Monday, October 09, 2017

How Can You Harness Machine Intelligence If Cognitive Elites Struggle to Understand It?


Booz-Allen  |  On Thursday, July 20, China’s State Council released the New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. Numbering nearly 40 pages, the plan lays out China’s aspirations in impressive detail. It introduces massive investment that aims to position China at the forefront of technological achievement by cultivating the governmental, economic, and academic ecosystems to drive breakthroughs in machine intelligence. To achieve these goals, the Council aims to harness the data produced by more the internet-connected devices of more than a billion Chinese citizens, a vast web of “intelligent things.”

The plan also details the strategic situation precipitating the need for a bold new vision: “Machine intelligence [is] the strategic technology that will lead in the future; the world’s major developed countries are taking the development of AI as a major strategy… [We] must, looking at the world, take the initiative to plan [and] firmly seize the [technology] in this new stage of international competition.[i]

The China State Council’s plan evokes a document that marked the beginning of the defining global technological competition of the last century—the space race. In August 1958, ten months after watching the Soviet Union launch Sputnik 1, President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration released the U.S. Policy on Outer Space. In it, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) urged massive investment to cultivate the talent and technology base necessary to exceed the Soviet Union’s achievements in space.
The United States is now at the precipice of another defining moment in history.
The NSC included an urgent mandate to act, declaring, “The starkest facts which confront the United States in the immediate and foreseeable future are [that] the USSR has surpassed the U.S. and the Free World in scientific and technological accomplishments in outer space, [and] if it maintains its present superiority…will be able to use [it] as a means of undermining the prestige and leadership of the United States.”[ii]

The United States is now at the precipice of another defining moment in history. The world’s greatest powers are entering a technological contest that will parallel or exceed the space race in the magnitude of its economic, geopolitical, and cultural consequences. Maintaining our role as a global superpower requires us to achieve parity, and ideally dominance, in the race to a future powered by intelligent machines. Moreover, we must develop a comprehensive national strategy for maintaining this technological advantage while also advancing our economy, preserving our social norms and values, and protecting our citizens’ dignity, privacy, and equality.