AI, AI Everywhere

The Artificial Intelligence field (AI) is creating a continuity that encompasses climate change science and the preparedness of the U.S. military to climate risks. This continuity appears through the central role of AI in two apparently disconnected foresight civilian and military uses.

AI and climate science

Climate Central published in Nature a new assessment of the effects of climate change estimates. It establishes that 300 million people will be threatened by the sea-level rise and coastal flooding by 2050. In 2100, the land where 200 million people live today could be submersed daily (Climate Central, “Report: Flooded Future: Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood », October 29, 2019). This estimate is a tripling from precedent assessments. It is the result of the use of AI to correct series of datasets.

AI predicts sea-level rise and coastal flooding will threaten 300 million people by 2050.

Previously we thought 80 million people would be at risk by 2100.

AI and the military

During the same period, the Centre for Climate and Security published an article about a recent publication by the U.S. Army War College. The document, “Implications of Climate change for the U.S Army”, however, cannot be found anymore on the “publications” page of the U.S. Army War College. A rapid internet search allows us to find the report cited in a few articles and posted in a pdf version on internet journals, such as Vice and Popular Mechanics. Yet, it cannot be found on official Department of Defense websites.

Nonetheless, this document establishes that adapting to the violent ecological, military, political, economic and social consequences of climate change is a dire and imperative necessity for the Army and for the entire U.S. military. Some parts of this report are centred on the use of artificial intelligence for force enhancement and energy use. It also calls for the modernization of training through a better and systematic use of virtual training and simulation.

In other words, artificial intelligence is creating a cognitive bridge between climate science and the U.S. military. It also creates new adaptation possibilities to the short and long term consequences of climate change.

In this article, we are going to study the strategic consequences of this scientific and military uses of AI in the climate change field. We are also going to see how the introduction of AI in both climate change and military affairs defines the emergence of a new political and planetary era.

AI-based research and the new perspective on sea-level rise

Recalculating sea-level rise

Between now and 2100, a total of 360 (310-420) million people living on coastlines will be put at risk by flooding induced by climate change driven sea-level rise (Climate Central, ibid). Compared with the current global population of 7,5 billion people, it means that one person in 22 is going to be put at risk by this planetary trend with, at least, an annual flood, while the rise of the ocean could reach almost two metres. Those results are in sharp contrast with a former assessment establishing that 80 million people would be at risk at the end of the century.

Now, the lowest and most densely populated coastlines, as in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand, the Netherlands, and Louisiana, among others, 237 to 300 million people will be threatened by annual flooding in 2050. Those humongous numbers are the result of a new calculation. This new approach rests upon the “cleaning” by an AI-neural network system of the dataset previously used by scientists (Climate Central report in Nature, Scott A. Kulp and Benjamin H. Strauss, “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding », 29 October 2019).

Neural network at work

This dataset is a compilation of the NASA and other satellite and air based lidar observations (Kulp and Strauss, ibid). The AI system corrected different results. For example, it corrected the way some space or air sensors could confuse coast altitude with city skylines altitudes. Those errors were inducing that those higher elevations were safer. So, this new neural network digital elevation model generates new results. It also generates an interactive visualization that alerts about the shape of things soon to come.

This study also establishes that, very likely, the amplitude of the sea-level rise will overwhelm the ability and resources of countries and cities to build coastal flood defences, as levees and seawalls. It clearly appears that developing countries as well as old industrialized countries are at risks, from the Vietnam to the Florida coasts.

However, the authors of the study are keen to precise that their study does not factor in several variables. Among them are the future coastal population densities, the geomorphological consequences of wetland submersion and accelerated ground erosion. The authors also precise that they have not yet integrated the socioeconomic consequences of this climate-ocean trend. Neither have they developed scenarios about the mass migrations, social unrests and conflicts that this AI-based research implies.

Enter the U.S. Army

In a previous article, we saw how the U.S. Army research branch makes use of climate change research in order to define and propose a massive military adaptation effort (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The U.S Army versus a Warming Planet”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, November 12, 2019).  

