April 06, 2023

Making Unilateral Norms for Military AI Multilateral

The speed and pitfalls of artificial intelligence (AI) development are on public display thanks to the race for dominance among leading AI firms following the public release of ChatGPT. One area where this “arms race” mentality could have grave consequences is in military use of AI, where even simple mistakes could cause escalation, instability, and destruction. In an attempt to mitigate these risks, the State Department released the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy. The declaration is a good step toward improving the global conversation around AI in military systems. The United States can work with its closest allies to turn this unilateral statement into a multilateral commitment to promote norms for military AI use around the globe.

Without significant effort from the U.S., the political declaration could easily die on the vine, and with it a structure for building AI technology responsibly.

The United States—specifically the Defense Department—has already released policy documents on AI in military affairs, including the Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence, Responsible Artificial Intelligence Strategy and Implementation Pathway, and Directive 3000.09 which lay out principles and frameworks for developing autonomous weapons systems. The State Department’s political declaration builds on the accomplishments of these other documents. After a short statement of purpose about the need for ethical and safe AI and the dangers of poorly designed systems, the declaration lays out best practices for responsible AI development. More specifically, it urges states to conduct reviews of AI systems to ensure they comply with international law, build auditable AI systems, work to reduce unintended bias in the technology, maintain acceptable levels of human judgment and training, and test for safety and alignment. For the most part, the best practices are outlined broadly. While some observers may argue in favor of a more narrow approach, this is a strength for a declaration designed to build a normative framework, as many countries should be able to easily agree to these practices.

Read the full article from Lawfare.

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