• Elsa Kania

Intersections of Ideology with China's Approach to Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence

To what extent could certain political and ideological influences shape or constrain the operationalization of artificial intelligence by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA)? Could the AI systems developed and deployed by the PLA prove distinct in their design? I've provided an unofficial translation of a recent article from Study Times that highlights some of those concerns and considerations. The authors emphasize, "we must...ensure that AI obeys commands at any time and uphold the core principles and system of the Party's absolute leadership over the military. There must not be the slightest disloyalty."

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(Thanks to Joy Qiuyi Dong, @QiuyiJoy, for posting this picture!)

Shaping the Political Attributes of Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence

Wang Zhaobing and Chang Sheng, Study Times, November 14, 2018

Core Reading

Chairman Xi Jinping has raised the issue: “We must profoundly understand the political attributes of warfare, adhere to [the principle] of military obedience to political [authority] and that of strategy to political policies, thinking about issues of warfare from the height of politics.” To implement this important ideology, we must seriously approach issues related to the military applications of artificial intelligence (AI) from a political perspective. The starting point in planning, research, and design is simply to strengthen its political attributes, ensure the political directionality of AI’s military applications, and ensure that our military can win political and military victory under future intelligentized (智能化) conditions.

AI is a materialized form of human intelligence, and the function of its military applications arises from previous military ideologies, military operations, weapons employment, etc. information and data, as well as military experts’ quantification and assessment of this information and data, and all of these factors possess a certain ranking, and state or nationality perspective; therefore, AI’s military application must contain political tendencies. How to stand at the political height, paying close attention to AI’s military application, to shape its specific political attributes is an issue for the era confronting construction in the military domain.

Why must we shape the political attributes of AI’s military applications?

In recent years, along with innovation in the application of AI technologies to the military domain, its advantages have become increasingly prominent. Due to the massive employment of unmanned weaponry and equipment instead of human beings on the front lines, there have been reductions in human bloodshed and the major resulting fluctuations in national sentiment. The political advantages cannot be underestimated. At present, global military competition around intelligentization has already pulled open the curtain. Although the application of AI technology is still at an early stage, its important value and strategic significance have become more and more recognized by the world. In particular, the problem of shaping its political attributes must receive adequate attention.

This is determined by the essential characteristics of AI. AI is a theory, method, technology, and application system that uses digital computers or a machine controlled by it to simulate, extend, and expand human intelligence, perceive the environment, acquire knowledge, and achieve optimal results. AI’s military applications are various AI systems in the military domain that operate or work through hardware carriers, such as chips, according to human-programmed logic or software algorithms. AI is an extension of human intelligence and an extension of human value systems. The military application of AI will naturally be injected with the political tendencies of human beings in the process of design and application.

This is determined by the political and military relationship. Politics determines the military and leads the military; the military obeys politics, serving politics; the two have a master-slave relationship. AI’s military applications are military tools based on AI technologies used to achieve political objectives. We must penetrate the political attributes of AI’s military applications, strengthen its political characteristics, facilitate better service by the military of politics, and make AI’s military applications develop in the right direction, which serves as a political “lifeline” in the development of military intelligentization with specific interpretations.

This is determined by the political differences between different military forces. The essence of politics is to deal with the relationship between classes and between different countries and nationalities and within classes. The human analysis of the same military operations by different classes, countries, and nationalities may have different feasibility, necessity, and efficacy. Under the same military background, the program and ways of thinking for planning military operations are also different. The primary distinction is because their respective political positions have different impacts on behavioral principles and methods of conduct. To develop AI’s military applications to suit the requirements of our military, we must study thoroughly the missions and tasks of our military, as well as the military and political experiences that have been summarized by our military across history. Through specific research and design, AI’s military applications can be used in military missions such as battlefield reconnaissance, precision guidance, supporting decision-making, intelligence analysis, etc., while at the same time thinking politically about problems and ensuring that political and military victories under intelligentized conditions can be won in the future.

What are the connotations of the political attributes of AI’s military application?

Strengthening the political attributes of AI’s military applications is both a fundamental requirement and a guiding principle for how to research and develop AI for military applications. For our military, the political attributes of AI’s military applications must meet two requirements: one is to have excellent political quality, and the other is to be good at winning political battles (政治仗). For AI’s military application, it is necessary to answer the questions of “who am I?” and “for whom?,” and also answer the questions of “what to do?” and “how to do it?,” integrating the various functions, applications objectives, and application environments, etc. factors for various military applications of AI, thus materializing for AI’s military applications the political connotations contained within their intelligent requirements.

