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For superpowers, artificial intelligence – a pretext for a new arms race
Material posted: Publication date: 10-09-2017
For many Russian students the school year started last Friday with tips on world domination President Vladimir Putin.

"Artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia, it is the future of all mankind, — he said in his speech, broadcast live to 16,000 pre-selected Russian schools. Who will be the leader in this field, will be master of the world".

Putin's words have become another symptom now unfolding between Russia, China and the United States race, which is aimed at strengthening the military power with the help of artificial intelligence. All three countries believe that intelligent machines in the future will be an important factor to their national security.


Technology allowing to create Autonomous drones and cars, and software, is able to analyze the intelligence they perceive as a way to expand the capabilities of their soldiers.

"And the United States, Russia, and China agree that artificial intelligence will become a key technology, which will depend on national power", — says an employee of the independent analytical organization the Center for a new American security, Gregory Allen (Gregory C. Allen). He participated in the drafting of the recently prepared on behalf of the office of the Director of national intelligence report, which explained that artificial intelligence could change military as radically as it changed nuclear weapons.

In July, the State Council of China published a detailed strategy for the transformation of China by 2030 as "the global leader and center of innovation in the field of AI". It includes a promise to invest in research and development, which "will strengthen with the help of AI national defense, and to provide and protect national security."

Unlike China, the United States, considered to be the place where AI technology are developing most actively and successfully, did not develop prescriptive plans. However, the Pentagon for several years working on the strategy called the "Third opposition" ("Third Offset"), which should give US — thanks to the weapon that uses intelligent software — the same advantage over potential adversaries, which once provided the nuclear bombs and precision guidance systems. In April, the U.S. Department of defense has established a Comprehensive group on algorithmic technology, which aims to establish the use of the Pentagon of such technologies AI like computer vision.

Russia lags behind China and the United States in the application of new technologies, automation and artificial intelligence, but it is expanding its investments in this area thanks to the adopted in 2008, the program for the modernization of the armed forces. The governmental Military-industrial Commission has set a goal to automate 30% of military equipment by the year 2025. "Russia has fallen behind and now catching up," — said the expert on Russian armed forces from the naval analytical centre Samuel Bendett (Samuel Bendett).

Race in artificial intelligence between the three biggest military powers of the world differs from past races — in the areas of nuclear weapons and stealth technology — the fact that a fair portion of the AI technologies can be used for both military and civilian needs.

For example, algorithms that are suitable for search of a photo can be used for image search on photos from spy satellites, and the software to control an Autonomous mini-van very close to the software to control an unmanned tank. Many modern advances in the development and application of artificial intelligence based on studies of companies such as Google.

China is trying to link directly to the commercial and defense projects. For example, on the problems of machine learning laboratory which opened in January, is controlled by Baidu, the leading Chinese search engine. The project also involved the University of Beihai is the leading center for the development of military drones, the supply of certain goods which were banned by the U.S. Department of Commerce for reasons of national security.

The American government has fewer opportunities to achieve from the technology sector cooperation in the form of an order. The Minister of defence James Mattis (James Mattis) admitted during a recent trip to the West coast, which included visits to the offices of Amazon and Google, that his Department should make greater use of commercial developments in the field of AI. The Pentagon plans to expand the funding for their project, created by the Obama administration to facilitate a small tech companies, the cooperation with the armed forces.

The Russian technology industry is relatively small compared to American and Chinese, that decreases her chances in the race. However, Russia maintained a strong academic tradition in the field of natural and technical Sciences. In addition, technological excellence is not everything. Equally important, how you use what you have.

According to Bendetta, during the recent conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, Russia has demonstrated that it can do a lot even with not the most advanced technology. Russian drones are much cheaper than the us and have less range, but they are extremely effective, says the researcher from the naval analysis center.

Allen suggests that Russia may be willing to use more aggressive AI and machine learning for intelligence and propaganda campaign than its opponents. Automation can increase the capacity of the hacking operations and activities in social networks, similar to those which have been marked on the us elections of 2016, he said.

In his speech last Friday, Putin made clear that Russia's successes in the field of artificial intelligence can make the world a safer place. Apparently, it was an allusion to the alleged stabilizing effect of mutual nuclear deterrence. "I would not like to have this monopoly was concentrated in someone's specific hands," he said. The arms race in region AI can give in the hands of the military, but many of the trends of international politics will still remain the same.

Tom Simonite


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