Main Themes – Final Report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This is my synthesis of the recently published blue-ribbon report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The intent is to flesh out its main themes and to identify business opportunities.


The 756-page report is comprehensive, sobering, and detailed. It describes the dire threats of, but also the amazing promise of AI. It prescribes multiple policy and funding recommendations to secure US AI superiority and how to maintain western values of integrity, privacy, democracy, and open markets.


The report has already been compared to the 9/11 Commission report in terms of its strategic importance for the country and for its high-quality contents.


The report carries a powerful message delivered by credible messengers.


The Commission was co-chaired by Eric Schmidt, previously Google’s Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman and Robert Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense. Other Commissioners included representatives from Microsoft, In-Q-Tel, and Amazon.


Every nation and non-state actor will use AI, but how will they use these powerful tools? The future carries a lot of opportunity, but also brings risks. Will surveillance states bloom where deep societal monitoring and control is used without any regard for democratic values? Or will AI tools primarily be used responsibly to improve people’s daily lives and address global challenges like climate change?


The race is on and the report warns that the US may not win unless focused efforts are made immediately.


My main conclusions

Key quotes

China

  • China is the main strategic competitor.

  • China has reasonable chance of overtaking the US as the leader and center of AI innovation in the coming decade.

  • China has made massive investments in AI through military-civil fusion programs using all types of tools, including espionage, taking advantage of open US research environments, and promoting national champions.

  • Besides being strategic competitors, China and the US at the same time have a somewhat symbiotic relationship as academics, innovators, and companies work together to advance the field of AI.


Intelligence Transformation

  • AI will revolutionize the practice of intelligence.

  • “Machines will sift troves of data amassed from all sources, locate critical information, translate languages, fuse data sets from different domains, identify correlations and connections, redirect assets, and inform analysts and decision-makers.”

  • “At the tactical edge, “smart” sensors will be capable of pre-processing raw intelligence and prioritizing the data to transmit and store... Once collected, … processing systems can triage the information, identify trends and patterns, summarize key implications, and prepare the highest-priority information for human review.”


DOD & Warfare

  • By 2025, the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community must be AI-ready.

  • "AI will not stay in the domain of superpowers or the realm of science fiction.”

  • There is fear that AI tools will be weapons of first resort in future conflicts.

  • DOD is concentrated on legacy systems designed for the industrial age and Cold War. “The data that is needed to fuel machine learning (ML) is currently stovepiped, messy, or often discarded. Platforms are disconnected.”

  • “AI will make the process of finding and hitting targets of military value faster and more efficient. It will also increase accuracy of target identification and minimize collateral damage.”

  • “AI will create opportunities for more advanced processes that would operate more akin to a web, fusing multiple sensors and platforms to manage complex data flows and transmitting actionable information to human operators and machines across all domains.”

Strategic Vulnerability - Chips

  • “Microelectronics power all AI, and the United States no longer manufactures the world’s most sophisticated chips.”

  • A dangerous vulnerability that has accelerated is that the US soon sources roughly 90% leading-edge integrated-circuit production from abroad. This leaves the U.S. military and business supply chains highly vulnerable to disruptions.

  • China is pursuing unprecedented state-funded efforts to forge a world-leading semiconductor industry by 2030.

  • Most cutting-edge chips are produced at a single plant in Taiwan, awfully close to the principal strategic competitor.

  • The Commission suggests achieving US chip self-sufficiency by revitalizing domestic microchip fabrication, support needed to be around ~$35 billion.


Business Opportunities

  • The US government itself needs to prepare to take advantage of AI applications by upgrading its business processes.

  • “We…need to build secure digital infrastructure across the nation, shared cloud computing access, and smart cities to truly leverage AI... We envision hundreds of billions in federal spending in the coming years.”

  • Data is the new gold. “Efforts to apply business AI depend on the availability of clean, organized data. Significant resources are required to access, clean, and label enterprise data from the range of legacy business platforms.”

