June, 22

Optimizing AI, Air University hosts Artificial Intelligence Symposium

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Military and civilian leaders from across the Department of the Air Force recently convened at Air University to discuss the emerging role of artificial intelligence in future warfighting. These discussions took place at the Air University Symposium, “Harnessing AI for Information Advantage” event, hosted at Maxwell Air Force Base May 1-2.

The symposium focused primarily on the potential benefits of AI and how it will shape the information advantage in future conflicts. Key discussion topics included the coming AI revolution, identifying the threats and potential promises of AI in military applications, developing future AI-capable warfighters and how to reoptimize current strategies by incorporating AI in an era of Great Power Competition.

“Air University is meeting the challenges and benefits posed by AI head on,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Tipton, LeMay Center deputy director of Strategy and Concepts. “For example, in the flying community, pilots develop ‘air sense,’ an intuitive grasp of their aircraft’s behavior through experience. It’s about feeling beyond the visible, sensing what might be amiss. We face a similar challenge with artificial intelligence: How can we cultivate an ‘AI sense’ in Airmen? It’s about training them to not only understand the data but also to intuitively recognize when something doesn’t seem quite right.”

Keynote speakers at the symposium included Casey Mock from the Center for Humane Technology who discussed risks associated with generative AI and deception, and author Paul Scharre who discussed excerpts from his book, “Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”

Other presenters included subject matter experts from Department of the Air Force AI Accelerator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Institute of Technology, Eglin Flight Test Squadron, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Headquarters Air Force Chief Digital and AI Office, China Aerospace Studies Institute, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and others.

The symposium also facilitated networking opportunities, enabling Air Force leaders to meet and engage with top experts in the AI-career field from across academia, think tanks and industry with the common goal of exploring the AI technology that will change the way the military views AI and ultimately inform Air Force doctrine.

In addition to the main symposium, an Air University research showcase was hosted at the historic Kress Building in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, on May 1, where participants from across Air University presented projects to highlight the cutting-edge research taking place at Maxwell AFB. Here, students interacted directly with senior military leaders while discussing how AI can be used to address complex challenges, fuel innovation while enhancing safety and security. This provided a platform for students to discuss their findings and demonstrate their learning directly to key military leaders.

“We aimed to distill some of the noise surrounding this topic and go straight to the truth about AI. The media offers various portrayals, but we focused on showing the actual situation — our current position and our ongoing efforts,” Tipton said. “This approach enabled direct dialogue between AI practitioners and the MAJCOM [major command] commander.”

As AI advances, it will continue to play a critical role in optimizing defense strategies in support of great power competition. The Air University AI Symposium is just one of the steps being taken to tackle these significant challenges while providing an overview of how AI is impacting the defense establishment.

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