Folks may be packing up their beach bags for the summer and brushing the sand from their shoes, but Team CSET is still making waves among policymakers, opinion leaders and media. From congressional testimony to research citations to insights shared with key journalists, our experts are weighing in on the most critical issues at the intersection of security and emerging technology.
Technological competition between Beijing and Washington increasingly captures policymaker and public attention. CSET Founding Director Jason Matheny offered his thoughts on the issue in David Ignatius’ column: “China is closing the gap in technology, but the U.S. can widen its lead if it adopts the right policies.” Matheny noted that “China’s academic system incentivizes researchers to produce both papers and patent applications in large volumes, even when the quality is low” — a topic touched on in Director of Data Science Dewey Murdick’s recent data brief. In his highly regarded column, Ignatius further mentioned a forthcoming paper by two CSET-affiliated colleagues, Richard Danzig and Lorand Laskai, which contrasts Beijing’s semiconductor chip manufacturing goals with Washington’s efforts to protect U.S. dominance in that field. Another Washington Post article on Chinese intelligence gathering quoted CSET Senior Fellow Anna Puglisi, who explained that massive open-source collection “fits into the much more holistic way that China goes about acquiring information.”
The U.S. advantage in critical technologies hinges on international talent. A recent piece in Scientific American cites one of our milestone reports, “Strengthening the U.S. AI Workforce,” to make the case for reforming immigration policy to attract and retain top talent. “According to a 2019 report by the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), more than 50 percent of computer scientists with graduate degrees currently employed in the U.S. were born abroad—and nearly 70 percent of enrolled computer science graduate students as well. The same report found, though, that the vast majority of this foreign-born talent wants to remain in the U.S. In AI-related fields specifically, around 80 percent of U.S.-educated Ph.D. graduates have stayed in the country—just like the 58 percent of foreign-born AI researchers that now work at IBM’s American labs.”
Chronicle of Higher Education
Students and researchers from overseas face increasing barriers to studying and working in the United States. In an article about growing pressure on international talent, the Chronicle of Higher Education cites a recent data brief by Zachary Arnold, which found “a 75 percent increase in successful applications from American residents to Canada’s main skilled-immigration program since 2017. All of the growth … was from non-citizens, many of them American-educated.”
Voice of America, Sinocism
Chinese exchange and scholarship programs have come under scrutiny in the United States as potential threats to national security. Voice of America spoke with CSET Research Analyst Ryan Fedasiuk about his report on the China Scholarship Council. “The CSC prefers candidates who are studying in fields and technologies relevant to China’s national innovation development strategies,” Fedasiuk told VOA’s Mandarin Service, “so this could be concerning to the United States.” However, he urged caution in U.S. responses, given the relatively small scope of such programs. Citing Fedasiuk’s research, an English-language VOA article noted, “about 7 percent of Chinese students studying abroad, or roughly 65,000, received scholarships from the CSC each year.” The Sinocism newsletter by Bill Bishop also highlighted Fedasiuk’s work on Chinese talent programs, recommending his brief “China’s Youth Thousand Talent Plan.”
CSET Founding Director Jason Matheny testified before the House Budget Committee on “Machines, Artificial Intelligence and the Workforce.” VentureBeat covered the hearing, in which Matheny emphasized the critical role of highly skilled workers in maintaining the U.S. technological advantage over China. “It will be very difficult for China to match us if we play our cards right,” he said. Of the current U.S. and allied advantage in semiconductors, Matheny stated: “We shouldn’t rest on our laurels, but if we pursue policies that strengthen our semiconductor industry while also placing the appropriate controls on the manufacturing equipment that China doesn’t have and that China currently doesn’t have the ability to produce itself — and is probably a decade away from being able to produce itself — we’ll be in a very strong position.”
Future U.S. leadership in artificial intelligence will require working closely with allies and like-minded partners to establish rules of the road. The United States and others should together seek to promote “emerging technology that advances liberal democratic values,” said CSET Senior Fellow Tarun Chhabra in a Brookings Institution article on AI governance and norms. The piece echoed many of the findings in CSET’s “Agile Alliances” report from this past spring, which offers a three-pronged strategy for shaping the future of AI in concert with U.S. allies and partners. Additionally, Chhabra joined the Lawfare podcast to discuss the state of play in U.S.-China relations, including sanctions, human rights concerns and tech competition.
Issues in Science and Technology
CSET Senior Fellow Melissa Flagg coauthored an article in Issues in Science and Technology, a quarterly journal published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Arizona State University. “How to Lead Innovation in a Changed World” makes the case for “an entirely new framework fit for the unique social, technological, and security concerns of the twenty-first century.” Flagg calls for an approach to science and technology policy that “recognizes that U.S. science is now highly internationalized, drawing in the world’s best talent and collaborating widely.” Keep an eye out for Flagg’s CSET report offering a new vision of U.S. R&D policy; it’s coming soon, but not in time to be a beach read.