Eric Schmidt speaks during a conference of the National Security Commission for Artificial Intelligence on November 5, 2019 in Washington
Alex Wong | Getty Images
According to a group of experts chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the US is drastically ill-prepared for the age of artificial intelligence.
The National Security Commission on AI warned in a 756-page report Monday that China could soon overtake the US as the world’s “AI superpower”, saying that there are serious military implications to consider.
“America is not ready to defend or compete in the AI era,” wrote Schmidt and vice-chairman Bob Work, who was previously assistant secretary of defense. “This is the difficult reality that we have to face.”
The commission began its review in March 2019 and this is its final report for the President and Congress. The commission’s 15 members include technologists, national security experts, senior executives and academic leaders. Among them are Andy Jassy, the next CEO of Amazon, Safra Catz, Oracle CEO, Eric Horvitz, Chief Scientific Officer of Microsoft, and Andrew Moore, Chief of Google Cloud AI.
Schmidt and Work said the report outlines a “strategy to defend against AI threats, responsibly use AI for national security, and win broader technology competition for our prosperity, security and wellbeing.”
AI to go beyond sci-fi
They warn that AI systems are used for the “pursuit of power” and that “AI will not stay in the realm of superpowers or science fiction”.
The report urges President Joe Biden to reject calls for a global ban on highly controversial AI-powered autonomous weapons. China and Russia are unlikely to abide by any treaty they have signed.
“Without ubiquitous AI capabilities and new paradigms of warfare, we will not be able to defend ourselves against AI-enabled threats,” wrote Schmidt and Work.
Thousands of AI researchers and computer scientists have signed an open letter published in 2015 calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.
“AI technology has reached a point where such systems can be deployed – practically, if not legally – in years rather than decades, and a lot is at stake: autonomous weapons became the third revolution after gunpowder and nuclear weapons described in warfare, “reads the letter, which was also signed by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, and Stephen Hawking, the late scientist.
Toby Walsh, a professor of AI at the University of Sydney, told CNBC that the dangers had only “gotten closer and more serious” since the letter was published. “Autonomous weapons need to be regulated,” he said.
The Future of Life Institute, a not-for-profit research institute in Boston, Massachusetts, said last month there are many positive military uses for AI, but “transferring life and death decisions to autonomous weapon systems is not one of them.”
The institute suggested that autonomous drones could be used for reconnaissance missions to avoid endangering troops, while AI could also be used to power defensive anti-missile cannons that detect, target and destroy incoming threats without human command. “Neither application includes a machine that selects and attacks people without an operator having the green light,” it said.
Machine learning engineer Michael Lavelle told CNBC that there must be an international ban on AI decision-making weapons, similar to the chemical weapons convention.
Samim Wagner, an AI researcher in Berlin, sees things differently and tells CNBC that AI weapons and killer robots will make today’s weapons even more deadly.
“”[Adopting AI weapons] is brutal madness and everyone knows it, but think tank staff from DC to Beijing keep telling us that it is ‘progress and necessary’. “
He added, “A real discussion of how AI can help promote peace around the world is really needed – but you certainly won’t find it on the agenda of Pentagon employees or intelligence billionaires like Eric Schmidts of the World.” “
China has stated that it wants to be the world leader in AI by 2030. The report’s authors said it was important that the US do everything possible to rule out the likelihood of this event.
“We have to win the AI competition, which intensifies strategic competition with China,” said Schmidt and Work. “China’s plans, resources, and progress should affect all Americans. We take seriously China’s ambition to outperform the United States as the world’s AI leader in a decade.”
They added that China’s domestic use of AI “is a terrifying precedent for anyone around the world who values individual freedom”.
The commission calls on the U.S. government to more than double its spending on AI research and development to $ 32 billion a year by 2026.
It is also proposed that a new body be established to help the President lead US’s broader AI policy, relax immigration laws for talented AI professionals, create a new university to train digitally skilled civil servants, and launch to accelerate new technologies by US intelligence agencies.
The report also warns that the US must do more to make itself dependent on computer chips and warns of the dangers of such reliance on Taiwan’s TSMC.
“Microelectronics drives all AI, and the US no longer makes the most modern chips in the world,” wrote Schmidt and Work. “Given that the vast majority of state-of-the-art chips are made in a single facility just 110 miles water from our main strategic competitor, we need to reassess the importance of supply chain resilience and security.”