Podcast Investigates National Security Implications of New Tech

From Killer Robots to Algorithms Used in War, Professor Ashley Deeks Discusses What’s Next
Ashley Deeks

Ashley Deeks is the E. James Kelly, Jr. – Class of 1965 Research Professor of Law and a senior fellow at the Center for National Security Law. Photo by Mary Wood

June 4, 2019

A military strike based on artificial intelligence is no longer pure science fiction, but a looming possibility.

Professor Ashley Deeks of the University of Virginia School of Law says in Episode 8 of the “Common Law” podcast that it’s important for the United States to get ahead of technology that can have national security implications.

“Right now I would say the law is lagging behind in both the international space and the domestic space,” Deeks says in the episode. “You often see that technology gets out in front of law. That’s not to say there are no legal rules that exist to regulate how states use these tools.”

But, she later adds, “It might be more complicated to apply rules that were written in a pre-technological era.”

An expert on national security law who previously served in the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser and at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Deeks explores some of the potential downstream effects of new technology that may be used for or otherwise influence national security.

Predictive algorithms are one of the technologies that Deeks discusses. In the United States, algorithms are already being used to help police departments determine how and where to apply resources, and aiding judges in making sentencing and parole decisions — with the main goal of preventing future crime. Deeks believes the military is interested in using the technology to identify potential enemy combatants, as one application.

“So [military officials are] asking themselves questions similar to the ones that our police are asking in the criminal justice/law enforcement setting.”

China has been stepping up the race to use new technology, in particular through its frequent use of video surveillance, which can be mined for algorithmic review, including facial-recognition data points. The U.S., too, has thousands of hours of video collected from drones.

Regarding the video technology, “I think we and the Chinese are right out in front,” she says.

Deeks and hosts Dean Risa Goluboff and Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06 also discuss issues that could arise from these new possibilities, including “killer robots” that could act autonomously based on AI programming, and look at avenues for addressing concerns.

“Common Law” is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube, Spotify and other popular places you can listen to podcasts, including Amazon Alexa devices.

You can follow the show on the website commonlawpodcast.com or Twitter at @CommonLawUVA.

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