Washington- Swamped by too much raw intel data to sift through, US spy agencies are pinning their hopes on artificial intelligence to crunch billions of digital bits and understand events around the world.
Dawn Meyerriecks, the Central Intelligence Agency’s deputy director for technology development, said this week the CIA currently has 137 different AI projects, many of them with developers in Silicon Valley.
AI can be used to predict significant important events, political or non-political ones, by finding correlations in data shifts and other evidence.
Chris Hurst, the chief operating officer of Stabilitas, which contracts with the US intelligence community on intel analysis said: “Human behavior is data and AI is a data model. Where there are patterns we think AI can do a better job than humans.”
Officials of other key spy agencies at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington this week, including military intelligence, also said they were seeking AI-based solutions for turning terabytes of digital data coming in daily into trustworthy intelligence that can be used for policy and battlefield action.
AI has widespread functions, from battlefield weapons to the potential to help quickly rebuild computer systems and programs brought down by hacking attacks, as one official described.
But a major focus is finding useful patterns in valuable sources like social media.
Joseph Gartin, head of the CIA’s Kent School, which teaches intelligence analysis said: “Combing social media for intelligence in itself is not new. What is new is the volume and velocity of collecting social media data.”
In that example, artificial intelligence-based computing can pick out key words and names but also find patterns in data and correlations to other events, and continually improve on that pattern finding. The volume of data that can be collected increases exponentially with advances in satellite and signals intelligence collection technology.
In a speech in June, Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said: “If we were to attempt to manually exploit the commercial satellite imagery we expect to have over the next 20 years, we would need eight million imagery analysts.”
Washington’s spies are not the only ones turning to AI for future advantage; Russian President Vladimir Putin declared last week that artificial intelligence is a key for power in the future. “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” he said, according to Russian news agencies.
The challenge, US officials said, is gaining trust from the “consumers” of their intelligence product like policy makers, the White House and top generals to trust reports that have a significant AI component.
“We produce a presidential daily brief. We have to have really, really good evidence for why we reach the conclusions that we do,” said Meyerriecks, adding that you can’t go to leadership and make a recommendation based on a process that no one understands.