Fasten your seatbelt
2023 is the year of artificial intelligence and where we have so far mainly seen this applied in relatively harmless tools such as Dall-E (which creates works of art) and ChatGPT (which writes essays), there are also more far-reaching ways for AI to understand us as to help humanity. Although, help: The US military’s new experiment won’t be viewed by everyone as equally positive. It let artificial intelligence control a fighter plane for 17 hours.
Artificial intelligence as a pilot
Don’t worry, it’s been a while since the AI did this (though you may wonder what AI is doing NOW…), because it was in December. It was, and this is important to mention: entirely at the behest of people. So it’s not artificial intelligence that thought of itself: I’m going to fly a bit today. Not yet reassured? Here’s more information.
The U.S. Defense Department commissioned AI at Edwards Air Force Base in California in December to fly an F-16-style fighter jet. All by yourself, for 17 hours. But those 17 hours are divided over 12 flights. The aircraft that was used is not a very standard aircraft either: it is the X-62A Vista that was specially made for experimentation. And that was done in abundance, because it was not just one AI that took control of the aircraft. Four algorithms were working on it (but in turn).
However, it wasn’t just flying straight ahead in fourth gear on ‘automatic pilot’: there were all kinds of different assignments that the AI had to complete well. To rise? Check. To land? Check. Having a mid-air battle with another aircraft? In simulation: check. So artificial intelligence has certainly done some special things. On the other hand, we just gave it away a bit: technology is also taking over more and more in the current aircraft that people board: pilots are still well-trained people who know what they are doing, but for the most part the aircraft also does a lot on based on technology (more precisely, the Flight Management Computer).
Anyway, that’s very different from fighting in the air. The aircraft’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has said it is the first time in history that artificial intelligence has come into action on a tactical aircraft. Although no plans have been announced at this time to do more with AI, the Defense people continue to use the X-62 fighter jet to test the self-flying functions.
Although fighter jets are a far from our bed show, it is interesting to see that we are already giving AI the keys to our fighter jets. On the other hand, it seems that the further details are ‘classified’. So whether the AI did not make major mistakes and to what extent there was human supervision, that is not known. And yes, are we sure that it is indeed the first time that AI itself flies in a fighter plane? There are plenty of other countries with highly innovative defense departments. Anyway, let’s stick to that far-from-our-bed show for a while.