A recent official report commissioned for the President of the United States and Congress suggests that the US and its allies should come forward and reject the proposals of globally banning AI-powered autonomous weapons systems.
The document asserts that AI (artificial intelligence) is capable of compressing decision-making time frames in terms of military responses, which humans cannot process in such a short time span.
It also goes on to say that the reasons why the US and its allies should not comply with such a ban includes the fact that Russia and China are quite unlikely to agree with such a treaty.
'Irresponsible' Arms Race To Follow?
However, critics have claimed already that such a proposal possesses the risk of inviting an "irresponsible" arms race.
"This is a shocking and frightening report that could lead to the proliferation of AI weapons making decisions about who to kill. The most senior AI scientists on the planet have warned them about the consequences, and yet they continue. This will lead to grave violations of international law," said Professor Noel Sharkey, spokesman for the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots.
On the aforementioned point, the official report argues that if AI-powered autonomous weapons systems go through proper procedures of vigorous testing and a human commander gets the authorization for use, then they should be nothing but safe and would also comply with the International Humanitarian Law.
The National Security Commission On AI
The National Security Commission on AI made the recommendations. The body is chaired by former Google boss Eric Schmidt and ex-Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, who did serve under former Presidents Obama and Trump. Other members in the organization include Andy Jassy, the next chief executive of tech giant Amazon, Dr Andrew Moore and Dr Eric Horvitz, Google and Microsoft AI chiefs, respectively, and Oracle CEO Safra Catz.
While most of these members of the commission serve in a personal capacity, many of the forms that they work for have bid for Pentagon's and other government related AI contracts, which include a $10 billion deal that Microsoft has secured and which Amazon is challenging in court.
Fight It Out With China
A great deal of the 750-page document talks about how they should counter the measures China has taken to fulfill their ambition of becoming a world leader in AI by 2030.
The US could "lose its military-technical superiority in the coming years" if and when China takes the leap by incorporating AI-enabled systems in military before them, suggests the proposal letter. For example, China could very well make use of a swarm of drones in order to attack the US Navy.
"The DoD [Department of Defense] has long been hardware-oriented toward ships, planes, and tanks [and] is now trying to make the leap to a software-intensive enterprise. If our forces are not equipped with AI-enabled systems guided by new concepts that exceed those of their adversaries, they will be outmatched and paralysed by the complexity of battle," reads the letter.
The report also suggests that the US should focus on curbing the capabilities of China of manufacturing state-of-the-art computer chips. "If a potential adversary bests the United States in semiconductors over the long term or suddenly cuts off US access to cutting-edge chips entirely, it could gain the upper hand in every domain of warfare," states the report.
In order to keep ahead of China in this area, the report suggests some steps that the government could take:
- Government needs to offer large tax credits to enterprises that set up new chip fabrication plants on US soil.
- Government should also place restrictions in order to prevent China from importing the photolithography machines that are a must-have to create the most advanced types of chips with the smallest transistors.
- It should be made mandatory that the American companies, that export chips to China, certify that those would not be used to "facilitate human rights abuses" and they should also submit quarterly reports to the Department of Commerce stating and listing all chip sales to China.
AI Will Renovate 'All Aspects Of Military Affairs'
The document directed towards the POTUS and Congress also predicts that AI will renovate "all aspects of military affairs" and rival algorithms would battle it out in the future, a time which would come sooner than later.
While the document warns that poorly created and designed AI systems may increase the risk of war, it also says that "defending against AI-capable adversaries without employing AI is an invitation to disaster".
The commission that started its review process 2019 asserts in their final report that previously warnings regarding national security threats by AI were ignored, however, there is still time and they can be prepared if President Biden and other politicians act on it immediately.
However, the proposal does not only talk about the military AI program; it also suggests that US's non-defence spending on this technology related research and development should be doubled to reach $32bn a year within 2026.
More Suggestions for Pacing Through the AI Race:
- A new body should be created in order to help the President comprehend and guide the nation's wider AI policies
- Immigration laws should be relaxed so that USA can attract more foreign talent in the area from abroad. It also talks about an effort to increase a "brain drain" from China.
- A new university should be created to train digitally-talented civil servants.
- The US's intelligence agencies should fast-track the implementation of new technologies.