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Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A global technology revolution is now underway. The world’s leading powers are racing to develop and deploy new technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum computing that could shape everything about our lives – from where we get energy, to how we do our jobs, to how wars are fought. We want America to maintain our scientific and technological edge, because it’s critical to us thriving in the 21st century economy.


Artificial Intelligence and Society

Investments in AI have led to transformative advances now impacting our everyday lives, including mapping technologies, voice-assisted smart phones, handwriting recognition for mail delivery, financial trading, smart logistics, spam filtering, language translation, and more. AI advances are also providing great benefits to our social wellbeing in areas such as precision medicine, environmental sustainability, education, and public welfare.

“The term ‘artificial intelligence’ means a machine-based system that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, make predictions, recommendations or decisions influencing real or virtual environments.” 

National artificial intelligence act of 2020

Artificial Intelligence and Foreign Policy

The Department of State focuses on AI because it is at the center of the global technological revolution; advances in AI technology present both great opportunities and challenges. The United States, along with our partners and allies, can both further our scientific and technological capabilities and promote democracy and human rights by working together to identify and seize the opportunities while meeting the challenges by promoting shared norms and agreements on the responsible use of AI.

Together with our allies and partners, the Department of State promotes an international policy environment and works to build partnerships that further our capabilities in AI technologies, protect our national and economic security, and promote our values. Accordingly, the Department engages in various bilateral and multilateral discussions to support responsible development, deployment, use, and governance of trustworthy AI technologies.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

The Department provides policy guidance to implement trustworthy AI through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) AI Policy Observatory, a platform established in February 2020 to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders and provide evidence-based policy analysis in the areas where AI has the most impact. The State Department provides leadership and support to the OECD Network of Experts on AI (ONE AI), which informs this analysis. The United States has 47 AI initiatives associated with the Observatory that help contribute to COVID-19 response, invest in workforce training, promote safety guidance for automated transportation technologies, and more.

The OECD’s Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence is the backbone of the activities at the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) and the OECD AI Policy Observatory. In May 2019, the United States joined together with likeminded democracies of the world in adopting the OECD Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence, the first set of intergovernmental principles for trustworthy AI. The principles promote inclusive growth, human-centered values, transparency, safety and security, and accountability. The Recommendation also encourages national policies and international cooperation to invest in research and development and support the broader digital ecosystem for AI. The Department of State champions the principles as the benchmark for trustworthy AI, which helps governments design national legislation.

Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence

GPAI is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative launched in June 2020 for the advancement of AI in a manner consistent with democratic values and human rights. GPAI’s mandate is focused on project-oriented collaboration, which it supports through working groups looking at responsible AI, data governance, the future of work, and commercialization and innovation. As a founding member, the United States has played a critical role in guiding GPAI and ensuring it complements the work of the OECD.

Member country flags fly in front of the UN building

United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

In the context of military operations in armed conflict, the United States believes that international humanitarian law (IHL) provides a robust and appropriate framework for the regulation of all weapons, including those using autonomous functions provided by technologies such as AI. Building a better common understanding of the potential risks and benefits that are presented by weapons with autonomous functions, in particular their potential to strengthen compliance with IHL and mitigate risk of harm to civilians, should be the focus of international discussion. The United States supports the progress in this area made by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Group of Governmental Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (GGE on LAWS), which adopted by consensus 11 Guiding Principles on responsible development and use of LAWS in 2019. The State Department will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Defense to engage the international community within the LAWS GGE.

Other AI Initiatives at the Department of State

Learn more about what specific bureaus and offices are doing to support this policy issue: 

The Global Engagement Center has developed a dedicated effort for the U.S. Government to identify, assess, test and implement technologies against the problems of foreign propaganda and disinformation, in cooperation with foreign partners, private industry and academia.

The Office of the Under Secretary for Management uses AI technologies within the Department of State to advance traditional diplomatic activities, applying machine learning to internal information technology and management consultant functions.

The Office of the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment engages internationally to support the U.S. science and technology (S&T) enterprise through global AI research and development (R&D) partnerships, setting fair rules of the road for economic competition, advocating for U.S. companies, and enabling foreign policy and regulatory environments that benefit U.S. capabilities in AI. 

The Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security focuses on the security implications of AI, including potential applications in weapon systems, its impact on U.S. military interoperability with its allies and partners, its impact on stability, and export controls related to AI.  

The Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and its component bureaus and offices focus on issues related to AI and governance, human rights, including religious freedom, and law enforcement and crime, among others.  

The Office of the Legal Adviser leads on issues relating to AI in weapon systems (LAWS), in particular at the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems convened under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. 

For more information on federal programs and policy on artificial intelligence, visit

Recent Developments and Resources

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future