The Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence

Fragmentation, Conflict, and Cybersecurity

The original idea behind artificial intelligence (AI) was to simulate the functioning of the human brain and look into real-world issues from a human perspective. Creative literary and cinematic works have made AI globally renowned. Its uses are numerous and include the military, space exploration, and the healthcare industry. In the latter case, it helps with diagnosis, treatment suggestions, and structural health management for financial projections.

Security of networks, devices, and data against damage or unauthorized access is the goal of cybersecurity, which has its roots in cybernetics. By automating procedures to identify and address cyber risks, AI greatly improves cybersecurity efforts. This is especially true with machine learning, which gives computers the ability to learn from experience and adapt accordingly. Several cybersecurity frameworks, including NIST and ISO, offer recommendations for protecting various domains, which reflects the wide range of cybersecurity concerns, from infrastructure security to human security.

After agreeing at first that AI would be harmful, great powers are now fighting over the technology’s foundations, which is causing the legal system to become disjointed. In addition to undermining a nation’s attempts to control AI, this disjointed legal system can enable autocracies to control public opinion and take advantage of information flow. It can even spark global conflict. There could be a major loss if a global attempt to control AI is never really realized

China, the USA, and the EU released an unprecedented joint communiqué in November 2023, pledging to work together globally to address the problems brought forth by cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, especially “frontier” AI-like generative models like ChatGPT. This paper raised issues about the possible use of AI for misinformation and the significant threats it poses to biotechnology and cybersecurity. Officials from the USA and China have further bilateral discussions to discuss potential collaboration on risk management and regulation of AI. Notably, recent regulatory initiatives by these key actors show notable convergence, such as China’s rules, the EU’s AI Act, and US President Joe Biden’s executive order on AI.  The common objective of these regimes is to stop AI exploitation while encouraging innovation.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is modeled after an international panel that would advise governments on AI capabilities and emerging trends. Ian Bremmer, Eric Schmidt, and Mustafa Suleyman are among those who have proposed closer international management of AI.

One major area of conflict related to AI is the ongoing dispute between China and the USA over the global semiconductor industry. To manufacture devices that can run cutting-edge AI models used by OpenAI, Anthropic, and other companies on the technological frontier, the U.S. Commerce Department released its first comprehensive licensing regime for the export of advanced chips and chip-making technology in October 2022. China responded in August 2023 by imposing export restrictions on rare materials germanium and gallium, which are both required for the production of semiconductors. Because states are not sufficiently restrained from implementing export controls by international trade law under the World Trade Organization, a tit-for-tat rivalry over chips is feasible. There is minimal chance of new formal regulations that can be legitimately enforced by a reputable international organization because former US President Donald Trump eliminated the WTO’s appeal body in 2018.

Reduced trade and increased geopolitical tensions are the results of this.
Technical standards, which have long served as the foundation for the usage of any significant technology, represent another area of contention. China has been pushing its chosen standards in the technical committees of several of these agencies, where it has assumed more and more leadership responsibilities. With 39 nations and territories, China had standardization agreements in place as of 2019.

Geopolitical strife is reshaping global AI regulations and deepening disagreements about the intangible resources required for the technology. Large data repositories as well as highly specialised, smaller data pools are needed for AI tools. Businesses and nations will vie for access to various types of data, and there will likely be more international conflict over data flows. Collective solutions that are vast in scope will be thwarted by the new legal framework surrounding AI. Driven by its commitment to open markets and national security, the USA pushed a model of unrestricted international data transfers. At the same time, European legislation has been more circumspect when it comes to data protection. China and India have passed national laws requiring “data localization,” imposing more stringent controls on cross-border data transfers.

The question of whether and when states might require the disclosure of the algorithms underlying AI instruments is beginning to spark rivalry on a global scale. According to the EU’s planned AI Act, big businesses must provide government authorities access to some models’ inner workings to make sure people won’t be harmed by them. With Biden’s executive order requiring disclosures about “dual-use foundation models” and trade agreements forbidding disclosure of “property source code and algorithms,” the US approach is more convoluted and less cohesive. States are likely to attempt to compel companies to reveal technical design decisions while simultaneously forbidding them from disclosing this information to other governments as the significance of these decisions gains traction.

After agreeing at first that AI would be harmful, great powers are now fighting over the technology’s foundations, which is causing the legal system to become disjointed. In addition to undermining a nation’s attempts to control AI, this disjointed legal system can enable autocracies to control public opinion and take advantage of information flow. It can even spark global conflict. There could be a major loss if a global attempt to control AI is never really realized.

Rimsha Malik
Rimsha Malik
The writer is a researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, and can be reached at [email protected]

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