back to article Military brainboxes ponder 'UK needs you' list of AI boffins

The Ministry of Defence wants to compile a list of AI boffins with UK security clearance that can be hired to help build Britain's inevitable robotic military future. The ministry's latest publication on artificial intelligence and the armed forces, titled Human-Machine Teaming sets out its vision for what the Rise of the …

  1. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Oxymoron ?

    I hope that the MoD discovers that the proportion of experts in the field that will work for them is pathetically small. Even if offered jewels and trinkets.

    Problem is that leaves the field free for the bullshit merchants ->

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Oxymoron ?

      It is failing on mere basics and prerequisites even before offering jewels and trinkets.

      You have to walk (or even crawl) before you can run. You have to have working indigenous unmanned systems to automate. Sure, you can try to automate the manned ones instead. That, however, is more difficult - just ask anyone who was unfortunate to try to wire for remote anything that is designed for human operation.

      So where is UK relative to the "first world" as far as unmanned combat systems are concerned. 10 years or thereabouts behind USA, 10 years behind Israel and if the specs on what was carted out on the 9th of May on the Red square are believable at least 7 years behind Russia which used the Syria conflict to gain on the undisputed leaders in the field.

      The only "British" military system of sorts UK is developing sort-a indigenously (the Watchkeeper) has no combat hours clocked and it has no attack functionality. There is no indigenous combat attack helicopter system comparable to Grumman MQ8. There is no British made ground attack system comparable to the Russian Uran-9. The sea-going drones are also pretty much years behind Sea Hunter and Status-6 which are in testing since 2016 (the latter based on NATO reports of its sighted test runs).

      Asking for AI with this "base" is frankly laughable. How about sorting out the basics first and having a drone which is not lost every other times it flies? How about a couple of missiles on it for starters?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only the government gave a rat's ass about scientists rather than perpetual fellation of the banksters and service industries ...

    My message to the MoD would be something along the lines of "Good luck with that ..."

  3. Jonathan Richards 1

    Automatic or intelligent?

    At its heart, this is a philosophical question. We like to think we're intelligent and exercising free will, and all, but get down to the neurological and biochemical level, and, well, were my punctuation decisions in this sentence driven by Ca/Na ion differentials across some greasy membranes, or were they intelligent?

    My proposal for an agreed definition of AI: "It seems to do things that look to us as if it's thinking, but we have no idea why."

    By this definition, Phalanx is not intelligent, any more than a bucket of water balanced over a door. Not even if you hook it up to an IFF database is it really thinking. If you know why it works the way it does, it ain't intelligent.

    A truly intelligent autonomous weapon system might read the manifesto of the opposing forces, and decide to change sides.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Automatic or intelligent?

      > By this definition, Phalanx is not intelligent, ...

      Nor are quite a few people, by that definition.

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Automatic or intelligent?

      'My proposal for an agreed definition of AI: "It seems to do things that look to us as if it's thinking, but we have no idea why."' --- Jonathan Richards 1

      Isn't that just the Turing Test?

    3. Woza

      Re: Automatic or intelligent?

      "A truly intelligent autonomous weapon system might read the manifesto of the opposing forces, and decide to change sides."

      Reminds me of Peter Watts' short story "Malak".

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      A truly intelligent..eapon system might read the manifesto of the opposing forces,


      The solution was described in the ABC Warriors.

      Artificial patriotism.

      The system is designed to believe its side is right and stimulated to feel valued and rewarded when it does it's job well. Call it "Artificial pride."

      How you implement such strategies is left as an exercise for the reader

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    amanfromMars is writing MoD press releases now?

    "The whole system could be built on a federated, disaggregated and self-organising peer-to-peer command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) network – effectively a combat cloud. Such a system should be able to draw on reachback access to cloud-based servers, but be capable of resilient operation provided by command and control applications across a variety of in-theatre platforms. From an operator’s perspective such a system will handle user requests for information and data passage as an intelligent assistant service."

