Some details about the US secret military program Sentient, which has existed since 2010, were released in 2019 under the Freedom of Information Act. What began as software for processing satellite images is now becoming an "artificial brain" for collecting all the information available to the military.
Artificial intelligence has simultaneously been one of the most promising and at the same time worrying topics of the past few years. It unavoidably draws attention with its latest achievements and many are worried that AI could overtake a large percentage of the jobs in the world in the near future. But besides that, artificial intelligence can also end up being a powerful military tool.
The National Office of Military Space Intelligence has already developed a powerful artificial brain named Sentient, which was revealed in 2019 by the National Intelligence Office (NRO) under the freedom of information law.
Unlike any other AIs in existence, it differs in the degree of independence. Usually the algorithm works with the loaded information, but Sentient can even direct satellites to get images of the objects it needs. In fact, it can be called an artificial brain.
As it appears, the military and other government intelligence agencies have the most advanced artificial intelligence-based big data processing algorithms. Until recently, Sentient was a well-kept state secret while experts have been working on the program since October 2010.
As far as can be judged, the task of the Sentient control algorithm is, based on the collected data, to redirect the satellites to where something interesting for the military is happening (or will happen according to AI calculations).
In addition, it is known that the volume of photos taken up by Sentient has grown exponentially: over the years, the Pentagon has been content with the services of one civilian contractor who transmitted satellite images. Now, it can be noted that this number has grown and similar algorithms belong to several other commercial or private intelligence companies such as Maxar, Planet and BlackSky.
These systems collect data from social networks, satellites, sensors in smart devices, airplanes and ships. This information can be used equally effectively to determine the aftermath of an earthquake, find enemy military equipment, or simply sell it to third parties.
It remains unclear how far the Sentient’s powers extend. The officials have declined to answer any direct questions about the directions and scale of the use of AI in the NRO, citing the danger of disclosing data important to enemies.
The way this artificial brain was revealed and the approach in giving additional information has to make you think about some potential outcomes for the near or distant future.
Quite possibly (certainly, I would say), there are other arbitrarily large AI-based military systems in development or probably already in use. Such systems can be deployed and used without us, the public, realizing that they exist and interfere with our daily lives although, in the end, Sentient is a military tool.
For years, experts have been convinced about a new type of “battlefield” that threatens peace. This the analysis and falsification of satellite photos, which I believe is a really dangerous game. Even if the United States are still the only ones in possession of such technology, there is no doubt that countries like China are also investing in such developments.
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• Gorey, C. (2019, August 02). US military actually called its ‘artificial brain’ experiment Sentient.
• Pettit, H. (2019, August 01). US spies secretly built ‘artificial brain’ that can ‘organise wars, redirect satellites and predict the future’.
• Robitzski, D. (2019, July 31). The military secretly built an “artificial brain” called Sentient.
• Scoles, S. (2019, July 31). It’s Sentient.