‘Mil-Tech Valley’: How Ukraine is turning into a living AI war lab — with the help of a global armada of tech companies

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The war in Ukraine continues to rumble on, and while we often hear of military actions, behind the scenes, it seems the nation is evolving into the world’s tech R&D lab.

A report from Time claims Palantir Technologies has integrated its software into the daily operations of the Ukrainian government, using AI to analyze data from various sources, providing military options to commanders.

This technology has been used for more than just battlefield intelligence; it also aids in collecting evidence of war crimes, clearing land mines, resettling refugees, and rooting out corruption.

Building a tech sector

Palantir is not the only tech company aiding Ukraine. Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Starlink have all contributed to the country’s defense, offering protection from cyberattacks, migrating critical government data to the cloud, and maintaining connectivity.

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Clearview AI, a controversial facial-recognition company, has provided its tools to Ukrainian officials, who have used it to identify Russian presence on their soil.

The collaboration between foreign tech companies and the Ukrainian armed forces is driving a new kind of experimentation in military AI, Time says, marking a significant change in the character of warfare. While some view the deployment of AI tools skeptically, Ukraine and its private-sector allies are playing a longer game: creating a war lab for the future.

The potential global ramifications of this are immense. In conflicts waged with software and AI, tech companies could wield significant power as independent actors. This could lead to breakthroughs that disregard legal, ethical, or regulatory norms, and these new tools risk falling into the hands of adversaries.

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Ukraine has been working to build a tech sector that could not only help win the war but also serve as a pillar of its economy in the future. Tech CEOs, defense conferences, and business summits have been targeted with the message that Ukraine is open for business. The response has been positive, with investors launching funds to invest in Ukrainian startups and defense-tech companies setting up shop in Kyiv.

However, the use of tools provided by companies like Palantir and Clearview raises complicated questions about when and how invasive technology should be used in wartime, as well as how far privacy rights should extend. Despite these concerns, Ukraine continues to serve as a living laboratory for AI-enabled systems, marking a significant shift in the character of warfare.

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