Pentagon won’t pause AI development despite warnings
The U.S. is locked in an AI “arms race” with Russia and China
The Pentagon has rebuffed concerns expressed by leading scientists about the potential dangers posed by artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
American military planners see themselves locked in an arms race for AI hegemony over Russia and China, and want to press forward with its development despite scientists’ warnings.
The online magazine C4ISRNET reported this week that Pentagon Chief Information Officer John Sherman said that the U.S. public and private sectors cannot afford to pause their pursuits of artificial intelligence, as some have called for, amid an international race for technological supremacy.
“I’ve said this in other venues, and I’m going to say it here today, that I know some have advocated for taking a knee for six months,” Sherman said. “No. Not at the Department of Defense, not the intelligence community.”
PeaceQuest recounted how University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton, 75, said some of the dangers of AI chatbots were “quite scary.” In a New York Times article, Hinton referred to “bad actors” who would try to use AI for “bad things.”
An open letter which he signed in March along with other experts including Elon Musk, warned, “recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”
But the Pentagon is undaunted. At least 685 AI-related projects were underway at the Pentagon as of early 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office, a U.S. federal watchdog. They include several tied to major weapons systems.
“One thing we take pride in — the United States, working with our allies — is to be responsible in how we apply AI and develop it. Not in ways that you see in China and Russia and elsewhere,” Sherman said. “We can do this, and create decision advantage for our warfighters, correctly with our democratic values.”
In Canada, Nobel Prize laureate Dr. John Polanyi praised his colleague Geoffrey Hinton and urged Canadians to heed his warning. “We owe a debt to those who, like him, give timely warning of danger…” he wrote in the Globe and Mail, comparing Hinton to scientists who raised the alarm of nuclear weapons in 1945. “Our future depends on the willingness of the informed among us to share their concerns.”