US intelligence agencies’ embrace of generative AI is at once wary and urgent

BY  FRANK BAJAK
May 23, 2024

ARLINGTON, Virginia (AP) — Long before generative AI’s boom, a Silicon Valley firm contracted to collect and analyze non-classified data on illicit Chinese fentanyl trafficking made a compelling case for its embrace by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The operation’s results far exceeded human-only analysis, finding twice as many companies and 400% more people engaged in illegal or suspicious commerce in the deadly opioid.

Excited U.S. intelligence officials touted the results publicly — the AI made connections based mostly on internet and dark-web data — and shared them with Beijing authorities, urging a crackdown.

One important aspect of the 2019 operation, called Sable Spear, that has not previously been reported: The firm used generative AI to provide U.S. agencies — three years ahead of the release of OpenAI’s groundbreaking ChatGPT product — with evidence summaries for potential criminal cases, saving countless work hours.

“You wouldn’t be able to do that without artificial intelligence,” said Brian Drake, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s then-director of AI and the project coordinator.

The contractor, Rhombus Power, would later use generative AI to predict Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine with 80% certainty four months in advance, for a different U.S. government client. Rhombus says it also alerts government customers, who it declines to name, to imminent North Korean missile launches and Chinese space operations.

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to embrace the AI revolution, believing they’ll otherwise be smothered by exponential data growth as sensor-generated surveillance tech further blankets the planet.

But officials are acutely aware that the tech is young and brittle, and that generative AI — prediction models trained on vast datasets to generate on-demand text, images, video and human-like conversation — is anything but tailor-made for a dangerous trade steeped in deception.

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Don’t expect quick fixes in ‘red-teaming’ of AI models. Security was an afterthought

By FRANK BAJAK

Aug. 13, 2023

BOSTON (AP) — White House officials concerned by AI chatbots’ potential for societal harm and the Silicon Valley powerhouses rushing them to market are heavily invested in a three-day competition ending Sunday at the DefCon hacker convention in Las Vegas.

Some 2,200 competitors tapped on laptops seeking to expose flaws in eight leading large-language models representative of technology’s next big thing. But don’t expect quick results from this first-ever independent “red-teaming” of multiple models.

Findings won’t be made public until about February. And even then, fixing flaws in these digital constructs — whose inner workings are neither wholly trustworthy nor fully fathomed even by their creators — will take time and millions of dollars.

Current AI models are simply too unwieldy, brittle and malleable, academic and corporate research shows. Security was an afterthought in their training as data scientists amassed breathtakingly complex collections of images and text. They are prone to racial and cultural biases, and easily manipulated.

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Drone advances in Ukraine could augur dawn of killer robots

By FRANK BAJAK and HANNA ARHIROVA
January 3, 2023

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Drone advances in Ukraine have accelerated a long-anticipated technology trend that could soon bring the world’s first fully autonomous fighting robots to the battlefield, inaugurating a new age of warfare.

The longer the war lasts, the more likely it becomes that drones will be used to identify, select and attack targets without help from humans, according to military analysts, combatants and artificial intelligence researchers.

That would mark a revolution in military technology as profound as the introduction of the machine gun. Ukraine already has semi-autonomous attack drones and counter-drone weapons endowed with AI. Russia also claims to possess AI weaponry, though the claims are unproven. But there are no confirmed instances of a nation putting into combat robots that have killed entirely on their own.

Experts say it may be only a matter of time before either Russia or Ukraine, or both, deploy them.

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