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Preparing for “NATO-mation”: The Atlantic Alliance toward the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Preparing for “NATO-mation”: The Atlantic Alliance toward the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Preparing for “NATO-mation”: The Atlantic Alliance toward the Age of Artificial Intelligence

The unprecedented pace of technological change brought about by the fourth Industrial Revolution offers enormous opportunities but also entails some risks. This is evident when looking at discussions about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and big data (BD). Many analysts, scholars and policymakers are in fact worried that, beside efficiency and new economic opportunities, these technologies may also promote international instability: for instance, by leading to a swift redistribution of wealth around the world; a rapid diffusion of military capabilities or by heightening the risks of military escalation and conflict. Such concerns are understandable. Throughout history, technological change has at times exerted similar effects. Additionally, human beings seem to have an innate fear that autonomous machines might, at some point, revolt and threaten humanity – as illustrated in popular culture, from Hebrew tradition’s Golem to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, from Karel Čapek’s Robot to Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and the movie Terminator.

This NDC Policy Brief contributes to the existing debate by assessing the logic behind some of these concerns and by looking at the historical record. While some worries are warranted, this brief provides a much more reassuring view. The implications are straightforward: NATO, its member states and partners should not be afraid of ongoing technological change, but embrace the opportunities offered by new technologies and address the related challenges. In other words, the Atlantic Alliance should start a new transformation process directed toward the age of intelligent machines: it should start with what I call “NATO-mation”. The goal is not only preserving and enhancing NATO’s military superiority and thus better contribute to global security in the decades ahead but also ensuring that its values, ethical stances as well as moral commitments will remain central in a rapidly changing security environment.

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