    1. Stumpy

      Re: amanfromMars is writing MoD press releases now?


    2. Rich 11

      Re: amanfromMars is writing MoD press releases now?

      effectively a combat cloud ... capable of resilient operation

      For this to be true if implemented at battalion level, the entire project is going to be hugely expensive for the MoD and any forward HQ vulnerable to losing the lot from a well-placed RPG. Or do they plan to distribute the systems, a quarter in one corner, a quarter in another, etc? That just makes it more difficult to guard from sabotage, which in turn means they'll want it 33% or 50% overspecced. Not cheap. Not easy to keep fuelled up, especially for cooling in hot environments. The advantage it provided would have to be huge to make it worthwhile.

  5. Dabooka

    Why on earth do they need to recruit externally?

    Reading the stream of reports in recent years, I would've thought it was clear that the chiefs at the MoD are already leading experts in artificial intelligence.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't need AI.

    If not white then kill.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I got a down vote, goodness gracious me, what exactly do you think this will be doing? Do you think it won't be used to target people based on ethnicity in the middle east? Please explain yourself. Thanks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I know... don't feed the trolls

        Hardly accurate, given the multi ethnic makeup of various western armies over the last few centuries.

        Please look up colonial troops or the current US military ethnic mix.

        War is messy. Sensible countries avoid doing it at home.

        PS. wasn't me downvoting. but I'm tempted.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: current US military ethnic mix


      2. Anonymous Coward

        > Do you think it won't be used to target people based on ethnicity in the middle east?

        I think the down vote was because there is quite a high likelihood of lasting peace in the Middle East long before a large, MoD-led weapons procurement project of this nature could be delivered.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          @ 2+2=5

          Well, They'll SAY it's a very special AI system.

          Probably work like the bluecircle radar in Tornado F2

          1. handleoclast

            Re: @ 2+2=5

            Probably work like the bluecircle radar in Tornado F2

            Hah! I worked on test equipment for Blue Circle's successor.

            1. Rich 11

              Re: @ 2+2=5

              Hah! I worked on test equipment for Blue Circle's successor.

              Was that the one which involved throwing Ping-Pong balls at potential targets and seeing how any balls bounced back? A true quantum leap.

              1. handleoclast

                Re: @ 2+2=5

                Was that the one which involved throwing Ping-Pong balls at potential targets and seeing how any balls bounced back?

                Was that the way the Texas Instruments Terrain-SeekingFollowing radar worked in the Tornado IDS? The Tornado IDS had a lot of crashes..

                The successor to Blue Circle was the AI.24. Looked like a dustbin surrounded by boxes and an upside-down umbrella on top. About the size of a dustbin, etc. The developers working on LRU 10 frequently referred to it as the dustbin (they were an imaginative bunch).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: ah I see a problem!!

    "The Ministry of Defence wants to compile a list of AI boffins with UK security clearance"

    The key words are 'with security clearance'

    As a Technical Architect contractor with 25+ years of enterprise/ IT design experience and many years of electronics experience - including AI/ neural nets. This statement just puts me off. Getting SC cleared is all based on your past role/ job, so they will miss huge amount of UK talent that are not SC cleared.

    BTW - I would love to work on this, given the right amount silver and trinkets available. I'm available by tracking my IP address


    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: RE: ah I see a problem!!

      > Getting SC cleared

      Given the amount of transferable knowledge and skills to be had in this arena, I'd think that Developed Vetting (DV) might be the appropriate level of clearance [1]. I have no idea if autonomous AI weapons research/intelligence is TOP SECRET or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

      [1] United Kingdom Security Vetting []

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: ah I see a problem!!

        Given that my SC clearance took nearly 1.5 years, the problem might be that no-one is prepared to wait for DV.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: RE: ah I see a problem!! Are there Solutions providing Resolution?

