From its beginnings in 1956, the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been on a quest to build computers that perform intelligent tasks, and possibly computers that are intelligent. Early AI began with a variety of tasks such as checkers and chess, speech recognition, language translation, and solving word problems. Over the years it has progressed to give us automated vacuum cleaners, robot dogs, Siri and Alexa, image recognizers, Chess and Go world masters, self-driving cars, and self-guided drones.
These technologies have powerful impacts on Naval operations and warfighting as well. AI has the potential to revolutionize military technology, capability and operations. The possibilities have raised many speculations about what AI is capable of and whether it can be trusted.
The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), looking to shed some light on this topic for the many newcomers to AI technology, developed a seminar course and accompanying video series called Harnessing Artificial Intelligence, or HAI. A popular course among NPS students on campus, the materials are also being used by the DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to support its own education programs.
The video series, upgraded for 2022, was developed by NPS Distinguished Professor Peter Denning, a leading name in the computing field. It features 22 lectures by 18 different NPS faculty experts on AI topics including automation, machine types, primary applications, strategy, ethics and futures.
“The AI field has traditionally claimed far more than it was able to achieve. This tendency to hype the technology is not safe for the national defense. It temps planners and developers to expect more than the technology can deliver,” explained Denning.
“We designed this course to give a clear picture of what AI machines can actually do and the applications in which they have been successful,” Denning continued. “We also discussed the role of AI in geopolitical power competition and the ethical principles our country and others are using when applying AI. We concluded with a look at the future of warfare when AI technologies are an integral part.
“We want to give people a solid foundation to enable them to understand what these machines are capable of, what kinds of mistakes they can make, and when they can be trusted,” Denning stressed. “These lectures can dispel the hype.”
“The biggest benefit of the series is to provide a basic understanding of concepts that are often overhyped by the news media,” added NPS Computer Science Professor Neil Rowe. “Students discover that artificial intelligence does not solve all problems … but it does provide new tools valuable for addressing certain problems important to the military. We have considerable, unique expertise in artificial intelligence at the school, and the course takes advantage of it.”
While the lectures were attended in-person by NPS students, the education and value they provide are reaching across the entire DOD through NPS’ partnerships with the JAIC. NPS Computer Science Associate Professor Mathias Kölsch has established a connection between NPS and the DOD’s AI hub.
"We realized that this cannot be the only effort to educate the DOD workforce, which means we need to make this a multi-institution effort,” noted Kölsch. “NPS contributes with its own expertise, which is graduate-level education.”
As the technology progresses within AI, NPS will look to continue moving forward with the series by updating the lectures and videos, which will focus on new trending topics. NPS will also partner with other institutions within the DOD and civilian sectors to make the best possible content for users, while distributing it to larger audiences.
“I can very well see this video series or the individual lectures becoming part of a customized learning program for many military and civilian members of the DOD as they go through their unique e-learning journey,” noted Kölsch. "On top of that, it should be part of certificates and other credits, continued education credits that are demanded across the DOD.”
All lectures in both versions of Harnessing AI series are available to view for free, along with course materials, on the HAI course website (https://nps.edu/web/ai-group/harnessing-ai-course) and the NPS YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/NPSvideo).