November 30, 2021No Comments

How Different Political Powers Approach the Issue of Ethics in the Development of Artificial Intelligence

By: Zrinka Borić

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Advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology is expected to drive progress and change in the areas of military, economy, and information. This so-called “fourth industrial revolution” opens various possibilities, among which the most probable one is further development and prosperity of those who will be able to reap the benefits, resulting in further strengthening existing inequalities in the global state system. 

The main concern an average person has regarding the AI is the idea of the post-apocalyptical world in which the robots and AI have completely overtaken the Earth, as depicted in many famous science-fiction publications. To approach this topic it is necessary to have two things in mind. First, the developement of the strong AI (also called Artificial General Intelligence – AGI) systems that will focus on the simulation of human reasoning and creation of machine intelligence equal to the human currently does not exist, and the experts cannot agree on the expected occurrence of this type of AI. Second, artificial intelligence systems rely heavily on data. Therefore, the quantity, quality and availability of data are crucial. In the longterm, the ethical and responsible approach to data collection for AI development and implementation aims to guarantee a balanced and responsible innovation. 

For example, the United States and the European Union countries have expressed dedication in developing trustworthy and ethical AI. At the other hand, countries like China and Russia have not shown such dedication in the development and employment of their autonomous weapons systems. Cyber policy and security expert Herbert Lin expresses the concern how due to lower level of regard towards the ethical and safety issues there is a likely opportunity that their weapons are going to be more militarily effective and developed sooner. 

Different forms of government have different approaches towards AI development and implementation. China is characterized as authoritarian and hierarchical state, the United States is a federal republic with a democratically run government, while the European Union is described as a political and economic union with that operates through combination of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making approach.


China defines artificial intelligence research and development as key to boosting national economic and manufacturing competitiveness as well as providing national security. China’s vigorous approach towards the AI development is caused by the potential economic benefit in the future. The experts assume that China will benefit from the highest relative economic gain from AI technologies, since the AI technology is envisioned to improve its productivity and manufacturing possibility and therefore to meet future GDP targets. Therefore, China faces the risk of AI development and application without giving enough attention to a responsible use of AI and preparing its citizen to adapt to possible changes affected by widespread AI adoption. China has already once fallen in the trap of recklessly rushing into uncontrolled progress, and it led to an unsustainable level of growth accompanied by a set of negative effects on China’s economy growth. China’s clear competitive advantage lies in its abundance of data which will most likely become one of the crucial elements in the future development of AI technology, relatively loose privacy laws, vibrant start-ups, and a stable rise in the number of AI engineers.


The state structure shapes the design of the AI policy and its implementation. When discussing the EU it is important to keep in mind that the EU is not a country, but an economic and political supranational and intergovernmental organization. Considering the fact that economic prosperity and national security of the European Union are still firmly in the hands of the national governments it can easily be understood why the organizational structure of the Union hinders the process of making concrete and quick decisions which are always favorable in the conditions of the international competition. The EU has succeeded to publish joint plans and policies regarding AI, such as Civil Law Rules on Robotics, Declaration for Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence, Ethic Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, and Policy and Investment Recommendations for Trustworthy AI.

The European Union pays special attention to the study of the potential impact of artificial intelligence technology on the society. The researches usually involve social aspect such as data protection (e.g. GDPR law), network security and AI ethics. There are more substantial ethical or normative discussions when it comes to developing human-centered and trustworthy AI technologies. [...] Developing the culture of trustworthy AI and not only when it comes to security and defense, but more broadly about AI enabled technologies. This is at the forefront of the policy and political thinking in Brussels.“ claims Raluca Csernatoni, an expert on European security and defense with a specific focus on distruptive techologies.

In 2018 member states signed the Declaration on Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence where the participating member states agreed to cooperate in various fields regarding AI development and implementation, including ensuring an adequate legal and ethical framework, building on EU fundamental rights and values.


During the Obama administration National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Technology drafted the report Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence in 2016. Concerns about safeguarding “justice, fairness, and accountability” if AI was to be tasked with consequential decisions about people had previously been mentioned in Administration’s Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values  report and Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective report. Regarding the governance and safety, the report advises that use of AI technology must be controlled by “technical and ethical supervision”.

Later, during the Trump Administration the 2019 AI R&D Strategic Plan expressed seven main fields of interest, one of which is understanding ethical, legal, and societal applications of AI. According to the recent EU-US Trade and Technology Council TTC it is clear that the current administration continues supporting the efforts for the development of responsible and trustworthy AI. 


The most recent U.S.- EU cooperation on the AI advancement, the TTC, was launched on September 29, 2021 in Pittsburgh. TTC working groups are cooperating on discussing the issues of technology standards, data governance and technology platforms, misuse of technology threatening security and human rights, and many others. The United States and European Union affirmed their commitment to a human-centered approach and developing mutual understanding on principles of trustworthy and responsible AI. However, both have expressed significants concerns that authoritarian governments are piloting social scoring systems with an aim to implement social control at scale. They agree that these systems „pose threats to fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, including through silencing speech, punishing peaceful assembly and other expressive activities, and reinforcing arbitrary or unlawful surveillance systems“. 


