Joanna Bryson: Is there an AI Cold War?
From Tatyana Sarayeva on October 18th, 2021
Joanna Bryson is a Professor of Ethics and Technology at the Hertie School, Berlin, Germany
Regulation is a means societies use to create the stability, public goods, and infrastructure they need to thrive securely. This talk is intended to both document and to address claims of a new AI cold war: a binary competition between the United States and China that is too important for other powers to either ignore or truly participate in directly, beyond taking sides. With coauthor Helena Malikova, I argue that while some of the claims of this narrative are based at least in part on genuine security concerns and important unknowns, evidence for its extreme binary nature is lacking. This absence of factual evidence is concerning, because related geopolitical tensions may be used to interfere with regulation of AI and agencies associated with its development. Here we first document and then analyze the extremely bipolar picture prominent policymakers and political commentators have been recently painting of the AI technological situation, portraying China and the United States as the only two global powers. We then examine the plausibility of these claims using two measures: internationally registered AI patents and the market capitalization of the companies that hold them. These two measures, while each somewhat arbitrary and imperfect, are often deployed in the context of the binary narrative and can therefore be seen as conservative choices in that they should favor exactly the “champions” of that narrative. In fact, these measures do not produce bipolar results: Chinese capacity has been exaggerated and that of other global regions deprecated. These findings call into question the motivation behind the documented claims, though they also further illuminate the uncertainty concerning digital technology security. We recommend that all parties engage in contributing to a safe, secure, and transparent regulatory landscape.