Research and Innovation

Forecasting the Future: LRI Workshop Illustrates How AI Helps Anticipate National Security Threats

August 6, 2019

LMI Staff

Dr. James Canton, CEO and founder of the Institute for Global Futures, presents his lecture, "AI in the Future Operational Department: Expect the Unexpected" at the LRI workshop on July 31, 2019. 

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James Canton-LRI workshop-2

Nurturing broad adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques to improve the nation’s defense preparedness is less a matter of technical capacity, several presenters said at a workshop hosted on July 31 by the LMI Research Institute (LRI). Rather, it’s overcoming ingrained organizational challenges, such as culture, processes, and people—fostering both a skilled workforce and leadership that appreciate the possibilities and consequences of the nascent AI arms race.

Adversaries, notably China and Russia, have been less inhibited by such barriers, said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bill Hix.

“The challenge we have is [the U.S. and its allies are] not inclined to adopt data- and AI-driven strategies in the way the Chinese are, in part because they have no legacy processes or heritage in the modern industrial complex,” he said. “Companies in Europe and the U.S. have been at the top of their game for decades or longer. It’s really hard to move on from what they have done because it’s been successful.”  

Josh Wilson, LMI’s vice president for advanced analytics, added context to this theme, explaining that the open source community is rapidly advancing capabilities. “The math and the algorithms are not impediments,” he said. “It’s getting the data in order and establishing data policies” to ensure compliance with laws, privacy obligations, and personnel protocols.

Wilson also discussed how LMI helps government customers accelerate delivery of analytics-driven insights. “Time to insight is the only metric that matters,” he said. “We align data, modeling, and development operations to make that duration as short as possible. Metrics like metadata coverage and data quality can help diagnose issues, but time to insight is the truest measure of effectiveness.”

Wilson was one of several speakers—including retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon and former CIA chief strategy officer Costa Saab—during the morning session. The presentations were designed to help participants understand the fundamentals of predictive analytics, said LMI senior fellow Sharon Hays.

“Organizations that predict future technology capabilities can make informed investment decisions, minimize risk, and gain a competitive advantage over adversaries,” she said. “We wanted to help customers feel less overwhelmed by the abundance of data and analytical tools so they could establish a firm foundation moving forward.”

Following lunch, the participants broke into teams for a tabletop exercise presenting challenges the government faces to translate available data into understanding of future threats.

“I think it was helpful to hear how other [teams] were approaching the problem from a different lens,” said James K., a workshop participant and an Air Force senior executive. “We had similar data approaches in terms of what we wanted to gather and discovered similar data gaps. The methodology was helpful.”

Scot P., a member of the defense research community, said the workshop helped him gain a greater appreciation for the AI landscape and future challenges.

“We all are talking about AI, but we have to work harder at understanding opportunities for application. We need to understand the first steps. What’s going to kick-start us down that path?” he said. “Workshops like this educate and provide a great information exchange between subject matter experts.”

To learn how you can participate in future workshops, contact Sharon Hays. 

— LTG Ed Cardon (USA, ret.)

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Sharon Hays at LRI workshop July 2019

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