After decades of gestation in relative obscurity, leading-edge technologies like AI and quantum computing have been thrust into the center of an era-defining competition between China and the U.S.
Why it matters: Politicizing these technologies has led to a rush of investment — but it risks hobbling international collaboration and potentially even derailing some critical research, I write with Axios managing editor Alison Snyder.
Driving the news: The Trump administration has explicitly declared its drive to dominate in a techno-race with China.
- “We fundamentally believe America must lead the world in critical emerging technologies,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said at Stanford this week.
- The week before, the White House sent out an announcement, with comment from Ivanka Trump, celebrating a quantum computing breakthrough by Google.
The state of play: Through agencies like DARPA and the National Science Foundation, the government is setting aside money for AI and quantum computing research — though top scientists are calling for more than 10 times the current funding.
- The political drumbeat could help create a national consensus around the critical nature of AI, says Jon Bateman, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Pentagon strategist.
- Still, there is an “asymmetry between the United States and China,” says Tarun Chhabra, a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. “[T]he Chinese Communist Party’s whole technology worldview is driven, not merely charged, by the imperative of consolidating social control and emerging dominant in geopolitical competition.”
- That means the Chinese government can direct companies to work on a problem it decides is pressing, while the U.S. has to convince companies the problem is worthy of their investment.
The most concrete example of the politicization of emerging technologies so far is the Trump administration’s tightening immigration policy, which has made it harder for students and scholars to visit from China.
Read the full article at Axios.