The Pentagon is hiring an ethicist

The Pentagon. (Wikimedia)

The Pentagon is looking for an ethicist to help navigate AI's complicated moral questions.

The ethicist will work in the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), and focus on disaster relief and wildfire response, according to a press release. In theory, the job will also cover more morally troubling areas, including military action.

JAIC director Lt General Jack Shanahan is quoted describing the position:

We are going to bring in someone who will have a deep background in ethics, and then the lawyers within the department will be looking at how we actually bake this into the Department of Defense.

Shanahan previously led Project Maven, another Pentagon AI program.

In an August 30 meeting with reporters, Shanahan described his vision for his department's AI research:

This is less about any individual technology than it is about how we design, experiment with and deploy A.I.-enabled operating concepts to gain competitive advantage, from the tactical edge to the strategic level. In some cases, perhaps only gaining a fleeting upper hand, a temporal advantage. In others, achieving a sustained strategic advantage against a peer competitor.

He also suggested that the US's geopolitical rivals don't share his team's ethical concerns:

At its core, we are in a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age. Along with our allies and partners, we want to lead and ensure that that character reflects the values and interests of free and democratic societies. I do not see China or Russia placing the same kind of emphasis in these areas.


Surveillance and Privacy

August 16th

AI-enabled technologies produce and rely on vast troves of personal data, most of which is unregulated and vulnerable to theft and misuse.

These technologies include:

  • Facial recognition: It helps users unlock their smartphones. It also helps police in China track criminal suspects and monitor members of the Uyghur ethnic minority.
  • Personalization: It helps consumers make necessary purchases and discover entertainment, but also encourages developers to collect personal data from increasingly far-flung sources.
  • Voice assistants: They help users answer questions, create calendar events, and set alarms. They also record audio accidentally, and until recently relied on human reviewers to listen to private audio to improve their responses.
  • Smart home products: Similar to voice assistants, these products allow users to remotely operate appliances, set temperatures and access security footage. They also collect a vast amount of private information about the home life of their users.