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NATO's Gottemoeller Discusses Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence in China

By J C Suresh

Photo: NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller addressing the Beijing Xiangshan Forum. Credit: NATO

TORONTO (IDN-INPS) – "We know that we cannot fight tomorrow's threats with today’s tools. Defending ourselves is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to position troops and equipment. We need to defend ourselves in the digital age, and in the age of artificial intelligence," NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller told  experts participating in the 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum in China from October 24 to 26 2018.

Speaking at a special session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Gottemoeller highlighted how technological advances provide challenges as well as opportunities and discussed how NATO is working to ensure it stays ahead of the curve.

“We do this by working together, among our 29 members and with our partners and international organisations. And of course, we work with the private sector to take full advantage of the latest innovations and to maintain our technological edge,” she said.

Following are extensive excerpts from her remarks in a session of Military Application of Artificial Intelligence:

NATO was founded in 1949 to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members. We have successfully done so for nearly 70 years because we have adapted to evolving circumstances. As the security environment changes – whether we are talking about technological innovation or policy shifts – we must adapt to ensure that we can deter and defend against any challenge we might face.

So it should come as no surprise that NATO has been attentive to the relationship between artificial intelligence and its potential implications for the security environment.

China is a leading actor in artificial intelligence and a hub for AI development, which makes this forum an especially appropriate venue for discussion of these issues.

For many centuries, security meant addressing threats on land and at sea – and, more recently, in the air.  But transformed by many advances in technology, threats today can take more shapes and come from multiple directions simultaneously.

When we talk about hybrid or asymmetric threats, we refer to a range of tools, techniques, and instruments that blur the lines between peace, crisis, and war. Today we see disruptive technologies of all kinds spreading quickly, with the potential to dramatically shift the nature of conflict.

With so many advances in technology, threats can now take many forms and come from close at hand or from very far away, from remote sources. From humans or from unmanned systems. From space or from cyberspace. These trends are enhanced by rapidly developing technologies such as artificial intelligence. 

Today, machines or algorithms can far outperform humans in certain respects – this has become a “new normal”. It’s now more than twenty years since Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in chess. And a couple of years ago, another computer system, “AlphaGo”, beat the world’s greatest player of Go, Lee Sedol of the Republic of Korea. This is the reality. But while we marvel, we must also learn – we must adapt our thinking and our planning to the realities we face – augmented or otherwise.

NATO’s Strategic Command located in Norfolk Virginia, Allied Command Transformation, is leading NATO’s work on innovation and disruptive technologies – big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics. This work is key to ensuring that we are ready for the future. NATO’s member countries are also leading innovation in AI research and development.

The United States is charting the course – the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has pioneered ground-breaking research and development in AI for more than five decades. France and the UK allocate significant resources to develop AI in the defence sector. And a number of other Allies are making advances in this field.

We know that we cannot fight tomorrow’s threats with today’s tools. Defending ourselves is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to position troops and equipment. We need to defend ourselves in the digital age, and in the age of artificial intelligence.

That work is incredibly complex. And we are thinking about it in terms of both policy and practice. In terms of policy, we have been clear that an attack using hybrid or asymmetric methods, high technology or low, has the potential to spur an Article 5 response.

Article 5 is the collective defence clause in the Washington Treaty. NATO leaders made this clear when they met in Warsaw in 2016, and again at the NATO Summit last July. They agree that “while the primary responsibility for responding to hybrid threats rests with the targeted nation, NATO is ready, upon Council decision, to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign. In cases of hybrid warfare, the Council could decide to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, as in the case of armed attack”.

On the practical side, NATO continues to adapt in order to remain at the forefront of new technologies - to better protect our Allies and boost our resilience.

We are working to strengthen our cyber defences in response to rapidly evolving cyber threats and attacks. We also strive to prevent perpetrators from using cyber space for malignant purposes – whether to disrupt essential services, to manipulate information or to destroy equipment.

NATO is determined to build up our cyber-defences and stay ahead of the curve. The goal is to be just as effective in the cyber domain as we are on land, in the air or at sea.

We are also focused on capabilities and technologies to fight terrorism.

We have seen ISIS/Da’esh use weaponised drones to carry out deadly attacks. Drone technologies are becoming affordable and easily accessible – off-the-shelf – to non-state actors. And so one area that NATO currently focuses on is how to counter the misuse of new technologies by terrorists.

On the positive side of the ledger, we are drawing on AI-related technologies to improve our response to natural disasters.

At our disaster response exercise in Serbia a few weeks ago, NATO successfully tested disaster relief tools powered by artificial intelligence. These are incredibly powerful means to help save lives. We had drones flying over the site where the disaster occurred. They sent the information collected to other machines to process the images and the data collected in order to identify victims on the ground at record speed.

These technological advances provide challenges as well as opportunities. We are working to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve. We do this by working together, among our 29 members and with our partners and international organisations. And of course, we work with the private sector to take full advantage of the latest innovations and to maintain our technological edge. [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 November 2018]

Photo: NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller addressing the Beijing Xiangshan Forum . Credit: NATO

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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