The role of artificial intelligence in the war between Israel and Hamas so far

Artificial intelligence is changing the world, and our new GZERO AI video series explores what it means for you, from misinformation and regulation to economic and political impacts. Hosted by Taylor Owen, professor at McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy and director of its Center for Media, Technology and Democracy, and Mariette Schacke, Stanford Fellow in International Politics, Human-Centered AI, and former Member of the European Parliament, this weekly video series brings you It helps you stay informed about the latest news of the artificial intelligence revolution.

In the first episode of the series, Taylor Owen looks at how artificial intelligence is shaping the war between Israel and Hamas.

As the situation in the Middle East continues to escalate, today we ask how AI will shape the war between Israel and Hamas. The short answer is that it was not what many expected. I think there are two caveats to the power of AI here, and one where AI is shown to be really important. The first caveat about the value of AI is predictive. For years, many have argued that AI not only helps us understand the world as it is, but can actually help us predict future events. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of national security and policing.

Now Gaza is one of the investigated areas in the world. The use of drones, facial recognition, border checkpoints and wiretapping have allowed the Israeli government to collect vast amounts of data on the population of Gaza. Add the fact that Israel’s Defense Ministry director has said that Israel is on the verge of becoming an AI superpower, and one would think that the government might have the ability to predict such events. But on October 7, that was decidedly not the case. The government, the army and the Israeli citizens themselves were surprised by this attack.

Of course, the reality is that no matter how powerful AI is, it’s only as good as the data it’s fed, and often if the data is biased or wrong, so is its predictive capacity. So I think we have to be really cautious, especially about the sales that are being made by the companies that are selling these predictive tools to our police and national security services. I think their confidence in doing so should be questioned.

The second caveat I would add is about the role of artificial intelligence in creating disinformation. Don’t get me wrong, there has been a lot going on in this conflict, but it hasn’t really been the artificial media or deep fakes that many feared would be the big problem in events like this. Instead, it has been low-tech disinformation. These are photos and videos from other events taken out of context and displayed as if they were related to this event. It was a cheap fake, not a deep fake. Now, there are even cases where AI fake depth detection tools, deployed in response to the problem of deep fakes, have actually mistakenly identified AI images as being created by AI. In this case, the threat of deepfakes causes more damage than the deepfakes themselves.

Ultimately, though, I think there’s one place where AI does real damage in this conflict, and that’s in social media. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds and our TikTok feeds are powered by artificially intelligent algorithms. And more often than not, these algorithms reinforce our prejudices and fuel our collective anger. A world seen through content that only pisses us off is essentially a distorted world. And more broadly, I think calls for governance in social media, whether by the companies themselves or through regulation, are being replaced by vague and unclear notions of AI governance. And make no mistake, AI policy is important, but it’s the social media ecosystem that’s still doing the real damage. We cannot take our eyes off that political ball.

I’m Taylor Owen and thanks for watching.

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