AI requires ‘new generation’ of arms control deal to govern future warfighting, says Marine veteran lawmaker

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A Marine veteran lawmaker says the U.S. should be pushing for a new international agreement to govern the use of artificial intelligence on the battlefield and believes it’s a ‘strategic mistake’ the Pentagon hasn’t started this important task.

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., said the U.S. needs to work with other military powers to flesh out rules of the road on how AI can and cannot be deployed by military forces before AI becomes much more advanced.

‘When we get to the point of having killer robots, it’s going to be a real problem for us if we don’t have some established international norms for their use,’ Moulton told Fox News Digital. 

‘Adversaries like China and Russia — which don’t care about collateral damage, they don’t care about civilian casualties, they don’t care about human rights — they’re going to have an advantage in making their robots more lethal because they’ll be less constrained.’

Moulton said that’s why a ‘new generation of arms control’ is needed and warned the U.S. is already behind the curve by not pressing for a new international agreement.

‘It doesn’t feel like we’re even working on one, and I think that’s a strategic mistake,’ he said. ‘I think it’s just going to put us at a strategic disadvantage if we don’t.

‘The U.S. stands to lose a strategic advantage if we don’t establish some norms and agreements before everybody’s AI gets a lot better.’

Moulton said that while history has shown that countries will cheat on the edges of international agreements, it’s still better to have a deal place that deals with AI.

‘Look at the Geneva Conventions. It’s not like no one’s ever violated the Geneva Conventions, but they’ve helped a lot,’ he said. ‘So, you’re not looking for the perfect to be the enemy of the good here.’

Moulton’s comments reflect the growing worry that China in particular is more likely to aggressively deploy AI in military and civilian settings and won’t be governed by the same set of ethics found in Western nations.

In the U.S., for example, Pentagon officials have said they are looking to use AI to help sift through mountains of data to help military commanders make better decisions but have no interest in setting up a system in which AI would make military decisions on its own.

Moulton said he believes that is America’s view of AI but has doubts about other nations.

‘I trust that that’s America’s position, I don’t trust that that’s China or Russia’s position,’ he said.

Moulton last week asked U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to report back to Congress on how he sees the Marines using AI, and Berger said he would do so shortly. Moulton believes there are several ways AI can be used to help the Marines do their job.

‘If there are dangerous jobs that robots or computers can do that don’t risk the lives of young Marines, then that’s an obvious advantage,’ he said. ‘If you’ve got Marine platoons distributed out on Pacific islands as a China deterrent, how do you push that data down to the platoon level in a way that actually makes a difference in that platoon’s capability and survivability?’

He predicted that AI assessments would eventually be directed to Marine platoons and even individual Marines to help them make better decisions that will generate a significant advantage for whichever country adopts the technology first.

‘AI is going to be absolutely down to the individual Marine level, and we’ve got to figure it out before our adversaries do,’ he said.

Moulton was part of the Future of Defense Task Force that released a report in 2020 on how to anticipate technological changes that will affect the military over the next few decades and said incorporating AI was a recommendation that report made.

‘That, of course, has not been adopted by the Department of Defense, and so programs are piecemeal … as opposed to really launching headlong into it and seeing how we can use AI to better protect the warfighter and to win our wars,’ he said.

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