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Artificial Intelligence in the Chinese Military – Current Initiatives

cheaper AI technology for the military is not linear, but instead a many-pronged strategy that involved the central government, domestic companies, and international trade. Gregory Allen of the Center for a New American Security published a report on China’s AI strategy, in which he said: Chinese military leaders increasingly refer to intelligent or “intelligentized” military technology as their confident expectation for the future basis of warfare.

He also reported that “total Chinese national and local government spending on AI to implement these plans is not publicly disclosed, but it is clearly in the tens of billions of dollars.” China seems to intend to sell the AI technology it builds, and plans for achieving commercial success in AI-related industries are well underway.

Allen claimed: China’s commercial market success has direct relevance to China’s national security, both because it reduces the ability of the United States government to put diplomatic and economic pressure on China and because it increases the technological capabilities available to China’s military and intelligence community.

Allen stated that the “increased use of AI systems would make misperceptions and unintentional conflict escalation more likely due to the lack of well-defined norms regarding the use of such systems.” That said, China still has a ways to go in overcoming inherent problems with China’s AI ecosystem.

According to the state-owned developer China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, it can “plot out its own route, swim to shore, avoid obstacles, and it can also be remotely controlled by an operator.” Given recent forays into expanding its territory in the South Pacific, the Marine Lizard ay prove useful to their aims if it works as advertised.

Below is a one-minute video showing how facial recognition technology in Shenzhen works in deterring jaywalking: While authorities claim AI surveillance resulted in higher success in preventing jaywalking, finding missing persons and apprehending terrorists, there is a big potential for misuse, such as in targeting minority groups.

Facial recognition company SenseNets inadvertently released personal information on 2.5 million Chinese citizens it was tracking via an unsecured database.  The biggest issue with facial recognition technology in a national defense sense, however, is the export of these capabilities to governments that want to control their own populations using the same methods.

In particular, it purchased the data analytics program LuciadLightspeed, which according to the site “allows for on-the-fly combination of any data with accurate geospatial transformations and can perform advanced functions including real-time video draping, immediate line-of-sight analysis, and dynamic density calculations.” Below is a 2-minute video demonstrating the various uses of LuciadLightspeed: The software package would allow the Chinese military to use the data it gathered from its drones, facial recognition technology, sensors, satellites, and radar to visualize and analyze enemy movements and other information.

According to a public statement released by former military leaders of the US military, “Chinese-designed 5G networks will provide near-persistent data transfer back to China that the Chinese government could capture at will.” This is the main reason there is such an intense competition to establish a stable 5G network, despite expert opinion that this infrastructure is more vulnerable to hacking.

The Modern Pen and the AI Sword

“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” The modern version of that statement, apocryphally attributed to World War II General Douglas MacArthur, might today read, “Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered artificial intelligence.” Weapons incorporating AI have undeniably grown more powerful, sparking fears of what they could one day become.

Autonomous vehicles “reduce the number of warfighters in harm’s way” and “perform missions impossible for humans,” while algorithms also “increase decision speed in time-critical operations” by analyzing large amounts of data quickly and accurately.

“Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will be the ruler of the world.” With Russia and China making significant progress in developing their own AI technologies, it seems that the “race for AI supremacy and AI hegemony” is already on, explained Phillippe Lorenz, head of German think tank SNV’s Artificial Intelligence and Foreign Policy project, in an interview with the HPR.

Although the Uran-9 vehicle “technically failed” according to Bendett, the Russians have started “incorporating the lessons learned from that failure into the future generation of ground vehicles.” After working out the kinks in its existing AI technology, Russia will be well prepared for the next generation of conflicts.

Bendett noted that an AI breakthrough could come from any number of locations: military research centers, universities, or the private sector — though Bendett even mentioned the possibility of creating a “technopolis” dedicated to AI research.

China has undertaken important research in artificial neural networks, which reports have indicated it intends to introduce in submarines in order to interpret sonar data more easily, reducing the mental burden on commanders.

The 2014 Third Offset Strategy set out the Pentagon’s plan to bolster its eroding technological advantage by acquiring more advanced autonomous vehicles, incorporating algorithms in intelligence gathering and analysis, and developing centaurs, the military’s “high-tech holy grail.” While the Pentagon simply delineates these broad goals, its component services have developed more concrete timelines for adopting AI technology.

Technologically, major defense company Lockheed Martin is currently working to develop new autonomous and semi-autonomous systems “because [they] recognize that the question isn’t just about who’s the best person for the job — it’s about what’s the best team for the mission,” a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin told the HPR.

