A modest “call to action” was signed by more than 60 countries including the U.S. and China on Thursday. It endorses the responsible use of AI in the military.
The statement was noted to be not legally binding by human rights experts and academics. It also failed to address concerns like AI-guided drones, ‘slaughterbots’ that have the ability to kill without human intervention, or the risk that a military conflict could be escalated by an AI.
The statement, however, was a tangible outcome of the first international summit on military AI. It was co-hosted by the Netherlands and South Korea at the Hague this week.
The signatories said they were committed to developing and using military AI in accordance with “international legal obligations and in a way that does not undermine international security, stability and accountability.”
The conference comes at a time when interest in AI is at all-time highs owing to the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT program and as Ukraine’s facial recognition and AI-assisted targeting systems come into play in its fight with Russia.
Following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia was not invited by the organizers. Ukraine did not attend the conference.
Israel participated but did not sign the statement.
Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, put forward a U.S. framework for the responsible use of AI in the military.
Fear of being at a disadvantage from their rivals, the U.S. and other powerful countries have been hesitant to agree to any legal limitations on using AI.
“We want to emphasize that we are open to engagement with any country that is interested in joining us,” Jenkins said.
The U.S. proposal said AI weapons systems should involve “appropriate levels of human judgment”, in line with updated guidelines on lethal autonomous weapons issued by the Department of Defense last month.
The U.S. was challenged by Human Rights Watch to define “appropriate”, and was asked not to “tinker with political declarations” but to begin negotiating internationally binding law.
Jian Tan, a representative from China, told the summit that countries should “oppose seeking absolute military advantage and hegemony through AI” and work through the United Nations.
“It paves the path for states to develop AI for military purposes in any way they see fit as long as they can say it is ‘responsible’,” she said. “Where is the enforcement mechanism?”