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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Artificial intelligence will "change the nature of war," according to Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense.

Why it matters: Success on the battlefield will increasingly come down to the ability to make algorithmically aided decisions faster, and while the U.S. has long maintained a decisive technological advantage in warfare, its lead in AI is much narrower.

What they're saying: The ability to harness large numbers of intelligent systems crunching huge amounts of data from the battlefield will "take out some of the uncertainty around war," says Work, who served under President Obama and briefly President Trump, and who is now an advisory board member to the AI company SparkCognition Government Systems.

  • "The battle networks of the future will feature human-machine collaboration, and these things will operate at extremely high speed," he tells Axios. "These are going to make battle networks that do not have AI obsolete."

How it works: Think of AI less as a general than as the ultimate aide-de-camp, making sense of data from sensor networks and offering recommendation actions to commanders.

  • "You're going to have machine-to-machine communication once those plans are made, it will populate through the forces really fast," says Work.

The big picture: Speed kills in modern warfare, and the ability to analyze data and issue commands faster than your opponent can ensure battlefield dominance.

  • Work points to a recent Pentagon war game that pitted a group of veteran officers working on their own against less-seasoned officers assisted by AI.
  • Despite the experience gap, the younger officers — with AI — came out ahead, a sign that humans working in concert with machines can be more effective than either on their own.

The catch: Even with humans remaining in the loop, it's not clear how free flesh-and-blood commanders will be to reject AI recommendations if war is fought at the speed of AI rather than human beings.

  • Speed itself can also be dangerous, increasing the risk that a military conflict could spin out of control.
  • Work believes that one key is to train officers on how to work with AI "to get the best features of both humans and machines."

What to watch: The growing competition in algorithmic warfare with China, which Work says is ahead of the U.S. in several areas on AI, including access to data.

"The side with the best algorithms is going to have a decisive advantage."
— Robert Work, former deputy secretary of defense

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The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

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The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

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Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."