AI at the center of NATO Emerging and Disruptive Technologies strategy

AI at the center of NATO Emerging and Disruptive Technologies strategy

Innovation is at the centre of Allied Command Transformation’s efforts in transforming the Alliance, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană discussed the external policy dimension of Artificial Intelligence at the European Parliament on March 4.

Artificial Intelligence brings about new opportunities for cooperation between NATO and the EU, Mr. Geoană emphasized. These include the exchange of best practices, but also coordinated efforts to develop the kind of regulation that can foster innovation and set global standards for the ethical use of AI. 

The Deputy Secretary General outlined NATO’s ongoing work to understand and adopt new technologies and maintain its edge, including the comprehensive roadmap on EDT adopted by NATO leaders in December 2019, and the implementation strategy agreed by Defence Ministers in February this year. He also drew attention to the Secretary General’s proposal for a NATO defence innovation push to promote better transatlantic cooperation on critical technologies, as part of the NATO 2030 initiative. 

Emerging and Disruptive Technologies are those which have a rapid and major effect on technologies that already exist and disrupt or overturn traditional business methods and practices. These technologies can present both an opportunity and a threat to the Alliance and, in recognising this, Allied Command Transformation initiated the Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDT) Roadmap in 2018. The EDT Roadmap uses a bottom-up approach to conduct rapid and tangible demonstrations in realistic operational conditions in order to understand the potential of EDT from both the opportunity and threat standpoints and, to set the conditions to exploit them within NATO and its Member Nations.

In a November 2020 Majority Reporto f the Committee on Foreign Relations, the US Senate set out its vision on how increased EUUS cooperation can “shape the future of technology” and influence global standard-setting, while addressing the risks of lagging behind China in the future development of AI. Meanwhile, the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) has been tasked with adopting expert recommendations on advancing the development of AI in a security and
defense context. As regards transatlantic cooperation on this front, in its Third Quarter Recommendations to the US Congress, the NSCAI proposed a Strategic Dialogue for Emerging Technologies (SDET) between the United States and the European Union.

In terms of growing cyber security concerns, and in view of the increased vulnerability of both governmental and non-governmental entities to security breaches, as demonstrated by the recent large-scale cyber-attacks in the US, EU-US cooperation on AI-enabled safety and security solutions is also becoming paramount. The new EU Cybersecurity Strategy was adopted jointly by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on 16 December 2020.

In the field of AI-enabled and autonomous weapon systems, there is also scope for more global regulatory dialogue. From the perspective of international law and ethics, issues of liability, responsibility, and meaningful control by the human operator for the use of such weapons, as well as agreement on a legally binding definition of LAWS (lethal autonomous weapon systems) remain to be fully addressed. The European Parliament has expressed its position1 on LAWS, calling for a ban thereof and reminding that the development and use thereof raises fundamental ethical concerns. The European Commission High Level Expert Group referenced the Parliament’s position in its Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI.

George Costa

George Costa is a reporter specialized in defence and security systems. He covers international defence and security issues, such as international conflicts, WMD proliferation, and cybersecurity, as well as news reporting on developments in the global defence community.