On November 6, the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) hosted a conference on artificial intelligence (AI). The Council’s experts and invited speakers delivered a report on potential impact of AI and adjacent technologies (machine learning, autonomous hardware) on international relations and various aspects of social life. Among other things, the authors of the document warned about the threat of a new arms race in the AI sector.
The report describes artificial intelligence, which until recently existed only in science fiction, as one of the most promising and fastest-developing technologies of the present day. Limited, or “weak,” AI has already found extensive use in numerous areas, from mobile phones and household appliances to defense products. At the same time, few spheres of knowledge have so many myths created around them as AI.
“Building on images created by popular culture, media often present AI as some kind of a Pandora’s box, the opening of which will inevitably put the humankind on the brink of an Apocalypse,” the report says. “Even though such alarmism may seem ungrounded, the current agenda already includes development of “strong” AI capable of independently making conscious management decisions.”
The prospective emergence of such technology challenges both the existing system of global division of labor, and the current world order and international security architecture, experts argue. “Given the escalation of conflict and crisis of trust between the great powers, there is a real danger that a new arms race will begin in the sphere of AI technologies,” they warn. “Moreover, while control over weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical and biological – is regulated by relevant international treaties and conventions, the development of AI-based military capabilities currently remains a gray area of international law.”
Readers may recall that the end of August marked the failure of countries that advocated prohibition of lethal autonomous (AI-based) arms systems to obtain a UN mandate for drafting a legally binding international treaty in the sphere. Such was the outcome of talks held in Geneva at the Inhumane Weapons Convention forum. Russia was among the parties that opposed such drastic restrictions.
The initiative to also completely ban autonomous killer robots (which can refer to various weapon types, from drones to tanks and anti-missile systems) was brought forth by several countries, including Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Vatican, and is currently supported by a total of 26 states. At the same time, the global market of military AI technologies totaled $6.26 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach $18.82 billion by 2025, according to MarketsandMarkets, a US research company.
“It has by now become obvious that use of artificial intelligence in the military and civil spheres will be growing, including for the purpose of ensuring strategic stability. The temptation to obtain a new, better weapon and gain the lead in the technological race is too great for countries to be able to take into account general humanitarian considerations,” experts of the RIAC said.
They expect a majority of developed countries to revise their geopolitical and military doctrines. China, the United States, India, Britain and France have already announced that they are working on AI-based national military programs.
According to the report, the change will have an equally strong impact on the model of cooperation between governments and businesses. “Alignment of goals and resources of governments and private businesses to achieve military supremacy will most probably lead to the global triumph of an authoritarian-democratic model with interests of private businesses and the state integrated, a model that China has already added to its armory (both literally and figuratively),” points out Sergei Karelov, one of the report’s authors, founder of Witology and chairman of the League of Independent IT Experts.
The United States and China are the unquestionable leaders in AI technologies, the researchers say. “In order to maintain and expand its military dominance in the future, the US Department of Defense staked on AI technologies that have a potentially broad application in the defense sphere: from enhancing the efficiency of logistic systems to more sensitive tasks, such as automated control in new weapon systems,” they recall.
The new American strategy of national defense assumes that artificial intelligence will most probably change the “way of fighting”.
Therefore, according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the United States should “pursue AI applications with boldness and alacrity.”
The Summary of the 2018 White House Summit on Artificial Intelligence for American Industry states that the Donald Trump Administration “has prioritized funding for fundamental AI research and computing infrastructure, machine learning, and autonomous systems.” On July 31, the White House issued Memorandum No M-18-22 for the heads of executive departments and agencies on R&D budget priorities for 2019-2020, where AI is named No 1 among the top three national technological priorities (followed by quantum information sciences and strategic computing) and instructed the Office of Management and Budget together with the Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure that all agencies prioritize spending on these segments in 2019-2020.
“In reality, everyone is now an outsider of the AI race except for the leaders – the US and China,” says Sergei Karelov. “Even though it would seem impossible to compare AI development in technologically advanced nations like France, Germany, India or South Korea and third-world countries, both groups are destined to become AI colonies of the leaders.”
The document describes Russia as a “unique outsider,” which is potentially capable of competing for leadership, suggesting that the combination of Russia’s traditional asymmetrical responses to geopolitical challenges and the still substantial scientific and technological legacy of the Soviet Union may produce outstanding results at the intersection of AI technologies and new arms categories (from hypersound to electronic signal suppression systems).
It is worth recalling that Russian President Vladimir Putin said last September that the country that gained the lead in the advancement of artificial intelligence would be “the ruler of the world.”
Based on the article by Kommersant