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From: TomDispatch <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 8:36 AM
Subject: Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Coming of Hyperwar

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December 18, 2018
Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Coming of Hyperwar

[*Note for TomDispatch Readers:* *It’s that time of the year when I always
hammer away endlessly about donations. So many of you have been wonderful
this year, but sadly we always need more. So here’s a little reminder about
some of the splendid books you’ll find at the *TD* donation page. You can
get signed, personalized copies of any of these for $100 ($125 if you live
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climate-change thriller* Frostlands
just published this month by Dispatch Books; historian Alfred McCoy’s hit, *In
the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global
Rebecca Gordon’s grimly fascinating *American Nuremberg
Nick Turse’s bestselling Vietnam War book*, Kill Anything That Moves
and a variety of my own books, ranging from this year’s *A Nation Unmade by
to my old (but still eerily relevant) history of Cold War America, *The End
of Victory Culture
among others. **Click here*
go to our donation page, and check it all out. Tom*]

Imagine, for a moment, a country that no longer rebuilds or reinforces
its sagging
but just can’t stop pouring money into its military. Oh wait, you don’t
have to imagine that at all! You just have to look at the United States.
This fall, for instance, the president who swore he was going to give us an
infrastructure plan that would blow our minds discovered that, after a tax
cut for billionaires, a ballooning national debt
and a staggering $716 billion
Pentagon budget, there were few dollars left
over for much of anything else. In October, Donald Trump began talking
about cutting agency spending by 5% across the board and about a possible $700
billion limit
on the 2020 Pentagon budget. As December began, he became even more
emphatic on that point, tweeting that he should talk to the Chinese and
Russian presidents about halting an arms race and so cut down on military
spending that was... well, not to put too fine a point on it, “Crazy!

Hmm... and just how long did that sentiment survive? Well, that was Monday,
December 4th. On Tuesday, the newly nominated head of U.S. Central Command,
Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, appeared before the Senate Armed
Services Committee and insisted
that any future Pentagon budget below $733 billion would “increase risk and
that risk would be manifested across the force.” That very day, Secretary
of Defense James Mattis and the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed
Services committees, Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Senator James
Inhofe (R-OK) trooped to the White House for a lunch meeting. The next
thing anyone knew, the 2020 Pentagon budget was to be a modest $750 billion
"The President fully supports the National Defense Strategy and continuing
to rebuild the military," an administration official told CNN. "With the
help of Sen. Inhofe and Chairman Thornberry, President Trump agreed to $750
billion topline."

Well, honestly, what can you expect of a Pentagon incapable of auditing
How could it possibly solve a total stumper of a division and subtraction
problem like: What’s 5% less than its 2019 budget? (And here’s a little
footnote to that change in numbers: Senator Inhofe walked out of that lunch
and within the week had purchased
“tens of thousands of dollars of stock in one of the nation’s top defense
contractors.” Raytheon
to be exact.  When that buy made news, he blamed it all on his “financial
adviser,” claimed to know nothing about it, and cancelled the order.)

And then, of course, there’s always the purely secondary question: What is
the U.S. military -- its budget already bigger than of that those of
countries combined -- going to spend all that money
on? Fortunately, *TomDispatch* regular
Michael Klare has a thought on the subject. He suggests that, in the years
to come, increasing billions of those dollars are going to be invested in
creating a future battlespace in which “intelligent” machines fight our
wars and, in the end, the only role left for humans may be the dying. In
other words, we’re heading for a militarized, remarkably automated,
artificially intelligent hell on Earth. What about an $850 billion budget,
just to ensure that we’re the first ones there? *Tom*

*“Alexa, Launch Our Nukes!”*
*Artificial Intelligence and the Future of War*
By Michael T. Klare

There could be no more consequential decision than launching atomic weapons
and possibly triggering a nuclear holocaust. President John F. Kennedy
faced just such a moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis
of 1962 and, after envisioning the catastrophic outcome of a U.S.-Soviet
nuclear exchange, he came to the conclusion that the atomic powers should
impose tough barriers on the precipitous use of such weaponry. Among the
measures he and other global leaders adopted were guidelines requiring that
senior officials, not just military personnel, have a role in any
nuclear-launch decision.

That was then, of course, and this is now. And what a now it is! With
artificial intelligence, or AI, soon to play an ever-increasing role in
military affairs, as in virtually everything else in our lives, the role of
humans, even in nuclear decision-making, is likely to be progressively
diminished. In fact, in some future AI-saturated world, it could disappear
entirely, leaving machines to determine humanity’s fate.

This isn't idle conjecture based on science fiction movies or dystopian
novels. It’s all too real, all too here and now, or at least here and soon
to be. As the Pentagon and the military commands of the other great powers
look to the future, what they see is a highly contested battlefield -- some
have called it a “hyperwar
environment -- where vast swarms of AI-guided robotic weapons will fight
each other at speeds far exceeding the ability of human commanders to
follow the course of a battle. At such a time, it is thought, commanders
might increasingly be forced to rely on ever more intelligent machines to
make decisions on what weaponry to employ when and where. At first, this
may not extend to nuclear weapons, but as the speed of battle increases and
the “firebreak” between them and conventional weaponry shrinks, it may
prove impossible to prevent the creeping automatization of even
nuclear-launch decision-making.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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