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Russia’s sudden change of heart on AI

Russia's sudden change of heart on AI

In a widely reported speech to a group of students on Sept. 1, 2017, “Knowledge Day” that marks the first day of the Russian school year, Vladimir Putin asserted that “the future belongs to artificial intelligence” and added that “whoever leads in AI will rule the world.” With those words, Putin launched what he meant to be a major Russian effort to develop and exploit artificial intelligence systems, most notably for military use.

Indeed, within a year, Russian SU-35 fighter aircraft reportedly were being equipped with an autonomous targeting device; Moscow plans to install far more AI-based systems in its next generation MiG-41 fighter. Russia is also testing autonomous unmanned land and naval systems.

As it has pressed ahead with research into AI, with a heavy defense-oriented focus, Russia has blocked international efforts to impose any constraints on AI development. Just two months after Putin’s speech, Russia effectively stonewalled a United Nations effort to develop global guidelines to regulate the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. Moscow recognized that any guidelines might stall its effort to realize Putin’s objective.

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