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Sapere Aude grant for Ingvild Bode

Associate Professor Ingvild Bode receives a much-coveted Sapere Aude grant, awarded to researchers in the international top tier within their field. She will examine how AI affects the interaction between humans and machines in warfare.

By Marlene Jørgensen, , 11/30/2023

AI is gaining ground in warfare, and the invasion of Ukraine has raised awareness of the role that autonomous weapon systems, such as one-way attack drones, can play in conflicts.

This raises important questions about human agency in warfare – because how does human-machine interaction alter the decision-making to resort to force?

This is the focal point of a new research project at the University of Southern Denmark, which Associate Professor Ingvild Bode from the Center for War Studies will be leading.

She is among the 39 researchers who this year have managed to get through the eye of the needle and receive a prestigious Sapere Aude grant of DDK 5.8 million from the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Here, Ingvild Bode tells more about the project and its perspectives.

What is your project about?

My project assesses how integrating AI technologies in the military domain changes the exercise of agency, or the ability to make choices and act, in warfare. Rather than replacing humans, current developments point to increasing practices of human-machine interaction. This development raises foundational challenges for human agency that have not yet been addressed.

My Sapere Aude project offers novel conceptualisations of distributed agency in warfare, investigates how human-machine interaction affects the deliberative space that humans can exercise, and identifies associated governance demands. To achieve these goals, my project unpacks and examines the Responsible AI agenda that is gaining ground in some Western states.

What are the biggest concerns of AI in terms of war, and the interaction between humans and machines?

My biggest concern is that states integrating AI technologies into weapon systems and other military applications may not fully appreciate the consequences of these moves. My project will therefore focus on the consequences of this development for human agency.

More about Sapere Aude

  • Sapere Aude means 'Dare to know'.
  • The Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant is awarded to talented, young researchers to lead a research project at a high international level.
  • The grant gives researchers the opportunity to develop and go in depth with their own research ideas as well as build their own research group.
  • The aim of Sapere Aude is also to promote mobility between research environments, nationally and internationally.

Scholarship suggests that interacting with AI technologies limits the exercise of human agency in the military domain by, for example, affecting the potential deliberative space of military personnel. By deliberative space I mean the extent to which soldiers can, for example, critically assess or question the outputs of AI technologies.

What perspectives and impact can the project have to society?

Integrating AI technologies in military decision-making implies practices of human-machine interaction in an extremely sensitive social context of life-and-death decisions. But interacting with AI technologies is, of course, not exclusive to the military domain but already part of various other societal fields and contexts. In studying how human-machine interaction changes agency, my project therefore contributes to a much wider societal conversation around better understanding the human relationship with AI that is one of the major challenges of the present. HuMach does this by providing crucial critical thinking around the consequences of sharing tasks with machines.

What does it mean for you and your career to receive the Sapere Aude grant?

Studying the changing exercise of human agency in warfare and its consequences requires bringing together insights across disciplines such as political theory, Science and Technology Studies, security studies, and international law. The Sapere Aude funding allows me to lead an interdisciplinary team at the scale necessary to address the big question of agency.

Leading this project and this team will not only allow me to expand my interdisciplinary credentials but also help to push the potential of International Relations as a discipline to address a fundamental research question of today. In this, the Sapere Aude funding will also give me the opportunity to pursue this research at a grander, collaborative scale and will become the basis for further grants. Sapere Aude will enable me to solidify my position as a leading scholar on artificial intelligence within the realm of international relations.

Read about all SDU-researchers who are awarded a Sapere Aude grant here.

More about the project

  • The title of the project is Human-Machine Interaction: The Distributes Agency of Humans and Machines in Military AI (HuMach).
  • It is supported by the Independent Research Fund Denmark with DKK 5.8 million under the Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant.
  • The aim is to develop knowledge about how the division of tasks between humans and machines affects agency – the ability to make decisions and act – in warfare, and thus contribute with insight into how AI technologies should be used.
  • The project is carried out in collaboration between researchers from disciplines such as political science, science and technology studies, security studies and international law.

Meet the researcher

Ingvild Bode is an Associate Professor of international politics at the Center for War Studies at SDU, where she researches AI in warfare and how autonomous weapons systems shape and change the international norms for the use of force. Among other things, she is the Principal Investigator of the research project AutoNorms, which is funded by the European Research Council.


Editing was completed: 30.11.2023