The Future of Military Automation and Manpower

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Kvalvik, Sverre
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The rapid development in autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence over the last decade has left most analysts and scholars convinced that the armed forces are facing a large scale change of technology, doctrine and organization. But few if any have addressed the question of how large this change will be and in what areas the change will come. It used to be the case that robots were made to perform repetitive and manual tasks, mainly replacing low-skilled workers. This latest version of automation is however being driven by new achievements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and access to big data. This has the potential to not only change what kind of jobs our robots do, but also what kind of job the humans do. The aim of this paper is to quantify the amount of change and identify where that change will most likely occur. In this paper I use the US Navy as a case study to gain insights into the wider consequences for the armed forces. By using methodology developed for studying the computerization of the US economy, I am able to assess over 1,500 different occupations in the Navy. The 173 military specific occupations have not yet been assessed. The 1,500 occupations are assessed along three critical dimensions: the need for discerning perception and manipulation in task execution, the need for creative intelligence and the need for social intelligence. A task that requires little complexity in perception and manipulation, does not need to creativity and does not interact in a complex manner with others, is thus deemed likely to be computerized and replaced by robots and algorithms. Taking advantage of the extreme detail in the available descriptions of the different occupations, each occupation is thus assigned a probability of being replaced within the next two decades. Around a quarter of the occupations, 400, are found to have a higher than 70 percent chance of being computerized, while 850 have a lower than 30 percent chance of being computerized. More than half of the occupations in the Navy are thus not likely to be directly affected of the coming of the robots. Almost all of the occupations deemed having a high risk of being automated are in support services. Typical examples are culinary specialist, data transcriber, accounting, and a range of occupations involved in maintenance operation of equipment. Surprisingly large shares of the occupations that are deemed to have a high likelihood are either officer's occupations or warrant officer's occupations. Enlisted and civilians are almost unrepresented in this group. Based on these findings there is reason to believe that the potential for computerization is somewhat lower in the armed forces than in the economy as a whole. The occupations that have been assigned a high probability still represent a tantalizing opportunity for the Navy and the armed forces as a whole, and the potential benefits from seeking computerization in these low hanging fruits might be large. Scholars and military planners alike should train their eyes on this topic to get a better understanding of the dynamics and implications of the coming change.
CRUSER TechCon 2018 Research at NPS. Tuesday 3: Operations
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This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.