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AI and National Security

Context: China’s ruling Communist Party has warned of the risks posed by advances in artificial intelligence while calling for heightened national security measures.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

  • AI is the branch of computer science concerned with developing machines that can complete tasks that typically require human intelligence. 
  • The goals of artificial intelligence include computer-enhanced learning, reasoning, and perception. 
  • Artificial intelligence is based on the principle that human intelligence can be defined in a way that a machine can easily mimic it and execute tasks, from the simplest to those that are even more complex.
How Artificial Intelligence works
How Artificial Intelligence works

Some Applications of AI

  • Healthcare: It aims to improve patient outcomes and reducing costs. Companies are applying machine learning to make better and faster medical diagnoses than humans.
    • One of the best-known healthcare technologies is IBM Watson which understands natural language and can respond to questions asked from it.
    • Other AI applications include using online virtual health assistants and chatbots to help patients and healthcare customers find medical information, schedule appointments etc.
  • Business: Machine learning algorithms are being integrated into analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to uncover information on how to better serve customers.
    • Chatbots have been incorporated into websites to provide immediate service to customers.
  •  Education: In classrooms and training centers, AI-powered adaptive learning tailors educational content to each student’s needs, while plagiarism detection ensures academic integrity.
    • Teachers and trainers can even leverage data analytics to predict student performance so they can intervene early if they spot problems.
    • AI has also played a significant role in democratizing access to education, especially for those in remote or underprivileged areas.
  • Agriculture: Farmers and scientists are using AI to monitor crops, predict yields and check pests. AI-enabled precision farming helps farmers make data-driven decisions so they can optimize irrigation, improve fertilization and reduce waste.
  • Security: Law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity firms can use AI for facial recognition, surveillance and threat detection. These technologies enhance public safety and combat cybercrime by identifying and neutralizing potential threats in real time.
  • Space Exploration: Scientists are already using AI for spacecraft navigation, satellite imaging, mission planning and identifying new astronomical phenomena.

Advantages and Disadvantages of AI

Advantages and Disadvantages of AI
Advantages and Disadvantages of AI

Significance of Artificial Intelligence in National Security

  • Target Recognition: Artificial intelligence can aid in making target recognition more accurate in combat environments.  AI can improve the ability for systems like this to identify the position of their targets.
    • AI can also allow defense forces to acquire a detailed understanding of an operation area by examining reports, documents, news, and other forms of information, aggregating and analyzing these sources much more quickly than humans would be able to do so.
  • Threat Monitoring: Threat monitoring, as well as situation awareness uses operations that gain and analyze information to aid in many different military activities.
    •  There are unmanned systems that can be remotely controlled or sent on a pre-calculated route.
    • These systems use AI to aid defense personnel in monitoring threats, and thus leveraging their situational awareness.
    • Drones with AI can also be used in these situations.
  • Cybersecurity: Even highly secure military systems can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which is where AI can be of great help.
    • AI has the ability to protect programs, data, networks, and computers from persons not authorized to access them.
    • AI also has the skills to study patterns of cyber attacks and form protective strategies in order to fight against them.
    • These systems can recognize the smallest behaviors of malware attacks far before they enter a network.
  • Transportation : AI can lower transportation costs and reduce the need for human input by, for example, plotting the most efficient route to travel under current conditions. It can also pre-identify problems for military fleets in order to increase efficiency of their performance.

Challenges of AI in National Security

  • Data and Privacy: There could be trade-offs between privacy and prosperity when it comes to protecting personal data in the AI environment.
  • Ethical Risks: Ethical risks are imperative  from a humanitarian standpoint. As AI advances, the ethical considerations and governance issues may be redefining regulations and governance in ways that address fairness, safety, reliability, privacy, inclusivity, transparency, and accountability.
  • Strategic Risks: It includes the possibility that AI will increase the likelihood of war, escalate ongoing conflicts, and proliferate to malicious actors.
  • Destruction: AI systems can be purposefully programmed to cause death or destruction, either by the users themselves or through an attack on the system by an adversary.
    • Unintended harm can also result from inevitable margins of error which can exist or occur even after rigorous testing and proofing of the AI system according to applicable guidelines.
  • Hacking:  AI can perpetuate biases either unintentionally or intentionally and can be vulnerable to attack or hacking.
    • Since these systems are often trained on large datasets, they tend to replicate the same biases that were present in the original datasets.
    • Similarly, personal biases of developers of algorithms may further add to this problem.

Need to Regulate Artificial Intelligence

  • Artificial intelligence technologies are capable of performing a wide variety of tasks including voice assistance, recommending music, driving cars, detecting cancer, etc.
  • But many of these AI tools are essentially black boxes meaning even those who designed them cannot explain what goes on inside them to generate a particular output.
    • For instance, complex and unexplainable AI tools have already manifested in wrongful arrests due to AI-enabled facial recognition; discrimination and societal biases seeping into AI outputs. Most recently chatbots like ChatGPT are generating versatile, human-competitive and genuine-looking content which may be inaccurate or copyrighted material.
  • Artificial Intelligence is in the sights of regulators around the world, with major and diverse new legislation on AI rules being brought forward in the EU, USA, and China, amongst others.

Global Regulations for AI

  • European Union: The European Union (EU) is considering a new legal framework that aims to significantly bolster regulations on the development and use of artificial intelligence.
    • The proposed legislation, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, focuses primarily on strengthening rules around data quality, transparency, human oversight and accountability.
    • It also aims to address ethical questions and implementation challenges in various sectors ranging from healthcare and education to finance and energy.
  • India: NITI Aayog has issued some guiding documents on AI Issues such as the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence and the Responsible AI for All report.
    • Emphasis is on social and economic inclusion, innovation, and trustworthiness.
  • United Kingdom:  It has outlined a light-touch approach, asking regulators in different sectors to apply existing regulations to AI.
    • Published a white paper outlining five principles companies should follow:
      • Safety
      • Security and robustness
      • Transparency
      •  Fairness
      •  Accountability and governance; and contestability and redress.
  • United States: The US has come out with a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights (AIBoR), outlining the harms of AI to economic and civil rights and lays down five principles for mitigating these harms.
    • The Blueprint endorses a sectorally specific approach to AI governance, with policy interventions for individual sectors such as health, labour, and education, leaving it to sectoral federal agencies to come out with their plans.
  • China: In 2022, China came out with some of the world’s first nationally binding regulations targeting specific types of algorithms and AI.
    • It enacted a law to regulate recommendation algorithms with a focus on how they disseminate information.

Way Forward

  • Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.
  • AI technologies must be developed and deployed responsibly to address various concerns.
    •  This includes ensuring that data is collected and processed transparently and securely and that individuals have control over it.
    • It also means ensuring that AI systems are designed and tested to identify and mitigate biases and are subject to ongoing monitoring and oversight.
  • There needs to be clear guidelines around how AI can be used and shared.
  •  Incorporating safeguards to prevent the misuse of AI technologies, such as developing mechanisms for individuals to control how their data is collected and used is necessary.
  • It is vital to promote the responsible development of AI to ensure that its potential benefits are realized while minimizing the risks to individual privacy and civil liberties.
  • Policymakers, industry leaders, and civil society must collaborate to develop policies and practices that support the responsible use of AI technologies.

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