Different forms of governments differ immensly in their approach towards the development and implementation of AI, as well as when it comes to the necessary principles of ethics and responsibility. However, governments need to take further actions with great cautions. When implemented carelessly, without taking ethics and safety in consideration, AI could end up being ineffective, or even worse, dangerous. Governments need to implement AI in a way that builds trust and legitimacy, which ideally requires legal and ethical frameworks to be in place for handling and protecting citizens’ data and algorithm use. 

October 12, 2021No Comments

Ethics in Military Training: Israel involvement in Operation Falcon Strike 21

Image Source: Ari Gross Judah, In first, Israeli F-35s train in Italy — with Iran in their sights, 2021,

By: Maria Chiara Aquilino

Operation Falcon Strike 21 was initiated from the Italian Military Air Force base in Amendola (FG), Italy on 6th June 2021. It was promoted by the Stato Maggiore della Difesa (Defence Staff) in partnership with NATO, mainly with the United States of America and the United Kingdom and Israel. The involvement of Israeli Air Force (IAF) in the twelve days of aeronaval training, its consequential collaboration with the Italian, American and British military forces gathered the Italian public attention and raised questions on the role of ethics in the decisions made by the NATO powers. 

While there are not many details available on how the Operation Falcon Strike 21 originated, it facilitated the integration from airplanes between the 4th and 5th generation of fighters and increased the level of cooperation between powers in the logistic field and concerning the transfer of F-35 fighter jets. Thus, strengthening the interoperability of allied air forces and partners during joint operations. Exercises to master the use of the most advanced missile defence systems took place in between Sardinia and regions of Southern Italy (Il Manifesto, 2021). 

As the Operation was initiated, an old debate on the role of ethics in military trainings emerged, due to the public fear for how the development of knowledge in the field could be exploited by Israel in its own military operations. Indeed, the participation of this Middle-Eastern Power in exercises that are strategically designed to test the firepower of new F-35 fighter-bombers provided. The debate in fact dates back to 2016 when IAF received its first F-35 fighter jets. Initial trainings with the collaboration with the Western military forces, in particular with the Royal Air Forces and the US Marines, started in 2019. It included the Tri-Lightning exercise and continued with the Enduring Lightning ones organised by Israel and the United States (Aviation Report, 2021).

Since the IAF received its first F-35 fighter jets, it has strived to obtain more of them to be added to its fleet in groups of twos and threes throughout the past years, reaching the current level of 27 planes in total. Additionally, by 2024 23 F-35 jets will be owned by Israel to meet the Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) purpose of acquiring a total of 50 aircraft. The Israeli officials have also confirmed that they are planning to purchase more of these aircrafts (The Times of Israel, 2021). 

Undoubtedly, the possibility of Israel deploying the acquired assets to fight its own wars within the Middle East generates an evident threat, which has indeed awakened concerns among the public. In particular, strikes have been organised in the areas close to the military air force base in Amendola, from where the operation was launched as pro-Palestine organisations have mobilized to show their disapproval for the partnership with Israel (Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, 2021). The exhibited disagreement with practices strengthening Western powers relationship with Israel was further emphasised since a statement released by one of IAF senior officials claimed that the extensive training conducted in Italy would be a historic chance to train its pilots to future wars in the Middle-Eastern area, particularly in Iran (Il Manifesto, 2021). 

Hence, the rise of concerns among pro-Palestine groups regarding the consequences of including Israel in the trainings is inevitable. Yet, this only seem to strike the attention of worried civilians, as indeed even after the IAF statement, the Operation was successfully carried out. 

Operation Falcon 21 was arguably an implicit declaration that it is ultimately ethical to include powers such as Israel in advanced military training conducted by NATO powers, regardless of the knowledge that the former might use the abilities and means gained to fight its own wars. The United States, United Kingdom and Italy have inevitably provided Israel with an outstanding opportunity to improve its military capabilities by supplying it with arms and helping in the development of knowledge about their use. This comes as a direct contradiction of the values of human rights and peace-keeping that these Western Powers claim to uphold. It appears though that for the Western powers, the role of ethics in strategic military decisions is overshadowed where there is a need to build partnerships with key powers such as Israel. 

October 5, 2021No Comments

The Disruptive Power of AI applied to Drones

Tate Nurkin talks about the intricacies of AI technologies applied to the military domain and gives us an overview of the AI-powered military programs, what it means for the future of warfare and touches on ethical issues. 

Tate Nurkin is the founder of OTH Intelligence Group and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Interviewer: Arnaud Sobrero

This is ITSS Verona Member Series Video Podcast by the Cyber, AI and Space Team.

ITSS Verona - The International Team for the Study of Security Verona is a not-for-profit, apolitical, international cultural association dedicated to the study of international security, ranging from terrorism to climate change, from artificial intelligence to pandemics, from great power competition to energy security.

April 4, 2021No Comments

Major Conceptual, Legal, Ethical, and Democratic Dilemmas in Counterterrorism

Dr Michele Groppi, KCL, ITSS Verona President, on major conceptual, legal, ethical, and democratic dilemmas in counterterrorism.