The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer has endorsed legislation that aims to prevent the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in nuclear weapons. Kai Bird, co-author of “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” recently discussed the intersection of nuclear war and AI with Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts. Senator Markey, alongside other sponsors, has introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit the use of AI for nuclear launch decisions.
During their meeting, Bird and Markey expressed their shared concerns about the risks associated with emerging AI technologies, the need for proper regulation in the defense sector, as well as the dangers of nuclear weapons in regions like South Asia. They also discussed methods to increase awareness of nuclear issues among younger individuals.
Following their conversation, Bird voiced his support for Markey’s amendment, known as the Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Act. He emphasized the importance of human control over nuclear weapons, stating that the technology is too dangerous to be entrusted to AI. Bird believes that this legislation will send a strong message to the world, affirming that the United States will never automate its nuclear command and control.
The legislation was originally introduced by Markey and Representatives Ted Lieu, Don Beyer, and Ken Buck. If passed, the bill would reinforce the existing policy within the Pentagon, requiring human involvement in all decisions related to the use of nuclear weapons.
Markey’s office expressed their appreciation for Bird’s endorsement and highlighted the significance of the amendment in ensuring the responsibility of human decision-making in matters of national security. They emphasized the importance of learning from history and urged their colleagues to support the amendment as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Senator Markey drew parallels between the development of AI and the nuclear arms race, referring to Robert Oppenheimer’s role in the creation of the atomic bomb. He stressed the need for technologists and public officials to acknowledge the moral implications of their actions. Markey called for the passage of the amendment, emphasizing that AI should never have the authority to initiate nuclear actions. He also emphasized the importance of additional legislative measures to address the potential threats posed by AI.
As President Biden works towards securing commitments from AI executives regarding the security and ethical considerations of AI, Markey believes that Congress must take proactive steps to address these concerns before they become irreparable.
In conclusion, bipartisan legislation has been proposed to prevent the utilization of AI in launching nuclear weapons. The endorsement of renowned biographer Kai Bird provides strong support for this initiative. The aim is to ensure that humans maintain complete control over these devastating weapons, highlighting the risks and responsibilities associated with merging emerging technologies with matters of national security.