Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military Domain

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On 15 and 16 Feb, AMI participated in the delegation of the Holy See on request by the Nuntius in the Netherlands to the Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military domain (REAIM). 
The delegation consisted out of Dott.ssa Francesca Di Giovanni Under secretary of state (delegation leader), Mgr. Paul Tschang In-Nam (Apostolic Nuntius), Mgr. Giancarlo Dellagiovanna (secretary), VADM RNLN rtd Matthieu JM Borsboom (President AMI), CAPT RNLN rtd Frank Marcus (vice-president AMI).

This first Summit on REAIM was held in The Hague (The Netherlands) initiated and hosted by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence and co hosted by the government of South Korea. The two-day event attracted over 2000 participants and representation of over 80 nations around the world.The venue was the World Forum where representatives of governments, businesses, academia, think tanks, international institutions, NGO’s, and interested civilians convened to follow plenary openings, multiple parallel and streamed panels, break out sessions, work shops, interviews, talkshows, academic fora, demonstrations, etc etc. The evening before the Summit, the City of The Hague hosted a reception in the town hall attended by Vadm Borsboom. A speech was delivered by the Major in which he connected the importance of the topic of AI to the international legal framework of which the city of The Hague is positioned as International city of Peace and Justice.

REAIM was initiated originally to follow up a parliamentary motion to bring together the wider (world) community to discuss AI in the military domain. The defined goals for the summit:
-Putting the subject of responsible AI in the military domain higher on the political agenda;
-Evoke and encourage a diverse group of stakeholders to contribute to concrete next steps;
-inspire and build knowledge by sharing experiences and solutions.

The website and the APP of REAIM provides a huge, rich and informative dataset on the the preparation, design, execution and results of the conference. Therefore we will only highlight observations and appreciations.

In the Plenary opening on the first day by Minister Wopke Hoekstra (Foreign Affairs), he spoke of this first REAIM being a watershed event, a start of a community. He stated AI can revolutionise wars but guidelines are needed which requires action now! Start here today to built responsible AI rules. This sense of urgency on the topic was felt throughout the conference, the general feeling was design of rules, regulations, restrictions etc are already following (late) the development of AI in general (and specific in the military domain).

In the first panel with high level representatives from industry, the military, Amnesty, and academia you could immediately sense the tough questions ad hand; human control, responsibility, accountability, use defensive (not offensive)? So from the start of the conference or better even from the conference design the issue of importance also dominantly for the Holy See namely “Human Dignity” was addressed throughout.
Another notion was that states can have good intents with using AI responsible however the technology can also be used by non state actors and criminal organisations. Therefore making the argument for strict regulation over self regulation. A further observation following different panels is that AI is not well defined so it can lead to “Babylonian confusion” in discussions, it is perceived as a highly technical topic but in the end it is about ethics. Often as a topic it is mixed with Cyber, relevant is that systems with AI have an additional risk for Cyber threats. In the military domain the discussions often concentrate on killer-robots and drones. However AI will likely be in those systems it is not limited to these capabilities, AI will be part of all kinds of capabilities (also supporting systems like logistics).

PAX made the remark in one of the panels that the conference should have focussed more on “autonomous weapons”. It also became clear that in Geneva a group of experts within CCW attempts to regulate Autonomous W/S with legally binding instruments. After many years without succes they now want to organise support outside the CCW framework. Also throughout the conference the term “meaningful” control was discussed, a lot of debate if meaningful human control (MHC) is possible to organise, how to ensure, how to insert this in all steps of the AI lifecycle. This links to the discussion on “responsible” AI is this achievable.

On the second day Dott Di Giovanni attended the conference and was briefed on the results of the first day. In the plenary opening and following panel again the main discussion was about the issues also underpinned by Catholic social teaching; ethical principles, International law, attribution issues, accountability, human dignity. It was clear that the statement delivered by Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni in the afternoon ministerial session hit all the topics which were found relevant during the proceedings of the conference. The fact that a (high level) delegation of the Holy see participated throughout the conference was noted very well by participants, conference organisers, the hosts and ministerial delegations. The participation and forward leaning contribution to the conference, formalised by our statement, was highly appreciated.

The outcome of the conference as articulated is that a “global commission AI” will be set up to promote mutual awareness worldwide, to clarify what is meant by AI in the military domain and to determine how to achieve its responsible development, production, and application. The committee will also describe the conditions under which the management of AI can best be arranged. It is clear from our statement and the result of the conference that our endeavours have to be continued and therefor our advise is to continue an active position and dialogue with this forum of REAIM. The Apostolat Militaire International (AMI) is standing by to continue to support the Holy See from our sound military experience and being faithful Catholics.

Link to the declaration