Competition Among Major Powers Hindering the Creation of Global Rules

There should be no weapons that automatically kill or injure people through the use of artificial intelligence. It is problematic that the competition among military powers to develop AI weapons is delaying the creation of relevant international rules.

The U.N. Security Council has held its first meeting on AI. Britain, which holds the presidency, stated that “AI will affect the work of this council,” adding that while AI could enhance global strategic stability, the technology could also disrupt it.

So-called AI weapons use AI to control drones and other unmanned weapons. It is believed that because AI processes vast amounts of information in a short period of time, including information about the situation in a combat zone, these weapons can conduct attacks more precisely than what humans can calculate, potentially reducing the damage to one’s own forces.

Military powers such as the United States, Russia and China are proceeding with the use of AI for military purposes, but the actual situation on the matter remains unclear.

In particular, lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), in which AI automatically sets attack targets and kills the enemy without human intervention, pose the risk of drastically changing the way battles are fought.

If AI makes the final decision on an attack, there may be a situation in which it becomes unclear who is responsible for the action.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to compile a legally binding framework by 2026 to prohibit LAWS. He also called for the need to establish a new international organization to oversee AI.

Experts say that the use of LAWS should be banned from the perspective of international humanitarian law and have proposed that AI weapons incorporate a program that requires the commander’s permission at the time of an attack.

However, the major powers are yet to be on the same page when it comes to making rules.

At the meeting, the United States stressed that ethics and responsibility are necessary for the military use of AI, but stopped short of going into specific regulations.

In response, China, which favors the establishment of international rules, claimed that “a certain developed country, in order to seek technological hegemony, seeks to build exclusive small clubs.” China must be feeling wary that the United States, with its lead in AI development, will steer the discussion in a way that is advantageous to itself.

Russia, for its part, rejected the creation of rules and opposed the establishment of a new international body, saying that the risks and threats of AI have not reached a level that the international community can assess. These remarks are another example highlighting the attitude of Russia, which has trampled on international law and invaded Ukraine.

Each country needs to find common ground by recognizing AI weapons as a problem for humanity as a whole. Japan should also actively participate in discussions about regulations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2023)