Kissinger described AI as the new frontier of arms control during a rally at the Washington National Cathedral on Nov. 16. If the powers that be don’t find a way to prevent the reach of AI, he said, “it’s just a mad race for some disaster.”
The warning from Kissinger, one of the world’s leading politicians and planners, is a sign of growing global concern about the power of the “thinking machine” to they deal with global trade, finance and war. He spoke via video link at a cathedral session titled “Man, Machine, and God,” which is this year’s theme at the annual Nancy and Paul Ignatius program, named in honor of my parents.
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Kissinger’s concerns about AI were echoed by two other panelists: Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and chairman of the congressionally appointed National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which issued a report to him last year; and Anne Neuberger, the Biden administration’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies.
The first secretary warned that AI systems can change the war like they have chess or other games of strategy – because they can make moves that no human will measure and feel is destructive. “What I’m saying is that in searching for the right questions we’re asking them, they’re coming to the conclusion that we’re not going to be like us – and we’re going to live in their world,” Kissinger said.
He went on to say: “Many of the machines that we are capable of we don’t know the real world around us. “How do you make an object into a machine? fighting power … unmanned aerial warfare. But these are just the beginning of the process. It’s a description 50 years down the road that will be depressing.”
Kissinger urged the leaders of the United States and China, the world’s technology giants, to begin urgent discussions on how to set limits and regulations for AI.
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Such a discussion can begin, he said, with President Biden telling Chinese President Xi Jinping: “We both have many problems to discuss, but there is one problem that is greater – that is that I and You are unique in history and can destroy the world through our decisions [AI-driven warfare], and it is not possible to get one-sided benefits from this. Therefore, we should start with the first principle that we will not wage a modern war against each other. “
US and Chinese leaders could start high-tech defense talks, Kissinger suggested, with an agreement to “create at first small companies that their workers will be responsible for.” [national leaders] about the risks involved, and which can be discussed on how to improve the risks. China has long resisted nuclear arms control talks of the kind Kissinger made with the Soviet Union during his years as national security adviser and secretary of state.
US officials say the Chinese will not consider limiting nuclear weapons until they work with the United States and Russia, which began with the 1972 SALT treaty, under which Kissinger approved their weapons.
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The power of AI that is changing the world has been a priority for Kissinger in his late 90s, with Schmidt as his leader. The two co-authored a book last year with MIT professor Daniel Huttenlocher titled “Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” which described the opportunities and risks of the new technology.
Kissinger’s first major public comment on AI was a 2018 article in The Atlantic magazine titled “How the Enlightenment is Ending.” The article’s headline summed up his depressing message: “Philosophically, intellectually – in every way – society is not ready for the rise of intelligence.”
Kissinger told the cathedral audience that for all the destruction of nuclear weapons, “they don’t have this. [AI] the ability to initiate themselves depends on their understanding, their own thinking, risk or of choosing a goal.”
When asked if he was optimistic about humanity’s ability to thwart AI’s destructive potential when deployed at war, Kissinger replied: “I’m optimistic in the sense that if we don’t fix it, it will surely destroy us. … We have no choice.”