Teen authors David & Laura Lee (Inspire us to write)

David T. Lee (15 year-old of 5 books, published a 4,500-word sci-fi at 7); Laura T. Lee (13 year-old of 2 novels, published a 62,000-word novel at 10)

Finding Waldo: Three Big Technologies Our Military is Exploring That You Need to Know

Written By: David T. Lee - Feb• 05•18

Chances are, as a kid, you read a “Where’s Waldo?” book. The titular character in his red-and-white striped sweater was extremely hard to pick out from a giant crowd, but you felt a great sense of accomplishment once you found him. If this example is a little too childish, a common cliche in many action films or television shows is “zoom and enhance”, where someone can click a button and the computer could instantly find a suspect amongst a mass of people. Obviously, this technology is purely fictional, but three frontiers of innovation could very well make it a possibility. They are artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing … and our world’s militaries are beginning to warm up to them.

A well-known fact about the war against terrorist groups like ISIS is that there is a lot of collateral damage. One of the greatest weapons the US employs against these terrorists is the drone, where its missile strikes cause massive destruction of property, terrorist-owned or not. A New York Times article states that 27,500 airstrikes have bombed ISIS territory and at least 466 civilians have been killed. How do such deadly inaccuracies happen? It all lies in the process. An article from the Guardian explains how a separate team monitors the live footage streaming from the drone, then instructs its pilot to fire when they see a target. Human error springs up everywhere, especially considering the fact that the operators are thousands of miles away from the target site. Artificial intelligence could change all that. According to a Reuters article, AI programs could aid in picking out targets from video footage, eliminating the risk of tired eyes picking out the wrong target. There are also other uses for such artificial intelligence. The Boston Globe reports that the F-35 fighter jet, a new warplane currently under development, can “communicate” with other fighter jets and even find targets automatically using the same technology applied to drones, applying AI’s practicality in the drone area to a piloted airplane. Last year, a Russian robotics team released a video of a robot able to distinguish targets and fire a handgun at them. This was done by programming it to detect visual targets with its eyes and engineering it to  have the motor skills to accurately aim on its own. Such artificial soldiers would easily take out the human risk that has become a major problem of conventional warfare, paving the way for more advanced battles.

While AI will definitely result in innovations to military equipment, another technology – big data – promises to shake things up from a different approach. According to the official Department of Defense website, in April 2017, Project Maven was greenlighted. Also called the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team, it was an effort to research and implement into the military technologies including big data. One of its first accomplishments was using complicated algorithms to mine great amounts of video, essentially using an equation to find the visual trends previously seen in terrorists. While Project Maven is not fully implemented, its effects will give the United States military a huge advantage. This technology also has several other uses, one of which is sifting through surveillance or even cell-phone video to catch criminals before they strike again.

The downside to both big data and artificial intelligence is that they still eat up enormous amounts of computing power. Building an army of supercomputers to solve this problem will cost billions for the military and eventually raise taxes. According to the MIT Tech Review, the solution is cloud computing, where the military piggybacks off farms of supercomputers already created, processing their information online and in the cloud. Amazon Web Services is one example of cloud computing that is commercially available. However, a CNN article points out that cloud computing has its downsides. As it is online and relies on third parties, hacking or glitches can compromise classified information. It’s already happened: due to an accident, for a short time, Amazon Web Services customers could easily access files from one of their biggest customers: the Pentagon. While cloud computing could be considered the most riskiest of the three technologies, it is still formidable and will definitely play a major role in innovation, both for the military and for everyday life.

With big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, the world’s militaries are rapidly upgrading their technological capabilities. As many high school students will decide to join the military, it’s worth it to search up these three innovations as they will reshape the battlegrounds of our future.


– Originally published on the Town Crier (SHS Student-Run Newspaper) on February 6, 2018.



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