Military Deception: AI's Killer App?


Oct 23, 2019

Artificial intelligence concept, photo by kentoh/Getty Images

Photo by kentoh/Getty Images

This commentary originally appeared on War on the Rocks on October 23, 2019.

This article was submitted in response to a call for ideas issued by the co-chairs of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Robert Work and Eric Schmidt. You can find all of RAND's submissions here.

In the 1983 film WarGames, Professor Falken bursts into the war room at NORAD to warn, “What you see on these screens up here is a fantasy—a computer-enhanced hallucination. Those blips are not real missiles, they're phantoms!” The Soviet nuclear attack onscreen, he explained, was instead a simulation created by “WOPR,” an artificial intelligence of Falken's own invention.

WOPR's simulation now seems more prescient than most other 20th century predictions about how artificial intelligence, or AI, would change the nature of warfare. Contrary to the promise that AI would deliver an omniscient view of everything happening in the battlespace—the goal of U.S. military planners for decades—it now appears that technologies of misdirection are winning.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at

Edward Geist is a policy researcher and Marjory Blumenthal is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Geist received a Smith Richardson Strategy and Policy Fellowship to write a book on artificial intelligence and nuclear warfare.