SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. Samuel Bendett (Advisor, Russia Studies Program, CNA & Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security [CNAS]) as part of its SMA EUCOM Speaker Series.
Mr. Bendett discussed how Russia’s development of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous weapons systems manifest in its civilian and military sectors. To boost innovation in its civilian sector, Russia’s government has funded new venture companies in an attempt to mirror the research and development (R&D) communities in Western countries. By making investments on a regional level, Russia is hoping that its STEM community pursues R&D careers in Russia. This will help slow the ‘brain drain’ from Russia to Western countries. Russia believes that by increasing its private sector’s ability to conduct scientific R&D is the best way to close the gap between itself and the leaders in AI, such as the US and China.
Russia’s military operations are fully state funded and categorized into four topics which are: a) information management and decision making; b) autonomy; c) training, logistics, maintenance, and procurement; and d) early warning and air defense. Russia views autonomous attack robotics systems that can communicate with human controllers as the future of its autonomous weapons systems. Russia has already been testing the effectiveness of its autonomous weaponry on battle fields, like Syria, with mixed results. The current problems and hurdles facing Russian development in AI and autonomous weaponry are: a) overcoming tech issues and deficiencies, b) governmental and state leadership trying to adopt historically private-sector operational and growth principles, and c) ethics and human user issues. Mr. Bendett emphasized that in the near term AI will primarily be used as a decision making tool for commanders.
Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.