Artificial intelligence is — without a doubt — the next frontier, and the U.S. military is grappling with how to ensure its ethical use, particularly in times of war.
One U.S. Air Force general asserted late last week the United States is better positioned than other countries to use AI ethically, because of the nation’s “Judeo-Christian” roots.
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Three-star Lt. Gen. Richard G. Moore made the comments during a Hudson Institute event last Thursday, when he was asked for the Pentagon’s position on autonomous warfare.
“Regardless of what your beliefs are, our society is a Judeo-Christian society, and we have a moral compass; not everybody does,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “And there are those that are willing to go for the ends, regardless of what means have to be employed.”
The use of AI in the future, the general explained, depends on “who plays by the rules of warfare and who doesn’t,” adding, “There are societies that have a very different foundation than ours.”
Moore, who serves as deputy chief of staff for plans and programs for the Air Force, did not expressly name a country he believes has the potential to ignore AI military ethics. However, the event’s overall focus seemed centered broadly on U.S. relations with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
“The United States military has long been the most capable force in these operations,” read a description of the July 20 event. “But China is an improving and capable adversary, and Russia, Iran, and North Korea employ state-sponsored cyberattacks as a tool for gray-zone aggression. Retaining the US edge in information warfare demands sustained investment and creativity.”
You can watch the entire forum in the video below:
Moore has faced some criticism for his comments.
One expert, Alex London, a professor of ethics and computational technologies at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “There’s a lot of work in the ethics space that’s not tied to any religious perspective, that focuses on the importance of valuing human welfare, human autonomy, having social systems that are just and fair.”
Another expert, Mark Metcalf, a lecturer at the University of Virginia and retired U.S. naval officer, said it’s difficult to compare ethics between countries like the U.S. and China, because the histories of the two countries differ significantly.
While ethics in the United States, he said, is rooted in the writings of people like Augustine of Hippo, who had “a very theistic point of view,” Chinese ethical thought is based on “Marxism and Leninism, and the [Communist Party] guides what the ethics is,” which, of course, could bring about very different results.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Moore, for his part, said he was making the point that the U.S. would not act on AI-based information unless it aligns with American ethical values.
“The foundation of my comments was to explain that the Air Force is not going to allow AI to take actions, nor are we going to take actions on information provided by AI unless we can ensure that the information is in accordance with our values,” he said. “While this may not be unique to our society, it is not anticipated to be the position of any potential adversary.”
The U.S. Department of Defense has a religious liberty policy, which states service members “have the right to observe the tenets of their religion, or to observe no religion at all.”
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