US DoD Adopts Ethical AI Principles

The US Department of Defense announced yesterday that it has adopted a series of ethical principles regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Designed to build on the US military’s existing ethics framework, which is based on the US Constitution, Title 10 of the US Code, Law of War, existing international treaties, and longstanding norms and values, the principles will apply to both combat and non-combat functions.

Embracing high-level ethical goals, the principles state that AI should only be used by the DoD in a way that is responsible, suitable, traceable, reliable, and governable.

Under the new principles, DoD personnel will be expected to "exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care, while remaining responsible for the development, deployment, and use of AI capabilities," and "take deliberate steps to minimize unintended bias in AI capabilities," according to a statement released yesterday by the DoD.

The principles are based on a set of guidelines on the ethical use of AI published in November 2019 by the Defense Innovation Board. These guidelines—the result of 15 months of consultation with leading AI experts in commercial industry, government, academia, and the American public—were first provided to Secretary of Defense Dr Mark Esper in October. 

"The United States, together with our allies and partners, must accelerate the adoption of AI and lead in its national security applications to maintain our strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard the rules-based international order," said Secretary Esper. 

"AI technology will change much about the battlefield of the future, but nothing will change America's steadfast commitment to responsible and lawful behavior. The adoption of AI ethical principles will enhance the department's commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards as outlined in the DOD AI Strategy, while embracing the US military's strong history of applying rigorous testing and fielding standards for technology innovations."

The principles align with efforts by the Trump administration to advance AI technologies. Last year, President Donald Trump launched the American AI Initiative, a national strategy for leadership in artificial intelligence. The initiative aims to discover and promote innovative uses for AI while protecting civil liberties, privacy, and American values.

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