The American Department of Defense has a policy in place that already prohibits artificial intelligence from autonomously launching nuclear weapons. However, due to increasing concerns about AI and its potential threats, a group of lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum has come together to strengthen this policy.
“In all cases, the United States will 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.”
The newly proposed bill stipulates that no autonomous system can launch a nuclear weapon or select and engage targets for the purpose of launching one without meaningful human oversight. The text of the bill also emphasizes that “any decision to launch a nuclear weapon should not be made by artificial intelligence.”
One might wonder why this bill is necessary if such actions are already prohibited. The answer lies in a 2021 National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence report that recommended reiterating the ban on autonomous nuclear weapons to prevent it from happening within the US government and to encourage similar commitments from nations such as Russia and China. By publicizing the bill, lawmakers hope to bring attention to the dangers posed by current-generation autonomous AI systems, which are a growing concern in both the tech community and Congress. Additionally, the bill serves as a chance for sponsors to highlight their other efforts towards nuclear non-proliferation. For example, one such effort includes a recent bill that restricts the president’s power to unilaterally declare nuclear war.