What is Shield AI?
The A.I. of warfare just got a step closer this month, June, 2022.
As you may have noticed, I’m pretty obsessed with covering the best A.I. startups. Check out my posts on Prospectus.
On this Newsletter I’ve taken special care to talk about A.I. being used in war and national security and will continue to do so.
Drones Equipped with Tasers are Coming
Recently, I was alarmed about a startup that wants to use Drones equipped with Tasers to help monitor for school shootings. Curiously most of his ethics board resigned in protest. Part of the sad part about surveillance capitalism proper, is how drones and robots will be weaponized not just to automate our jobs but to actually monitor us.
But that’s for another day’s discussion and another story. The CEO of weapons developer Axon Enterprise (formerly Taser) proposed a radical solution to preventing future mass shootings. Is that ethical do you think?
Image Credit: One of Shield AI’s Nova-class small drones. (Chris Randour, Courtesy of Shield AI)
Huge Funding Round for Shield A.I.
With China flexing is muscles in the Taiwan Strait, things are heating up.
Shield AI makes software and hardware for drones and other autonomous aircraft used by military and other government organizations — has raised $165 million in funding, $90 million in Series E equity and $75 million in debt.
The funding is coming in at a $2.3 billion valuation, Shield AI said. They have raised $513 million to date according to Crunchbase.
I don’t know about you but I’m a bit worried what drones will become in Surveillance Capitalism. Everything from riots to anti-elite demonstrations in the future will be policed by robots and drones, without a doubt. Earlier this month Axon Enterprise's chief executive Rick Smith published a blog post titled "how non-lethal armed drones can help address school shootings" in which he argued the devices "could help prevent the next Uvalde, Sandy Hook, or Columbine". You can sort of see where this stuff is heading.
Shield AI might on the other hand be benevolent. They want to build the world’s bet A.I pilot, sort of like what China is concentrated on doing. As you might know, Chinese state media report claims that pilots from the country's air force have been losing a not insignificant amount of the time to artificial intelligence-driven opponents in simulated dogfights. As we have seen with the Ukraine, A.I. and drones are becoming a bigger part of post-modern warfare, including space technology.
I have covered that topic already many times on AiSupremacy in 2022.
In a world filled with serious threats of geopolitical conflict, when an A.I. drone company gets so much new funding, it’s clearly more than just about innovation or the U.S.’s national defense sector. Drone automation is also part of the innovation sector that’s “hot” due to America’s significant involvement in the Ukraine invasion by Russia.
The Military Grade Hive-Mind of Future Killing Drones
According to Shield AI’s LinkedIn page: Shield AI is an artificial intelligence company founded in 2015 with the mission to protect service members and civilians with intelligent systems.
The company’s Hivemind autonomy stack is the first and only autonomous AI Pilot, deployed in combat since 2018.
Hivemind enables intelligent teams of aircraft to perform missions ranging from room clearance, to penetrating air defense systems, and dogfighting F-16s.
Backed by top-tier Silicon Valley VC funds, Shield AI has established itself as the leader in AI for aviation. Shield AI has been named to Forbes’ AI 50 and Best Startups lists, CB Insights Top 100 AI Companies, and Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. The company has offices and facilities in San Diego, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Abu Dhabi.
I cannot myself separate the human aspect of what this entails from the business opportunity. The implications are stark in how A.I. is and will be weaponized further by National defense sectors and with startups that cater to them, who become more profitable if geopolitical conflict does take place.
This is unnerving, but is anybody covering it? I noticed this News nearly slipped by my awareness, which is somewhat rare in the space. Our media does not cover sensitive topics, and the mainstream media is cleverly designed.
It does not escape my attention when our benefactors Andreesen Horowitz are involved though.
Doug Philippone at Snowpoint Ventures led the round, with Riot Ventures, Disruptive (a returning backer; it led Shield AI’s Series D) and Homebrew (it led Shield AI’s seed round). The company’s other investors include Point72 Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Breyer Capital and SVB Capital.
The same Snowpoint lead that deals with Palantir is leading here. Some pretty important VCs see a big play for startups who can get National Defense contracts. Perhaps the U.S. thinks it should have its own DJI. DJI is China’s leader in this sector. DJI is the flagship drone manufacturer in China. A 15-year-old company with corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, DJI produces remotely piloted quadcopters and commercial drones for aerial photography, agriculture, forestry and security.
The U.S. thinks it should keep up with China in A.I. and military aspects of drone and robotics. China has recently of course unveiled a new AI USV drone vessel after voyage completion. Vehicles patrolling sea borders with drones that are remotely controlled may be the new normal in the South China sea in the not so distant future. It’s important to point out, since you realize how everything is connected. The U.S. must be thinking what sorts of tech they need to help Taiwan in case of a Chinese invasion. Some military analysts view Ukraine as a test-pilot for a likely Taiwan conflict (though most Taiwanese remain fairly skeptical about this, so were Ukrainians before the war).
I personally try not to get involved in politics but with regards of A.I. used in warfare that’s sort of my domain that I cover. The timing of the Shield AI funding thus is very interesting.
Shield AI boasts on their website:
AI pilots will revolutionize battlefields and commercial aviation at a scale greater than the self-driving movement reshaping our highways.
I see, I wasn’t quite aware. I didn’t know we didn’t get a vote. But is the A.I. of military really a “mission that matters”? I’m not a Proud Boy here, just an ordinary citizen who is a bit disappointed with the evolution of modern day America and Neo Surveillance Capitalism China.
Clearly in the future, there will be no human Maverick. Tom Cruise in the Top Gun series won’t exist.
But don’t swarms of intelligent drones sound more like Terminator than any conceivable utopia of A.I. and robots for good?
Shield A.I. says on their website:
We’re building Hivemind, our AI pilot, to enable swarms of drones and aircraft to operate autonomously without GPS, communications, or a pilot. Our mission is to protect service members and civilians with intelligent systems.
So why don’t I feel so protected about how we are weaponizing A.I. in the world today?
San Diego’s Shield AI, a fast-growing startup that makes artificial intelligence software to power military drones and other aircraft, but sorry I don’t feel the usual pride in the mission of this startup.
We need better A.I. regulation at the global level before it’s too late. I won’t easily forget the warning of Stephen Hawking (around 2017) where his biggest warning is about the rise of artificial intelligence: It will either be the best thing that's ever happened to us, or it will be the worst thing. If we're not careful, it very well may be the last thing.
Tread carefully Patriots. Some battles are not worth having.
Thanks for reading!