The US, China and other nations are calling for “responsible” use of military AI

By Toby Sterling

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – More than 60 countries, including the United States and China, signed a modest “call to action” on Thursday endorsing the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the military.

Human rights experts and academics noted that the declaration was not legally binding and did not address concerns such as AI-controlled drones, “battle bots” that could kill without human intervention, or the risk that an AI could escalate a military conflict.

However, the statement was a tangible outcome of the first international summit on military AI co-hosted by the Netherlands and South Korea in The Hague this week.

The signers said they are committed to developing and deploying military AI in accordance with “obligations under international law and in a manner that does not undermine international security, stability and accountability.”

The conference comes as interest in AI is at an all-time high thanks to the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT program and Ukraine’s use of facial recognition and AI-assisted targeting systems in its battle with Russia.

Organizers did not invite Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation.” Ukraine did not participate.

Israel attended the conference but did not sign the declaration.

US Undersecretary for Arms Control Bonnie Jenkins has proposed a US framework for the responsible use of AI in the military.

The US and other powerful countries have been reluctant to agree to legal restrictions on the use of AI for fear it could put them at a disadvantage over competitors.

“We want to emphasize that we are open to working with any country that is interested in joining us,” Jenkins said.

The US proposal said AI weapons systems should incorporate “an appropriate level of human judgment,” in line with updated lethal autonomous weapons guidance issued by the Department of Defense last month.

Human Rights Watch called on the US to define “appropriately” and not “tinker with political statements” but start negotiating internationally binding laws.

Chinese representative Jian Tan said at the summit that countries should “oppose the pursuit of absolute military advantage and hegemony through AI” and work through the United Nations.

Jessica Dorsey, assistant professor of international law at Utrecht University, said the US proposal was a “missed opportunity” for leadership and that the summit declaration was too weak.

“It paves the way for states to develop AI for military use in any way they see fit, as long as they can say it’s ‘responsible,'” she said. “Where is the enforcement mechanism?”

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Bernadette Baum)


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