Robotics & Geopolitics: AI at Center of EU Push, Spy Game, and Nuclear Politics

Robotics Business Review

This week saw several developments around artificial intelligence that could be classified as good, bad, and downright scary. As the European Union turns its focus on AI, the CIA is developing AI spies, and a RAND Group report says AI decisions could increase the risk of nuclear war.

Robotics Business Review has partnered with Abishur Prakash at Center for Innovating the Future to provide its members with cutting-edge insights into recent developments in international robotics, AI, and unmanned systems. Are you ready to be updated?

EU AI push aims to catch up to the U.S., China

The European Union (EU) has unveiled a three-pronged plan to grow AI and catch up with U.S. and Chinese efforts. The plan revolves around three core areas: public investments, socioeconomic impact, and ethics. The goal is to invest €20 billion ($24.2 billion) between now and 2020.

Last week, the British parliament published a report outlining how the U.K. could catch up with the U.S. and China in AI development. The report recommends that it focus on ethics, not funding.

Credit: Pixabay

What makes the EU plan different is its multifaceted approach. It doesn’t just revolve around ethics, investment or retraining – it focuses on all three. Unlike some other countries that may have a harder time finding money or talent, the larger EU won’t.

Would AI firms seek funding from the EU instead of the U.S. or China? Could AI (and robotics) carve out a new niche for each member state? For example, could AI companies invest in Germany for industrial robots, Poland for government AI and Italy in agricultural robots?

This push, however, could have unexpected consequences. As the U.S. becomes more protectionist, could it ban companies from certain industries, such as AI and robotics, from getting funding from the EU as a way to protect American national security? Concerns around AI spies and robotics competition could affect a nation’s business and foreign policies.

AI spies could change nuclear politics

Two recent developments surrounding AI and geopolitics point to seismic shifts on the horizon.

Facial recognition is making it more difficult for human assets to remain under the radar in foreign missions for the U.S. CIA. As a result, the agency is delegating more responsibility to AI and creating more AI-focused agents.

Second, the RAND Corp. has proposed that AI will be able to monitor an adversary’s nuclear infrastructure and military, identifying more vulnerabilities in ways that human analysts can’t. This could give one nuclear power a major advantage over another, breaking the mutually-assured destruction doctrine that has guided the world for decades.

While separate developments, they are connected by a singular theme: AI surveillance and any advantage this could give to countries.

The real question, which has not been answered by the CIA or RAND, is how much of an advantage AI spies will provide. AI firms are emerging around the world, from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen. As governments attract talent and invest in new ideas, multiple companies could come up with the same, or similar, innovations. AI spies and other innovations could then be routed into an intelligence agency or military. The challenge for the major powers is how to ensure that AI innovations are unique and are protected from duplication — if that is even possible.

The onus on how countries compete geopolitically isn’t just on governments. It’s also to whom automation suppliers sell, as well as how they discuss their work with others.

Finland pulls back on UBI plan

When Finland started its universal basic income (UBI) plan last year, the world paid close attention. The plan was to give 2,000 people about €560 ($677.50) per month for two years as a test.

From Hawaii to Kenya, governments around the world have considered UBI as a way to raise the quality of life for their citizens and, equally important, deal with automation-induced job losses.

Less than two years later, Finland is not expanding the program. Instead, the country intends to introduce new policies that force people to work and make it harder for people to stay unemployed.

With predictions around automation that could eliminate jobs for lower-skilled workers, governments are paying attention to the Finland experiment. Today, people may be able to “find work,” but if automation eats up more jobs, this becomes more difficult. The focus will then turn to government policies that can ensure economic, social, and political stability in the age of automation.

The most popular ideas lately are UBI and robot taxes – which are short-sighted and come with their own downfalls.

Instead, incentivizing people or subsidizing robots and AI technologies could be a better way forward. This would not only fuel the robotics and AI industries by giving companies more revenues, but it would also create new jobs and industries.

For example, could subsidies motivate a 26-year-old in 2032 to use expensive AI and create a new finance platform? In 2028, could tax incentives incentivize a newly married couple to buy dozens of robot lawn mowers and start offering them to their neighborhood for a fixed price?

This type of thinking will decide how much of an impact robotics and AI has on society, politics, and the future.

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