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Computer vision recognizing soldiers in a battle fi

Western nations are making a substantial investment in AI.

What’s new: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which includes the United States, Canada, and much of Europe, announced a €1 billion venture capital fund that will focus on technologies including AI. The move adds to the growing momentum behind AI for warfare.

How it works: The alliance’s Innovation Fund is bankrolled primarily by 22 of the alliance’s 30 members with additional pledges from other members. It will disburse its money over 15 years.

  • The fund will invest in defense-focused startups and other investment funds.
  • The primary targets are AI, data processing, and autonomous machines.
  • Additional targets include biotechnology, propulsion, materials, energy, and human enhancement.

Behind the news: NATO members recently boosted their individual AI budgets as well.

  • In June, the UK released a defense modernization strategy centered on AI. The policy makes it easier for the military to invest in civilian AI efforts and establishes a Defence AI Centre to centralize military AI research and development.
  • Also in June, Germany earmarked €500 million for research and development, including artificial intelligence. Earlier, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany had pledged 2 percent of its gross domestic product to the military — a stark reversal of the demilitarization policy it has followed since the end of World War 2.
  • In 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense requested $874 million in the 2022 U.S. military budget for AI research and development.
  • Looking beyond NATO, the U.S. joined Australia, India, Japan, and other Pacific nations in a pledge to work together on military AI applications by coordinating regulations on data transfers, privacy, and how AI can be used.

Why it matters: Besides autonomous weaponry, AI has numerous military applications that confer strategic and tactical advantages. In the Russian invasion of Ukraine alone, AI has been used to identify enemy soldiers, combat propaganda, and intercept communications.

We’re thinking: The rising tide of military AI adds urgency to calls for international agreements on how the technology can be used in warfare. We support the United Nations’ proposed ban on autonomous weapons.


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