Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Rapid progress in machine learning and artificial intelligence will lead the way for a new form of geopolitics; AI Nationalism. Machine learning will transform economies and militaries and create instability at both a national and international level. AI policy will soon become the single most important area of government policy. As discussed in a previous article, it has created a modern arms race between global hegemons such as the USA and China, leading to an increased rate of protectionist state policies.

When it comes to AI technology, The USA and China are leagues ahead of any other nation. This is largely a result of them knowing how to prioritise their own programs. The two countries have become AI nationalists and have not spent time creating global policy or discussing AI with global bodies such as the UN.

As the USA ignores calls from globalists to discuss international AI policy and has none of their own, we are left to trust that large tech companies have our best interests at heart and will hold themselves to account without policies and laws. However, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all recently been in the spotlight for helping the government to develop projects which employees have deemed unethical. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by US Congress members on the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and many of them showed that they did not have a full understanding on what had actually happened. This indicates that the lack of policy does not come from a place of apathy but rather from a place of ignorance.

In his blog on AI nationalism, Ian Hogarth points out that "there are perhaps 700 people in the world who can contribute to the leading edge of AI research, perhaps 70,000 who can understand their work and participate actively in commercialising it and 7 billion people who will be impacted by it."

Nearly 326 million of those impacted live in the USA and politicians still have not created any 'common-sense policies' governing the development and use of AI. This raises even more worrying questions on whether or not they would be prepared to react to an error or misuse.

China have taken a different, yet equally nationalistic approach. In a nation which is bordering on being a total surveillance state, algorithms determine who can use public transportation or purchase goods. Facial recognition technology is commonplace and China show no apparent interest in developing global AI policies.

Unlike the USA, the Chinese government is deeply involved in AI development and works with the country’s largest technology companies to develop local and global strategies for machine learning development and research. China dedicates billions to AI development and encourages companies to contribute to a state data library.

China is closing the gap with the USA. Dean of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, Andrew Moore says half of the papers submitted to big AI conferences come from China- a decade ago it was just 5%. According to Hogarth “Chinese AI startups accounted for an astonishing 48% of global AI funding to startups last year, up from 11% in 2016.”

He predicts that this AI nationalism will create global instability as “AI policy will become the single most important area of government policy.” He is concerned that the USA and China will form a duopoly, forcing other countries to pick sides or team up.

Whilst AI nationalism may be working short term, it would be irresponsible to assume that there will be no long term consequences to developing AI without guidelines and restrictions.

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