The Pentagon’s plan to develop “responsible military AI”

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A few days ago the Pentagon published a document of 47 pages to describe its strategy which consists in implement a “responsible military artificial intelligence”. The Department of Defense is looking for a way to integrate AI into the military without turning the world into a Terminator-like hellscape.

China in the sights of the United States

This document entitled Responsible Pathway to AI Development and Acceleration gives more details on how the Pentagon intends to use artificial intelligence in the context of armed conflicts. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks defends the military’s use of artificial intelligence. She claims that opponents of the United States have increased their investments in AI in a way that “threatens global security, peace, and stability”. The Pentagon wants to respond to this threat by increasing investments at the national level. Without ever naming any country, we understand that the Pentagon is talking about China.

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Beijing has actually increased its investments in the development of military artificial intelligence and this is one of the main motivations for the intensification of military applications of “responsible” artificial intelligence in the United States. Hicks specifies that “To maintain our military edge in a digitally competitive world, the United States Department of Defense must embrace AI technologies to keep pace with these evolving threats. Harnessing new technologies in a legal, ethical, responsible, and accountable manner is at the heart of our strategy”.

The Pentagon seeks to earn the trust of the military and citizens

In general, these new directives are intended to ” Gain someone’s trust “ soldiers and the general public. The document defines this trust as the “desired end state” which will allow it to continue to move forward with new AI technologies. In particular, we can read that “Confidence in AI will allow the Pentagon to modernize its combat capability across a range of applications taking into account the needs of the military”. The Department of Defense knows full well that without this trust, fighters and leaders will not use AI effectively and the American people will not support the use and adoption of this technology.

A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult revealed that the opinion of the Americans was rather mixed on the position of the army in terms of AI. 26% of adults said they think the US military is more advanced than China on the subject and 29% think the US is less advanced. Anyway, with this new plan, the Pentagon emphasizes the importance of maintaining an approach “human-first”. That is to say that the human operator must retain the decision-making role with artificial intelligence. Hicks says AI-powered military applications will need to align with American values. A phrase is both reassuring and ambiguous.