Emerging technologies - including artificial intelligence, or AI - will be instrumental and monumental in shaping the future of the world – carrying enormous potential for both good and evil.
The military arena is one place where AI is surging. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said, “AI is central to our innovation agenda, helping us to compute faster, share better, and leverage other platforms.” He pledged, however, that the approach of the United States toward the military uses of AI will be ethical and responsible, saying, “Responsible AI is the place where cutting-edge tech meets timeless values.”
Ethics and responsibility are the reasons why earlier this year the United States unveiled the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy. The Declaration’s aim is to build international consensus around how militaries can responsibly incorporate AI and autonomy into their operations while promoting respect for international law, security, and stability.
Speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins noted that the Declaration acknowledges a shared challenge:
“What this is, is a document of a number of principles that we are hoping that countries will adopt, that basically are things that they feel they should consider and keep in mind, as they use AI in the military.”
The guidelines include subjecting systems to rigorous testing, taking steps to avoid unintended consequences, minimizing inadvertent biases, ensuring AI is used in accordance with country obligations under international law, and, as Under Secretary Jenkins emphasized, maintaining human control in decisions concerning the use of nuclear weapons.
“There has to be a human involved in any kind of nuclear employment. And so we think that’s really important that countries adopt and understand - even if they don’t have nuclear weapons - you know, just the norm is important. The more countries we can have adopt them, the better, and the more we can make it a real norm for all countries.”
Under Secretary Jenkins noted that the principles of the Declaration will be a topic of discussion at the October meeting of the U.N.’s First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security issues.
The United States looks forward to engaging with other stakeholders there on the crucial topic of how militaries will use AI in a responsible, ethical, and stabilizing manner.