National Security Commission Says U.S. Is LOSING Artifical Intelligence Arms Race Allowing Rival Countries To Spy On Americans And Erode ‘Individual Liberties & Privacy’
The title above comes from Stacy Liberatore’s November 7, 2019 article in the DailyMail.com. She notes that The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI), in a newly published interim report (artificialintellreport), concludes that Russia and China are ahead of the U.S. in utilizing AI in their military operations and equipment. The report urges the Pentagon to
“develop AI-powered security and defense technologies; before the U.S. falls victim to increased cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns, and the erosion of privacy and civil liberties.”
The interim report was released on Tuesday, with the final report expected to be out in the spring of 2020.
“We are concerned that America’s role in the world as the leading innovator is threatened,” wrote Commission Chair Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, and Commission Vice Chair and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work. “We know strategic competitiors are investing in [AI] research and applications. It is only reasonable to conclude that AI-enabled capabilities could be used to threaten our critical infrastructure, amplify disinformation campaigns, and wage war.”
“China, which the report names as the ‘most strategic competitor,’ has declared its mission [strategic intent] to become the world leader in AI by 2020,” Ms. Liberatore wrote. China has pledged to spend $150B from now till 2030, underscoring the importance that China and President Xi have placed on becoming the dominant AI player on the world stage.
The report also highlights how China is utilizing this new technology to increase its surveillance and monitoring of its population in its efforts to “build a dsytopian surveillance state, creating a social credit system that assigns people to a ‘blacklist’ based on who they communicate with, where they travel, what they buy, and how they use their mobile phones.”
“While China is primarilly using AI to infiltrate data bases and conduct intrusive surveillance of their population, Russia is using AI to develop new military weapons,” Ms. Liberatore wrote. “Russia has already fielded [AI-enabled] robotic [military] vehicles [drones, etc.], with autonomous features, without evident regard for ethical considerations,” the report concludes. “It will almost certainly use AI to accelerate its efforts to violate the sovereignty of other states using hybrid warfare.”
The report also highlights steps that the U.S. Government and the Defense Department can take to maintain its technological and innovatie edge with respect to AI, such as: “Investing in AI research and development (R&D), marshalling global AI corporations, and build AI partnerships with other like-minded nations.”
We May Need A ‘Sputnik’ Type Of Wake-Up Call On AI — But, It May Not Come Till It Is Too Late
There is no question that America must not lose the AI race — it is way too important, economically and militarily. Whether we need a Manhattan Project-like effort is a question I cannot answer. But, there is no question that China sees the national security implications of AI; and, Beijing is making a very aggressive and ambitious push to become the world’s AI alpha male. Much as the U.S.’s pursuit of an atomic bomb was not without peer competitors — likewise, while the U.S. is likely the leader in the militarization of AI for nowm we are not lacking in competition; and, it is not a given that the U.S. will win in the end. The United States has always emphasized technological superiority as a major key to protecting the homeland and our allies; and most importantly, using technological and capability surprise to win on the battlefield; and, ultimately defeat any and all adversaries. If there is one area that is ripe for strategic and capability surprise, AI would be the poster child. And what alarms me a great deal is the fact that a lot of our very talented young who are working in the private sector — and at the leading edge of AI R&D — want nothing to fo with the U.S. miltary. Corporate America was a difference maker in WWII. We seem to have lost a great deal of that most critical partnership — to our detriment.
Just how far China’s AI efforts have progressed, is a matter of debate; and, depending on who you ask — China is either mimicking what the U.S. does — or, is beginning to establish itself as a potential Pier 1 competitor in this field. The truth, is probably somewhere in between.
Andrew Ng, who founded and led Google Brain and former Vice President and Chief Scientist at Biadu, said “the United States may be too myopic and self-confident to understand [and fully appreciate] the speed of the Chinese competition,” in the AI domain. “There are many occasions of something being simultaneously invented in China, or elsewhere, or being invented first in China; and then later, making it overseas,” he added. “But then, the U.S. media reports only on the U.S. version. This leads to a misperception [and hubris] of those ideas having first been invented in the United States.”
The warning that both China and Russia, among others, are making substantial gains in the AI domain isn’t new; but, whether the U.S. has a well thought out, comprehensive, and holistic strategy remains elusive. In August 2016, the Defense Science Board (DSB) published a study on the state of AI — with respect to our adversaries and near peers. The comprehensive study issued a clarion call to the DoD and the U.S. national security establishment: The DSB concluded that “Immediate Action is required to counter enemy AI,” which is advancing faster than many expected, or appreciate.
To counter this emerging threat, the DSB recommended that: The Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) raise the priority of intelligence collection and analysis for foreign autonomous systems. Additionally, the DSB recommended that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, USD(AT&L) gather together a community of researchers to run tests, and scenarios — to discover counter-autonomy technologies,m surrogates, and solutions.” How much progress, if any, the Pentagon has made in their AI efforts since this DSB report was published is probably not much/disappointing. But, I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.
Artificial Intelligence And The Future Of War
There are few subjects that can stir the imagination more so than AI. Almost everyday, there are articles by very bright people — who peer into the future and see AI and its use in vastly different scenarios. Notable visionaries such as billionaire Elon Musk and legendary theoretical physicist and cosmologist Dr. Stephen Hawking have been ‘pounding the table,’ and warning that “autonomous weapons will become the Kalishnikovs of tomorrow,” in reference to the Soviet AK-47 automatic rifle which has become the most popular and prolific assault rifle of all time. Others see a potential “terminator,” or something akin to the Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s film classic — “2001: A Space Odyssey,” where the computer/AI robot Hal — takes over the spacecraft and ‘kills’ one astronaut and nearly a second.
On the other side of the argument from Musk and the late Stephen Hawking, are individuals like Andrew Ng, “worrying about killer robots is like worrying about over-population on Mars.” In other words, those who are sounding the clarion call on AI’s potential threat — are over-estimating, and over-hyping the threat that AI can and will pose in the not too distant future on the ‘fields of battle.’
Somewhere in between these two views is where the truth and AI’s future probably lay; but, there is no doubt that AI is one of those domains where capability and strategic surprise are lurking.
I have questioned in this blog many times — about what the adversary and near-peers were doing in this area. Are we the world’s AI leader? If so, by how much? If not, who is in the lead? What are the trends showing? Is there any indication or evidence that Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, etc., have a Manhattan-type project underway in an attempt to leap-ahead of everyone else? How soon do we think that AI will have more than a minimal role in future combat? How could the Islamic States of the future and the darker angels of our nature use AI in ways we cannot presently envision or understand? Could AI become the ‘nuclear weapon’ of the 2030’s/2040s, or sooner?
And perhaps most importantly — does it matter if China does pass us? Is this domain the equivalent of developing and using the atomic bomb in 1945? I I do not know if we actually are confident in the answers we do have, much less the ones we don’t. V/R, RCP