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Scare stories about killer robots are missing the point: the future of artificial intelligence will be far stranger than that, says Sumit Paul-Choudhury

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The seminal work by Garret Hardin nearly 40 years ago on the “ Tragedy of the Commons” clearly resonates within the Information Communication Technology (ICT) community today. Opinion pieces in the Communications of the ACM and IEEE Spectrum have focused on the tragedies’ “scarcity of resources” paradigm and its implications for the Internet and Web. Cerf concludes that this shared environment must be protected for the benefit of all users before it becomes too unsafe for reliable use. Lucky, more pragmatically, highlights online social behavior being incompatible with “courteously” designed Internet protocols. In essence, the tragedy is still with us, alive and kicking.
To what extent do the ways in which we anticipate threats, analyze their possible consequences and determine ways to mitigate them explain the causes of warfare in the future? This article – though never attempting to predict – poses plausible causes of future wars that may stem from transformative change over the next two decades. In asking the question “Are we ready?” to deal with such wars, the answer is framed in terms of the interrelationship between the prospect of profound change, emerging tensions, unprecedented violence and organizational capacities to deal with complexity and uncertainty. To be prepared to deal with the prospect of future wars, relevant organizations have to be more anticipatory and adaptive, while at the same time looking for new ways to engage the wider international community. The article concludes with a set of recommendations intended to meet such organizational challenges – with the aspiration that the question “Are we ready?” can be answered more affirmatively in the future.
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