Session Summary: Titans of Technology: Winning the Future of Defence

Emmanuel Bresson, Advisor for Cyber, Artificial Intelligence and Disruptive Technologies, French Ministry of Armies

Heather M. Roff, Senior Research Analyst, Applied Physics Laboratory, The Johns Hopkins University, Laurel

Led by: Patrick Tucker, Technology Editor, Defence One, Washington, D.C.


New and emerging technologies, from AI to cyber and nano, can act as a force multiplier and profoundly accelerate the speed of operation at the same time. To ensure technologies are used ethically, international regulatory frameworks need to place human responsibility at the centre of all stages, from design, development and deployment of technologies. However, as Heather M. Roff noted, “you cannot just have principles and call it a day”. The ethical values, particularly International Humanitarian Law, have to be deeply rooted in a robust testing regime of the technologies, as well as in appropriate training for the troops and commanders. She further stressed that all militaries in the world will have to make this their utmost priority. Emmanuel Breton also highlighted that human oversight needs to remain in place at all levels. Although AI can make decisions more efficient and rapid, decision-making shall not be fully automated and a rigorous chain of command should stay in place for all operations.  

As NATO announces its new Innovation Development Accelerator, the Alliance, and indeed the international community, is going to be increasingly pressed to address collective and individual development, adoption, and use of technologies. As Emmanuel Breton noted, technologies are inherently dual, civil and military. Heather M. Roff added that nations are also inevitably going to have their own priorities and interests, resulting in a great variation in technologies among nations. The international community will have to face the challenge of this divergence.  

Nevertheless, despite the seeming technological boom, Heather M. Roff stressed the traditional systems will not be immediately replaced with new technologies. Ensuring interoperability between all systems and technology, old and new, and addressing historical issues, especially communications, remains key.