Don’t Let AI Control Your Nukes, U.S. Official Urges China And Russia

Topline

Artificial intelligence must not be allowed to control nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, urging China and Russia to follow the United States’ lead and make sure humans, not AI, have the final say over using the powerful weapons as Washington vies to become a leading voice in global debates over how to regulate the powerful new technology.

A U.S. official urged Moscow and Beijing to keep their nuclear arsenals in human hands, not under AI … [+] control.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

The U.S. has “made a very clear and strong commitment” that the decision to deploy nuclear weapons “would only be made by a human being,” State Department arms control official Paul Dean said in an online briefing.

“We would never defer a decision on nuclear employment to AI,” Dean said, adding that the U.S. “strongly stand(s) by that statement.”

The U.K. and France have also vowed to keep their nuclear weapons within the control of humans, not AI, Dean said.

He urged Moscow and Beijing to do the same, adding that the U.S. “would welcome a similar statement by China and the Russian Federation.”

“We think it is an extremely important norm of responsible behavior,” as well as something that marks a welcome show of unity for governing the weapons among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

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News Peg

Dean’s statement comes as nations around the world grapple with how to regulate AI and companies race to develop and deploy increasingly powerful systems. The AI arms race has prompted leaders from tech, academia and civil society to urge caution before developing and deploying ever more advanced AI systems, warning that AI could pose an existential risk to humanity and already poses real threats to human rights and wellbeing. Despite global pushes to coordinate regulation on AI, military applications have been conspicuously absent from many discussions. Leaders at recent talks in Vienna warned autonomous weapons defy traditional means of arms control and that AI is fast approaching its “Oppenheimer Moment,” a reference to one of the inventors of the atomic bomb. While military uses of AI have been a growing concern on the international stage, nuclear weapons have long loomed large over international relations and tensions have soared in recent years. The Kremlin has repeatedly threatened to use its nuclear weapons in Ukraine and against its enemies, potentially as a first strike, a noteworthy escalation in rhetoric. China has also been expanding its nuclear arsenal in recent years, though Beijing says it is committed to a “no-first-strike” policy it is actively encouraging other nuclear states to adopt.

Tangent

The U.S. formally accused Moscow of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention and deploying chemical weapons against Ukrainian troops on Wednesday. In a statement, the State Department said Russia had used chloropicrin against Ukrainian forces, a chemical that was widely used during World War I but is no longer approved for military use. It is an irritant and choking agent that causes irritation of the lungs, skin and eyes and can cause vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. The State Department said its determination adds to previous assessments concluding Russia has used “riot control agents as a method of warfare in Ukraine,” which also violates the international treaty. “The use of such chemicals is not an isolated incident, and is probably driven by Russian forces’ desire to dislodge Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and achieve tactical gains on the battlefield,” Washington said. Moscow, which has repeatedly been accused of flouting the treaty with chemical attacks in recent years, denied wrongdoing and dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”

Big Number

9. That’s how many countries in the world possess nuclear weapons, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. In addition to the five permanent Security Council members listed above — the only countries officially recognized as having nuclear weapons by the nuclear nonproliferation treaty — Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea are credibly believed to possess them. ICANW estimates the states have 12,700 warheads between them. The vast majority of these lie with Russia and the U.S., who respectively possess around 5,900 and 5,200 nuclear warheads.

Further Reading

ForbesHere’s What You Should Do In A Nuclear Attack, Experts SayBy Robert Hart

ForbesAI Could Cause Human ‘Extinction,’ Tech Leaders WarnBy Robert HartForbesUN Approves Global AI Rules-Here’s What To Know About The US-Led ResolutionBy Robert Hart

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