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'AI vs AI’: No conflict is worth human annihilation

The world cannot be left at the mercy of American and Chinese robotic generals
China's President Xi Jinping (right) speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 26, 2024.

Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command's Gao Xiucheng (center right) attends a demonstration of a machine gun-equipped robot battle "dog" during the Cambodian-Chinese Dragon Gold-2024 drill at a military police base in Kampong Chhnang province on May 16, 2024. Cambodia and China began their largest-ever joint annual military drills to boost their army capacity amid US concerns that Beijing could use a key Cambodian naval base to expand its influence in the region. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 17, 2024 11:45 AM GMT
Updated: May 20, 2024 04:44 AM GMT

If the United States had to negotiate with the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to avert a nuclear Armageddon during the Cold War, it needs to now sort out the nitty-gritty of an impending, untested robotic cyber war with China.

The world’s largest arms spender has little choice but to take into confidence its arch-rival China, which is giving it enough jitters with its fast-developing technologies.

China stands tall compared with the US whether its solar power, chips, electronic vehicles (EVs), information technology (IT), and artificial intelligence (AI) that are the engines of growth of the future economy.

Chinese products have many takers globally as they are cheap and cutting-edge. Its AI capabilities are gaining ground with other nations and the Asian superpower has already deployed them across civilian, military and national security sectors.

More and more nations are finding the Chinese business model too good to give a slip.

Unlike the Soviet Union, China has proved a hard nut to crack for the US because it does not denounce market norms as communists did during the Soviet era. The Chinese challenge is proving tougher because it talks the language of the Western capitalist market albeit with “Chinese characteristics.” 

The US is finding its economic hegemony questioned by an Asian nation that fully abides by market norms while conducting trade. Besides, China has no history of exporting atheist communism to other countries like the Soviet Union.

Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader, banned it when China embraced the market-oriented Western model in the 1980s.

The US has been making efforts to dethrone China. It initiated a “trade war” in 2018 during Donald Trump’s presidency. The sanctions-ridden “trade war” was a strategy to deny access to China chips, EVs, IT, and AI.

President Joe Biden picked up where Trump left and enacted the Chip Act in August 2022 to further restrict AI exports to China.

Under Biden, the US is keen to finish off China. In the last week of April, Congress passed, and Biden signed, a bill to ban Chinese social media giant TikTok in the US if its parent firm, ByteDance, refused to hand over ownership to a US firm within 12 months.

The administration feared the use of TikTok by more than one-third of Americans under 30 may pose a threat to its national security. But US teenagers found TikTok more user-friendly. Its algorithm is designed to surf content that is engaging and interesting, regardless of the creator's popularity and fan-following.

Tech major Microsoft has accused China of using AI to manipulate ongoing polls in other countries, including neighboring India and the US.

But the US needs China on board for the future robotic war so that AI “never makes decisions” on nuclear arms.

The US and China held their first-ever meet on the military use of AI in Geneva on May 14. The two largest arms spenders sat across the table behind closed doors to ensure that the deployment of robots on the battlefield does not turn MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

The summit was aimed at laying the foundation-stone for tomorrow’s high-tech war, involving context-aware, corporate-made robotic generals.

The pressing issue on hand was to avoid autonomous machine killing in a likely robotic war conducted at short notice.

Both powers appear worried about the prospects of robotic generals improving themselves, or seeking to hike their power.

During the closed-door talks, the US and China talked about “digital solidarity,” covering nuclear weapons, to stave off the possibility of nonhuman entities fighting one another, obliterating the planet and its species in the process.

Their maiden meet was not aimed at peace because the US has already ruled out concessions to China on potentially perilous new technology, citing its paramount national security. “…our technology protection policies are not up for negotiation,” a senior US State Department official said ahead of the summit.

At Geneva, they talked about laws and norms that would be "embraced by all countries" while waging future high-tech wars.

The United Nations was conspicuous by its absence at the vital summit, apparently due to the stiff opposition from the US.

It must be noted here that to dismantle the Soviet Union, established religions like Christianity and Islam and international neutral institutions like the UN came in handy for the US. Their involvement brought rich dividends for the US and precipitated the disintegration of the Soviet nation in 1991.

The absence of an independent international body now to monitor the untested escapades of robotic militaries will put humanity at the mercy of American and Chinese robotic generals.

Cut off from human oversight, the self-guided robot weaponry may take control of entire humanity causing a machine-made Armageddon.

However, no battle is worth human annihilation even if AI fights AI.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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