War Games of the 21st Century

Donovan Maudsley - 3A Mechanical
Posted on: July 2, 2016

Artificial Intelligence was elevated to another level this month, as an ace fighter pilot was defeated in a simulator by an AI pilot. This comes only a few months after AlphaGo, a Google developed computer program, defeated the reigning human champion at Go, the world’s most complex game. Artificial intelligence is a terrific and frightening area of scientific area. For better or worse, once a fully functioning AI is created, the world will never be the same. Whether the breakthrough comes in a military or civilian form, it will have major ramifications the world over.

Research into AI is largely limited by the processing power of modern day computers, but scientists at the University of Cincinnati have found a way to beat the system with their AI ALPHA. Using a type of programming called “Genetic Fuzzy Tree” logic, the program is able to break down large decisions into hundreds of smaller decisions which can each be analysed separately. Other AI programs need to run on room sized supercomputers, but the possibility to run ALPHA on a computer as small as a Raspberry Pi exists.

The ALPHA was tested against Gene Lee, a retired United States Air Force Colonel and former fighter pilot instructor. This was not the first time that Lee has tested fighter pilot simulations; he has flown against them since the 1980s. During multiple tests, Lee was unable to score a single victory even when he was given a significant handicap.

The University of Cincinnati researchers used a system of natural selection to determine the best possible pilot program. By pitting multiple variations of the software against each other in a tournament style competition, they were able to eliminate the weaker configurations and make improvements based on which programs were successful.

This program is not designed to entirely replace fighter pilots, but the researchers say that their program could serve as a wingman for human pilots. Their end goal is to create a system with multiple AI aircraft operating with a hive style intelligence. In a real dogfight situation, an AI pilot would also have a considerable physical advantage. The g-forces acting on the aircraft would not affect a program, and the ability to monitor and manage technical readouts from the vessel would be a major asset. The AI pilot might be able to get the optimal performance out of the fighter jet where a human could not.