Gamers should fight ‘real life threats instead of Avatars’, in order to help the UK win the Artificial Intelligence race, the Armed Forces cyber chief has said.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of Strategic Command, told The Telegraph that as Artificial Intelligence becomes progressively more crucial in future warfare, he would be looking towards the gaming industry as a means to “exploit the natural talent” already available in the UK. 

Sir Patrick said: “What I can offer, which no gaming industry can, is I can put you in daily contact with our enemies.

“If you are working in a gaming industry the most exciting thing you’re going to do is to be designing or competing with an avatar. It’s a game. If you come and join defence, or GCHQ, the National Cyber Force, you’re going to be up against real-life threat actors in cyberspace every single day. And that’s exciting.”

Sir Patrick cautioned that it does not have to be a “binary choice”.

“We want people to develop their skills in industry, to become expert in gaming, but we also want them to work in defending the frontline of our country in cyberspace.”

He said this could be achieved simultaneously through the reserves, or alternatively start with the military, “then move into the gaming industry and then come back again”.

According to the global AI index, the UK is ranked number three, behind China and America. However, Sir Patrick cautioned “third is not good enough, because it’s a winner takes all competition”. 

He said in order to rise up the ranks, and overtake China, the UK needs to focus on “the talent”.

“It’s about really growing and valuing people who are data scientists, data, analysts, engineers, designers,” he said. 

Sir Patrick added that it was imperative to move away from the current thinking people take when joining the forces, which is typically broken down into whether a person wants to join the Airforce, the Navy or the Army. 

“What I’m interested in, is saying to people ‘come and be a data scientist, or be a cyber operator’, and then which service you join is the second question you ask, it’s not the first one”, he said. 

Sir Patrick pledged that it has become his mission to “light a fire under defence and our national ambition to get after AI at a much faster and greater scale than we’re actually doing at the moment”.