【Global Times】China urges regulating military use of AI, first time in UN history, showing global responsibility

2021-12-15 10:34:32 ciwa

Source: Global Times 15-Dec-2021

Original link: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202112/1241470.shtml

New tech double-edged sword, to change rules of warfare: experts


The formation of Dongfeng-41 nuclear missiles takes part in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Xia Yifang)

At a time when artificial intelligence (AI) technology is developing fast and has wide prospects in military use, China for the first time proposed to the UN to regulate the military applications of AI during a conference held on Monday, raising concerns over the long-term impact and potential risks in such areas as strategic security, rules on governance and ethics, while also giving suggestions on how to resolve potential problems.

Having the potential to change the rules of warfare completely, AI is a double-edged sword that could cause catastrophes if not handled well, and that is why China's proposal to regulate and control it is a responsible one that other countries, particularly those attempting to take advantage of AI to achieve military hegemony, should pay attention to, Chinese experts said on Tuesday.

China submitted its position paper on regulating the military applications of AI to the sixth review conference of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which opened in Geneva on Monday, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The position paper is China's first proposal to regulate the military applications of AI, and it is also the first of its kind under the framework of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Xinhua quoted Chinese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs Li Song as saying.

"As world peace and development are confronted with multifaceted challenges, countries should embrace a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable global security, seek consensus on regulating the military applications of AI through dialogue and cooperation, and establish an effective governance regime in order to prevent serious harm or even disasters to mankind caused by military applications of AI," the position paper noted.

"We need to enhance efforts to regulate the military applications of AI, with a view to forestalling and managing potential risks," the position paper said.

The world is undergoing a new round of technological revolution, and people have realized they must pay attention to potential security risks caused by the development of AI, which could be used in military fields, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a regular press conference on Tuesday when asked about the position paper.

China is willing to enhance communication and cooperation with all parties to properly deal with the risks and challenges posed by military applications of AI, and push AI technologies to benefit people in all countries, Wang said.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday that AI can be applied in almost all fields of the military, including on land, at sea, in the skies, in space and also in the electronic space.

For example, Yang Wei of the Aviation Industry Corp of China, chief designer of the J-20 stealth fighter jet, said in a paper published in 2020 that AI is expected to be installed on next-generation fighter jets to assist pilots.

Hu Mingchun, director of the No.14 Research Institute at the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Co, told the Global Times in April that AI could be applied to radar systems so they can make adjustments according to the environment, as they learn constantly to improve their ability.

Potentially capable of gathering and analyzing data, and making decisions more efficiently than human brains, AI could build an even more digital and intelligent battlefield than today and change the rules of warfare completely, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In addition to AI functions on tactical platforms like warplanes and warships, there could be strategic uses of AI to assist military leaders in making crucial decisions based on big data in real time that could not be processed by humans, the anonymous expert said.

However, this means military AI is a double-edged sword that could help safeguard peace when used properly, but also sabotage it when used with evil intentions, analysts said.

If some countries develop advanced military AI and gain advantages over others, the strategic balance will be broken, Song said, warning that if one side has AI and an uncrewed army while the other side has only people, it would be a massacre.

Many works of science fiction have depicted scenarios where military AI does not function as intended or even gains self-awareness, bringing a series of ethical problems and even disasters to humankind. This is not impossible, now that technology is developing so fast, observers pointed out.

The position paper, available to the public on the website of China's Permanent Mission to the UN Office at Geneva, gave several suggestions to regulate the military use of AI technology.

China called on countries that develop and apply AI in the military field to act in a prudent and responsible manner, refrain from seeking absolute military?advantage, and not use AI as a tool to start a war or pursue hegemony.

They should also follow the principle of "AI for good," and relevant weapons systems must be kept under human control, while efforts must be made to ensure human supervision at all times, including implementing necessary human-machine interactions across the entire life cycle of weapons.

The position paper also urged countries to adhere to the principles of multilateralism, openness and inclusiveness, and said that developed countries should assist developing countries in strengthening their governance capacity.

Song said that China showed its global responsibility by raising these concerns and giving suggestions to regulate military AI, minimizing potential threats as early as possible and maximizing benefits in other fields, like contributing to research and development in climate change, fighting diseases and exploring space.