AI and the Future of Defence: Opportunities for Britain at the Technological Frontier

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AI and the Future of Defence: Opportunities for Britain at the Technological Frontier

25th July 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

After decades of effort, rapid new advances in AI have, almost overnight, revealed new possibilities to reshape countless industries. What does this mean for defence? And as the global race heats up to make the most of this rapidly advancing technology, how can Britain stay at the forefront?

The Henry Jackson Society brings together leading thinkers in this fascinating, fast-moving area to explore its potential and its pitfalls.


This photo is a property of George Mason University


A naval officer and military pilot from 1988-1999, Missy Cummings was one of the U.S. Navy’s first female fighter pilots. She is now the director of Mason’s Autonomy and Robotics Center (MARC) and a professor in George Mason University. She holds faculty appointments in the Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science departments. She is an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Fellow and recently served as the senior safety advisor to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Cummings received her BS in Mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1988, her MS in Space Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1994, and her PhD in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2004.



Professor Tim Watson is the Director of the Cyber Security Centre at Loughborough University and the Programme Director for Defence and Security at The Alan Turing Institute. With more than thirty years’ experience working with government, industry and in academia, he has been involved with a wide range of programmes, several high-profile projects and has acted as a consultant for some of the largest telecoms, power and transport companies. He is an adviser to various parts of the UK government and to several professional and standards bodies. Tim’s research combines AI and cyber security and includes EU-funded projects on combating cyber crime, UK MoD research into automated defence, insider threat and secure remote working, and UKRI-funded research, focusing on the protection of critical national infrastructure against cyber attack.



The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP is a British Conservative Party politician, soldier and author. He served in the Royal Green Jackets and reached the rank of Captain. He currently serves as the Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East and served as a UK Government Minister at the Ministry of Defence from 2017 to 2019. He has been the chair of the Defence Select Committee since January 2020.



Marc Sidwell is Director of Research at The Henry Jackson Society. He has worked as a senior editor for the Telegraph and City A.M. and as publisher for the New Statesman. Marc has also written regularly for publications including Telegraph, The Critic, National Review and City A.M. He is a Senior Fellow at the New Culture Forum, and a graduate of Oxford and Warwick.






The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Professor Missy Cummings, Professor Tim Watson, and The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by Britain in AI and the future of defence. Prof Watson started the conversation off by clarifying the difference between a country’s sovereign AI capability and strategic advantage, as well as the acceleration of speed in warfare with AI, and AI as a potentially effective disinformation-spreading tool in the run-up to violent conflicts. To continue, Prof. Cummings pointed to the necessity for rigorous maintenance of AI to minimise human error in the code and attention to the complex system level implications. The Rt Hon Ellwood highlighted the poor collective knowledge and regulation of AI in the UK and the Parliament, and the need for more investment into the area in order to keep up with other superpowers. The panellists went on to discuss the regulation of AI technology, the potential threat of China, and the talent, and lack thereof, in AI and Defence in the UK and US. The Rt Hon Ellwood pointed to the need for international cooperation and global regulation, to avoid that countries and companies unbothered by ethics and regulation come to dominate the space of AI. Prof. Watson ended the conversation by urging the government to invest in funding for education in AI and Cyber Security to tackle the complex defence challenges of the future.




25th July 2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm




Professor Missy Cummings, Professor Tim Watson FBCS FIET, The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP


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