Left unchecked, artificial intelligence will eventually subsume all areas of life on earth, including health, population management and warfare. As the wounded are harvested from battlefields, AI is now sought for performing triage to decide which soldiers to treat first who are deemed to be “savable,” potentially leaving others to die. — Technocracy News & Trends Editor Patrick Wood
When a suicide bomber attacked Kabul International Airport in August last year, the death and destruction was overwhelming: The violence left 183 people dead, including 13 U.S. soldiers.
This kind of mass casualty event can be particularly daunting for field workers. Hundreds of people need care, the hospitals nearby have limited room, and decisions on who gets care first and who can wait need to be made quickly. Often, the answer isn’t clear, and people disagree.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the innovation arm of the U.S. military – is aiming to answer these thorny questions by outsourcing the decision-making process to artificial intelligence. Through a new program, called In the Moment, it wants to develop technology that would make quick decisions in stressful situations using algorithms and data, arguing that removing human biases may save lives, according to details from the program’s launch this month.
Though the program is in its infancy, it comes as other countries try to update a centuries-old system of medical triage, and as the U.S. military increasingly leans on technology to limit human error in war. But the solution raises red flags among some experts and ethicists who wonder if AI should be involved when lives are at stake.
“AI is great at counting things,” Sally A. Applin, a research fellow and consultant who studies the intersection between people, algorithms and ethics, said in reference to the DARPA program. “But I think it could set a precedent by which the decision for someone’s life is put in the hands of a machine.”
Founded in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, DARPA is among the most influential organizations in technology research, spawning projects that have played a role in numerous innovations, including the Internet, GPS, weather satellites and, more recently, Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.
But its history with AI has mirrored the field’s ups and downs. In 1960s, the agency made advances in natural language processing, and getting computers to play games such as chess. During the 1970s and 1980s, progress stalled, notably due to the limits in computing power.
Since the 2000s, as graphics cards have improved, computing power has become cheaper and cloud computing has boomed, the agency has seen a resurgence in using artificial intelligence for military applications. In 2018, it dedicated $2 billion, through a program called AI Next, to incorporate AI in over 60 defense projects, signifying how central the science could be for future fighters.
“DARPA envisions a future in which machines are more than just tools,” the agency said in announcing the AI Next program. “The machines DARPA envisions will function more as colleagues than as tools.”
To that end, DARPA’s In the Moment program will create and evaluate algorithms that aid military decision-makers in two situations: small unit injuries, such as those faced by Special Operations units under fire, and mass casualty events, like the Kabul airport bombing. Later, they may develop algorithms to aid disaster relief situations such as earthquakes, agency officials said.
The program, which will take roughly 3.5 years to complete, is soliciting private corporations to assist in its goals, a part of most early-stage DARPA research. Agency officials would not say which companies are interested, or how much money will be slated for the program.
Matt Turek, a program manager at DARPA in charge of shepherding the program, said the algorithms’ suggestions would model “highly trusted humans” who have expertise in triage. But they will be able to access information to make shrewd decisions in situations where even seasoned experts would be stumped.
For example, he said, AI could help identify all the resources a nearby hospital has – such as drug availability, blood supply and the availability of medical staff – to aid in decision-making.
“That wouldn’t fit within the brain of a single human decision-maker,” Turek added. “Computer algorithms may find solutions that humans can’t.”
Sourced from Technocracy News & Trends
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