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Applying participatory methods to design complex military technologies

A multi-stakeholder challenge

In the REAIM Call to Action, introducing AI to the military domain is acknowledged as a multi-stakeholder challenge. Stakeholders from civil society, industry, academia, and the government must come together if we hope to solve this challenge. The Call to Action resonates strongly with the ELSA Lab Defence, for whom inclusivity is vital. Our Quadruple Helix approach aims to connect stakeholders from civil society, industry, academia, and the government for the discussion on how to apply ELSA to military AI. Shaping this connection is one of our primary challenges. Taking a first step in overcoming this challenge, the ELSA Lab Defence organised a workshop at the REAIM Summit. Our workshop focused on applying participatory methods for the design of complex, military technologies. Through this workshop, we investigated what does and does not work well for multi-stakeholder engagement.

Applying participatory methods

We applied a combination of the online BetterBeliefs platform with offline discussion groups to promote the exchange of opinions on various theses regarding the ethical, legal, and societal aspects of military AI. As a framework, we set up a scenario around weaponised drones. We then kicked the discussions off with nine starting theses regarding weaponised drones. We formulated three theses for the ethical aspects, three for the legal aspects, and three for the societal aspects of weaponised drones. To give a better idea of these theses, the illustration below shows one of the theses for the legal aspects that participants of our workshop could voice their opinion on.

Through BetterBeliefs, participants were not only able to discuss their opinions, they could also vote on the theses, suggest new theses, and provide additional evidence for existing theses. By combining this system with the discussion groups, we hoped to get a first idea of how stakeholders from different domains feel about various ELSA aspects within military AI.

Our experience at REAIM

Despite limited time, the workshop concluded well, and we enjoyed hearing (and participating in) the various discussions! We received votes on all of the existing theses and even had some participants suggest new theses for people to vote on. Generally, it can be difficult to organise discussions in such a way that the direct results can be stored and referred back to. BetterBeliefs offers one possible solution for preserving discussions amongst stakeholders, thereby facilitating multi-stakeholder engagement.

Our BetterBeliefs page will remain open for two more weeks to give participants the chance to contribute even after the REAIM summit. Once again, we’d like to thank REAIM for hosting us, and our participants for joining us in this investigation of appropriate participatory methods for designing complex, military technologies!