January 16, 2024

Artificial Intelligence and Nuclear Stability

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks.

Policymakers around the world are grappling with the new opportunities and dangers that artificial intelligence presents. Of all the effects that AI can have on the world, among the most consequential would be integrating it into the command and control for nuclear weapons. Improperly used, AI in nuclear operations could have world-ending effects. If properly implemented, it could reduce nuclear risk by improving early warning and detection and enhancing the resilience of second-strike capabilities, both of which would strengthen deterrence. To take full advantage of these benefits, systems must take into account the strengths and limitations of humans and machines. Successful human-machine joint cognitive systems will harness the precision and speed of automation with the flexibility of human judgment and do so in a way that avoids automation bias and surrendering human judgment to machines. Because of the early state of AI implementation, the United States has the potential to make the world safer by more clearly outlining its policies, pushing for broad international agreement, and acting as a normative trendsetter.

A lack of clear guidance risks forgoing valuable opportunities to use AI or, even worse, adopting AI in ways that might undermine nuclear surety and deterrence.

The United States has been extremely transparent and forward-leaning in establishing and communicating its policies on military AI and autonomous systems, publishing its policy on autonomy in weapons in 2012, adopting ethical principles for military AI in 2020, and updating its policy on autonomy in weapons in 2023. The department stated formally and unequivocally in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review that it will always maintain a human “in the loop” for nuclear weapons employment. In November 2023, over 40 nations joined the United States in endorsing a political declaration on responsible military use of AI. Endorsing states included not just U.S. allies but also nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

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