US commission recommends pressing ahead with AI weapons

By William Smith
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence report and its non-binding recommendations is due to be submitted in March...

A US government-appointed panel led by former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt has said the US should resist a ban on AI weapons.

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence was established in 2018 with the goal “to consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States."

Removing human mistakes

It has now produced a draft final report for Congress, which claimed that AI weapons should not be discounted, and that they are expected to make fewer mistakes than human combatants. The report and its non-binding recommendations is due to be submitted in March.

The report’s introduction states that “The AI revolution is not a strategic surprise. We are experiencing its impact in our daily lives and can anticipate how research progress will translate into real world applications before we have to confront the full national security ramifications. This commission can warn of national security challenges and articulate the benefits, rather than explain why previous warnings were ignored and opportunities were missed. We still have a window to make the changes to build a safer and better future.”

An ethical quandary

While autonomous weapons are nothing new (consider a land mine for instance), the introduction of AI in recent times has brought to the fore ethical questions, such as with whom the responsibility of decisions made by AI ultimately resides. Popular culture is certainly full of tales of rogue AI weapons systems, the most famous of which might be Skynet from the Terminator franchise. According to Reuters, a coalition of around thirty countries wants an outright ban on AI weapons.

Nevertheless, the report envisions a future where: “AI applications will help militaries prepare, sense and understand, decide, and execute faster and more efficiently. Numerous weapons systems will leverage one or more AI technologies. AI-systems will generate options for commanders and create battle networks connecting systems across all domains.”

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