Lockheed’s competitor, Northrop Grumman, also incorporated the centaur concept in its counterrocket, artillery, and mortar system: AI performs the “essential task” of targeting incoming enemy fire while humans act as both a “fail-safe” and a “moral agent,” two key human roles within the centaur system, as Paul Scharre noted in his seminal book on autonomous weapons Army of None.

According to Mark Peters, the research compliance officer at Oregon State University’s drone program, OSU is currently researching “how a swarm of drones may work like a swarm of starlings or a swarm of honeybees.” First, these drone swarms could assist in precision targeting.

Rescuers, Peters said, will “be able to use multi-platform aerial, land, and water drones to provide a three-dimensional map to identify where they need to go.” Already, the Air Force has tested Perdix drone swarms, which use collective intelligence to perform reconnaissance while avoiding defensive systems.

The controversial Project Maven used AI to analyze satellite images for drone targets, and AI has also been used to mimic real-world adversaries in order to help train fighter pilots and more accurately simulate enemy movements in war games.

Meanwhile, the Air Force and Army have started to integrate predictive maintenance algorithms in their vehicles to anticipate mechanical breakdowns and fix them more quickly, and the military has started planning to automate tasks like warehouse management and report analysis.

The United States could also help create international oversight organizations to develop general standards for military AI use, establish new frameworks for the interaction between AI and international humanitarian law, and ensure meaningful human certification of potential autonomous systems.

Army exploring AI combat possibilities while prioritizing quick COTS adoptions

Not to mention the fact that in those areas, as opposed to a more active use of artificial intelligence in a combat environment, is you’re really looking at something that’s more of an action, and you’re going to get an outcome or an output in the logistics and sustainment arena.” Logistics and sustainment tend to be dull, dirty jobs, Wins said.

If the convoy is attacked, take into account what actions the convoy may have to take, or would have to react or respond to if some type of cyber or electronic warfare intrusion were to occur.” But that’s still easier than developing human and AI teaming platforms.

“Man-machine teaming, being able to come up with counters or adversarial understanding, so that we can defeat an enemy’s artificial intelligence capability, the ability to autonomously operate and function our networks, so that they are adaptable to any types of threat that come upon them through electromagnetic or cyber events, those are some of the type of things that we’re trying to do,” Wins said.

“In addition to areas where we’re looking to ensure that the soldier on the ground has better situational awareness and situational understanding, and can be more responsive to the understanding of a threat and how to counter or defeat a threat through the use of AI technology that helps enable their ability to see that threat actor and what that threat actor might be doing.” For example, with an aided target recognition system, artificial intelligence would assist individual soldiers with by identifying targets and providing as much information as possible to the soldier before they pull the trigger.

State of AI: Artificial Intelligence, the Military and Increasingly Autonomous Weapons

As artificial intelligence works its way into industries like healthcare and finance, governments around the world are increasingly investing in another of its applications: autonomous weapons systems. Many are already developing programs and technologies that they hope will give them an edge over their adversaries, creating mounting pressure for others to follow suite.

The UK believes that an “autonomous system is capable of understanding higher level intent and direction.” It suggested that autonomy “confers significant advantages and has existed in weapons systems for decades” and that “evolving human/machine interfaces will allow us to carry out military functions with greater precision and efficiency,” though it added that “the application of lethal force must be directed by a human, and that a human will always be accountable for the decision.” The UK stated that “the current lack of consensus on key themes counts against any legal prohibition,” and that it “would not have any practical

France did propose a political declaration that would reaffirm fundamental principles and “would underline the need to maintain human control over the ultimate decision of the use of lethal force.” In 2018, Israel stated that the “development of rigid standards or imposing prohibitions to something that is so speculative at this early stage, would be imprudent and may yield an uninformed, misguided result.” Israel underlined that “[w]e should also be aware of the military and humanitarian advantages.” In 2015, South Korea stated that “the discussions on LAWS should not be carried out in a way that can hamper research and development of robotic technology for civilian use,” but that it is “wary of fully autonomous weapons systems that remove meaningful human control from the operation loop, due to the risk of malfunctioning, potential accountability gap and ethical concerns.”

The State of AI

report 'The State of AI: Artificial Intelligence, the Military and Increasingly Autonomous Weapons' shows that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) arms race is in its infancy and warns of potentially catastrophic results for humanity if states do not ensure human control over emerging weapons technology.

The report outlines the status of AI in military projects of seven countries: United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Israel and South Korea. PAX calls for states to agree to international rules banning lethal autonomous weapons and for the global private sector to agree not to work on the development of these weapons.


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