AI Gaining Momentum in National Security in 2022
China believed to be inching ahead of the U.S. even as Pentagon increases funding.
Did you ever wonder why this Newsletter is called AiSupremacy? I selected this name due to the technological cold-war around the race to increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence systems and integration in other industries including Military and National Defense.
In 2022 there is a greater awareness of the importance of A.I. in National Defense. China appears to be matching Pentagon investment in this area. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field of technology with potentially significant implications for national security.
The U.S. military and China’s People’s Liberation Army are both pursuing artificial intelligence capabilities which could give them a leg up in future conflicts. PLA investments in AI are now on par with the Pentagon’s, experts say.
Artificial intelligence, microelectronics and "Next-G" will be on a soon-to-be released list of the Pentagon's top research-and-development priorities, a senior Defense Department official said Jan. 13.
While China’s leader is talking down the Cold-Tech wars, China’s behavior on the world stage isn’t echoing this statement. Speaking via videoconference at The Davos Agenda virtual event, Xi said: “We need to discard Cold War mentality and seek peaceful co-existence and win-win outcomes.”
In the early 2020s there’s a new recognition of a convergence of A.I. in the Defense and Military sector. For instance, finely tuned hardware, a specialized network, and large data storage, supercomputers have long been used for computationally intense projects that require large amounts of data processing.
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Military Budgets are Juicing A.I. National Defense Sector Arms Race
According to the Brookings Institute, with the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is an increasing demand for these powerful computers and, as a result, processing power is rapidly increasing.
Historically geo-politics are colliding with Artificial Intelligence in unprecedented way. Mindful of the threats to security that are posed by supercomputers, a consortium of countries, including the United States, Germany, and South Korea, developed the Wassenaar Arrangement, which restricts the sale of, among other things, supercomputers that can be used for military purposes.
China’s emphasis on A.I. is also indicating that it may be leading the world in A.I. regulation.
The strongest and most immediately influential moves in AI governance have been made by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), a relatively new but very powerful regulator that writes the rules governing certain applications of AI.
The second approach to AI governance has emerged out of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), an influential think tank under the MIIT.
Finally, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has taken the lightest of the three approaches to AI governance. To understand China’s ecosystem of A.I. regulation today read here.
A couple of weeks ago, President Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which specifies the annual budget for the Department of Defense and mandates how the money is spent.
NDAA’s increased focus on research and development, including almost $117 billion in funding for new science and technology. More importantly, the NDAA included several much needed measures to support and reform the DoD acquisition processes.
China’s investment in A.I. is catching up in its military industrial complex in the early 2020s. “Supported by a burgeoning AI defense industry, the Chinese military has made extraordinary progress in procuring AI systems for combat and support functions,” according to a recent report from the Georgetown University Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
How Surveillance Capitalism scales globally means China and the U.S. will have even more power over and in the rest of the world. Their firms working with their Governments could become a liability to geo-political stability as the race to A.I Supremacy creates unhealthy competition, nationalism and an arms-race like culture of antagonism on economic, geopolitical, technological and business levels.
How Does the U.S. Keep up with China?
There is a general concern that the U.S. military has fallen behind other countries, namely China, in these fields. By 2030, China could be significantly ahead in the intersection of National Defense and A.I. systems and related technology.
China’s superiority in cybersecurity could prove dangerous for U.S. infrastructure and the chances of civil unrest. Both countries could seek to destabilize the other in moments of vulnerability.
China vs. the United States in AI of National Defense Architectures
As such, the United States and other nations are developing AI applications for a range of military functions. AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles.
China’s emphasis on the development of its artificial intelligence is central to its rise as an economic and technological power-house, widely expected to be the leader in the 2030-2060 period. Its emphasis on A.I. regulation and even common prosperity in its system of Capitalism, could change how A.I. develops globally, even as integration of BigTech in both the U.S. and China is being consolidated in the early 2020s.
The People’s Liberation Army is most focused on procuring AI for intelligence analysis, predictive maintenance, information warfare, and navigation and target recognition in autonomous vehicles. China and Russia’s prolific use of information and cyber warfare could be particularly risky for the U.S. and its allies in the coming years. Their strength is the West’s weakness, with unregulated platforms and very poor cybersecurity defense compounded by a talent shortage in the area of cybersecurity.
