The UK government published its National AI Strategy in mid-September, billed as a “ten-year plan to make Britain a global AI superpower”. Despite the hype, the strategy has so far attracted curiously little comment and interest from the mainstream media. This is a cause for concern because if the government’s proposals bear fruit, they will dramatically change UK society and the lives of UK Citizens. They will also place military applications of AI at the centre of the UK’s AI sector.
The Strategy sets out the government’s ambitions to bring about a transition to an “AI-enabled economy” and develop the UK’s AI industry, building on a number of previously published documents – the 2017 Industrial Strategy and 2018 AI Sector Deal, and the ‘AI Roadmap‘ published by the AI Council earlier this year. It sets out a ten year plan based around three ‘pillars’: investing in the UK’s AI sector, placing AI at the mainstream of the UK’s economy by introducing it across all economic sectors and regions of the UK, and governing the use of AI effectively.
Unsurprisingly, in promoting the Strategy the government makes much of the potential of AI technologies to improve people’s lives and solve global challenges such as climate change and public health crises – although making no concrete commitments in this respect. Equally unsurprisingly it has far less to say up front about the military uses of AI. However, the small print of the document states that “defence should be a natural partner for the UK AI sector” and reveals that the Ministry of Defence is planning to establishment a new Defence AI Centre, which will be “a keystone piece of the modernisation of Defence”, to champion military AI development and use and enable the rapid development of AI projects. A Defence AI Strategy, expected to be published imminently, will outline how to “galvanise a stronger relationship between industry and defence”. Read more