Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan, Director of the Defense Department’s (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), said Jan. 15 that the future of defense artificial intelligence (AI) relies on international collaboration with United States allies.

“Given the importance of the NATO alliance, we desire a future that enables digital-age cooperation and interoperability between the U.S. and NATO while respecting and honoring the strong commitment to safe, responsible, and ethical uses of technology,” he said in a news conference at North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels.

Deploying AI across the full spectrum of the defense enterprise will help the U.S. and its allies maintain a strategic military advantage, the general said. Tools like machine learning and natural language processing will help leaders on the ground make safer decisions and streamline back-office functions.

Shanahan compared the growth of AI to electricity and computers. He called AI a “transformative, general purpose technology” that should be used to optimize human-machine teaming. It’s the responsibility of U.S.-allied countries to make smart AI decisions from the get-go, he said.

“These security challenges and the technological innovations that are changing our world should compel likeminded nations to shape the future of the international order in the digital age, and vigorously promote AI for our shared values,” Shanahan said. “AI, like the major technology innovations of the past, has enormous potential to strengthen the NATO alliance.”

While shaping these AI standards, the general added that long-term commitment, and regulation without stifling innovation, are important considerations.

“Success with AI adoption requires a multi-generational commitment with the right combination of tactical urgency and strategic patience,” he said. “With no end in sight to the speed or scope of change, the United States understands that we must embrace this technological transformation to meet future global security challenges.”

On the regulation front, the U.S. must find common ground with NATO and the European Union, he said.

“Just in the discussions we’ve had in the last two days, there are far more commonalities than there are differences, especially when we talk about principles of artificial intelligence and the ethical and safe lawful use of it,” Shanahan said. “I think there is a grave danger of over-regulating and stifling innovation, but we also realize the technology is so immature and new that there are risks introduced by bringing these capabilities.”

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.