October 19, 2022

Sharper: The State of AI

Analysis from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges for U.S. foreign policy.

By Anna Pederson

The U.S. government's recent chip export controls are the latest salvo in the U.S.–China rivalry in artificial intelligence. Semiconductors are a key input for AI systems and a source of increasing geopolitical competition. From chips to autonomous weapons, nations are grappling with the national security implications of the AI revolution. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation around AI development and regulation around the world. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their analysis, commentary, and recommendations.

Features

Artificial Intelligence and Arms Control

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) pose immense opportunity for militaries around the world. With this rising potential for AI-enabled military systems, some activists are sounding the alarm, calling for restrictions or outright bans on some AI-enabled weapon systems. Conversely, skeptics of AI arms control argue that as a general-purpose technology developed in the civilian context, AI will be exceptionally hard to control. A new report from Paul Scharre and Megan Lamberth examines the potential for arms control for military applications of AI by exploring historical cases of attempted arms control, analyzing both successes and failures, and argue that policymakers can take steps today that may make AI technology more controllable in the long run by shaping its development.

Dangers of an AI Race

Recent years have seen rapid growth in artificial intelligence (AI), which militaries around the world are adopting into their forces. AI has value across a range of military applications but also brings risks. AI systems have significant safety and security vulnerabilities. Expert Paul Scharre explains how the United States and its allies can work to build international norms for secure, reliable, and trustworthy military AI systems.

Technology & National Security

Artificial Intelligence and Arms Control

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) pose immense opportunity for militaries around the world. With this rising potential for AI-enabled military systems, some activists a...

Technology & National Security

Dangers of an AI Race

AI has value across a range of military applications, but also brings risks....

Lighting the Path

The world’s leading powers are engaged in an unprecedented technology competition. Autocratic regimes are advancing a vision for technology use—a techno-totalitarianism that entrenches authoritarian rule—that directly opposes the interests of democratic states. How this technology competition unfolds will shape the global economic, political, and military balance for decades, and depend on transatlantic cooperation. A new report covers seven areas in which transatlantic cooperation will be key: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, clean energy technology, information and communications technology and services, quantum information science and technology, semiconductors, and standard-setting.

Principles for the Combat Employment of Weapon Systems with Autonomous Functionalities

An international debate over lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) has been underway for nearly a decade. A CNAS report by author Robert O. Work offers seven new principles that concentrate on the responsible use of autonomous functionalities in armed conflict in ways that preserve human judgment and responsibility over the use of force, and help minimize the probability of loss of control of the system or unintended engagements.

Artificial Intelligence Safety and Stability

Nations around the world are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their military, intelligence, and other national security capabilities. Yet AI technology, at present, has significant safety and security vulnerabilities. AI systems could fail, potentially in unexpected ways, due to a variety of causes. The CNAS Artificial Intelligence Safety and Stability project aims to better understand AI risks and specific steps that can be taken to improve AI safety and stability in national security applications.

Transatlantic Security

Lighting the Path

The world’s leading powers are engaged in an unprecedented technology competition. Autocratic regimes are advancing a vision for technology use—a techno-totalitarianism that e...

Technology & National Security

Principles for the Combat Employment of Weapon Systems with Autonomous Functionalities

These seven new principles concentrate on the responsible use of autonomous functionalities in armed conflict in ways that preserve human judgment and responsibility over the ...

Indo-Pacific Security

Artificial Intelligence Safety and Stability

Nations around the world are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their military, intelligence, and other national security capabilities. Yet AI technology, at...

Commentaries

Sand in the Silicon: Designing an Outbound Investment Controls Mechanism

"Recent congressional efforts to establish new authorities to regulate outbound investment have revived a long-simmering debate in Washington about the economic and security risks associated with US investment in China. The stakes for rethinking the investment relationship between the United States and China are high. China is the world’s second-largest economy and second-largest destination for foreign investment, after the United States." Authors Emily Kilcrease and Sarah Bauerle Danzman argue that the U.S. government should mandate screening for all U.S. investments in Chinese semiconductor firms and establish authority to block or mitigate such investments. Prioritizing chips will also have benefits for other technology areas, such as artificial intelligence or quantum computing, which rely on advanced chips as key enabling technology.

A Solid Plan to Compete with China in Artificial Intelligence

"If the United States is to keep ahead of a rapidly gaining China in the field of artificial intelligence, it needs a concrete and comprehensive plan for action," write Megan Lamberth and Martijn Rasser in Defense One. "Such a plan is presented in the final report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, or NSCAI. Critically, this report is about more than AI. It is the opening salvo of a much-needed effort to create an overarching national strategy for technology, a whole-of-government effort to safeguard American technological leadership. Congress created the NSCAI three years ago to determine how the United States could develop AI and machine learning systems to address U.S. national security and defense needs. The Commission’s recommendations, and the urgency it conveys, are likely to shape the U.S. government’s AI strategy in the years to come, particularly within the Defense Department. The report makes clear that U.S. supremacy in AI is not a given, and that the government must act swiftly and effectively to harness the technology’s transformative power."

Energy, Economics & Security

Sand in the silicon: Designing an outbound investment controls mechanism

Recent congressional efforts to establish new authorities to regulate outbound investment have revived a long-simmering debate in Washington about the economic and security ri...

Technology & National Security

A Solid Plan to Compete with China in Artificial Intelligence

This report is about more than AI....

In the News

Featuring commentary from Paul Scharre, Emily Kilcrease, Martijn Rasser, Robert O. Work, Elsa Kania, and Samuel Bendett.

Technology & National Security

The True Cost Of Killer Drones

Is it better to have a person pull the trigger or is it OK to let computer algorithms choose between life and death? Paul Scharre joins Business Insider to discuss. Watch the...

Energy, Economics & Security

Biden Administration Clamps Down on China’s Access to Chip Technology

Technology experts said the rules appeared to impose the broadest export controls issued in a decade. While similar to the Trump administration’s crackdown on the telecom gian...

Technology & National Security

Western Suppliers Cut Ties with Chinese Chipmakers as U.S. Curbs Bite

It is common for Western companies to broadly suspend exports in the immediate wake of new U.S. restrictions, and then resume some later, once they decipher the rules, lawyers...

Technology & National Security

AI with military characteristics

What does AI mean for military might, and how are debates over autonomous weapons unfolding in diplomatic backchannels? Robert O. Work and Elsa Kania join FT innovation editor...

Technology & National Security

Explainer: Killer Drones Vie for Supremacy over Ukraine

According to the Ukrainian online publication Defense Express, which cites Iranian data, the delta-wing Shahed is 3.5 meters (11½ feet) long, 2.5 meters (8 feet, 3 inches) wid...

Technology & National Security

AI and the Future of War

AI safety is having a moment. To discuss why AI safety matters for national security, ChinaTalk speaks with Paul Scharre (@paulscharre), Vice President and Director of Studies...

About the Sharper Series

The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.

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