More than 60 Countries Sign Modest "Call to Action" Endorsing Responsible Use of AI in Military
On February 16th, The Hague hosted the first international summit on military AI, co-hosted by the Netherlands and South Korea. More than 60 countries, including the United States and China, signed a modest "call to action" endorsing the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the military.
No Legal Commitment Made
The statement signed by the countries is not legally binding, and critics noted that it failed to address concerns like AI-guided drones, 'slaughterbots' that could kill with no human intervention, or the risk that AI could escalate a military conflict.
Tangible Outcome from the Conference
However, the statement was a tangible outcome of the conference. Signatories agreed to develop and use 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 of heightened interest in AI, with the launch of OpenAI's ChatGPT program and Ukraine's use of facial recognition and AI-assisted targeting systems in its fight with Russia.
Russia, Ukraine, and Israel Notable Absentees
Russia was not invited to the conference following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and Ukraine did not attend. Israel participated in the conference but did not sign the statement.
U.S. Proposes Framework for Responsible Military AI Use
The U.S. proposed a framework for responsible military AI use, in line with updated guidelines on lethal autonomous weapons issued by the Department of Defense last month. U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Bonnie Jenkins emphasized that the proposal was not a legal obligation but rather a guideline for responsible AI use.
The U.S. and other powerful countries have been hesitant to agree to legal limitations on AI use in the military, fearing that such restrictions might put them at a disadvantage compared to their rivals.
Critics Challenge U.S. Proposal
Human Rights Watch challenged the U.S. to define "appropriate" and not to "tinker with political declarations" but to begin negotiating internationally binding law. Jessica Dorsey, assistant professor of international law at Utrecht University, said the U.S. proposal was a "missed opportunity" for leadership, and the summit statement was too weak. Dorsey pointed out that the statement does not provide an enforcement mechanism and that it allows states to develop AI for military purposes in any way they see fit, as long as they deem it "responsible."
China Recommends Working Through United Nations
China representative Jian Tan recommended that countries "oppose seeking absolute military advantage and hegemony through AI" and work through the United Nations. However, China did not sign the statement.
The "call to action" endorsed by more than 60 countries, including the U.S. and China, represents a modest but important step toward responsible use of AI in military operations. However, concerns remain about the lack of legal commitment and enforcement mechanisms. As the use of AI in military operations continues to grow, it is essential to ensure that it is used responsibly and in a way that does not undermine international security, stability, and accountability.