21 January 2019

New Pentagon-Sponsored White Paper: “AI, China, Russia, and the Global Order: Technological, Political, Global, and Creative Perspectives”

AI, China, Russia, and the Global Order: Technological, Political, Global, and Creative Perspectives (Arlington, VA: Department of Defense, December 2018).

Click here to download a cached copy.

Contributors: Ahmed, S. (UC Berkeley); Bajema, N. (NDU); Bendett, S. (CNA); Chang, B. (MIT); Creemers, R. (Leiden University); Demchak, C. (Naval War College); Denton, S. (George Mason University); Ding, J. (Oxford); Hoffman, S. (MERICS); Joseph, R. (Pytho LLC); Kania, E. (Harvard); Kerr, J. (LLNL); Kostopoulos, L. (LKCYBER); Lewis, J. (CSIS); Libicki, M. (USNA); Lin, H. (Stanford); Miura, K. (MIT); Morgus, R. (New America); Esplin Odell, R. (MIT); Pauwels, E. (United Nations University); Saalman, L. (EastWest Institute); Snow, J. (USSOCOM); Steckman, L. (MITRE); Weber, V. (Oxford)

Opening Remarks provided by: Grynkewich, A. (JS J39); Freedman, L. (King’s College, London)

Editor: Wright, N. (Intelligent Biology)

Integration Editor: Yager, M. (JS/J39/SMA/NSI)

This white paper represents the views and opinions of the contributing authors.

This white paper does not represent official USG policy or position.

Approved For Public Release

Executive Summary

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data promise to help reshape the global order. For decades, most political observers believed that liberal democracy offered the only plausible future pathways for big, industrially sophisticated countries to make their citizens rich. Now, by allowing governments to monitor, understand, and control their citizens far more effectively than ever before, AI offers a plausible way for big, economically advanced countries to make their citizens rich while maintaining control over them—the first since the end of the Cold War. That may help fuel and shape renewed international competition between types of political regimes that are all becoming more “digital.” Just as competition between liberal democratic, fascist, and communist social systems defined much of the twentieth century, how may the struggle between digital liberal democracy and digital authoritarianism define and shape the twenty-first?

The technical nature of AI’s new advances particularly well suits all-encompassing surveillance; and as a consequence authoritarianism. New forms of authoritarianism arose with previous waves of global authoritarian expansion: fascism in the 1920s or bureaucratic authoritarianism in the 1960s. China has begun constructing core components of a digital authoritarian state. America’s liberal democratic political regime is turning digital, and so too is Russia’s hybrid political regime that lies between democracy and authoritarianism.

Swing states from Asia to Africa, Europe and Latin America must manage their own political regimes within the context of this global competition. Several like-minded countries have begun to buy or emulate Chinese systems. Russian techniques are diffusing. To be sure, competing models for
domestic regimes must be seen within the broader strategic context—relative military or economic power also matter deeply—but as in the twentieth century it will likely prove a crucial dimension.

This report focuses on the emerging Chinese and Russian models and how they will interact with the global order. We bring together deep expertise on China, Russia, strategy and technology—as well as artists to provide illuminating sidelights.

The key recommendation is that US policymakers must understand the potential for the new AI related to technologies to affect domestic political regimes (authoritarian, hybrid, and democratic) that will compete for influence in the global order. We recommend policymakers use the following three-pronged strategy to understand the challenge and develop global policy:

  • US democracy must be kept robust as it adapts to these new technologies. It must respond to both domestic threats (e.g. capture by a tech oligopoly or drift to a surveillance state) and external threats, without becoming governed by a military-industrial complex. US digital democracy, if successful at home, will exert gravitational influence globally.
  • The US must exert influence effectively, and manage potential escalation, in the swing states (e.g. in Asia or Europe) and global systems (e.g. norms and institutions) that form the key terrain for competition between the digital regime types. Diplomatic, economic, informational and commercial dimensions will be crucial, with both allies and other states.
  • The US should push back on the digital authoritarian and digital hybrid heartlands, but do so in ways that manage the significant risks of spiraling fear and animosity.