Test Launch of an American Minuteman III ICBM, U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley.

Last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin gave a chilling prognostication about the role AI will play in shaping global power.

According to state-funded news agency RT, Putin stated that “artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind […] It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Leading public figures including entrepreneur and AI safety advocate Elon Musk predict the same, warning of AI’s seemingly inevitable proliferation into military technologies as The Verge recently reported:

Although it’s thought that artificial intelligence will help boost countries’ economies in a number of areas, from heavy industry to medical research, AI technology will also be useful in warfare. Artificial intelligence can be used to develop cyber weapons, and control autonomous tools like drone swarms — fleets of low-cost quadcopters with a shared ‘brain’ that can be used for surveillance as well as attacking opponents.

Both China and the US are currently researching this technology, and in his speech on Friday, Putin predicted that future wars would be fought by countries using drones. “When one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender,” said the Russian president, according to the Associated Press.

Recently, Elon Musk and 116 other technology leaders sent a petition to the United Nations calling for new regulations on how such AI weapons are developed. The group stated that the introduction of autonomous technology would be tantamount to a “third revolution in warfare,” following the development of gunpowder and nuclear weapons. Read more…


With the accelerating pace of technological development, rebooted interest in the field of AI, and the vast perils and incentives at stake in the AI race, it takes no stretch of the imagination to follow the present trajectory into an ominous future of autonomous weapons, unbeatable AI strategians, and hyper-efficient AI economies. Mirroring Putin’s concerns, Musk replied via Twitter, reaffirming his widely shared beliefs that AI may lead to existential threats:

In a following series of tweets Musk addressed concerns about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, stating that he believes that the risks of the North Korea crisis sparking a world war pale to the comparatively distant and yet vastly more dangerous race for AI given North Korea’s current strategic isolation and lack of an allied superpower.

While North Korea remains at the forefront of international discussion and Putin and Musk’s warnings of AI lack the immediacy and concern, regardless of how or when the North Korean crisis is resolved the threat of artificial intelligence and potential for global war will only increase in the coming years and decades.