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MI6 chief calls for new era of artificial intelligence and robotics’ espionage

The head of MI6 called for the urgent need of a new era of spying in which artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are deployed to combat rogue states in “perpetual confrontation” with the UK.

The SIS Building (or MI6 Building) at Vauxhall Cross, London

Speaking to students at the University of St Andrews, Alex Younger described how intelligence agencies are developing a “fourth generation” of espionage and urged “Russia or any other state intent on subverting our way of life not to underestimate our determination and our capabilities, or those of our allies”.

In his second major speech since becoming head of the Secret Intelligence Service four years ago, Mr Younger reminded the audience how MI6 helped expose the wrongdoers allegedly behind the Salisbury nerve agent attack and how it helped coordinate the ensuing expulsion of Russian diplomats.

He also told students that Britain is “well-equipped” to counter those who launch attacks on Britain in ways that fall short of traditional warfare, such as cyber attacks and the spreading of disinformation.

“The degree of interconnectedness between nations, people and systems today, the ubiquitous nature of information and the exponential pace of technological change, are making the work dramatically more complicated”, he said.

“The era of the fourth industrial revolution calls for a fourth generation of espionage: fusing our traditional human skills with accelerated innovation, new partnerships and a mindset that mobilises diversity and empowers the young.”

Mr Younger also addressed the students directly during his speech and stretched the need for diversity in MI6.

“I want to speak to young people who have never seen themselves in MI6,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are from. If you want to make a difference and you think you might have what it takes, then the chances are that you do have what it takes, and we hope you will step forward.”


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