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US AI Report Calls for Autonomous Weapons to Outpace China

Michael Behr


US AI Report

The digital arms race between the US and China could escalate if AI-powered weapons become a reality.

A long-awaited US report on the country’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) has urged the government to increase its use of the technology.

Failure to do so could result in the country losing its global lead in the technology to China, the report warned. This includes the possibility of removing restrictions on the use of AI for military applications, a controversial idea.

According to Oxford Insights’ AI Readiness Index, a measurement of how ready governments are to utilise AI, the US is ranked first, with the UK in second. The report wants the US to be fully AI-ready by 2025.

China currently lags behind at nineteenth, however, the country’s government is pushing an ambitious plan to develop AI technologies.

“China possesses the might, talent, and ambition to surpass the United States as the world’s leader in AI in the next decade if current trends do not change,” the report states.

With the US in a digital arms race with China, the report warned that: “Defending against AI-capable adversaries without employing AI is an invitation to disaster.”

Since computers are capable of making faster decisions than humans, AI can expand the scale of attacks and make responses faster.

“Human operators will not be able to defend against AI-enabled cyber or disinformation attacks, drone swarms, or missile attacks without the assistance of AI-enabled machines,” the report said.

As part of a policy to contain the Chinese development of AI, the report called for greater cooperation between the US and its European allies.

Among the reports, other recommendations were investing $40 billion in expanding AI research, with hundreds of billions being spent by the federal government in the coming years.

The report also suggests creating an accredited university Digital Service Academy to train AI specialists, along with a Digital Corps to hire temporary or short-term tech talent.

It also wants the US to stay “two generations ahead” of China in semiconductor manufacturing. To promote this, the report called for tax credits to be applied to semiconductor manufacturers.


The commission behind the report was led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Google itself been reluctant to involve itself in military affairs, with CEO Sundar Pichai promising to stop using the company’s AI expertise to develop weapons in 2018.

The use of so-called ‘killer robots’ was criticised in a Human Rights Watch report, which said that governments are starting to recognise the threat posed by autonomous weapon systems.

According to the report, 30 countries called for an international treaty designed to keep human decision making at the heart of combat.

However, that has not stopped countries making advancements in military applications of AI.

Recently, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) performed a series of simulations that pitted a human F-16 fighter pilot against different AI pilots. The winning AI was able to defeat the human in five out of the five tests.

And a well-publicised real-world example happened in December last year, when an Iranian scientist was killed by an AI machine gun controlled by satellite, according to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iranian sources said that the weapon was accurate enough to hit the scientist without hitting his wife, who was beside him in the car.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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