Report: U.S., China in Artificial Intelligence Arms Race

By Meredith Roaten

iStock illustration

The United States could be at a technological disadvantage if China meets its artificial intelligence development goals by 2030, according to a new report.

The Special Competitive Studies Project released a new study called “Mid-Decade Challenges to National Competitiveness” on Sept. 12. China has and continues to invest heavily in the three “battlegrounds” for technological superiority: semiconductors, artificial intelligence and 5G, CEO Ylli Bajraktari said at a Defense Writers Group event.

The report focuses on how the United States as a leader in talent, tech companies and  market ideas is facing a competitor devoting all its resources to taking the lead in the three battlegrounds, he said.

The time period of 2025 to 2030 will be an important one for the United States, he said. Many of China’s technology advancement plans — such as becoming a global AI leader by 2030 — have deadlines during that time, he noted.

“We only have one budget cycle to get this right,” Bajraktari said. “If we don't get our act together in these three core battlegrounds … in terms of bio, in terms of next-generation computer power, in terms of next-generation inventions, it’s not going to happen in the countries that are at the forefront of democracies today. Everything will happen in China.”

While the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act shows major progress on semiconductor manufacturing capacity, the United States still doesn’t have a good plan to compete with China for 5G wireless technology, he said.

“And so we argue that we’ve got to get these three battlegrounds right, so we're not 5G’d again,” he said, referring to China’s adoption of 5G technology more quickly than the United States.

SCSP’s Chairman Eric Schmidt added that as long as AI systems have objectives set by humans, most ethics concerns related to artificial intelligence come from the ethics of the countries wielding them. The country who can make decisions the fastest will have an advantage, but leaving humans in the loop slows things down.

“The real issue is the compression of time,” he said. “These systems are going to have to make decisions faster than human decision-making time, and that's where the boundary is going to be and we have to have a serious conversation about that as a society in my opinion.”

There are short-term concerns about artificial intelligence that include using AI for misinformation and cyber attacks, but the most serious is biological warfare, he noted. For example, soon it could be possible for AI to take large databases of viruses to generate new viruses.

While the report focused primarily on China, Schmidt noted artificial intelligence has become a winning tactic against Russia. Cyberattacks against Ukraine have made the nation an “early warning system” for Russia’s strategy, he said.

“They probably have more experience dealing with Russian information tactics and so forth,” he said.

Schmidt traveled to Ukraine for a 36-hour trip this week to learn about the Ukrainian military response to the Russian invasion, he said.

One use case for artificial intelligence that stood out was the use of a messaging app. Ukrainian citizens can forward pictures of Russian equipment to the government. Artificial intelligence then can sort through a heavy volume of data to select which pictures are useful enough to turn into targets.

There wasn’t much bureaucracy to slow down the adoption of this digital technique, he noted.

“One of the things that I learned was that in a genuine conflict, everything happens very quickly, and I think that that would be true in the future as well,” he said.

Developing a techno-industrial cooperation with democratic nations could allow the United States to pull ahead in this competition, said Bob Work, a member of the SCSP’s advisory board. The report recommends cooperating to build secure resilient networks like 5G and FutureG cables, both terrestrial and undersea operating systems, data centers, digital apps, software and platforms.

A similar recommendation came out of the National Security Commission on AI that was well received at the Department of State, Work noted. With the right diplomacy, it could be possible to have a framework for that partnership by the 2025 to 2030 timeframe. The report also recommends aligning private companies more closely with the government, including freeing up the flow of data for digital trade with international companies.

“It's easier said than done,” Work said.


Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems

Comments (0)

Retype the CAPTCHA code from the image
Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Please enter the text displayed in the image.