Escalation Risks from Language Models in Military and Diplomatic Decision-Making


Governments are increasingly considering integrating autonomous AI agents in high-stakes military and foreign-policy decision-making, especially with the emergence of advanced generative AI models like GPT-4. Our work aims to scrutinize the behavior of multiple AI agents in simulated wargames, specifically focusing on their predilection to take escalatory actions that may exacerbate multilateral conflicts. Drawing on political science and international relations literature about escalation dynamics, we design a novel wargame simulation and scoring framework to assess the escalation risks of actions taken by these agents in different scenarios. Contrary to prior studies, our research provides both qualitative and quantitative insights and focuses on large language models (LLMs). We find that all five studied off-the-shelf LLMs show forms of escalation and difficult-to-predict escalation patterns. We observe that models tend to develop arms-race dynamics, leading to greater conflict, and in rare cases, even to the deployment of nuclear weapons. Qualitatively, we also collect the models' reported reasonings for chosen actions and observe worrying justifications based on deterrence and first-strike tactics. Given the high stakes of military and foreign-policy contexts, we recommend further examination and cautious consideration before deploying autonomous language model agents for strategic military or diplomatic decision-making.

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