Artificial Intelligence is a frighteningly powerful new tool — and weapon. Who and what will it serve? In the U.S., tech giants Facebook, Google, and Amazon and their corporate agendas; in China, the needs of the public and the economy. These two models should be thought through now.
by Jim Carey
Speaking to a group of students in September, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a bold proclamation. “Artificial intelligence is the future,” he said, stating that this is a fact “not only for Russia but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
This single quote from Putin was cast in an ominous light by Western media, even leading SpaceX founder — and the most recognizable critic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) — Elon Musk to warn that the race for AI superiority “at a national level” may be the “most likely cause” of a potential world war. While the Western media may want their consumers to believe that this was the latest development in the tactics used in “Russian aggression” and the next logical step from the dreaded “troll farms,” those more grounded in reality acknowledged that, while Putin is right, Russia is not the number two competitor with the United States.
The real competitor in the race for AI superiority should be obvious. There is only one nation quickly catching up to the perceived technological superiority of the United States: China.
Not only is China’s tech industry catching up with the United States but, unlike Washington, Beijing is directly investing billions of dollars in AI research projects. Washington has ceded both control of AI research and the drafting of laws governing and guiding tech companies to the CEOs of said companies and their lobbyists.
There are also major differences between Beijing and Silicon Valley, with the former seeking to use AI for improving human life economic systems in conjunction with the state while the latter seeks to exploit, extort and monitor humanity through the submission of the state.
These two approaches are night and day and account for many of the reasons that the West is truly threatened by the race for AI between the neoliberal privatizers in the U.S. and those pushing an alternate model in China that will largely operate as an extension of state economic management.