MI6 boss confident AI won’t replace spies

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Human spies will not be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) even as machines make information “infinitely more accessible”, the head of the UK’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, will say.

Sir Richard Moore, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, is due to give a rare public speech during a visit to Prague on Wednesday.

As well as focusing on the “human factor” in spying, he will talk about Russia’s war in Ukraine and Iran’s efforts to support President Vladimir Putin in the conflict.

Sir Richard will also cover Russian attempts to gain influence in Africa.

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On AI, the spy chief will comment on whether computers will put human intelligence-gathering organisations like MI6 out of business.

“In fact, the opposite is likely to be true. As AI trawls the ocean of open source, there will be even greater value in landing, with a well-cast fly, the secrets that lie beyond the reach of its nets,” he will say.

“The unique characteristics of human agents in the right places will become still more significant.”

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Sir Richard will add: “They are never just passive collectors of information: our agents can be tasked and directed; they can identify new questions we didn’t know to ask; and sometimes they can influence decisions inside a government or terrorist group.

“Human intelligence in the age of artificial intelligence will increasingly be defined as those things that machines cannot do, albeit we should expect the frontier of machine capability to advance with startling speed.”

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