On April 26th, 2023, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Ted W. Lieu (CA-36), Don Beyer (VA-08) and Ken Buck (CO-04) introduced bipartisan legislation which would stop AI from launching a nuclear attack.
The bill, ‘Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence’, would “prohibit the use of Federal funds to launch a nuclear weapon using an autonomous weapons system that is not subject to meaningful human control.”
If it is already forbidden, what is the need for further legislation around the use of AI when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons?
Not only does the new bill extend existing commitments made in 2022 by the Department of Defense, but it also appears to be a step forward in encouraging similar commitments by China and Russia.
The Department of Defense’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review states that current policy is to “maintain a human ‘in the loop’ for all actions critical to informing and executing decisions by the President to initiate and terminate nuclear weapon employment” in all cases.
“As we live in an increasingly digital age, we need to ensure that humans hold the power alone to command, control, and launch nuclear weapons – not robots,” said Senator Markey. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Act. We need to keep humans in the loop on making life or death decisions to use deadly force, especially for our most dangerous weapons.”
“AI technology is developing at an extremely rapid pace,” said Representative Lieu. “While we all try to grapple with the pace at which AI is accelerating, the future of AI and its role in society remains unclear. It is our job as Members of Congress to have responsible foresight when it comes to protecting future generations from potentially devastating consequences. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous AI Act, which will ensure that no matter what happens in the future, a human being has control over the employment of a nuclear weapon – not a robot. AI can never be a substitute for human judgment when it comes to launching nuclear weapons. I’m grateful to Representatives Beyer and Buck and Senator Markey for their work on this important, forward-thinking legislation.”
Hopes To Spur Similar Commitments From China And Russia
Although the launch of nuclear weapons by AI is already forbidden, The Verge reports that the sponsors of the bill note that a 2021 National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence report recommended affirming a ban on autonomous nuclear weapons launches, not only to prevent it from happening inside the US government but to spur similar commitments from China and Russia.
Overall, the “Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous AI Act” aims to ensure that human decision-makers remain in control of the US nuclear arsenal, even as advances in AI and autonomous systems continue to evolve.
What do you think of the new bill? Do you think this new legislation will spur similar action from the Chinese and Russian governments?