White House: A.I. Is More Likely to Be a Medic Than a Soldier

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The White House released a report on the rise of Artificial Intelligence on Wednesday, and the key point among its findings, is the revelation that the U.S. military is more likely to rely on A.I. for support roles than for fully autonomous weapons on the battlefield.

Killer robots that decide who lives and who dies have been a common specter in discussions about A.I. Even the U.S. Government fears that Russia and China might develop their own killer bots.

But the report published on Wednesday, which was authored by the National Science and Technology Council and the Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, said truly autonomous weapons are unlikely to debut any time soon. The authors say that A.I. is more likely to assist the Department of Defense with less violent problems than to become a major force in the military’s combat tactics:

A.I. has the potential to provide significant benefits across a range of defense-related activities. Non-lethal activities such as logistics, maintenance, base operations, veterans’ healthcare, lifesaving battlefield medical assistance and casualty evacuation, personnel management, navigation, communication, cyberdefense, and intelligence analysis can benefit from A.I., making American forces safer and more effective. A.I. may also play an important role in new systems for protecting people and high-value fixed assets and deterring attacks through non-lethal means. Ultimately, these applications may turn out to be the most important for DoD.

Which isn’t to say that the military won’t take advantage of A.I. on the battlefield. Some weapons already use autonomous features to assist with aiming, for example, and more research is being done to figure out how robots and A.I. might become more helpful in the future. The point is that the military doesn’t want to give complete control over to these robots for fear that they’ll make a wrong — and lethal — decision.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the same thing in September. While advancements in A.I. and robotics could make killer robots possible, so far the U.S. government has been consistent in its message that them hitting the battlefield any time soon is improbable. That should comfort those who fear the robo-pocalypse.

The White House report was published the same day as President Obama’s interview with Wired and MIT Media Lab about the future of A.I. in America. Obama’s message was similarly comforting: There’s no danger of A.I. “drugging us to keep us fat and happy or we’re in the Matrix,” he said — at least not any time in the near future.

The full White House report is below:

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