In this report, the authors promote the use of artificial intelligence in order to develop smart electrical and distributed grid, because “The automated, A.I.-enhanced force of the Army’s future is one that runs on electricity, not JP-8 (fuel). More efficient or resilient production of electricity through micro-nuclear power generation or improved solar arrays can fundamentally alter the mobility and the logistical challenges of a mechanized force » (p.22).

The U.S. Army and AI Power

So, this recommendations aim at developing the robustness and resiliency of the U.S. Army operations in an energy constrained and climate sensitive near-future.  This development will depend upon the interactions between AI and robotization. That is to say the military integration of actuators (Hélène Lavoix, “Sensor and Actuator for AI: Inserting Artificial Intelligence in Reality”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 14 January 2019). Those are the AI extension into physical reality. So, in military terms, AI will support and optimize the deployment of mechanical ground forces on theatres of operations (Hélène Lavoix, “Sensor and actuator (4): Artificial Intelligence, the Long March towards Advanced Robots and Geopolitics”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, May 13, 2019).

In order to better prepare military actors to these new realities, the report also advocates for a massive use of virtual reality. Indeed, training through virtual reality simulations could help to better prepare officers and actors (Hélène Lavoix, “How to Win a War with Artificial intelligence and Few Casualties”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, May 27, 2019). As it happens, they will have to handle future semi-automatized military capabilities in a world brutalized by climate change. AI would also support the responses of the U.S. military against foreign and domestic massive cyber attacks. And it would drive the development of the U.S. military in the current technological race. 

It is difficult not to think that, in the parts about the use of artificial intelligence, the authors are not alluding to the current massive militarization of AI by the Chinese military, both in training and at the operational and decision-making levels (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Militarizing Artificial Intelligence – China (1) and (2)“, The Red Team Analysis Society, April 23, 2018).

It must be kept in mind that these recommendations are part of a U.S. Army advocacy for climate change adaptation. What motivates these military recommendations is the rapid multiplication of multidimensional risks (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Midwest, the Trade war and the Swine Flu pandemic: the Agricultural and Food Super –Storm is Here”, The Red (Team) Analysis, June 3, 2019), as those the Climate Central report defines about sea-level rise.

AI Power meets the climate hyper siege

As we can see, AI becomes a central feature of the new reality landscape. As such, it becomes a climate science tool as well as a military tool for transformation and adaptation to our warming and riskier planet.

In other terms, AI is entering the fray of the hyper siege, i.e. the cascade of consequences that are interlocking social, infrastructural, biologic vulnerabilities with climate driven events. Those cascades are becoming an “entity” that is besieging contemporary societies (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Hyper siege: Climate Change and U.S National Security”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, March 17, 2014 and “The U.S Navy vs Climate and ocean change”, The Red (Team) Analysis, June 11, 2018, and David Wallace-Wells, The Unhinabitable Earth, Life After Warming, 2019).

So, AI power unveils itself (Hélène Lavoix, “When Artificial Intelligence will Power Geopolitics-Presenting AI”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, November 27, 2017), through scientific research and military preparedness, as a tool and a possible “ally” in the face of the rapidly coming “perfect climate and social super storm”.

The great (AI) alliance?

In this ecological and strategic context, AI power becomes an artificial continuum, both technological and cognitive. It actuates itself through climate research and military adaptation to the very climate change that it helps foresee. This creates an unexpected alliance between AI power, climate science and military foresight and warning. This new AI power will be useful for adapting to the planetary crisis and its cascade of hyper violent consequences (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The Planetary Crisis Rules”, part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, The Red (Team) Analysis Society).

In strategic terms, the convergence of AI power and the will and capabilities to adapt to the “Long emergency” is going to define who will be the winners and losers of the planetary crisis.

And the race is already on.

About the author: Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris)

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy. He is the author of "Menace climatique sur l’ordre mondial" (Climatic threat on the world order), "Ecologie et gouvernance mondiale" (Ecology and world governance), "Guerre et Nature, l’Amérique prépare la guerre du climat, "(War and nature: America gets ready for climate war) and of "Hollywood, the Pentagon and Washington".

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