Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence - Ethics Project Now Funded


18 December 2019

Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence - Ethics Project Now Funded
Photo: Pixabay

Congratulations to Greg Reichberg on funding from the SAMKUL call of the Research Council of Norway for a four-year project: Warring with Machines: Military Applications of Artificial Intelligence and the Relevance of Virtue Ethics. The PRIO team also consists of Henrik Syse and Mareile Kaufmann, and in addition a full-time PhD researcher.

Artificial intelligence (AI) plays an ever-expanding role in military planning. This project will provide an ethical framework for the design and implementation of AI-based military technologies. 

Human/machine interaction within the conduct of hostilities is referred to in military terminology as the "Force Mix". Ethics research into the human and machine Force Mix, especially the moral implications for the human agents who use AI-based weapons systems, has failed to keep pace with accelerating technological developments. Warring with Machines aims to fill this lacuna. This project takes as its primary referent the people – military personnel at varying levels of the command structure – who serve in combat settings with these machines.  

How to maintain clear lines of human responsibility in the Force Mix is a central focus of the project.

More clarity on this issue has the potential to change ethical instruction within military training and educational institutions. It also has the potential to change the way military technology contractors design their AI-based technologies, promoting a better fit between ethical guidelines and the battlefield situations military personnel will likely face in the future.

The project aims to yield a set of moral precepts guiding the use of AI-technology within three settings: kinetic combat operations, cyber operations, and strategic planning. These precepts will serve as conceptual pillars for formulating policies bearing on the design and use of AI-related weapons systems.

The project's research questions are approached within a theoretical framework broadly aligned with virtue ethics. Virtue ethics focuses on the moral evaluation of the dispositions and character traits of agents in context.

The project involves collaboration between leading national and international research institutions, inter alia the Center for Philosophy and the Sciences at the University of Oslo, the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research at the University of Agder, the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the US Naval Academy, and the Munich Center for Neurosciences – Brain & Mind at Ludwig Maximillian University.

In addition to the PRIO team (Greg Reichberg–project manager, Sigurd Hovd–Ph.D researcher, Neven Ahmad–research assistant, Mareile Kaufmann, and Henrik Syse), the project's members include 

  • David M. Barnes, US Military Academy West Point
  • Edward Barrett, US Naval Academy
  • Einar Bøhn, Center for AI Research (University of Agder)
  • James L. Cook, US Air Force Academy
  • Martin Cook, US Naval War College 
  • Ophelia Deroy, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich
  • Shannon French, Case Western Reserve University
  • Kirsi Helkala, Norwegian Defense University College
  • George Lucas,  US Naval Academy
  • Kaushik Roy, Jadavpur University (Kolkata, India)
  • Zoe Stanley-Lockman, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  • Shannon Vallor,  University of Edinburgh
  • Sebastian Watzl, Center for Philosophy and the Sciences (University of Oslo)