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Artificial Intelligence: An Artificial Alarm for National Security?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By William Clements
April 1, 2019

There is little discussion to be had when addressing the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the world today. In the words of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, “Whoever becomes the leader in this field will rule the world.” This is true in regard to the role of artificial intelligence in transportation, such as semi-autonomous vehicles. This is also true of service industries which currently use computer algorithms and software to perform job functions that would have been previously performed by human beings. To put the interest garnered in AI technologies in context, in 2016, United States tech companies invested a whopping $20-30 billion in development. Of importance are the predictions that the transition to AI has the potential to enliven inert objects, much like electricity did more than a century ago. This possibility undeniably presents its share of possibilities, but it also comes with its share of obstacles and hazards as well.

According to a 2018 report by Brookings, artificial intelligence is transforming every walk of life. As with all things, the Law of Correspondence is applicable to AI. The Law of Correspondence is represented by the saying, “Within, so without, as above, so below.” The impacts of artificial intelligence on the United States economy, culture and national defense are worth examining.  National Security as a term is no longer applied only to military personnel and law enforcement service members. Now, more than ever, national security applies to waste water treatment specialists, public utility workers, technology firms, hospital administrators and many more professions. Has artificial intelligence created a vulnerable American society or have we responded to AI with an artificial (human) intelligence?

The 2016 elections marked arguably one of the most vulnerable times of national solidarity in the 21st century. To date, the American public does not speak in one voice regarding the possibility of foreign involvement, specifically in regards to voter fraud and its impact during the 2016 election. A current misconception is that outside actors are the major threat to the nation, but in reality, social media platforms, “fake news,” and election fraud are threats that exist within the nation. The impacts of these occurrences on national cohesion are areas of concern for public administrators. For example, if there was conclusive evidence of Russian involvement in the 2016 United States election, what would be the appropriate response? If a foreign government were able to manipulate the electric grid of a major United States city, what would be an appropriate response from our government? Would it be an armed response or further manipulation of algorithms? The truth is that the previous examples are plausible and worth serious attention.

For many criminal justice and homeland security administrators, a major concern is the ethical use of artificial intelligence in aiding and assisting in the job duties of agents. America has witnessed a militarization of its police force and with this occurrence, alarming figures are beginning to take shape.  As an example of such a figure, the Department of Defense is currently developing AI for a range of military functions. The AI in development are designed to cover areas of analysis, logistics, cyber operations and information operation. Much like the AI’s human counterparts, AI is also susceptible to manipulation. Law enforcement has also had to adapt to the changes in technology and crimes committed in various technological forms. New frontiers of law enforcement such as fraud, identity theft, privacy protection and many others are garnering the attention of law enforcement. Police functions such as surveillance, communication interception, child pornography and international crime are areas that require the criminal justice field to adjust and keep pace with the various domestic and international criminals who also pose a serious threat to national security. AI will definitely become a useful tool in the future, but it will also become useful to America’s enemies. If the saying is true that an enemy of my enemy is a friend then we have arrived at a paradox; a paradox that may not be fully understood by human intelligence.


Author: Dr. William Clements, Ph.D., is a Professor of Criminal Justice and Psychology at higher education institutions. He possesses a Bachelor of Science Degree in Justice Studies, a Master of Science Degree in Forensic Psychology, and his doctoral degree is in Public Policy and Administration. He has served in the field of public service for a total of 11 plus years and is a well-read enthusiast for topics of economics, politics, homeland security, and most of all, public policy. Email: [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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