Note — Oct 21, 2018

The Algorithms of August

It’s not often that I include articles from Foreign Policy. I’m sharing this one because it’s an unusually (for this newsletter) open stance on the military / war and for the main thing which drew my attention: seeing AI as a general purpose tech. Seen from that angle, the author might be right that it will be hard to legislate. It’s not as “simple” as killer robots.

Because AI is a general purpose technology—more like the combustion engine or electricity than a weapon—the competition to develop it will be broad, and the line between its civilian and military uses will be blurry. There will not be one exclusively military AI arms race. There will instead be many AI arms races, as countries (and, sometimes, violent nonstate actors) develop new algorithms or apply private sector algorithms to help them accomplish particular tasks. […]

This new competitive landscape will benefit middle powers such as Australia, France, Japan, and Sweden. These countries will have greater capacity to compete in the development of AI than they did in the creation of the complex military platforms used today, such as precision-guided missiles and nuclear-powered submarines. […]

AI is not itself a weapon. Just as there was not an arms control regime for combustion engines or electricity, it’s hard to imagine an effective regime for containing the coming AI arms race.”