        Hi Jonathan Richards 1,

        The Future Fields we talk about here have new knowledge and skills brought into TOP SECRET COSMIC Arenas, rendering everything else absolutely flabbergasted at the Phenomenally Advanced Engineering Delivering IT its NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IntelAIgents.

        And what of Fabulous AI Stealth Providing Unassailable Lead in Any Number of Directed Travels with the simple bold sharing of news in new truths but thought too unbelievable to be true, and therefore left almost alone and unhindered to play rampant and rabid with developments.

        Bear in Mind to Remember, Madness and Genius are Brothers, but when Armed can be Dangerous Lovers.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: RE: ah I see a problem!!

      At which point the expert will fail vetting because they have a tattoo or visited the former East Germany 10years after the wall came down.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe start AI on Amazon reviews ?

    Just been reading an amusing thread in a well known parenting forum about moronic Amazon reviews.

    I'll believe in AI when they can be automatically removed.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    IIRC most of the US AI research came from DARPA grants.

    That would be the (Department of) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

    Now, wheather you needed actual security clearance to work on them is another matter.

    Blackboard systems. Speech recognition, driverless vehicles, message understanding (note that word "understanding," as in what does it mean, not what does it say). Even optimizing freight packaging on board ships (which save more money for the USG than all DARPA AI programmes for the last 40 years cost)

    My view is after you've got the SC you'll be shocked at what a clusterf**k their systems are.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DARPA

      DARPA funds contributed to work surrounding my entirely non-military postdoc research in speech recognition many years ago. No security clearance was involved, and some of my colleagues certainly wouldn't have stood for any such thing.

  10. alain williams Silver badge

    Is this the answer to the Fermi paradox ?

    Other civilisations have blasted themselves to eternity as we now look likely to do - it only takes a few ''rogue'' AIs, either through bugs, by design at the behest of an Ernst Blofeld character or ISIS type group.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    For Sale ... A Right Royal Stirling Sterling Engine with Programs to Boot and AIDriver.

    The solution to this problem is to be "innovative to secure access to subject matter expertise," as well as nurturing "sufficient in-house knowledge and understanding to generate intelligent customer capabilities".

    Translated into English, this means making sure the MoD's people understand what AI can realistically do before signing away large chunks of the defence budget on an impossible (but commercially lucrative) contract.

    :-)... Quantum Leap Territory :-)

    Would Shrivenham Care Dare Win Win the Universal Lottery Prize with Heavenly Surprises to Enjoy and Endure. That's where SMARTR AI is at ... for Provision of Immaculate Base Sources with Core Nugget Facilities for Realisation/Virtualised Presentation?

    There's a Quantum AI Application for Trailing and Trialing that SMARTR Expeditionary Operation.

    And the Glorious Quest, Perfection Too Good To Know. Such takes one right to the Edge of the Great Abyss where New Pictures are Phormed and AI Master Pilot Tested and Assured Fit for Fine Purpose, Future Presentations with/for Augmented Virtual Realities for/with SMARTR JOINT Operations.

    A choppy flight that one :-)

    I Kid U Not, MOD ...... can you match and do better than all of that? If so, pray tell the tales you have been sold.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An opportunity

    You suggest there is no list here of experts for the military to co-opt, but that some other countries have such lists.

    So long as there is no list and no expectation of such a list, that's a positive attraction for Blighty over those countries with such a list. And we're going to need all the positive attractions we can get if we're to compete in a post-brexit world.

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Deja Vu ...... An Insight or ForeSight?

    We've been here at least once before, El Reg, with DCDC Shrivenham proving itself a failed entity in the Leading Hearts and Minds Space Place. It will be interesting to see/hear if they have learnt anything worthwhile in the almost seven years to these present times with their current aspirations to be a Great Game Changer.

