Ethical AI for Defence: World experts gather in Canberra

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1 August 2019


The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems provides an opportunity to make Defence operations more effective, while presenting unique ethical and legal challenges.

The Ethical AI for Defence workshop held in Canberra  from 30 July to 1 August 2019, hosted global experts in related fields. It was an active collaboration led by Defence Science and Technology Group with Plan Jericho and the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, including representatives from the Australian Defence Force, Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics, industry, universities and institutes from Australia and abroad.

The workshop addressed ethics across a range of military AI applications, from weapons systems to business management and decision support tools. 

Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro said the aim of the workshop was to derive and analyse ethical principles relevant to Defence contexts for AI and autonomous systems that will inform military leadership and ethics.

“This is about developing relevant ethical principles to facilitate communication between software engineers, integrators and operators during the development and operation of military AI systems,” Professor Monro said. 

“The objective of the workshop was to bring together the best national and international people in the field, work through incredibly complex moral issues and create a roadmap for ethical AI into the future.”

Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Head of Air Force Capability, said that to succeed in the future, Defence needed to invest in and capitalise on advances in artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, natural language processing and heuristics. 

“We must be sure that these technologies are trusted, ethical and transparent, before we bring them into service,” Air Vice-Marshal Roberts said.

“This workshop is a key activity in developing Defence’s understanding in this critical area.

“Our focus is on how to ensure appropriate action and moral responsibility for decisions, and continuously evaluating which decisions can be made by machines and which must be made by humans.” 

The principles from this workshop will support the development of military leadership and ethics research, and doctrine development, in the Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics and across Defence.
 

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