During the Second World War, the British scientist Alan Turing cracked the German “Enigma” with the Bombe machine - a primitive machine learning concept - opening the doors to Artificial Intelligence (“AI”). Nowadays, the UK, along with the rest of the Old Continent, is no longer at the centre of this technological battlefield. Instead, the US and China are fighting between themselves for AI supremacy.
As mentioned in the previous section, geopolitical tension has grown exponentially around the world in the last few years. This has created a new, unsettling geopolitical scenario. As in the Cold War, we cannot any longer assume that states and institutions are working toward the world’s greater good. This has created new risks and uncertainties, which have led to economic disruption, political pressures and military tensions. These conditions have created a “doom loop” where leaders are trying to carefully manage international relations while preserving countries’ domestic interest.
The intensification of these events affects all sectors, and in particular technology. As a matter effect, AI is definitely contributing to the increase of rivalries, as it is driving countries to race out ahead of the rest of the world.
In history, all technological changes allowed the first movers to gain a strong competitive advantage. We have many examples: from the roads and aqueducts for the Romans to the Industrial Revolution for the UK or the Railroad for the US. Thus, pioneering Artificial Intelligence is seen as the way to gain economic, social or military advantage over other countries.
The fight for AI supremacy has already started. Countries should be aware of it
In 2017, China set a new target for AI by publishing the NGAID (“Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan”). The objective is to become the world leader in artificial intelligence, with a domestic AI industry worth $150 billion by 2030.
This plan was published just a year after the US released the “National AI Research and Development Plan,” with the ultimate intention of providing a range of positive benefits to society from AI, while minimizing AI’s negative impacts. In order not to be left behind, in December 2018 the European Commission decided to take action and put forward a coordinated EU approach for AI “made in Europe”.
The commission objective is to strengthen AI research centres across Europe, support the development of an "AI-ondemand-platform" (AI4EU project) and support the development of AI applications in key sectors. To do that, the commission increased the annual investments in AI by 70% via the “Horizon 2020” programme, reaching EUR 1.5 Billion in the period 2018-2020. However, the EU still lacks a true and clear common vision as exists in China or the US.
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