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Study Finds No Unbridgeable Divide Between Pentagon, Silicon Valley Over Military Use of AI

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A RAND Corp. study found no unbridgeable gap between the Department of Defense and Silicon Valley and showed more similarities in attitudes across Silicon Valley employees, defense industrial base and alumni of universities with regard to the military use of artificial intelligence.

RAND surveyed 1,178 software engineers from traditional defense contractors, Silicon Valley and alumni of computer science universities between December 2020 and April 2021 and found that at least 33 percent of respondents from three large software companies feel uncomfortable with lethal use cases for AI.

The study found that over 66 percent of respondents in each population considered cyberattacks as critical threats to the U.S. and more than 75 percent from all three survey populations thought of Russia and China as serious threats to the U.S.

According to the report, nearly 90 percent of participants said they believe the use of military force would be justified to defend the U.S. and NATO allies against foreign aggression.

The study also showed that almost 20 percent of DIB software engineers had previously served in the U.S. armed forces, while less than 2 percent of respondents from Silicon Valley had served in the military.

RAND said the study suggests potential areas to explore to help strengthen the Pentagon’s relationship with companies and experts that are not part of the defense industrial base, such as exploring measures to broaden collaboration between DOD and Silicon Valley with regard to threats posed by cyberattacks and “exploring the potential benefits of DoD engaging Silicon Valley engineers on some of the details of how DoD intends to use AI.”

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