Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in the process of reorganizing the world. The US and China are already in the midst of this reorganization process with the former far ahead of the latter; but the catching up that China is trying hard while the US is trying equally harder to remain ahead has given an added impetus to the development of the AI at the global level. We are indeed at the threshold of a new socio-economic and political world.

According to the Report prepared by the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), AI is not a single technology breakthrough, like a bat-wing stealth bomber. The race for AI supremacy is neither like the space race to the moon. AI is not even comparable to a general-purpose technology like electricity. However, AI is said to be a field of fields. It holds the secrets which are reorganizing the life of the world.

Pakistan needs to go through this report with a fine toothcomb and try to adjust itself to meet the AI-related tech challenges with a modicum of preparedness. To do this successfully we need to go back to the era of the 1950s and set up urgently a tech organization on the lines of PIDC of Ghulam Faruque.

AI technologies are the most powerful tools in generations for expanding knowledge, increasing prosperity, and enriching the human experience. AI is also the quintessential “dual-use” technology. The ability of a machine to perceive, evaluate, and act more quickly and accurately than a human represents a competitive advantage in any field — civilian or military. AI technologies will be a source of enormous power for the companies and countries that harness them.

In the US context, the NSCAI Final Report presents an integrated national strategy to reorganize the US government, reorient the nation, and rally America’s closest allies and partners to defend and compete in the coming era of AI-accelerated competition and conflict.

The Report understands that the AI-enhanced capabilities will be the tools of first resort in a new era of conflict as strategic competitors develop AI concepts and technologies for military and other malign uses and cheap and commercially available AI applications ranging from “deep-fakes” to lethal drones become available to rogue states, terrorists, and criminals.

Defending against AI-capable adversaries operating at machine speeds without employing AI is said to be an invitation to disaster, as human operators will not be able to keep up with or defend against AI-enabled cyber or disinformation attacks, drone swarms, or missile attacks without the assistance of AI-enabled machines.

According to the Commission, digital dependence in all walks of life is transforming personal and commercial vulnerabilities into potential national security weaknesses. Adversaries are said to be using AI systems to enhance disinformation campaigns and cyber-attacks. They are harvesting data on Americans to build profiles of their beliefs, behaviour, and biological makeup for tailored attempts to manipulate or coerce individuals. The US government, therefore, needs, according to the Commission, to set up a task force and 24/7 operations center to confront digital disinformation. It needs to better secure its own databases and prioritize data security in foreign investment screening, supply chain risk management, and national data protection legislation. The US government should leverage AI-enabled cyber defenses to protect against AI-enabled cyber- attacks. And biosecurity must become a top-tier priority in national security policy.

The US armed forces’ competitive military-technical advantage is expected to disappear within the next decade if they do not accelerate the adoption of AI across their missions. This will require marrying top-down leadership with bottom-up innovation to put operationally relevant AI applications into place.

As such, the US Department of Defense (DoD) is being advised to establish the foundations for widespread integration of AI by 2025. This includes building a common digital infrastructure, developing a digitally-literate workforce, and instituting more agile acquisition, budget, and oversight processes. It also requires strategically divesting from military systems that are ill-equipped for AI-enabled warfare and instead investing in next-generation capabilities.

The Intelligence Community (IC) has also been advised to adopt and integrate AI-enabled capabilities across all aspects of its work, from collection to analysis.

Intelligence is said to benefit from AI more than any other US national security mission. To capitalize on AI, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been asked to empower and resource its science and technology leaders. The entire IC has been asked to leverage open-source and publicly available information in its analysis and prioritize collection of scientific and technical intelligence. For better insights, intelligence agencies are advised to develop innovative approaches to human-machine teaming that use AI to augment human judgment.

The US government also needs, the Commission said, new talent pipelines, including a US Digital Service Academy to train current and future employees. It needs a civilian National Digital Reserve Corps to recruit people with the right skills—including industry experts, academics, and recent college graduates. And it needs a Digital Corps, modeled on the US Army Medical Corps, to organize technologists already serving in government.

To establish justified confidence, the US government has been advised to focus on ensuring that its AI systems are robust and reliable, including through research and development (R&D) investments in AI security and advancing human-AI teaming through a sustained initiative led by the national research labs. It should also enhance testing and evaluation capabilities of Defence Services as AI-enabled systems grow in number, scope, and complexity. Senior-level responsible AI leads are recommended to be appointed across the US government to improve executive leadership and policy oversight.

AI tools are said to be critical for US intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement agencies. Public trust will hinge on justified assurance that government use of AI will respect privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights. The government must earn that trust and ensure that its use of AI tools is effective, legitimate, and lawful. This imperative calls for developing AI tools to enhance oversight and auditing, increasing public transparency about AI use, and building AI systems that advance the goals of privacy preservation and fairness. It also requires ensuring that those impacted by government actions involving AI can seek redress and have due process.

The government has been asked to strengthen oversight and governance mechanisms and establish a taskforce to assess evolving concerns about AI and privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.

The Report further asks the US government to make major new investments in AI R&D and establish a national AI research infrastructure that democratizes access to the resources that fuel AI development across the nation.

As the margin of US technological advantage narrows and foreign efforts to acquire American know-how and dual-use technologies increase, the US must, according to the Commission, re-examine how to best protect ideas, technology, and companies without unduly hindering innovation.

The Commission asks the US to work hand-in-hand with allies and partners to promote the use of emerging technologies to strengthen democratic norms and values, coordinate policies and investments to advance global adoption of digital infrastructure and technologies, defend the integrity of international technical standards, cooperate to advance AI innovation, and share practices and resources to defend against malign uses of technology and the influence of authoritarian states in democratic societies. The US should lead an Emerging Technology Coalition to achieve these goals and establish a Multilateral AI Research Institute to enhance the US’ position as a global research hub for emerging technology. The Department of State should be reoriented, reorganized, and resourced to lead diplomacy in emerging technologies.

The Report insists that Leadership in AI is necessary but not sufficient for overall US technological leadership as AI sits at the center of the constellation of emerging technologies, enabling some and enabled by others. The US must therefore develop a single, authoritative list of the technologies that will underpin national competitiveness in the 21st century and take bold action to catalyze US leadership in AI, microelectronics, biotechnology, quantum computing, 5G, robotics and autonomous systems, additive manufacturing, and energy storage technology. US leadership across these technologies is said to require investing in specific platforms that will enable transformational breakthroughs and building vibrant domestic manufacturing ecosystems in each. At the same time, the government will need to continuously identify and prioritize emerging technologies farther over the horizon.

The Report says the principles that the US establishes, the federal investments that the government makes, the national security applications that America fields, the organizations that the US redesigns, the partnerships that are forged, the coalitions that are built, and the talent that are cultivated will set America’s strategic course. The Commission asks the US to invest what it takes to maintain its innovation leadership, to responsibly use “AI to defend free people and free societies, and to advance the frontiers of science for the benefit of all humanity”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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