ChatGPT Maker Quietly Revises Rules for Integration of Its Technology by the US Military

OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, has quietly changed its rules and removed a ban on using the chatbot and its other AI tools for military purposes - and revealed that it is already working with the Department of Defense. Experts have previously voiced fears that AI could escalate conflicts around the world thanks to ‘slaughterbots’ which can kill without any human intervention. The rule change, which occurred after Wednesday last week, removed a sentence which said that the company would not permit usage of models for ‘activity that has high risk of physical harm, including: weapons development, military and warfare.’

An OpenAI spokesperson told that the company, which is in talks to raise money at a valuation of $100 billion, is working with the Department of Defense on cybersecurity tools built to protect open-source software. The spokesman said: ‘Our policy does not allow our tools to be used to harm people, develop weapons, for communications surveillance, or to injure others or destroy property. There are, however, national security use cases that align with our mission. For example, we are already working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to spur the creation of new cybersecurity tools to secure open source software that critical infrastructure and industry depend on.’

Last year, 60 countries including the U.S. and China signed a ‘call to action’ to limit the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for military reasons. Human rights experts at the Hague pointed out that the ‘call to action’ is not legally binding and did not address concerns including lethal AI drones or that AI could escalate existing conflicts. Signatories said they were committed to developing and using military AI in accordance with ‘international legal obligations and in a way that does not undermine international security, stability and accountability.’

Ukraine has made use of facial recognition and AI-assisted targeting systems in its fight with Russia. In 2020, Libyan government forces launched an autonomous Turkish Kargu-2 drone that attacked retreating rebel soldiers, the first attack of its kind in history, according to a UN report. The lethal drone was programmed to attack ‘without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,’ the UN report said.

Anna Makanju, OpenAI’s VP of global affairs, said in an interview this week that the ‘blanket’ provision was removed to allow for military use cases the company agrees with. Makanju told Bloomberg ‘Because we previously had what was essentially a blanket prohibition on military, many people thought that would prohibit many of these use cases, which people think are very much aligned with what we want to see in the world.’

The use of AI for military purposes by ‘Big Tech’ organisations has previously caused controversy. In 2018, thousands of Google employees protested against a Pentagon contract - Project Maven - which saw the company’s AI tools used to analyze drone surveillance footage. In the wake of the protests, Google did not renew the contract. Microsoft employees protested against a $480 million contract to provide soldiers with augmented reality headsets. In 2017, technology leaders including Elon Musk wrote to the UN calling for autonomous weapons to be banned, under laws similar to those that ban chemical weapons and lasers built to blind people. The group warned that autonomous weapons threatened to usher in a ‘third revolution in warfare’: the first two being gunpowder, and nuclear weapons.

In the near future, artificial intelligence will control pilotless attack aircraft, says former MI6 agent and author Carlton King. The advantages of being able to use machine learning to pilot attack craft will be highly tempting for military leaders. King says, ‘The moment you start giving an independent robot machine learning, you start losing control of it. The temptation will be there to say, ‘Let a robot do it all.’ King says that at present, drone aircraft are flown by pilots in the US and Britain, but that military leaders may be tempted to remove the human from the equation.