04:57 GMT01 October 2020
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    The US Department of Defense unveiled its artificial intelligence strategy on Tuesday, and what's immediately clear is that the US government isn't planning on deploying an army of killer robots any time soon.

    The new strategy instead maps out how the American military will adopt machine learning in order to "empower, not replace, those who serve" in the force. It also offers some insight into the newly created Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), which US Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan will lead.

    The JAIC will have four main mission themes, which will include accelerating the delivery and adoption of AI technology across the department, establishing a common foundation for scaling the tech's reach, synchronizing the Pentagon's AI projects and creating a group that will "attract and cultivate a world-class AI team."

    With several pilot programs already in the works, two of the projects currently being undertaken involve using AI technology for humanitarian emergencies, specifically fighting fires, and for better predicting when repairs will need to be done on various military equipment.

    Shanahan revealed during roundtable talks this week that the firefighting program will help first responders better track wildfires, like those which have devastated much of California in recent years.

    "You will see there are pictures of people on the back of pickup trucks with acetate plotting these things manually," Business Insider reported Shanahan saying. By contrast, the pilot program would "give [first responders] an idea of what that fire line might look like in minutes."

    But a Terminator walking about the streets of Washington, DC, sometime soon — that's extremely unlikely. "We are nowhere close to the full autonomy question that most people seem to leap to a conclusion on when they think about DoD and AI," Shanahan said.

    The AI strategy was released just one day after the White House issued an executive order, dubbed "Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence," that outlined efforts for the US to remain "a world leader in AI research and development and deployment."

    Web developer and technologist Chris Garaffa told Sputnik on Friday he doesn't "put any faith in the DoD roadmap for AI."

    Many of the "fire and target" weaponry already in use by American soldiers operates with some level of autonomy, with no human intervention required after a target is identified.

    "The use of ‘Artificial Intelligence' masks the fact that the military uses plenty of advanced technology that wouldn't be considered AI. Even if an armed drone flown remotely from a US base doesn't use AI to choose and launch a missile, it can already use advanced image recognition technology to identify potential targets and recommend where to strike," he said. "Having a human on the other end to press the final button doesn't decrease the lethality of that drone."

    "The US government learned its lesson in Vietnam that the American people particularly don't like wars that involve American soldiers coming home in bodybags by the thousands. The Pentagon will keep using advanced technology, whether or not that tech is powered by Artificial Intelligence, to wage its wars," Garaffa stressed.

    While Shanahan might've shrugged off the notion of killer bots roaming about, only time will tell if the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will be able to develop such a creation, especially considering that the agency is focusing on enhancing the warfighting capabilities of advanced AI.


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