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Pentagon reveals first artificial intelligence strategy

The Pentagon” by David B. Gleason. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pentagon has outlined its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, the United States Department of Defense revealed on Tuesday.

In the report, the Pentagon explained how they intend to expand their use of AI in warfare, but said they will take care to deploy the technology in accordance with the nation’s values.

The plan will focus on accelerating the use of AI systems within the military forces, from intelligence-gathering operations to predicting maintenance problems in planes or ships. It also encouraged the US to develop such technology before other countries.

“Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, including in applications that raise questions regarding international norms and human rights,” the report says.

While it does not often mention autonomous weapons substantially, the report cites an existing 2012 military directive that requires humans to be in control of military machines.

Both the US and China are among the few nations that openly opposed a United Nations international ban on “killer robots” – fully autonomous weapons – in the past, claiming it was too soon to try and regulate them.

The strategy outlined by the Pentagon in this instance focuses more on immediate applications, but even some of them have sparked ethical concern in the past.

Namely, last year the Pentagon was at the centre of the Project Maven scandal. The AI system, co-developed by Google, used algorithms to interpret aerial video images from conflict zones. Eventually, the public outrage that followed caused the Mountain View giant to drop out of Project Maven.

“Everything we’ve seen is with a human decision-maker in the loop,” said Todd Probert, a vice president at Raytheon’s intelligence division, which is working with the Pentagon on Maven and other projects. “It’s using technology to help speed up the process but not supplant the command structure that’s in place.”

The report comes after the US president Donal Trump signed an executive order promoting AI growth earlier this week.

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