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Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Rapid developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially the sub domains of Reinforcement Learning and Machine Learning are high on the agendas of government policy makers in many countries. Last year the US Government* issued comprehensive reports on AI and its possible benefits and impact on society, likewise the European Union and other agencies are also active in reviewing policies on AI, Robotics and associated technology. As recent as one week ago the UK government initiated a new request for comments to its AI subcommittee – What are the implications of Artificial Intelligence?

On the back of the high level of interest from governments and policy makers around the world a new study, Artificial Intelligence and National Security, by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy Center on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) recommends three goals for developing future policy on AI and national security

  • Preserving U.S. technological leadership,
  • Supporting peaceful and commercial use, and
  • Mitigating catastrophic risk

The authors say their goals for developing policy are developed by lessons learned in nuclear, aerospace, cyber, and biotech and that Advances in AI will affect national security by driving change in three areas: military superiority, information superiority, and economic superiority.

Setting out their position the authors make the case that existing AI developments “have significant potential for national security.”

Existing machine learning technology could enable high degrees of automation in labor-intensive activities such as satellite imagery analysis and cyber defense.

They further emphasize that AI has the potential to be as transformative as other major technologies, stating that future progress in AI has the potential to be a transformative national security technology, on a par with nuclear weapons, aircraft, computers, and biotech.

The changes they see in military superiority, information superiority, and economic superiority are outlined below:

For military superiority, they write progress in AI will both enable new capabilities and make existing capabilities affordable to a broader range of actors.

For example, commercially available, AI-enabled technology (such as long-range drone package delivery) may give weak states and non-state actors access to a type of long-range precision strike capability.

In the cyber domain, activities that currently require lots of high-skill labor, such as Advanced Persistent Threat operations, may in the future be largely automated and easily available on the black market.

For information superiority, they say AI will dramatically enhance capabilities for the collection and analysis of data, and also the creation of data.

In intelligence operations, this will mean that there are more sources than ever from which to discern the truth. However, it will also be much easier to lie persuasively.

AI-enhanced forgery of audio and video media is rapidly improving in quality and decreasing in cost. In the future, AI-generated forgeries will challenge the basis of trust across many institutions.

For economic superiority, they find that advances in AI could result in a new industrial revolution.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has predicted that advances in AI and related technologies will lead to a dramatic decline in demand for labor such that the United States “may have a third of men between the ages of 25 and 54 not working by the end of this half century.”

Like the first industrial revolution, this will reshape the relationship between capital and labor in economies around the world. Growing levels of labor automation might lead developed countries to experience a scenario similar to the “resource curse.”

Also like the first industrial revolution, population size will become less important for national power. Small countries that develop a significant edge in AI technology will punch far above their weight.

Due to the significant impacts they see from AI they say that Government must formalize goals for technology safety and provide adequate resources, that government should both support and restrain commercial activity of AI and governments should provide more investment and oversight into the long term-focused strategic analyses on AI technology and its implications.

Noting that we are at an inflection point in Artificial Intelligence and autonomy, the researchers outline multiple areas they believe AI driven technologies will disrupt military capabilities – capabilities, which they say, will have far reaching consequences in warfare.

Policy makers around the world would do well to consider carefully the scenarios outlined in the study to ensure that AI technologies are adequately governed to provide assurances to citizens and ultimately to ensure that AI technologies benefit humanity.

 

*US Government and Agencies recent papers

June 2016—Defense Science Board: “Summer Study on Autonomy”

July 2016—Department of Defense Office of Net Assessment: “Summer Study: (Artificial) Intelligence: What questions should DoD be asking”

October 2016—National Science and Technology Council: “The National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan”

October 2016—National Science and Technology Council: “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence”

December 2016—Executive Office of the President: “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy”

January 2017—JASON: “Perspectives on Research in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence Relevant to DoD


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