Are the U.S., China, and Russia recklessly undertaking an "AI arms race"? Clearly, there is military competition among these great powers to advance a range of applications of robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems. So far, the U.S. has been leading the way. AI and autonomy are crucial to the Pentagon's Third Offset strategy. Its Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team, Project Maven, has become a "pathfinder" for this endeavor and has started to deploy algorithms in the fight against ISIS.
The Diplomat's Franz-Stefan Gady talks to Elsa B. Kania about the potential implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for the military and how the world's leading military powers -- the United States, China, and Russia -- are planning to develop and deploy AI-enabled technologies in future warfighting. Kania is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Her research focuses on Chinese military innovation in emerging technologies. She is also a Research Fellow with the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University and a non-resident fellow with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). Currently, she is a Ph.D. student in Harvard University's Department of Government. Kania is the author of numerous articles and reports including Battlefield Singularity: Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China's Future Military Power and A New Sino-Russian High-Tech Partnership. Her most recent report is Securing Our 5G Future, and she also recently co-authored a policy brief AI Safety, Security, and Stability Among Great Powers. She can be followed @EBKania.
If the United States is to keep ahead of a rapidly gaining China in the field of artificial intelligence, it needs a concrete and comprehensive plan for action. Such a plan is presented in the final report, released today, of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, or NSCAI. Critically, this report is about more than AI. It is the opening salvo of a much-needed effort to create an overarching national strategy for technology, a whole-of-government effort to safeguard American technological leadership. Congress created the NSCAI three years ago to determine how the United States could develop AI and machine learning systems to address U.S. national security and defense needs.
The potential for advances in information-age technologies to undermine nuclear deterrence and influence the potential for nuclear escalation represents a critical question for international politics. One challenge is that uncertainty about the trajectory of technologies such as autonomous systems and artificial intelligence (AI) makes assessments difficult. This paper evaluates the relative impact of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence in three areas: nuclear command and control, nuclear delivery platforms and vehicles, and conventional applications of autonomous systems with consequences for nuclear stability. We argue that countries may be more likely to use risky forms of autonomy when they fear that their second-strike capabilities will be undermined. Additionally, the potential deployment of uninhabited, autonomous nuclear delivery platforms and vehicles could raise the prospect for accidents and miscalculation. Conventional military applications of autonomous systems could simultaneously influence nuclear force postures and first-strike stability in previously unanticipated ways. In particular, the need to fight at machine speed and the cognitive risk introduced by automation bias could increase the risk of unintended escalation. Finally, used properly, there should be many applications of more autonomous systems in nuclear operations that can increase reliability, reduce the risk of accidents, and buy more time for decision-makers in a crisis.
On July 20, China's State Council issued the "New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan" (新一代人工智能发展规划), which articulates an ambitious, three-step agenda for China to lead the world in AI. The Chinese leadership recognizes that AI will be critical to its "comprehensive national power" and competitiveness, including in national defense. Through this new strategic framework, China will undertake a "three in one" (三位一体) agenda in AI: tackling key problems in research and development, pursuing a range of products and applications, and cultivating AI industry. China wants to become a "premier global AI innovation center" by 2030. This plan seeks to redress current shortcomings and build up indigenous capabilities in innovation.