As early as 2018, we can expect to see truly autonomous weaponised artificial intelligence that delivers its blows slowly, stealthily and virtually without trace. And 2018 will be the year of the machine-on-machine attack.
There is much debate about the possible future of autonomous AI on the battlefield. Once released, these systems are not controlled. They do not wait for orders from base. They learn and make their own decisions often while deep inside enemy territory. And they learn quickly from their environments.
However, autonomous AIs are already starting to be deployed on another type of battlefield: digital networks. Today cyber-attackers are using AI technologies that help them not only infiltrate an IT infrastructure, but to stay on that network for months, perhaps years, without getting noticed.
In 2018, we can expect these algorithmic presences to use their intelligence to learn about their environments and blend in with the daily commotion of network activity. The drivers of these automated attacks may have a defined target – the blueprint designs of a new type of jet engine, say – or persist opportunistically, where the chance for money- or mischief-making avails itself. As they sustain their presence, they grow stronger in their inside knowledge of the network and its users and they build up control over data and entire systems.