Current and former European leaders gathered at the Munich Security Conference to warn that NATO is unprepared for AI warfare.
AI is set to revolutionise many industries and will bring a range of benefits to citizens and businesses around the world. Concerns about job losses have been prevalent, but AI’s inevitable use in a military capacity has been less discussed.
Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, believes there is a 50 percent chance an AI system capable of launching a lethal attack will be created by the middle of this century. Despite some calls, there is no current international law to deter such a system from being developed.
Kaljulaid is calling for such boundaries to be established for areas such as the acceptable use of AI in combat scenarios. Where it’s suspected these boundaries have been crossed, then — similar to nuclear non-proliferation treaties — the international community should have the right to carry out inspections.
One standard being advocated by former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is that AI can be used to enhance capabilities, but it must always involve human beings.
Rasmussen highlights three options:
- Humans can always be in charge.
- Humans can be in a supervisory role, and able to intervene.
- Humans can leave the control up to the system.
“I’m in favour of trying to introduce legally binding [standards] that will prevent production and use of these kinds of autonomous lethal weapons,” says Rasmussen.
The international community needs to ensure these calls turn into actual laws before there’s a disaster prompting them.
When an unprecedented cyber attack was launched against Ukraine last year, NATO finally warned that it could trigger Article 5 which prompts a collective response. Just this week, the White House followed the British and Danish governments in blaming Russia for the attack.
According to Rasmussen, NATO practices ambiguity when it comes to its red lines. The idea is that if a potential threat doesn’t know where the line is, they won’t attempt to push their luck.
Defense chiefs are concerned about NATO being weakened. Within Europe, only the UK has consistently met its budget commitments. President Donald Trump has warned the U.S. will not continue to offer protection if other NATO members do not meet their obligations.
Trump has since reiterated the U.S.’ commitment to NATO. However, the European Union is currently under fire by the U.S. for its new PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) defense agreement — which is accused of being protectionist and undermining NATO.
More than any time in recent history, coalitions like NATO must not be consumed by in-fighting and take a lead role in ensuring AI is only used to benefit mankind, not destroy it.
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