An “AI Race” Between U.S. and China Is a Terrible Idea

One thing we can be sure about AI – because we are told it so often and at so increasingly high a pitch – is that whatever it actually is, the national interest demands more of it.

We need it now, or else China will beat us there, and we certainly wouldn’t want that, would we? What is “There,” exactly? What does it look like, how would it work, and how would it change our society? Irrelevant! The race is on, and if America doesn’t start taking AI seriously, we’re going to find ourselves the losers in an ever-widening Dystopia Gap.

How would we “Beat” China, exactly? Beat them at what, exactly? Which specific problems do we hope to use AI to fix? At a point in history when cities are beginning to scrutinize and outright ban “AI” technologies like facial recognition, are we sure the fixes aren’t even worse than the problems? Nationalists caught in an arms race have no time to answer questions like these or any others; they’ve got a race to win!

All anyone can manage to do is bark that we need more, more, more AI, more investments, more R&D, more collaborations, more ventures, more breakthroughs, simply more AI. Maybe we’ll worry about what we needed all of this for in the first place once we’ve beaten China there.

New America’s Justin Sherman has written numerous articles about why framing AI development as an “Arms race” is wrongheaded – but only because it leaves out all the other potentially frightening and draconian gifts a nationalist AI sprint could produce.

“Competing AI development in the United States and China needs to be reframed from the AI arms race rhetoric, but that doesn’t mean AI development itself doesn’t matter,” Sherman wrote in March.

Sherman highlights a couple of nonweapon AI applications we ought to not leave to the Chinese, like the potential to use self-teaching software to detect cancer – though he provides only a glancing admission that “Many legal and ethical issues plague AI in healthcare.” It’s hard to square the belligerent drumbeat of AI nationalism with a calm, composed approach to making sure these technologies are only developed and deployed within a rigorous ethical framework, after all.

This article was summarized automatically with AI / Article-Σ ™/ BuildR BOT™.

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