AI applications in defense rely on training data from a variety of inputs. These could include technical cybersecurity feeds, aerial photography, or data from physical sensors in the field. AI technologies present unique challenges for military integration, particularly because the bulk of AI development is happening in the commercial sector. In China, AI firms are fundamentally better integrated with the Chinese State and its military departments. Commercial firms are visibly subservient to the Chinese Community Party and this working together is part of Chian’s rule of law.
What Advantages does China have in A.I. of its National Defense Sector
China thus has many technological, cultural, political, administrative and likely economic advantages with developing firms that service China’s National Defense sector in the area of Artificial Intelligence. China’s proliferation of facial recognition firms highlight this, where pure-play A.I. companies can grow to scale in China many years before such companies can develop elsewhere.
Meanwhile the U.S. system of National Defense is a dated system. The U.S. defense acquisition structure is not set up for fast-paced technologies. While the current processes are well suited for the procurement of tanks, fighter planes and aircraft carriers, they struggle when handling technology not unique to the military, especially related to information technology and electronics. These factors signify that the U.S. is likely at a significant disadvantage to how A.I. intersects with its National Defense sector when compared to China.
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For China and Russia, A.I. is viewed as an important area of special concern. China is primarily focused on using AI to make faster and more well-informed decisions, as well as on developing a variety of autonomous military vehicles. Russia is also active in military AI development, with a primary focus on robotics. As automation meets Military readiness there are growing inherent dangers of such a system given the current climate of geo-political instability.
Lack of A.I. Regulation in the United States an Existential Weakness
Americans have not yet grappled with just how profoundly the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution will impact our economy, national security, and welfare. In many ways free-market capitalism and Silicon Valley’s supremacy in A.I. means the United States is not well prepared in a regulatory, legal and governance manner with the changes now taking place. These changes include the AI-arms race that could determine the outcome of the 21st century for humanity.
The PLA should outspend the Pentagon in AI-enabled military systems I believe by 2026. In 2015, China set a national priority to better leverage its booming commercial sector for military technology. This “Military-civil fusion” has been successful and has advanced China’s military technology in the cyber and AI realms. Their goal of achieving supremacy by 2030 is today in 2022, a realistic target.
Western social platforms of scale are all too easy targets for information warfare by their foreign adversaries. Even in consumer apps that influence young people globally, China has risen to unexpected heights very rapidly with apps such as TikTok. We have to imagine in the Metaverse, this will be a growing trend.
As stated by the United States Congressional Research Service, most commercial innovations supporting AI serve the private sector, not federal requirements. The bifurcation of National Defense from private companies and their interests such as digital advertising companies in the U.S. means the U.S. is unable to truly create an acceptable level of defense against information warfare, among other threats.
Although AI has the potential to impart a number of advantages in the military context, it may also introduce distinct challenges. AI technology could, for example, facilitate autonomous operations, lead to more informed military decision-making, and increase the speed and scale of military action. Space warfare, quantum computing and cybersecurity are likely fields where China and Russia could dominate over the United States and NATO countries.
Private Partnerships with American Firms and National Defense Sector are Growing
While new American firms keep popping up to serve the National Defense sector in the U.S., the organization of Congress around this seems lack luster in recent years.
Military AI development presents a number of potential issues for Congress:
What is the right balance of commercial and government funding for AI development?
How might Congress influence defense acquisition reform initiatives that facilitate military AI development?
What changes, if any, are necessary in Congress and DOD to implement effective oversight of AI development?
How should the United States balance research and development related to artificial intelligence and autonomous systems with ethical considerations?
What legislative or regulatory changes are necessary for the integration of military AI applications?
What measures can Congress take to help manage the AI competition globally?
Without firm guidance of A.I. regulation in the Military in the U.S. it’s unlikely American can have a lasting impact on the regulation of A.I. both in the private sector and in the Military industrial complexes of the world.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field of technology that is capturing the attention of commercial investors, defense intellectuals, policymakers, and international competitors alike. It’s a topic we will be following in AiSupremacy with regular updates.
Thanks for reading!