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Going Direct: The End Of The Human Fighter Pilot And What It Means For The Rest Of Us

When artificial intelligence soundly defeated a frontline fighter pilot last week, it wasn’t the beginning of the end. It was just the punctuation.

Robot Pilot

Last week, groups that had built fighter pilot artificial intelligence profiles (how exactly to phrase that is problematic) went up against a human fighter pilot—in a simulator, of course. The question wasn’t whether the computers would someday take over what pilots think of as their irreplaceable spot in the universe of flight, but rather, when they would. The answer? Soon, if not already.

The trials pitted a top Air Force F-16 fighter pilot against artificial intelligence (AI) developed by the winner of a competition among AI developers. That top dog wasn’t Lockheed Martin, as you might have expected, but Heron, a small tech company that’s women- and minority-owned. In the battle against the human fighter pilot, which, to be fair was an old school one-on-one dogfight between high-tech and the USAF’s best, Heron’s AI beat the meat-based pilot five straight times. And remember that in real life you’re out after you get tagged just once. 

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