• Toby Irwin

The Diffusion of AI

Artificial Intelligence is increasingly being recognised as a crucial technology that states are seeking to acquire. This comes as part of the wider trend of the 'data age'. In the defence realm , AI forms a significant part of future debates around the direction of the current IT-RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) that has dominated since the 1990s.

AI can be used by states in a number of ways, but its prime ability to mimic human decision-making provokes considerations costs, time and also has the added bonus of - in some scenarios - allowing humans to be removed from dangerous situations.

Every technology however is subject to diffusion patterns across the globe. One first considers what actor (or state) first develops the capability, then projects the likelihood of its spread abroad. It is a process likened both domestically and internationally. Suppose a top firm possesses a technological superiority, it is unlikely to want to allow it to pass on to its rivals. The same is true of states and the possession of AI.

The prerequisite for the production of AI is twofold. First, software is as it sounds and includes principally coding and algorithms. Hardware refers to the production of necessary microprocessors. Semiconductors are needed to produce the chips, and this physical production line is dominated by the US and Japan.

Worth noting, though, is the fact that while state governments may be averse to allowing valuable technology to diffuse abroad, firms do not share this concern. While it is true that firms are averse to allowing competitors access to their hardware and software, in the age of transnational firms they are not overtly against the transfer of capabilities between subsections of their own subsidiaries.

This naturally poses a juxtaposition wherein governments must analyse the practise of their top innovators and decide whether private sector collaboration abroad justifies intervention.

Read More: https://www.iiss.org/blogs/survival-blog/2019/12/mapping-the-terrain-ai-governance

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.

The student project covering international relations and foreign affairs


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