Defense, Technology

The AI Literacy Gap Hobbling American Officialdom

January 14, 2020
By Michael Horowitz and Lauren Kahn | War On The Rocks

Rarely is there as much agreement about the importance of an emerging technology as exists today about artificial intelligence (AI). Rightly or wrongly, a 2019 survey of 1,000 members of the general population and 300 technology sector executives found that 91 percent of tech executives and 84 percent of the public believe that AI will constitute the next revolution in technology. Along with the public, companies, universities, civil society organizations, and governments are all rushing to understand exactly what sort of impact AI will have on their respective daily operations. Most people will not be AI experts, but just as military personnel, policymakers, and intelligence analysts in previous generations needed to adapt and learn the basics of electricity and combustion engines in order to drive national security forward then, the same will be true of AI now. A renewed emphasis on AI education for those that will make key decisions about programs, funding, and adoption is essential for safe and effective U.S. adoption of AI in the national security sphere.

Within the U.S. government, there are several ongoing initiatives designed to ensure U.S. leadership in technology development and adoption. The February 2019 White House strategy on AI, for example, backed by an executive order, demonstrates broad recognition of AI’s importance. Within the Defense Department, the creation of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant programs on AI highlight the military’s interest in AI. Moreover, U.S. leadership in AI may be one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill at present. The congressionally authorized National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which released its interim report in November 2019, is investigating how to ensure the United States remains the world leader in AI research and uses algorithms in a safe and effective way in multiple areas.

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