A ‘stronger, faster’ intelligence community is possible with AI
But caution is needed to make sure the technology doesn’t go off the rails.
Generative AI could make U.S. intelligence better, but only if done with caution, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s director says.
“It definitely can make us better, faster, stronger. We have to go carefully,” Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said during an INSA event Thursday night, adding that AI is something the agency has been slow to embrace but is working on. “We're trying to be faster, we're trying to be better.”
Berrier said generative AI—which uses prompts to write text, create video, even produce music—could be a tremendous assistant to analysts and while it will affect the human workforce, it won’t completely replace it.
“When I think about AI—pattern analysis and clustering of concepts, these things,” Berrier said. “It can do a lot of good; it can make our job easier with a lot of information put in. But it can’t determine intent. Now it can get you on the road to what you think might be intent, but this is where critical-thinking analysts really come in.”
The intelligence leaders’ comments come after multiple defense and AI experts have expressed excitement or fear of the technology’s potential—and as Congress weighs the pros and cons of regulating it.
But when it comes to military use, some believe there may not be as much cause for concern. Palmer Luckey, the founder of defense technology company Anduril Industries, told CNBC that the “military is actually an area where we don’t need to worry so much about figuring this out as if it’s Pandora’s box opening for the first time.”
However, society writ large—from economists to the entertainment industry—may not be ready because other sectors haven’t been thinking about the ethical problems of AI for as long as the Defense Department has, Luckey said.
But the trick to integrating generative AI, which is already used to improve imagery, with intelligence gathering could be exploiting its benefits without curtailing the technology’s potential.
AI won’t “spell the end of the world nor is it the answer to everything,” Sue Gordon, the former principal deputy director of national intelligence, said during Thursday’s event. “I think our challenge is how do we take advantage of what's happening without slowing it too much.”
And any pause in developing AI as a tool for the Defense Department, could have its own consequences.
"Some have argued for a six-month pause, which personally I don't advocate for," the Pentagon’s chief information officer, John Sherman, said earlier this month. "If we stop, guess who is not going to stop? Potential adversaries overseas."