China is eroding America’s military superiority and conventional deterrence through the integration of artificial intelligence systems in its military strategies, operations, and capabilities, an independent US federal commission warned, adding that the United States needs to step up investment in the technology and apply it to national security missions, the Epoch Times online reported.
The commission says these institutes are equivalent to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) —a US agency under the Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for military use.
The commission further states military applications of AI technologies are being developed by Chinese researchers in the areas of “swarming, decision support, and information operations,” while the country’s defense industry is pursuing the development of “increasingly autonomous weapons systems,” an interim report released by The National Security Commission on AI said on Nov. 4.
China declared it would be the world leader in AI by 2030, part of its broader strategy to challenge America’s military and economic position in Asia, as Beijing also pursues a process of “intelligentization” as a new imperative of its military modernization — a brilliant strategy that clearly has the Pentagon worried.
The commission’s members described China as “our most serious strategic competitor” in their preface. It is clear that China is also making an “active effort” to recruit global AI talent, and, to convince Chinese nationals working abroad to return to their home country.
Ironically, as the AI race between Washington and Beijing escalates, experts told The Epoch Times that the US still holds the advantage. However, commission members said America’s leadership in AI “may be at risk sooner” than thought and said that a loss of this position would translate to US military and intelligence agencies lagging behind with out-of-date systems.
Ray Walsh, VPN expert at ProPrivacy.com and a top authority in the field, told The Epoch Times that AI in warfare is best understood in two separate categories: decision-making systems that run trial-and-error simulations of potential confrontation scenarios to produce tactical solutions, and lethal autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots.”
He said the potential for swarms of armed drones to engage in battle is a “new form of warfare” that could save lives instead of deploying soldiers, though he said the potential for mass casualties could become an emerging humanitarian concern. Walsh said the CCP is encouraging its army to work closely with startups in the private sector and with universities to advance these technologies, the Epoch Times reported.
“China sees AI as an opportunity to close the gap between itself and global war machines like the US,” Walsh said. “Leveraging AI, battlefield combat can be reduced to automated decisions produced via simulated environments giving military commanders newfound capabilities to create successful results.”
Dr. Robert J. Bunker, adjunct research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, told The Epoch Times that Beijing has a “massive regime-backed effort going into AI,” describing the technology as key in the 21st century. He said the regime is using the technology to increase its comprehensive national power as part of the great power competition taking place.
“My understanding is that the US lead in AI is quickly eroding over time,” Bunker said via email.
“While we have better computer scientists and engineers in the field and more cutting edge companies engaged in R&D (such as Google), China has far better access to massive datasets and informational resources gleaned from such platforms as WeChat that has 1 billion users.
“China is literally ‘vacuuming up’ immense amounts of data — this represents the digital nourishment that AI learns and evolves from.”
AI weapons are a concern because they’re capable of independent decision making, analysis, and target diagnosis, and can create an ability to wage war without human involvement, Walsh said.
Asia Times attended a US Army roundtable at AUSA 2019 in Washington, D.C., last month, and at that meeting, US generals discussed the implications of AI weapons on the battlefield.
While the discussion did not touch on if such AI weapons should be used, or their moral implication, it did discuss how much leeway these weapons be given on the battlefield, in order to protect US forces in the field, the Epoch Times reported.
It also discussed the issue of whether AI weapons should be retrieved, or deemed expendable — an extension of the “no man left behind” credo.
It is clear that the US has similar intentions as it considers advanced weapons systems and their integration into mutli-domain operations. Both sides, including the Russians, are investing in “Artificial Intelligence” warfare, or so-called “algorithmic warfare.”
The commission report stresses that long-term strategic implications to implement AI technologies for military applications may be “even greater than the impact on any specific military task,” citing the speed of decision-making and accuracy of AI compared to humans.
“(The) battlefield advantage will shift to those with superior data, connectivity, compute power, algorithms, and overall system security,” the report said. “Reaching such a future will require the development of new operational concepts, organizational constructs, and decision-makers at all levels trained to understand AI and its associated technologies.”