The Bunker, delivered to our subscribers Wednesdays at 7 a.m., is a newsletter from the desk of National Security Analyst Mark Thompson. Sign up here to receive it first thing, or check back Wednesday afternoon for the online version.
This week in The Bunker: a warning that artificial intelligence could lead to nuclear war pushes The Bunker to relinquish its keyboard to a robot (for the most part), to see what impact AI can have on more mundane pursuits; and more.
THE (NEW ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT) BUNKER
AI takes over for a boring old human this week.
Artificial intelligence — a rational machine that can plan, reason, communicate and act — could lead to Armageddon as the Pentagon and other advanced militaries promote it through the ranks. That’s the disturbing bottom line in a new report from Michael T. Klare of the Arms Control Association. “Non-military devices governed by AI, such as self-driving cars and facial-recognition systems, have been known to fail in dangerous and unpredictable ways,” he warns. “Should similar failures occur among AI-empowered weaponry during wartime, the outcomes could include the unintended slaughter of civilians or the outbreak of nuclear war.”
This, of course, raises an obvious question: if AI can destroy the world, what can it do to The Bunker? So, as a public service, The Bunker is letting a chatbot write most of this week’s column and giving our editors a week off. ChatGPT is the latest internet darling, a white-hot tech tool that harnesses AI to respond to typed queries with text that could have been written by a flesh-and-blood human with a brain, or even a journalist. The “GPT” of ChatGPT stands for “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer,” a neural network that sucks information from the web to generate its answers based on 175 billion internal guidelines. Without further ado:
How good is the U.S. military?
The U.S. military is widely considered to be one of the most powerful and technologically advanced militaries in the world, with a high level of training, equipment, and operational experience. Its capabilities and effectiveness are demonstrated through its ability to conduct a wide range of missions, including combat operations, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. However, the effectiveness of the military depends on various factors, such as the specific mission, the level of resources and support available, and the effectiveness of leadership and strategy.
Is the F-35 worth the money?
The F-35 is a controversial topic, with opinions divided on whether it is worth the money or not. The aircraft has had cost overruns and technical issues during its development, but it also provides advanced capabilities and versatility for a range of missions. Ultimately, the decision on whether the F-35 is worth the money depends on various factors, including the specific needs of the military and the budget constraints of the government.
Are U.S. aircraft carriers vulnerable?
While U.S. aircraft carriers are not invulnerable, they are designed and equipped with advanced technologies and layered defenses that make them highly resilient against various threats, including missile attacks, torpedoes, and mines. The U.S. Navy also employs a range of tactics and strategies to protect its carriers, including operating in a networked and distributed manner, employing electronic warfare, and using aircraft and submarines to detect and neutralize potential threats. However, like any military platform, there is always some level of risk involved in operating an aircraft carrier in a combat zone.
THE BIG QUESTION
Can America still win wars?
As an AI language model, I do not have opinions or beliefs, but I can provide some factual information. The United States military remains one of the most powerful and technologically advanced in the world, with significant resources and capabilities. However, the outcome of any conflict depends on many factors, including the nature of the conflict, the strength and strategies of the opposing forces, and political and social factors both domestically and internationally.
WHO’S IN CHARGE?
Election deniers now chair key military panels
Republicans, having just become the majority in the House, recently named new leaders for the seven subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee. Five of those GOP lawmakers voted to overturn the 2020 election, despite a lack of evidence warranting such radical action. That means that 71% of the House panels responsible for U.S. national security are now being run by fact-spurning fabulists.
The appointments were announced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the freshly-minted chairman of the full House Armed Services Committee, and an election denier himself. When American leaders swap character for conspiracy, we are heading down a slippery slope.
The fictitious five are:
- Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, the new personnel panel chief, who is pushing for a more diverse and “woke” military.
- Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan, now in charge of the intel and special ops panel, who thinks the return of so-called “Great Power” competition means U.S. Special Operations Command should be scrapped.
- Rep. Trent Kelly of Mississippi, newly helming the seapower panel, who wants to cut the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers to five or six, given that no other nation has more than two.
- Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, now running the strategic forces panel, who thinks the U.S. has too many nuclear weapons, and will push to amputate at least one of the three legs of the nuclear triad.
- Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, new vice chair of the full armed services committee and chief of the tactical air and land forces panel, who thinks that the Biden national security strategy is the bee’s knees and could beat Chinese forces with one hand tied behind its back.
OK, you figured it out…
ChatGPT wrote the first four items, which read like sili-con-jobbed pablum. Its database contains little post-2021 information, which can make its answers seem dated. There is a decided both-siderism to its responses, rendering no weighing of competing claims; it is more parrot than prognosticator.
But it will get better. The Bunker was forced into writing the last item (yes, it was satirical), because no rational machine would do it. But that too is already changing.
This exercise should serve as a cautionary note: When one becomes untethered from the truth, it’s more than balloons that can float away.
WHAT WE'RE READING
Here’s what has caught The Bunker's eye recently
Christopher Miller, who served as President Trump’s final Pentagon chief, says in his new book that the U.S. should cut its defense budget by 40% to 50%, The Hill reported February 10.
What’s a democracy to do when a top U.S. general warns — in writing — that he fears war with China within 24 months? Gregory D. Foster, a professor at the Pentagon’s National Defense University, pondered the question February 9 in Defense One.
The new and improved Navy F-18 fighter is flying only 82% as much as the older version did at the same age, the Congressional Budget Office reported February 9.
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