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US DoD looks for ethicist to guide deployment of AI

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) in the US revealed plans to hire an ethicist to help guide the Defense Department’s development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

The announcement was made by Air Force Lieutenant general and JAIC‘s director Jack Shanahan last week when he spoke at the Pentagon.

Shanahan, who is known for being the leader behind the infamous project Maven, told his colleagues last Friday that the JAIC should “accelerate DOD’s adoption and integration of artificial intelligence to achieve mission impact at scale.” 

The JAIC was founded only a year ago, but in this short time, Shanahan said it had managed to build a team of 60 employees, a headquarters and a $268 million budget for this year.

However, Shanahan added that they “still have a long way to go to help bring pilots, prototypes, and pitches across the technology ‘valley of death’ to fielding and updating artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities at speed and at scale.”

The JAIC’s director also spoke about the challenges of the development of AI for use by the United States and how potential adversaries don’t share the same ethical values the US does in terms of collection or use of information.

“The fewer restrictions they have on privacy and civil liberties gives them some advantages in getting data faster and then building capabilities faster as a result of what they have available in data,” he said.

Despite this, Shanahan said that these practices by Russia or China are not going to necessarily benefit their military forces.

“Just the fact that they have data doesn’t tell me they have an inherent strength in fielding in their military organizations,” he said. “What’s important for us in the JAIC — as part of the department’s centre of excellence for artificial intelligence — is really getting to the facts on what China and Russia are doing on the military side.”

However, the Air Force Lieutenant general did recognise that a potential advantage China has over U.S. AI development is its direct integration between industry and government.

“If we don’t find a way to strengthen those bonds between the U.S. government, industry and academia, I would say we do have the real risk of not moving as fast as China when it comes to this,” he said.

“It does give them a leg up. We have to work hard on strengthening the relationships we have with the commercial industry and prove that we are a good partner and that they will be a good partner with us. We want to work with companies that want to work with us. It’s a two-way street. We want to get those relationships better.”

Image via Eucalyp on flaticon.

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