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How Did AI Go from Beating Grand Chessmasters to Winning Dogfights? General David H. Petraeus Explains

August 11, 2021
· 3 min read

General David H. Patraeus grew up just down the road from the prestigious United States Military Academy and graduated from West Point in 1974. He spent nearly four decades in the U.S. Army and served in Haiti, Kuwait, and Bosnia before rising to the rank of general. Yet, despite all his military accomplishments, he notes that his experience attending Princeton, “a civilian graduate school,” was the most transformative experience of his career. 

“Not only do you learn better critical thinking skills and analytical skills and certain fundamental capabilities and certain knowledge in certain sectors, you also learn a degree of intellectual humility that there are seriously bright people out in the world who don’t see it the same way that we do. I had very much lived (with) the grindstone cloister syndrome prior to going into graduate school.”

General Petraeus recently sat down with Ari Kaplan, Director of AI Evangelism and Strategy at DataRobot, on the More Intelligent Tomorrow podcast to discuss critical thinking, education, and the role of artificial intelligence in warfare today.

After his promotion to general, General Patraeus rose to become the head of U.S. Central Command for all U.S. military operations in the Middle East and leader of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. This experience showed him the power of intelligence in the digital age and also reiterated the importance of using AI to help decipher what is real news and what is fake. 

“The deep fake will be a particularly nefarious and diabolical challenge. . . Right now, it is still possible to determine pretty quickly with machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify deep fakes, but as they get ever more sophisticated, that task will require ever more sophisticated machines and artificial intelligence systems. Again, that battle is going to be going on.”

General Petraeus further stated that the American education system needs to teach media consumption—from understanding that certain media have favored viewpoints to the ways algorithms can empower social media platforms.

“These are very, very challenging issues and they’re getting more challenging and more complex all the time.”

AI is also making military training more complex and this new technology is changing the face of army intelligence:

“Well, to put this in context and to ensure that we all appreciate how powerful artificial intelligence is, let’s remember that it first wowed everyone by showing that a machine could beat the reigning chess grandmaster. 

More recently, . . . in a simulation at least, an aircraft that was piloted by artificial intelligence defeated an aircraft in a dogfight, an aircraft that was piloted by a human . . . (and) it doesn’t get much more complex than a dogfight, and artificial intelligence has proven its value even in that very, very complex activity.”

General Petraeus has worn many hats. He famously rose to become the 4th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Despite having been the person in charge of relations with foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, and human intelligence, he still cites his time in the halls of the Ivy League as having been the most valuable: 

“In many respects, when people ask me, ‘How did you know what to do when you were first in Iraq as a two-star general division commander of the great 101st Airborne Division and you seem to know what needed to be done?’ and I said, ‘Gosh, it may have been graduate school at Princeton that enabled me best of all.’”

It was an honor to have this unique discussion with General Petraeus, and have him elucidate his views on AI, intelligence, and how we can all prepare for a more intelligent tomorrow.
To hear more about the future of AI and modern warfare, cybersecurity, and AI trust, check out or You can also listen everywhere you already enjoy podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts.

General David H. Petraeus: A Legacy of Military Intelligence
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About the author

Value-Driven AI

DataRobot is the leader in Value-Driven AI – a unique and collaborative approach to AI that combines our open AI platform, deep AI expertise and broad use-case implementation to improve how customers run, grow and optimize their business. The DataRobot AI Platform is the only complete AI lifecycle platform that interoperates with your existing investments in data, applications and business processes, and can be deployed on-prem or in any cloud environment. DataRobot and our partners have a decade of world-class AI expertise collaborating with AI teams (data scientists, business and IT), removing common blockers and developing best practices to successfully navigate projects that result in faster time to value, increased revenue and reduced costs. DataRobot customers include 40% of the Fortune 50, 8 of top 10 US banks, 7 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies, 7 of the top 10 telcos, 5 of top 10 global manufacturers.

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