The Pentagon and other U.S. officials are concerned about China’s dominance of AI
The Pentagon’s first chief software officer abruptly stopped earlier this month, and today we really know why: Nicolas Chaillan, former CSO of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, tells the Financial Times that the United States “has no equal chance of fighting China in 15 to 20 years” over cyberwarfare and artificial intelligence.
Chaillan, a 37-year-old tech entrepreneur, added that cyber defenses at many government agencies are at the “kindergarten level,” and that companies like Google are making the U.S. less intrusive by not military employment in AI, because Chinese companies make a “widespread investment” in AI that doesn’t put everyone in the right place at all. And while quitting your job because America has lost the AI race is pretty dramatic, Chaillan isn’t the only one worried about China’s dominance in this arena.
We can all agree that no one in China wants to invent a real world version of Skynet, the most powerful AI that took the planet on Terminator sine. But we don’t want to do that in the US either. But what does the finish line look like at the end of this AI race? And does the US really want to win at all costs?
For years, pundits have been comparing AI race to space race – and warn that it is lost in the US. This is an easy -to -use analogy, as it helps Americans place current conflicts in countries like China and Russia in the familiar context of the Cold War. Many argue that we see ourselves in the second Cold War and that the nation that wins the AI race will have the throne as the dominant superpower. But the AI revolution is not just about fighting wars or geopolitical governance. What we plan to do will change almost every aspect of our lives, from how we run businesses to how we process information to how we rotate.
That’s why it’s important for the U.S. to be mindful about fast charging in the future full of autonomous cars, unlimited data collection, and full-time surveillance. These are the applications that will be made to next-generation AI, and if a small group of powerful tech companies and / or the U.S. military push for innovation without putting the right guard rail in place, this technology that is changing the world can bring some unfortunate consequences. President Biden called for the US and Europe to work together on the development of new technology responsible for a speech in February at the Munich Security Conference.
“We need to mold the rules that govern the advancement of technology and common practices in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology so that they can be used to uplift people, not used to prevent them,” Biden said. “We need to stand up for democratic values that make it possible for us to do any of these, to stand up against monopolists and create normal restraint.
You can also take a look at today’s China to see what the near future looks like in a more AI-centric society. As Kai-Fu Lee argues in his book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and New World Order, China is more aggressive in implementing AI breakthroughs, especially in surveillance and data collection applications, thanks in part to government support and lack of oversight left by some tech companies out there that have jumped on the competition and dominated the entire industry. WeChat and its parent company, Tencent, are perfect examples of this. With WeChat, privacy seems not a priority, but a lot of the data collected in the app is definitely helpful for AI training.
“Imagine, if you will, that Facebook acquired Visa and Mastercard and combined all of the functions, as well as investing money in Amazon and Uber and OpenTable and so on and so forth, and creating an ecosystem that once log in to Facebook, all these things are a click away and then you can pay for it with another click, ”Lee said the New York magazine. “That’s the kind of convenience that WeChat brings, and the real value of it is the sheer data set of all the data that uses it.”
This is the kind of way to win at all costs that will show to give China a boost in the AI race. China too seen playing catch-up arrival to establish standards for algorithm behaviors. Just last week, the country releases the earliest AI ethics guidelines. The US has long known algorithms be racist or sexist, and the Pentagon has adopted its guidelines on AI ethics almost two years ago. And as we know most recently, the AI used by companies like Facebook and YouTube to prepare the content can also be used to change people and damage democracy. So – especially with the advent of the Facebook whistleblower scandal that revealed internal research has shown that its products harmed some users, including teenage girls – U.S. lawmakers have lately been more interested in discussing how to control algorithms than how to beat China in the AI career.
The two things are not equally exclusive, in fact. Chaillan, the military’s former chief of software, certainly got his right to an opinion on how quickly the U.S. is advancing cyber defenses and artificially intelligent computers. And now that he knows how the Pentagon works in the private sector, he might find a lot of money to address his concerns. For the rest of us, the rise of AI doesn’t have to be like a race against China. It’s more like a high-stake poker game.
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