Artificial Intelligence And Export Control – What’s The Connection?

Artificial Intelligence And Export Control – What’s The Connection?


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By Amiram Halevy

It has recently been published that Facebook’s development center in Israel is increasing its artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. The company has established a team, called Data.AI, for developing AI tools that are intended to help build and improve software infrastructure and systems for data research on facebook. According to Facebook, these tools are intended to improve and optimize the work that Facebook’s international engineers and programmers handle. “If up until now most of Facebook’s efforts in the AI field has focused on advancing and improving the user’s experience, then now another dimension is being added by the Israeli team – the development of AI based capabilities towards the improvement of infrastructure and the capabilities of the internal interfaces of the company,” Facebook mentions.

Artificial Intelligence and Export Control

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for dual-use goods and technologies supervises the export of technologies relating to AI, among other things. The purpose isn’t necessarily to supervise and control the possible applications of AI, but to control the export of AI tools and technologies allowing companies to develop such AI applications.

The many Israeli companies working in these fields should be aware of the need to check if the export of technology, whether it be traditional export or selling\transferring the technologies abroad, requires certain permission from regulators.

For example, at the end of my service as a regulator for the Israeli Ministry of Economics, a multinational company that manufactures smartphones and has opened an R&D center in Israel, contacted me. The Israeli center developed facial recognition technologies that were to be implemented into the company’s smartphones. For the purpose of exporting the product of the development process back to the company’s home country, the company’s representatives asked to clarify if they had to have an export license.

When I visited the company’s Israeli branch, it turned out that the export of the previously mentioned technology does, in fact, need an export license as well as an “end user certificate” from the company’s parent company abroad.

The company asked for a license and they were granted one. There was no need for the company to ask for a license allowing them to sell the devices, the licensing was for the technology itself, that allows the company to integrate the facial recognition to their devices.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence, as an academic term, has been around since the mid 1900s. Its purpose back then, as well as today, was to make computers perform tasks that were considered exclusive to humans: tasks that require intelligence.

In its introduction, researchers worked on chess games and solving logical problems. Later on, development focused on the field of neural networks – the attempt to recreate how the human brain works and to utilize the efficiencies in the neural structure in order to solve complex logical challenges.

Artificial neural networks in software showed great promise and succeeded in solving some of the more complex problems that other algorithms couldn’t handle.

It is a mathematical computation model, built from several neurons arranged in layers, where any neuron can interact with several other neurons in the system. Each neuron is capable of performing basic logical calculations, which the data derived from each calculation is moved onto other neurons. In this manner, with the data moving forward through the layers, the system manages to convert the raw data into valuable data. The system then learns how to make more precise decisions.

Applications of Artificial Intelligence

It seems as though every technological field today utilises AI applications. As time goes by, AI-based software is becoming more and more prevalent in our everyday lives in tasks such as searching for images, converting speech to text, translating audio messages, and more.

  • Support with Text Based Decision Making: Assisting businesses with data analysis or customer support. Companies that want to gather more precise insights regarding their customers stance on a new product or service launch; or organizations surveying the public about customer satisfaction towards a certain topic. IBM’s Project Debater, for example, is the first AI platform in the world that has succeeded in debating with a human regarding complex issues. This platform was developed in IBM’s research lab in Haifa. The platform has expanded the ability to support text based decision making.
  • Automotive Fields: The start-up MOODIFY is trying to combine two separate fields – psychology and AI – in order to examine the psychological state of the driver and to improve safety while driving. The technology utilises real time facial recognition as well as voice analysis and diagnosis of the driver’s vital signs in order to identify dangerous psychological states such as stress, anxiety, depression, and even “microsleep”. The solution – a personalized and quick spray of sophisticated aromas meant to relax the driver.
  • Military Fields: According to an article published on, STM, a company that deals with security technologies and has developed the first Turkish “suicide” drones, will upgrade the aircraft with the help of AI. Today, drones possess high intelligence, the ability to operate as a swarm, and a high level of autonomy, all thanks to AI.
  • Facial Recognition: With the help of neural networks and AI, a computer can identify objects in such a way that the first neurons in the network know to identify straight lines. With the next layer of neurons identifying corners or simple templates. The following layer can identify the contours of different areas, and finally the last layer of neurons will know to identify if the image is a human face or not.

Amiram Halevy has served as Israel’s economic representative in Japan, India, Spain, and Australia, and up until recently, has held the position of Director of Export Control for Dual-Use Goods in the Israeli Ministry of Economics, a position he held for 10 years.

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