Artificial Intelligence: A New driving horse in International Relations and Diplomacy

by Preethi Amaresh - 13 May, 2020, 12:00 16612 Views 0 Comment

Significant advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past decade have led to many debates about the potential social, economic, and security impact of AI. However, little sustained attention has been paid to the impact of AI on international relations or how the technology impacts the work of the country’s ministries, government leaders and policymakers. McCarthy, a popular American computer scientist coined the word AI in 1956 and defined it as “The science and engineering of making intelligent machines like the intelligent computer programs”. The inception of deep learning and neural networks in the late 1990s induced a new wave of interest in AI and growing positivity in the possibility of implementing it to a number of activities, including diplomacy.

In AI, foreign relations and global security are considered to be the present hotbeds. Even as noted physicist Stephen Hawking and technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, predicted the danger of AI and the end of the human race due to the development of AI, advances in AI have put new topics on the international agenda, challenged geostrategic relations, served as a tool for diplomats and negotiators, and created new opportunities and concerns about human rights. Diplomacy is homogenous to a strategic board game. A nation tends to make a move and the other nations respond but in a way, all nations want to triumph. AI is considered a top-notch at board games. AI has in fact defeated world champions in Chess in a go. For instance, in the year 1997, world chess champion, Gary Kasparov was defeated by IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. Recently, an AI program developed by Carnegie Mellon University in association with Facebook AI defeated the leading professionals in Texas hold’em poker that is considered to be the world’s most popular form of poker.  The development of AI technology is central to the economical aspect, which has the capacity to reshuffle losers and winners.

The AI revolution is considered to be more powerful than the industrial revolution due to the fact that it has inundated the personal lives of the people apart from impacting the industries. However, it is observed that the industrial revolution had a great impact on International relations and trade that increased the economic productivity in western countries such as United States and United Kingdom. The countries during the first industrial revolution competed to control resources like coal and oil. During the 1970s and 1980s, with the IT revolution, electronics and microprocessors brought a big trend of innovation that gave birth to the Internet, GPS etc. The search for AI has travelled through phases of hope and despair since the 1950s. It was only post-2000 that AI has been predicted to bring in more developments for the near future. AI has been a much-debated topic today and is predicted to become one of the major technologies of the 21st century that could influence the way international relations is conducted and offer tools in diplomacy and foreign policy.

The multidimensionality of the present AI and machine learning is already seen to have a fervent impact on how nations manage their international affairs. Though AI is yet to make its way in the Indian foreign policy agenda, China has already introduced an AI foreign policy toolbox and has its “New Generation Plan” to be the world leader in AI by 2030. Countries such as Russia, Canada and the United States are also good examples of how the AI revolution has made its way into its foreign ministry. Russian government stated that AI would determine the future “rule of the world”. U.S president, Donald Trump has signed an executive order to establish the “American AI initiative”.

Toolbox for AI in foreign policy involves policy-making, public diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral engagement, Information gathering and analysis. AI has also become a chief instrument in international diplomacy in areas such as international security, use of autonomous weapon systems, monitoring of concluded agreements, military power like cyber-security, threat monitoring and warfare. With respect to AI and foreign policy of China, politicians, researchers and bureaucrats in China have come up with an idea to think of AI as an assistant in their everyday decision-making that can give inputs, suggestions and recommendations within a matter of seconds. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has built machine-learning algorithms that are being implemented and used in the Ministry of foreign affairs. According to state news agency Xinhua, Chinese President Xi Jinping also has “called for efforts to break a new ground” in diplomacy. China that aspires to be a superpower in the field has moved ahead in AI by placing foreign affairs and diplomacy on its table apart from working on other technologies. The ministries in China are actively adapting to the emerging technology trend by exploring the use of AI for improvement and work reinforcement. The geopolitical environment simulation machine and prediction platform were used to examine nearly all-foreign investment projects in recent years. The machine uses a neural network and deep learning for risk assessment and prediction of events like terrorist attacks, political turmoil and much more with encouraging solutions.

