The Pentagon knew it had a problem when Nick Chaillan, its first-ever chief software officer quit, saying the United States has "no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years" when it comes to cyberwarfare and artificial intelligence.
That set off alarm bells in Washington. Artificial intelligence or AI in weapons development has been called the third revolution of warfare, after the invention of gunpowder and the nuclear bomb.
It's been said that whoever leads in artificial intelligence in 2030, will rule the world until 2100. And it's a race that some say America is losing.
Among them is Daniel Castro, AI expert and Director of the Center for Data Innovation. “If you take the current trajectories that we're on, China's going to win without a doubt, China's going to win. The difference is China's made a concerted effort to win this race. And the United States has not,” says Castro.
Technologist and China Expert Pascal Coppins agrees.
“China is doing three things fantastically well…One is they built a huge infrastructure to make these disruptions and make these innovations come to life,” he says. “The other thing is that users are adopting this AI technology like nowhere else in the world..And then the third thing is really about the competition between companies to actually out-compete each other, to be the best AI company in China.”
China is also winning because it has few, if any, moral or ethical qualms about creating an AI-dominated world.
“In China, they're looking at this as this huge opportunity, it's a ticket to a better future. In the West, we're looking at this and saying, maybe we should slow down,” says Castro.
At stake is not just who has the best weapons. The AI revolution will transform almost every aspect of our lives, from business to travel to health care, as computers begin to problem solve on their own.
But it will likely further erode your privacy, with even more data collection and surveillance.
The United States still has what it takes to beat China in the AI race—it still leads in talent, research, development, and hardware. But the US has to decide soon that it wants to win, and then do what it takes to win.