Reports  |  ,   |  March 19, 2021

Final Report: National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence

Report written by Eric Schmidt, Chair, Robert Work, Vice Chair, Safra Catz, Steve Chien, Mignon Clyburn, Chris Darby, Kenneth Ford, José-Marie Griffiths, Eric Horvitz, Andrew Jassy, Gilman Louie, William Mark, Jason Matheny, Katharina McFarland and Andrew Moore. 756 pages.

Americans have not yet grappled with just how profoundly the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution will impact our economy, national security, and welfare. Much remains to be learned about the power and limits of AI technologies. Nevertheless, big decisions need to be made now to accelerate AI innovation to benefit the United States and to defend against the malign uses of AI.

Letter from the chair and vice-chair

The Final Report presents the NSCAI’s recommendations as a strategy for winning the AI era. The 16 chapters in the Main Report provide topline recommendations. The accompanying Blueprints for Action outline concrete steps that departments and agencies can take to implement NSCAI recommendations. The Commission has provided as much specificity as possible—including by providing draft legislative text and executive orders—to help the President and Congress move rapidly from understanding AI to acting for the benefit of the American people.

The Final Report represents an important step, but it is not the NSCAI’s final act. For the remaining life of the Commission, our work will focus on implementation to help the President and Congress make the investments and take the actions recommended to win the AI era.

Table of Contents

Artificial Intelligence in Context

Defending America in the AI Era

  • Emerging Threats in the AI Era
  • Foundations of Future Defense
  • AI and Warfare
  • Autonomous Weapon Systems and Risks Associated with AI-Enabled Warfare
  • AI and the Future of National Intelligence
  • Technical Talent in Government
  • Establishing Justified Confidence in AI Systems
  • Upholding Democratic Values: Privacy, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights in Uses of AI for National Security

Winning the Technology Competition

  • A Strategy for Competition and Cooperation
  • The Talent Competition
  • Accelerating AI Innovation
  • Intellectual Property
  • Microelectronics
  • Technology Protection
  • A Favorable International Technology Order
  • Associated Technologies

Blueprints for Action

Executive Summary Excerpt:

No comfortable historical reference captures the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on national security. AI is not a single technology breakthrough, like a bat-wing stealth bomber. The race for AI supremacy is not like the space race to the moon. AI is not even comparable to a general-purpose technology like electricity. However, what Thomas Edison said of electricity encapsulates the AI future: “It is a field of fields … it holds the secrets which will reorganize the life of the world.” Edison’s astounding assessment came from humility. All that he discovered was “very little in comparison with the possibilities that appear.”

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) humbly acknowledges how much remains to be discovered about AI and its future applications. Nevertheless, we know enough about AI today to begin with two convictions. First, the rapidly improving ability of computer systems to solve problems and to perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence—and in some instances exceed human performance—is world altering. AI technologies are the most powerful tools in generations for expanding knowledge, increasing prosperity, and enriching the human experience. AI is also the quintessential “dual-use” technology. The ability of a machine to perceive, evaluate, and act more quickly and accurately than a human represents a competitive advantage in any field—civilian or military. AI technologies will be a source of enormous power for the companies and countries that harness them.

Second, AI is expanding the window of vulnerability the United States has already entered. For the first time since World War II, America’s technological predominance—the backbone of its economic and military power—is under threat. China possesses the might, talent, and ambition to surpass the United States as the world’s leader in AI in the next decade if current trends do not change. Simultaneously, AI is deepening the threat posed by cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns that Russia, China, and others are using to infiltrate our society, steal our data, and interfere in our democracy. The limited uses of AI-enabled attacks to date represent the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, global crises exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change highlight the need to expand our conception of national security and find innovative AI-enabled solutions. [ . . . ]