Artificial Intelligence and U.S: National strategic approach against future technological threats

Artificial Intelligence (AI): too many words revolve around this concept, but there is not still a standard definition to define its meaning and importance.

To start with, it is fundamental to understand what is generally meant by artificial intelligence.

In the broadest terms, the AI it is the ability of a technological system to sort out problems or perform tasks and activities typical of the human mind and ability. Looking at the IT sector, we could identify AI as the discipline that deals with machines (hardware and software) capable of taking actions autonomously.

Increasing trust in and adoption of AI are necessary ingredients for economic growth and the fuel for future innovations that can benefit society as a whole. Hence, it is a natural consequence how AI warrants attention from States and their Governments and why the White House has been particularly investing its resources in the AI Research and Development (R&D) since years.

AI is definitely inclined to metamorphose every industry and is forecasted to be impactful on every edge of the Department of Defense (DoD) in the long run. Through spanning operations, training, sustainment, force protection, recruiting and healthcare, the US are gaining an opportunity to sharpen the national security, enhance the affordability of military operations, ward citizens and shielding the allies.

According to the Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of USA, the strategic approach must consist in “anticipating the implications of new technologies on the battlefield, rigorously defining the military problems anticipated in future conflict and fostering a culture of experimentation and calculated risk-taking”.

Demonstrating constant attention to the topic, in May 10, 2018, the White House hosted the Artificial Intelligence for American Industry Summit to highlight the need of maintaining the United States leadership in the age of Artificial Intelligence and promise its engagement in AI R&D.

One month later, United States Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios led the American delegation to the G7 Innovation and Technology Ministerial. All G7 members agreed on adopting AI technologies in ways that advance security, peace, and stability via promoting education initiatives and public awareness of the benefits gained thanks to AI, including the respect for privacy as a fundamental value, complying with lawful frameworks for data protection and developing devices able to ensure the accountability of AI systems.

On the wake of these events, in 2018 the United States Department of Defense (DoD) articulated its approach and strategy for advancing the acquisition of AI-enabled capabilities to hone the efficiency of their missions and empower military with a view to the national security.

According to the Summary of the 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the initiatives launched by the Department concerned:

  • seizing AI impact through creating a common foundation of shared data, reusable tools and standards which enable decentralised development and experimentation;
  • focus on a leading AI workforce, by a risk-informed method towards AI implementation;
  • negotiating with academic, industry and international allies and partners to tackle the global challenges;
  • driving to military ethics and AI safety in accomplishment with laws and values.

To further seize upon the outstanding potential of AI technology, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) has been established in 2018 with the purpose to advance the American national security. Hence, the JAIC has rapidly become a jolly of the DoD strategy.

The Center has been meant to leverage the AI-enabled capabilities, balancing the imminent impact of AI within the Department and harmonising all the DoD AI activities.

In more detail, the JAIC accountabilities equalised the aforementioned DoD initiatives and additionally it held promise to pursue an AI policy, governance, safety and cybersecurity coordination and create a world-class AI team which planned new learning and training experiences in technology at all professional level.

The 2019 acted a landmark year for the United States when, on February 11, President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order 13859 to announce the USA AI Initiative. Key pillars of the Initiative were preserving and enhancing AI technology through a whole-of-government strategy in cooperation with private and public sectors, academia and international partners and allies. The most noteworthy detail is the hail for Federal agencies to rate AI research and development (R&D) investments as top priority along with ensuring an open door to high-quality cyberinfrastructure and Federal data.

In support of the American AI Initiative, the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence of The National Science&Technology Council (NSTC) followed up with the release of the National AI R&D Strategic Plan, which set the tone for the rest of the year.

This 2019 up-to-date document was required to supersede and refresh the first National AI R&D Strategic Plan spread in 2016, taking into account significant progresses and considerations which have arisen over the previous three years and ascertaining that Federal R&D investments continued on the forefront of the technological era.

Making an overview of the 2019 Plan, it reviewed and affirmed the persistent relevance of the original seven strategies brainstormed in the above-mentioned 2016 document and came up with a new eighth one. Particularly, these strategic objectives included:

  1. make long-term investments in AI research to further address the constant challenges of technology;
  2. progress effective methods for human-AI collaboration which needs a far-reaching understanding of the AI structure by the human user;
  3. identify and respect the ethical, legal and social involvement of AI in the next future;
  4. ensure a safe, secure and confidential use of AI systems by researchers;
  5. reduce barriers to the use of AI technologies and strengthen shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing;
  6. seize and evaluate AI technologies through proven standards: the more the Nation develops methods to evolve both AI abilities and security, the more it must test and assess them. Only if the method turns successful it can be hired as a world-wide standard;
  7. individualise the national AI R&D workforce lacks to lead the world in AI research and applications;
  8. increase partnerships between the Federal Government and academia, industry, and other non-Federal entities to achieve breakthroughs in AI.

One year later the launching of the US Artificial Intelligence Initiative, the Year One-Annual Report 2020 has reviewed the strategic objectives of the Initiative and stressed the tremendous need to prioritize AI R&D investments and international engagement.

In light of this, it is evident that there are several factors displaying a reticence by American companies to invest in the research needed to make fundamental breakthroughs and underspin the battlefield disputed with Chinese and Russian superpowers.

A lack of investments in the technological research might be translated in a lack of breakthroughs and it would certainly put China and Russia in an excellent position to threaten and overtake the US alleged advances. Not by chance, China and Russia are making significant investments in AI for military purposes and it undoubtedly shows up how both superpowers are strong-willed to achieve a leadership in the AI field.

It is not a new that the US bear the marks of a long-standing race and the Artificial Intelligence risks to appear as a new scapegoat to maintain its strategic position and prevail on future battlefields.

From our partner International Affairs

Cristina Semeraro
Cristina Semeraro
Analyst – Vision & Global Trends. International Institute for Global Analyses