Artificial Intelligence: Critical Tool for National Security

The man behind Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and, interestingly enough, OpenAI, has warned that “AI [Artificial Intelligence] is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization.” While some think Elon Musk’s warnings are simply hype, the advancements of AI and machine learning are already changing our world. In 2011, IBM’s “Watson” defeated a 74-game winning Jeopardy game-show champion. Though winning games is seemingly inconsequential, these were both big steps forward in AI. Another big step took place in early 2016 when Google’s AI defeated grandmaster Lee Sedol at Go, “a 2,500-year-old game that’s exponentially more complex than chess and requires, at least among humans, an added degree of intuition.” These are just two examples where advances in Artificial Intelligence greatly exceeded expectations, and caused some to fear a scenario of killer robots or “AI gone rogue.”

In their report, Artificial Intelligence and National Security, researchers at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard College studied past cases where technological advancements altered the thinking or behavior of the military. Specifically, they looked at the areas of nuclear, aerospace, cyber, and biotech, and how those changes were used to gain military, information, or economic superiority.

Viewing the events through this lens, they returned five lessons learned.

Lesson #1: Radical technological change begets radical government policy ideas

Lesson #2: Arms races are sometimes unavoidable, but they can be managed

Lesson #3: Government must both promote and restrain commercial activity

Lesson #4: Government must formalize goals for technology safety and provide adequate resources

Lesson #5: As technology changes, so does the United States’ National Interest

Applying those lessons, the researchers estimated the impact of Artificial Intelligence in those three key areas.

For military superiority, progress in AI will both enable new capabilities and make existing capabilities affordable to a broader range of actors.

For information superiority, AI will dramatically enhance capabilities for the collection and analysis of data, and also the creation of data.

For economic superiority, we find that advances in AI could result in a new industrial revolution.

The report goes on to include 11 recommendations for the US government in order to safely usher into the era of Artificial Intelligence. Those recommendations fall under three categories:

Preserve U.S. Technological leadership

Support Peaceful use of the technology

Manage catastrophic risks

Access the full report here on the HSDL. Non-registered members may access the report here.