Artificial Intelligence, Cyberspace, and the New Cold War
Technological breakthroughs have always resulted in massive shifts in society, geopolitics and even war, but the new race between the United States and China for A.I. dominance could potentially spark a new kind of conflict
On the surface of the escalating tit-for-tat trade war, China and the U.S. seem to be hurling tariffs at one another, regardless of how it may affect economies across the globe.
But what’s happening behind the scenes suggests there may be more to these Twitter posts than the general public might think.
There is a race developing between the United States and China that is going largely unnoticed. A race for dominance in the artificial intelligence sector. And the potential implications are frightening.
Both countries have announced intentions of using A.I. in military applications, even as Teslas are running people down on the streets and the first-ever robot-citizen expressed its desire to “destroy humans.” Though it’s still too early to predict a ‘Terminator’ scenario (11 years too early, to be exact), experts are already sounding the alarms.
A senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, August Cole, predicts: “The decision-making speed of machines is going to eclipse the political and civilian ability.”
While Andrew Lohn, researcher and engineer at Security 2040 warns: “This isn’t just a movie scenario, things that are relatively simple can raise tensions and lead us to some dangerous places if we are not careful.”
Even Vladimir Putin is backing the hype: “It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict,” adding “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
Adding fuel to the fire, both the United States and China are focusing more on the development of A.I. than the policies necessary to utilize the technology ethically.
Dehumanizing War: Cyberattacks, Drone Swarms, and Predictive Retaliation
Soft power is certainly not a new idea, but increasingly, a new type of soft power is emerging in the form of cyberwarfare. Targeting energy infrastructure, major media platforms and even elections, Russia has flexed its web-influence in recent years, working to destabilize its perceived enemies from the inside out.
As the internet continues to expand beyond expectations, it is becoming an increasingly valuable military tool. Propaganda storms has swayed elections and sparked revolutions, while simple phishing schemes have left entire regions without electricity.
There is a concerning mixture of poor training, lack of protection and lack of corporate policy in some of the Western world’s largest social media platforms opening the door for all kinds of mischief from would-be cybers spies.
And though cybersecurity is becoming increasingly relevant in national security protocols worldwide, the real unknown in the future of warfare is artificial intelligence.
The United States has already developed automated ships capable of tracking nuclear submarines for thousands of miles. And not to be outdone, China claims that it has armies of drones capable of hunting as a pack.
Google even fell under fire for their participation in a military A.I. and facial recognition venture known as Project Maven. Though the tech giant has since pulled out, the Pentagon is reportedly courting other A.I. heavyweights, as well.
The most troubling applications of this technology, however, have yet to be revealed. From predictive military reactions to preemptive nuclear strikes, a can of worms has been opened, and its two biggest contributors aren’t participating in the international conversation.
The New “Cold War”
As August Cole noted, A.I. will be able to make decisions faster than any politician, general or Fortnite player could ever dream of. Ultimately, this could change how major militaries interact with and plan against both nuclear and non-nuclear weaponry.
In other words, if the introduction of nuclear arms gave way to the idea of ‘mutually assured destruction,’ the implementation of A.I. without clear and well-planned international policy could very well give way to a brand-new idea: ‘assured destruction.’
With no delay and no emotional consideration, A.I. will change the face of warfare forever. Some have even claimed that it will usher in a new Cold War, while others take it to the next level, suggesting that A.I. will significantly increase the odds of nuclear war in the next two decades.
And with no set international policy in place, will there even be anyone to charge for war crimes?
Bonnie Docherty, senior Arms Division researcher at the HRW notes: “No accountability means no deterrence of future crimes, no retribution for victims, no social condemnation of the responsible party.”
As military technology races forward with or without consent of international players, it appears a new kind of war is on the horizon, and if China and the United States don’t join the international dialog, it is becoming more and more likely that things could get ugly, and fast.
“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 commercializing it and 7 billion people who will be impacted by it” explains Ian Hogarth, an A.I. expert from the University of Cambridge.