Let AI possess a Marxist perspective on warfare. Injecting the Marxist view of war into the design concepts of AI’s military application, letting it use this as a basis to understand and guide warfare. Let there be a scientific understanding of warfare as the continuation of politics; economics is the deepest source of warfare; and the masses possess an important function for victory and defeat in warfare, with science and technology greatly influencing the military. Use materialist dialectics to observe contradictory characteristics and patterns of movement in real wars, finding laws and solutions for warfare.

Let AI shoulder the mission and tasks of our military’s new era. Our military’s implementation of AI in military applications of planning, design, and research and development are naturally based on the missions and tasks of our military. As a materialized intelligent tool to assist our military in fulfilling its tasks and missions, AI’s military applications should naturally shoulder the tasks and missions of our military’s new era, providing strategic support for consolidating the leadership of the Communist Party of China and our nation’s socialist system; providing strategic support for safeguarding national sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity; providing strategic support for expanding our nation’s overseas interests; and providing strategic support for promoting global peace and development.

Let AI possess the excellent political qualities of our military. AI’s biggest feature is the capability to achieve automation of programs and instructions. After the AI system is turned on, it only runs the program and instructions “unconditionally,” and objectively there is the possibility of its “becoming a turncoat on the battlefield” (“临阵倒戈”). For our military, we must pay attention to the bottom line thinking; ensure that AI obeys commands at any time; and uphold the fundamental principles and system of the [Chinese Communist] Party's absolute leadership over the military. There must not be the slightest disloyalty. All behaviors must be designed and operated under this premise. At the same time, research, development, and applications of AI must also have the characteristics of focusing on actual combat, seeking truth and being pragmatic.

Let AI grasp the fundamental operational ideologies of our military. Through humans' research designs and AI’s learning evolution, let AI’s military applications at the same time as supporting commanders in undertaking military operations, planning, and designing, be able to support adequately people’s warfare ideology. Focus on mobilizing the broadest masses of the people, and expanding new channels and new methods, such as networking, special operations, and law, public opinion, finance, and other fields, for the people to participate in warfare. Fully give play to overall synergies of the various branches and services; pay attention to the close integration of military struggles with political, economic, and diplomatic struggles.

How to shape the political attributes of AI’s military applications

Cultivate AI’s excellent political qualities. We must research, deliberate, and prepare the various military applications of AI from a political perspective. In top-level design linkages, strengthen political ideology, face squarely up to the influence and functions of political factors in military applications; scientifically and rationally design algorithmic programs for AI’s military application of AI; and guarantee the direction of AI’s military applications from the source.

In research and assessments, integrate political factors. Based on sample information from the history of warfare and related laws of warfare, using AI technology undertake deep learning research the correlation between military operations and their military and political effects under specific political and military conditions. In addition to focusing on the analysis of material factors, such as weapons and equipment, and material security, we must also incorporate long-term political factors, such as the political system, strategic guidelines, systemic preparation, laws and regulations, as well as spiritual will, popular support or opposition, and the direction of public opinion, etc. current political factors, and give them corresponding weights.

When planning a program, highlight political strategems. When recommending the optimal plans for military struggle through algorithmic planning, refer to the strategems of “the least charge,” “the nearest route,” and “the shortest time” in the mapping and navigation systems. While designing military perspectives and economic perspectives, we must also pay attention to the implementation of politics and strategems. Comprehensively employ of AI-related expert systems technology, neural network technology, machine learning technology, etc. to build a relationship model, selecting exactly what struggle to undertake, what targets to strike, and to what degree to strike; seizing upon public opinion to the greatest degree, reducing casualties, and thus achieving maximum benefits with regard to political [objectives].

In command and deployment, focus on political parameters. Political factors, especially human’s ideological factors, possess subjectivity, complexity, and uncertainty, but as long as scientific, precise labeling systems and measurement standards are established, qualitative and quantitative assessments can still be combined. It is necessary to adhere to the collaborative research, system design, and actively build a systematic indicator evaluation system. In the design and application of relevant command and decision support system algorithm programs, research and develop AI military application standards based on interoperability, security, systematic-ness, traceability, etc., defining interchangeable components, data, and transaction models. Embed an evaluation formula for relevant political parameters to assist the commander in making decision-making arrangements.

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