Japan AI

Japan’s military turns to AI

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Japan has unveiled its first basic policy on integrating artificial intelligence (AI) in its military to combat a manpower shortage.

The Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara believes that AI can help the country keep up with its peers despite its population aging faster than any other country globally.

“In our country, where the population is rapidly declining and aging, it is essential to utilize personnel more efficiently than ever before,” stated the minister while unveiling the new policy last week.

According to studies, 29% of Japanese nationals are aged 65 or older, a number that will hit one in three by 2036. This presents unique challenges, key among them a shortage of citizens eligible for recruitment into the military.

“We believe that AI has the potential to be one of the technologies that can overcome these challenges,” says Kihara.

Japan’s integration of AI comes at a time when the military implications of the technology have become fiercely debated globally.

Last week, American lawmakers sounded the alarm on the threat that China’s military AI could pose after videos of a gun-toting robot dog controlled by AI surfaced. Other countries such as South Korea, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, and more have called for caution when developing military AI, as the effects could be catastrophic.

Still, every other major power continues to develop AI for its defense forces. This week, South Korea launched an AI chatbot that offers specialized military translations. Landmark AI laws, such as the EU AI Act and Biden’s executive order, have also excluded military AI applications from their purview.

In Japan, AI will be used in seven priority areas. These include intelligence collection and analysis and monitoring unmanned military assets. The country will also use it to detect targets using radar and satellite images; similar usage in the Israel-Palestine conflict has attracted global outrage over claims of AI misidentification leading to innocent killings.

Japan, however, says that its AI integration will solely be to “speed up decision-making, ensure superiority in information-gathering and analysis capabilities, reduce the burden on personnel and save on labor and manpower.”

One key strategy to mitigate some AI risks is to ensure that all systems are manned and controlled by humans at all times.

“AI supports human judgment, and human involvement in its use should be ensured,” part of the policy reads.

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