unidentified AI tools during a May 2021 engagement to target commanders and missile units belonging to Hamas, the political party that controls the Gaza Strip.

Why it matters: At its best, this system could help military authorities identify threats sooner and streamline their responses, enabling them to outmaneuver their enemies. On the other hand, it represents a significant step toward automated warfare.

We’re thinking: This system takes the critical question of safety in AI systems to a new, terrifying level. Human battlefield analysts manage complex variables: terrain, weather, local customs, capabilities and limitations of friendly and enemy forces. This is crucial work. Delegating that work to a chatbot is a worrisome prospect considering the current state of large language models, which hallucinate falsehoods, confidently provide unworkable directions, and fail at basic math — especially smaller chatbots, like those used in this system.


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