  • Platform technology is a key tool and high-value asset. Companies that reach broad adoption of their platforms will be winners as “more and better data, fed by a larger consumer/participant base, produce better algorithms, which produce better results, which in turn produces more users, more data, and better performance”.

  • Biology with new technologies such as the gene editing tool CRISPR in combination with massive computing power and AI will lead to society changing solutions in health, food production, and environmental sustainability.

  • AI will fuel advances in many Smart City applications and if physical infrastructure becomes more connected new sources of data can trigger innovations in energy grid management and transportation systems.

  • Cyber security will be a main area of investments, as recent examples have shown the U.S. is very vulnerable and needs tools for detection and management of cyber-attacks.


Public Safety & Security

  • Real-time AI-driven modeling and simulation can improve coordinated and timely responses to crises including pandemics and natural disasters.

  • AI can connect disparate data sources, maps, building layouts, and weather data, with different sensors such as drones to improve operations.

  • Law enforcement could use AI-enabled technologies for earlier detection of wanted criminals or to detect harmful event patters.


Cyber Security

  • The U.S. is very vulnerable as it has proven incapable of detecting and managing even low-end sophisticated cyber-attacks.

  • Develop and deploy AI-enabled defenses against cyber-attacks. National security agencies need to acquire the sensors and instrumentation needed to train AI systems to detect and respond to threats on their networks.”

  • Potential adversaries will recognize what every advertiser and social media company knows: AI is a powerful targeting tool. Just as AI-powered analytics transformed the relationship between companies and consumers, now it is transforming the relationship between governments and individuals.”

  • It is suggested that the government should operate a 24/7/365 operations center to follow and counter foreign-sourced malign information. AI-enabled tools would support the Center to be able to detect, attribute, and respond effectively in real-time.

  • It is important to know that software and devices that are authorized to operate on networks are secure. It is recommended that Congress fund up to three Critical Technology Security Centers with public and private stakeholders to evaluate and test devices and technologies that build and run networks and critical infrastructure.

Research

  • Research is a crucial activity, and it should be performed in many different forms and constellations.

  • One suggested is to form a network of regional innovation clusters focused on strategic emerging technologies. These clusters would involve industry, academia, and government with R&D resources from the Federal level.

International Collaboration

  • “U.S. government cannot do this alone. It needs committed partners in industry, academia, and civil society.”

  • “The United States must maintain its leadership in international R&D by further establishing itself as a hub of international research into and involving emerging technologies to foster AI collaboration and coordination with key allies and partners.”

  • “Build a favorable international technology order. The United States must work hand-in hand with allies and partners to promote the use of emerging technologies to strengthen democratic norms and values…”. One example of such networks below, other forum include e.g. NATO.

Export Controls & Dual Use

  • AI is the quintessential “dual-use” technology.

  • U.S. export controls and investment screening procedures are imperfect instruments for the AI competition.

  • U.S. regulatory capacity has not kept pace with technical developments, the Government lacks sufficient technical and analytical capacity to effectively design and efficiently enforce technology protection policies on dual-use emerging technologies.

  • Semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME) is identified as a key critical choke point to focus on.

  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is suggested to be expanded and re-tooled for sensitive, dual-use technologies.

Competitiveness

  • America’s ability to out-innovate competitors is the dominant component of any U.S. strategy for technology leadership. Promoting research, entrepreneurship, and talent development remain the key ingredients of success…”

  • It is recommended that a new Technology Competitiveness Council in the White House should be created.

  • New investments in AI R&D and establishing a national AI research infrastructure and succeeding with with attracting and educating more student and talents to the field.

  • AI sits at the center of emerging technologies, enabling some and enabled by others, for example, microelectronics, biotechnology, quantum computing, 5G, robotics and autonomous systems, additive manufacturing, and energy storage technology.

Trust

  • For the US to reap the benefits of AI, companies, innovators, academia, and all types of users, private and public, need to trust and accept the tools. That trust will be built on confidence in up-holding values such as privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.


The complete report can be found here: https://www.nscai.gov/

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