Artificial intelligence (AI) will profoundly influence sea power in the coming years. It will change the game for organization, doctrine, policy, and operations. And, most important, it will change the areas in which naval personnel are expected to become knowledgeable and proficient.
Since World War II, carriers have been the U.S. Navy’s capital ships. They have been the highest expression of sea power in the industrial era, and they remain so today. The rapid rise of digitization and networking, however, signal the beginning of a new era that may take the Navy beyond the carrier’s primacy. When that change comes, the next capital ship is likely to be virtual: a swarm of platforms, including carriers, plus countless digitally controlled entities—some remotely controlled, others fully autonomous.
1. One study showed that a network designed to read road signs was confused into saying it saw a speed limit sign when presented with an image of a stop sign that had bird droppings splattered on it. How can you trust a driverless car that cannot accurately read road signs?
2. David Silver et al., “A General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm that Can Master Chess, Shogi, and Go through Self-Play,” Science 362, no. 6,419 (December 2018): 1,140–44.
3. VADM Arthur K. Cebrowski, USN, and John H. Garstka, “Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 124, no. 1 (January 1998).
4. See VADM Thomas Rowden, RADM Peter Gumataotao, and RADM Peter Fanta, USN, “Distributed Lethality,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 141, no. 1 (January 2015).