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DOD Adopts 5 Principles of Artificial Intelligence Ethics

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 25, 2020) -- The Defense Department has formally adopted five principles for the ethical development of artificial intelligence capabilities.

Artificial intelligence is the department's top technology modernization priority, DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said yesterday.

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The new principles lay the foundation for the ethical design, development, deployment and use of AI by DOD he said. "These principles build upon the department's long history of ethical adoption of new technologies," he added.

The Defense Innovation Board spent 15 months developing the principles, and consulted with leading AI and technical experts, as well as with current and former DOD leaders and the American public. Those principles, Deasy noted, apply to the use of AI in both combat and noncombat situations.

The five AI ethical principles, based on recommendations from the Defense Innovation Board, are:

1) Responsible: DOD personnel will exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care while remaining responsible for the development, deployment and use of AI capabilities.

2) Equitable: The department will take deliberate steps to minimize unintended bias in AI capabilities.

3) Traceable: The department's AI capabilities will be developed and deployed such that relevant personnel possess an appropriate understanding of the technology, development processes and operational methods applicable to AI capabilities, including with transparent and auditable methodologies, data sources and design procedures and documentation.

4) Reliable: The department's AI capabilities will have explicit, well-defined uses, and the safety, security and effectiveness of such capabilities will be subject to testing and assurance within those defined uses across their entire life cycles.

5) Governable: The department will design and engineer AI capabilities to fulfill their intended functions while possessing the ability to detect and avoid unintended consequences, and the ability to disengage or deactivate deployed systems that demonstrate unintended behavior.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said AI is a powerful emerging and enabling technology that is rapidly transforming culture, society, and eventually, even warfighting.

"Whether it does so in a positive or negative way depends on our approach to adoption and use," he said. "The complexity and the speed of warfare will change as we build an AI-ready force of the future. We owe it to the American people and our men and women in uniform to adopt AI ethics principles that reflect our nation's values of a free and open society."

Shanahan also said that he believes, and leaders in the Defense Department believe, that the nation that is first to master AI will be the one that prevails on the battlefields of the future.

"We also believe that the nation that successfully implements AI principles will lead in AI for many years," he said. "The U.S. military intends to do just that."

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