Oops! Got That One Wrong!

The Pentagon has a wealth of data at their finger tips and they use it in many ways….one is to predict the outcome of any military action that the US may engage in.

These days analyst play a role as they did back in the day….but today they rely on computers for their extended predictions.  All the algorithms and such give the leaders a look at what to expect and they can plan thus.

Even as far back as 50 years ago a computer was used to predict the outcome if the Vietnam War…….

At just about the halfway point of Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’s monumental documentary on the Vietnam War, an army advisor tells an anecdote that seems to sum up the relationship between the military and computers during the mid-1960s.

“There’s the old apocryphal story that in 1967, they went to the basement of the Pentagon, when the mainframe computers took up the whole basement, and they put on the old punch cards everything you could quantify. Numbers of ships, numbers of tanks, numbers of helicopters, artillery, machine gun, ammo—everything you could quantify,” says James Willbanks, the chair of military history at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. “They put it in the hopper and said, ‘When will we win in Vietnam?’ They went away on Friday and the thing ground away all weekend. [They] came back on Monday and there was one card in the output tray. And it said, ‘You won in 1965.’”

Source: The Computer That Predicted U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War – The Atlantic

This illustrates that no matter the amount of info that one has at their disposal…..certainty of a victory in war is a guess….at best.

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9 thoughts on “Oops! Got That One Wrong!

  1. Chuq, the Defense Department has a company, which is the largest financier of Artificial Intelligence. And, as you might have read, many scientists question whether once the GENIE is out of the bottle–becoming more intelligent than humans, and able to re-program themselves–will we be able to halt the process? That means: Save Mankind!

    1. Becoming more intelligent than humans is hardly a major accomplishment, especially these days.

      The reason all this AI is so damn crazy is that it’s a completely unnecessary risk being done purely out of techno-lust. it opens up the entire system to the whims of bored teens, Russian Troll Farms, and the AI itself. It’s smarter, faster and built to predict & defeat humans and other systems like it. You really only get ONE chance to get it right. Anything goes even slightly amiss and humanity is almost certainly finished.

      While Terminator is an obvious example, I think 1968’s Colossus: The Forbin Project shows the process even clearer. Even though it’s easy to chuckle at the 60’s technology now, the plot is almost visionary.

  2. Yeah, I also saw that interview during the Ken Burn’s documentary. I instantly flashed back to the day my high school computer teacher brought in his old Wang (Yes WANG!) punch-card computer. That was back when people still ran computers, not the other way around. Good times!

    Not being one with much faith in the new god of technology, this “oops” story came as NO surprise to me. It’s also worth noting the staggering number of folks prosecuting the war (even some before they themselves started it) who thought they had little, or no, chance of winning. Their prediction was far more accurate than the computer’s. Too bad they didn’t listen to it.

    I’m sure today’s super-computers told the White House they won the War On Terra back in early 2002…and that Hillary Clinton would get 325 Electoral College votes to Jeb’s! 213.

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