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13 Feb, 2019 10:11

Pentagon’s 1st AI strategy vows to keep pace with Russia & China, wants help from tech

Pentagon’s 1st AI strategy vows to keep pace with Russia & China, wants help from tech

The Pentagon has issued its first AI strategy, where it pleads with tech giants to help boost military capabilities and catch up with Russia and China in developing artificial intelligence for military purposes.

An unclassified summary of the strategy calls to rapidly incorporate AI technologies into the military’s decision-making and operations “to reduce risk to fielded forces and generate military advantage.” Also, the Pentagon’s strategists believe AI “can help us better maintain our equipment, reduce operational costs, and improve readiness.”

The 17-page paper is loose in wording and full of lengthy sentences hailing the US military’s reliance on innovation. Working your way through it won’t help you to get a know-how of building a terminator or the like. Joking aside, one part of it does provide a few tip-offs about what the strategy is actually aimed at.

Other nations, particularly China and Russia, are making significant investments in AI for military purposes.

In an almost ‘usual’ style of bashing, the Pentagon says that Beijing and Moscow “threaten to erode our technological and operational advantages and destabilize the free and open international order.”

Therefore the US and its allies must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard this order. The latter phrase doesn’t sound new as the paper went public only a day after Donald Trump directed US agencies to speed up research and development of artificial intelligence.

Trump’s executive order urges to preserve “continued American leadership” in the high-tech sector and warns the US is falling behind its strategic rivals in the race for AI supremacy.

Notably, The DoD’s plan heavily relies on a helping hand from the American tech industry to source the algorithms and computing power necessary to run AI projects. “We will enhance partnerships with US industry to align civilian AI leadership with defense challenges,” it says.

Some tech giants have already been ‘flirting’ with the military, among them Microsoft and Amazon. The former had already promised to hand over its expertise to honorable and ethical US armed forces, while the latter tried to beat the drum of patriotism with CEO Jeff Bezos calling America a great country which “needs to be defended.”

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The hunt for cutting-edge AI technologies didn’t come without setbacks. Microsoft’s own employees demanded that the company have “fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable” AI policy and dropped the race for “short-term profits.”

Another big tech firm, Google, dropped its bid from the JEDI program last year, which sought to install commercially available cloud computing services into military applications. The company has also witnessed a massive outcry from its employees against Project Maven, intended to use AI for drone target acquisition systems.

Some industry captains sounded the alarm over a looming machine takeover. Alibaba's founder Jack Ma has warned that the race for AI dominance could stir up a third world war. In 2017, a group of experts teamed up to issue a chilling warning to the countries all over the globe, calling to “stand against weaponizing AI.” 

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