In a landmark move, over 60 countries, including global powers China and the United States, have answered a “call to action” in February 2023, highlighting the crucial role of responsible AI implementation in military and defense operations. While this collective commitment underscores the potential for AI to enhance a country’s digital security and defense, concerns persist regarding the frequency and ethical implications of AI utilization in warfare.
A recent report by Reuters has revealed that agreements signed by these nations lack legally binding measures and prove inadequate in regulating the use of AI, particularly concerning life-threatening drones capable of autonomous actions. Human rights experts and academics have raised alarm, pointing out the potential for military conflicts arising from such technology, which can take lives without any human intervention.
Globally, the application of AI in defense is already underway, albeit at varying degrees. Southeast Asia (SEA), however, has been relatively slow in its progress. Currently, only Indonesia and Singapore leverage AI in their military defenses, while other nations in the region lag behind due to their comparatively less advanced capabilities.
Recognizing the need to adapt and prepare for potential threats, countries must maximize the potential of AI in combating both physical and cyber attacks. To this end, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) department has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with AI Singapore (AISG).
The MOU between SAF DIS and AISG aims to strengthen the capabilities of the DIS’s Data Science and AI (DSAI) division. By collaborating with academia and various industries, DIS seeks to enhance AI innovation in Singapore. This collaboration is crucial to better understand and effectively utilize the vast volumes of available data, bolstering the country’s defense against digital threats to its citizens and infrastructure.
Moreover, DIS plans to leverage upskilling programs such as the 100 Experiments (100E) and AI Apprenticeship Program (AIAP) to promote widespread adoption of AI within SAF and DIS itself. These initiatives will incorporate cutting-edge technologies like Large Language Models and Reinforcement Learning, further enhancing the military’s AI capabilities.
As countries grapple with the responsible implementation of AI in defense, it becomes imperative to establish comprehensive regulations that ensure ethical use and prevent potential military conflicts. The “call to action” signifies a global recognition of AI’s potential, but concerted efforts are needed to address concerns, both in Southeast Asia and on a global scale, to effectively harness the power of AI while mitigating risks.