The Chinese government has already been facing various challenges on how other countries view it due to its high ambitions. The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative needs billions of investment every year that would have an impact on the economic, environmental and political situations in the world. The government believes that AI would help them to make decisions in international affairs and diplomacy that would be free from human emotions. Though the AI in China is far from replacing the human diplomats and government officials, it is certainly an addition to the various technologies the government is constructing to position AI in society. Zhang Lili, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, states that foreign-policy makers must embrace AI as a powerful tool that might help in taking their work to a new and a different level. China, on the whole, has also been very optimistic about announcing robots for various purposes and AI-powered strategy for international relations including efforts to incorporate it into its military that has continued to alarm the U.S and the rest of the world.

The government of Canada has also laid the foundation for various initiatives such as digital inclusion labs that have been associated with governmental units and civil society. Global Affairs Canada has started to promote ‘Canadian AI’ abroad. Canada has invested C125$ million in the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy by setting up a research congregation in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton to nourish Canada’s edge in AI.  The Canadian document on the ‘Asia Strategy on AI’ could be a gateway for the country’s greater engagement in the Asia Pacific with regard to people to people diplomacy, geopolitics, investment and trade. Canada is instrumental in the region’s development policy as an accountable global player.

As per the U.S department’s Strategic Plan of Information Technology for 2017-2019, American diplomats are using powerful AI technology in order to make policy changes, enhance transparency and promote awareness. The U.S as an international leader in the new era of AI has been innovative in bringing changes in the fields of government and industry. The AI policies are aimed to understand the promise for the American people and maintain the U.S leadership in the following field. According to the Centre for a New American Security report, there is a great potential for AI in national security-related areas, which also includes international relations and governance. As per the report, AI could help in bridging the communication gaps between foreign publics and governments by decreasing the barriers in language between countries, assisting international humanitarian operations by monitoring elections, reinforce the security of diplomatic missions and so on.

 Europe’s coordinated plans aim to ensure that public administrations in Europe are global leaders in the use of AI. Many other nations are still conducting similar research in AI in the policy-making fields, though the details haven’t been yet disclosed to the public. India’s AI strategy was only rolled out in 2018 to enable growth and greater inclusion but India.

In foreign policy and AI, there has been convergence of areas such as democracy and ethics, economic disruption and security. But, transformational changes are yet to occur in diplomatic institutions that in the due course would meet the challenges further. Foreign policy has been transforming as countries are turning to algorithms to predict events that can shift the world of business and geopolitics. For many years, a team in Japan has been working on a system to predict rate changes by the Bank of Japan where the system observes speeches by the bank’s governor to learn about his body language and facial expressions. Based on this observation, AI can predict further the governor’s next moves. There is a possibility of using similar AI to analyze world leaders and make predictions. For example, after watching a meeting between the leaders of India and China, AI could predict if tensions could arise with each other in the coming weeks or months or predict if countries like Myanmar, Pakistan, Iran or Yemen could avoid a political turmoil or conflict before it begins. Equipped with predictions, nation-states and non-state actors may have to deal with international affairs in brand-new and unforeseen ways through AI.

Research and implementation on using AI in foreign policy is yet to develop.  Government and non-state actors should carefully consider monitoring the developments in AI technologies and markets keeping in mind the humanitarian goals. Great powers like the U.S, Russia and China have already begun to pursue AI strategies by competing against each other and other nations that could possibly disrupt the balance of power in the world. Lack of AI knowledge could endanger the under-developed and developing nations and could lead to a technological gap that can make these nations to further depend on AI dominated countries. AI knowledge and expertise should be spread across the globe and to the whole masses to avoid the imbalance of power and polarization.

Lastly, as countries in the 21st century move further in the AI revolution, it definitely has the potential to reshape the foundation of the global order. But just like the industrial revolution and IT revolution, AI brings with it, various pros and cons along with the challenges and complexities of replacing humans with robots in the field of International relations and diplomacy. Predominantly, AI is already having an extensive influence on the global economy and international relations and could further revamp the way International relations and diplomacy is conducted in the coming decades.

Preethi Amaresh
Author is a Doctoral Scholar, Geneva School of Diplomacy, Switzerland

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