A New-Age Arms Race

The US falls behind on a new race: To build the best AI.

60 years ago, the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) participated in an unofficial war, the Cold War. A central idea of this Cold War was the Arms Race, which revolved around one nation beating the other to more powerful weapons, as well as the Space Race, which revolved around the nations beating the other to space.

The Cold War never had a clear victor, and though the USSR made it to space first, the US got the first man on the moon. Now, another Race has begun, and, as it was last time, it was undeclared.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work met with CNN anchors for an interview, stating that the US was facing a “Sputnik Moment” between Russia and China. This new “Sputnik Moment” is in reference to the USSR’s first satellite, which was the first manmade object to be successfully launched into space.

Work runs a government analysis firm named Work and Govini, which released a statement to CNN saying that the US military “must lead the coming revolution, or fall victim to it,” as Russia and China pour more focus into the field of artificial intelligence (AI) development. The firm’s report also stated that “This stark choice will be determined by the degree to which the Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes the revolutionary military potential of AI and advanced autonomous systems.”

Critics of artificial intelligence (AI) development have often warned against the development of sophisticated AI systems, namely Elon Musk of SpaceX, while some figures use it’s development as a point of focus, such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Zuckerberg announced on 11/28/17 that his company had developed an AI that helps detect and report potential users vulnerable to suicide. As such, he voiced support to the Work and Govini analysis.

Artificial Intelligence is a term regarding any system designed to think for itself, being specific to nonbiological entities, meaning that it’s not alive, but still capable of thinking.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in an “open lesson” with university students that Russia would be taking the lead in AI research, the first indication of a coming race. China was close behind, with a Chinese governmental report claiming that “Artificial intelligence has become the new focus of international competition. Artificial intelligence is the strategic technology that leads the future.” China hopes that it might rival Russia in the field of AI development, with both nations attempting to tie AI into defense and commercial industries.

As such, Work and Govini warns that the USA’s chances in this race are not looking good. The firm claims that private investments into AI research will be insufficient to keep up with the Chinese and Russian national focus on the projects. In the end, Work claims that an emphasis on AI development and the USA’s chance to catch up to Russia and China’s head start “will require a national response led by the White House.”

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