9The Defense Department is prioritizing ethical considerations and collaboration in its approach to developing and fielding military applications of artificial intelligence, a top Pentagon technology official said June 15.
Michael C. Horowitz, the director of the emerging capabilities policy office in the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy, underscored the U.S. commitment to leading the international conversation surrounding artificial intelligence during a panel discussion in Washington on setting rules and expectations for emerging technologies in national security.

Underpinning this commitment, Horowitz said, is a comprehensive set of policy decisions within DOD that governs the development and fielding of autonomous weapon systems, ethical artificial intelligence strategy, and the development of responsible artificial intelligence strategy and pathways.

He said U.S. leadership, in codifying these principles, is now driving responsible artificial intelligence policy formulation among international partners.

“If you look at NATO’s ethical AI principles, for example, they’re very similar to the Defense Department’s ethical AI principles and that’s not an accident,” Horowitz said. “It reflects in many ways the sort of common values and perspective on how we’re thinking about ... when we would want to use AI and how.”

He said U.S. also led on the international stage by issuing its Political Declaration of Responsible Military use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy in February.

“That’s a set of strong norms that lay out principles of what responsible use looks like that we’re now working to bring other countries on board to endorse since we think that bringing the international community together on this issue, that there is a lot of possibility for cooperation and we want to encourage the rest of the world to take these issues as seriously as the department has,” Horowitz said. “And in looking at our allies and partners, we’re really encouraged by that.”

That commitment to the responsible development of artificial intelligence, and its transparency concerning the development of policy surrounding emerging technologies, is also how the U.S. has distinguished itself from its global competitors, he said.

He said all DOD policy surrounding artificial intelligence and emerging technology is publicly available.

“That’s in contrast to some of the competitors of the United States who are a lot less transparent in what their policies are concerning the development and use of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, including autonomous weapons systems,” Horowitz said. “And we think that there’s a real distinction there.”

At the same time, the U.S. has remained committed to being at the leading edge of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, Horowitz said.

He said the rapid advance of the technology has opened up a wide array of use cases for artificial intelligence beyond defense. The U.S. continues to be “an engine of innovation when it comes to AI.”

“The Defense Department does lots and lots of different experimentation with emerging technologies,” Horowitz said. “And we both want to do them in a safe and responsible way, but also want to do them in a way that can push forward the cutting edge and ensure the department has access to the emerging technologies that it needs to stay ahead.”

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