How viable is international arms control for military artificial intelligence? Three lessons from nuclear weapons

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Many observers anticipate “arms races” between states seeking to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) in diverse military applications, some of which raise concerns on ethical and legal grounds, or from the perspective of strategic stability or accident risk. How viable are arms control regimes for military AI? This article draws a parallel with the experience in controlling nuclear weapons, to examine the opportunities and pitfalls of efforts to prevent, channel, or contain the militarization of AI. It applies three analytical lenses to argue that (1) norm institutionalization can counter or slow proliferation; (2) organized “epistemic communities” of experts can effectively catalyze arms control; (3) many military AI applications will remain susceptible to “normal accidents,” such that assurances of “meaningful human control” are largely inadequate. I conclude that while there are key differences, understanding these lessons remains essential to those seeking to pursue or study the next chapter in global arms control.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Security Policy
Volume40
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)285-311
Number of pages27
ISSN1352-3260
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Favourite, Artificial intelligence, AI, nonproliferation, arms control, arms race, epistemic communities, governance, normal accidents

ID: 228153544