China’s dominance of artificial intelligence worries Pentagon and other U.S. officials


First Pentagon Director of Software quit abruptly earlier this month and now we know exactly why: Nicolas Chillan, former chief of security for the US Air Force and Space Force, told the Financial Times that the United States “has no chance of fighting China in 15 to 20 years” when it comes to cyber warfare and artificial intelligence.

Chaillan, a 37-year-old tech entrepreneur, added that cybersecurity in many government agencies is “at the kindergarten level,” and that companies like Google are doing the US a disservice by not working with the military anymore on AI, as Chinese companies have been doing “ huge investment “in AI without getting hung up on the ethics of it all. And while quitting a job because America has already lost the AI ​​race is a bit dramatic, Chillan isn’t the only one worried about China’s dominance in the arena.

A growing number of leaders in Washington and Silicon Valley are concerned that the United States is lagging behind in the race for AI supremacy. Congressional Hearings on the Future of AI Continue since 2016and Chaillan said he plans to testify in some upcoming ones. Earlier this year, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, a project led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, also boldly stated that China ready to surpass the USA as the world’s “artificial intelligence superpower.” In a statement signed by Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Stephen Hawking among thousands of scientists, the commission said: “Artificial intelligence technology has reached the point where deploying such systems – practically, if not legally – is possible within a few years, not decades. and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in war after gunpowder and nuclear weapons. ”

We can all agree that no one wants China to invent a real version of Skynet, the omnipotent AI that captures the planet v Terminator films. But we also do not want the United States to do this. And what does the finish line actually look like in this AI race? Does the US really want to win at any cost?


For years, pundits comparing an AI race to a space race – and a warning that the US is losing it. This is a convenient analogy because it helps Americans place current conflicts with countries like China and Russia in the familiar context of the Cold War. Many have argued that we ended up in the second cold war and that the country that wins the AI ​​race will take the throne as the dominant superpower. But the artificial intelligence revolution isn’t just about fighting wars or geopolitical domination. What we strive to build will change almost every aspect of our lives, from how we do business, to how we process information, to how we move.

Therefore, it is imperative that the United States think about a rapid transition to a future filled with autonomous cars, limitless data collection and constant surveillance. These are the applications that will enable next-generation AI, and if a small group of powerful tech companies and / or the US military will drive innovation without installing proper guards in placeThis world-changing technology can lead to unpleasant unintended consequences. President Biden urged the US and Europe to work together responsible development of new technologies in a February speech at the Munich Security Conference.

“We must formulate rules that will govern the development of technologies and norms of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, so that they can be used to raise people, not to contain them,” Biden said. “We must uphold the democratic values ​​that allow us to achieve all of this while opposing those who want to monopolize and normalize repression.

You can also take a look at modern China to see what the immediate future of an AI-driven society might look like. As Kai-Fu Lee states in his book AI superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World OrderChina is more aggressively adopting artificial intelligence breakthroughs, especially in surveillance and data collection applicationsthanks in part to government support and a lack of oversight, which has allowed some tech companies to bypass competition and dominate entire industries. WeChat and its parent company, Tencent, are perfect examples. WeChat privacy doesn’t seem to be a prioritybut the sheer amounts of data that an application can collect is certainly useful for training AI.

“Imagine, if you like, that Facebook acquired Visa and Mastercard and integrated everything into the functions, and also invested in Amazon, Uber, OpenTable and so on and so on, and created an ecosystem in which, after logging into Facebook, all these things are one click away, and then you can pay for them with another click. ”- Lee told New York Magazine… “This is the convenience that WeChat has brought, and its true value is the giant dataset of all the user data that goes through it.”

It’s kind of a win-by-any-cost approach that seems to give China an edge in the race for AI. China also seems to be playing catch-up when it comes to setting standards for algorithmic ethics. Just last week the country released the first ever guide to AI ethics… It has long been known in the United States that algorithms can be racist or sexistand the Pentagon has adopted guidelines for ethical AI. almost two years ago… And, as we recently learned, the artificial intelligence that companies like Facebook and YouTube are using to serve content. can also be used to radicalize people and undermine democracy. That’s why – especially after the Facebook whistleblower scandal, which revealed internal research showing that its products were harmful to some users, including teenage girls – Recently, US lawmakers are more interested in talking about how to regulate algorithms than how to beat China in the AI ​​race.

Incidentally, these two things are not mutually exclusive. Chaillan, the former chief of military software, has certainly earned his opinion on how quickly the United States is advancing its cyber defenses and artificial intelligence computers. And now that he is transferring his knowledge of how the Pentagon works to the private sector, he is likely to make good money solving his problems. For the rest of us, the rise of AI should not be perceived as a race against China. It’s more like high stakes poker.

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