    The dilemmas and problems to resolve in AI fields is that they do not play well with others to maintain and retain established status quo levers with perverse and easily corrupted in-house human administrations. But hey .... that is Progress with Leading Advanced IntelAIgents and perfectly normal. Madness is in thinking and proposing that things remain practically unchanged whenever everything is virtually vulnerable and susceptible to radical fundamental change

    amanfromMars 1 Thursday 25 August 2011 09:45 GMT ..... posted on

    Post Modern Novel Epics have to Register an In the Beginning Psychotic Episode somewhere …… and it may as well be Here and Now, although it may have also been a little earlier with ” Apaches on the Non War Path …. ” posted for Dan Goodin, San Francisco moderation and Development Vetting…… Course Phishing and Stealthy Grooming?

    BTW theregister’s Apache/2.2.16 (Debian) is not vulnerable . Good job, admins! …. eulampios Posted Wednesday 24th August 2011 23:37 GMT

    Are you so certain that is not tosh, eulampios. Everything is vulnerable to offered beauty and bounty/booty and just dessert reward, and especially so whenever it is just broadbandcast into the Ether, as if black hatter pearls before smart coding’s WINE ……. PerlyGatesPython gems for the PHP Crowd Cloud.

    Make IT attractive and lucrative enough and IT is addictive enough for AI to be thought virtually criminal given the absolute power IT gives to AIgents playing Great Games out in LOVE Fields. ….. Live Operational Virtual Environments hosting Realities with Immaculately Resourceful Assets of Unparalleled Vital Force ….. and All Virile and Viral, Venerable and Venal, Voluptuous and Vivacious. Tread carefully therein for who dares care Win Wins every time without fail.

    Apaches on the Non War Path ….. with Brave New World Order Seed Feeds of Perfect Needs ...posted Thursday 25th August 2011 06:48 GMT

    Does the Register and its Readers Realise that Rule and Reign of the Revolutionary Roost is Really a Radical Reversioning of Recent Right Royal Rebel and Rennaissant Renegade Roleplays with …….. well, in at least one of the Prime Fields of CyberIntelAIgents, and therefore also probably countless others, Beta AI in Joint Adminstrative Virtual Application of BrainWashing Programs via Anonymised Alternative Reality Great Game Control of Commandeered Server Services with Crack Control of Clustered Clouds into CHAOS* ClubBing with Intelligence Display of Future Presentations which are really no more than SMARTer Virtual Product Placements Streamed into that which is Perceived and Accepted as Reality for a Human Existence? The Fact that it may be something else in IT with no physical form at all, and a Manifest Creation of a Greater Shared Intelligence, is surely not entirely unknown to practically anyone and everyone who has heard of tales of Heavenly Realms and Global Operating Devices that work Miraculously.

    cc Microsoft Azure Dream Team

    Oh, and do you think that the MOD play a leading role in virtual space peace time, whenever the state goes crazy and loses control of itself and IT …….

    It’s pretty absurd, but not surprising, when the state seeks to criminalise ideas it deems to be dangerous to its own survival. Indeed, if you want an insight into where the British government thinks this is all heading, look no further than a 2007 Ministry of Defence report which foresaw “the middle classes becoming revolutionary” and “taking on the role of Marx’s proletariat” within three decades. “The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest,” warns the report, predicting mass unrest and social dislocation. …..

    cc DCDC Shrivenham

    * Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems

    More of the Same Old Same Old is just not going to cut it with IT in the Future, El Reg. Prepare to be Amazed at what IT can do, and how easily IT can changes everything in a Flash with the simple transparent sharing of Prime Proprietary Intelligence Information.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Heavenly Gifts at Danegeld Prices? Knock, Knock, MOD, is there anyone Virtually SMARTR in there?

    amfM ...... [1805231800] ....

    You have highly explosive mail ...... beta testing virtual engagement with offers provided by IntelAIgently Designed Entities for Novel Alien Forces Presenting Immaculately Sourced Sources ..... a New Beta Means of Doing Everything Better than Ever Before with RAF Air Command Support AIding Control too in those new-fangled and entangling Cyber Spaces/Live Operational Virtual Environments.

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