The hippest trends change fast. That’s why your friends at CSET put together a mid-November fashion update:
Out: Trick-or-Treat, campaign yard signs and warm weather.
In: Turkey (or Tofurky for some), leaf-raking, long sleeves and … CSET experts!
Since our last roundup, CSET researchers have been getting noticed everywhere: on podcasts, in newsletters, in magazines and online. From China’s AI ambitions to the role of deepfakes in this year’s elections, CSET continues to provide insight on the critical issues at the intersection of national security and emerging technology.
Beijing stepped up its cyber and influence operations ahead of the November 3 U.S. elections, running hundreds of fake social media profiles and directing cyber attacks at individuals within both the Trump and Biden campaigns. For an article about China’s strategy, Newsweek spoke with CSET Senior Fellow Anna Puglisi. She said of Beijing’s influence efforts: “They are very determined and very organized. … We [in America] don’t think in these ways. It flies in the face of how people in the U.S. see the world.”
Concerns about deepfake videos affecting this year’s U.S. presidential election may have been premature, but a recent piece in VentureBeat said deepfakes could pose a much more substantial threat in future races. The article cited Deepfakes: A Grounded Threat Assessment, in which Research Fellow Tim Hwang wrote that as technological capabilities improve, “tailored deepfakes produced by technically sophisticated actors will represent the greater threat over time,” but cautioned that “factors such as the need to avoid attribution, the time needed to train a Machine Learning model, and the availability of data will constrain how sophisticated actors use tailored deepfakes in practice.”
In the days leading up to the election, policymakers, journalists and analysts were reading the tea leaves, trying to determine what tech policy would look like under a Trump administration in its second term versus a Biden administration in its first. An Axios story about the “stark” differences between the two campaigns pointed readers to CSET Research Fellow Remco Zwetsloot’s recent report for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory on “US-China Stem Talent ‘Decoupling’.” Axios highlighted Zwetsloot’s conclusion that while Chinese students and researchers benefit the United States, “building out the domestic talent base and diversifying international intake can prevent US dependence on Chinese talent.” An Axios article about the future of autonomous weapons in the military referenced Research Fellow Margarita Konaev’s recent three-part series “U.S. Military Investments in Autonomy and AI: Costs, Benefits, and Strategic Effects.” It cited her conclusion that most of the U.S. military’s AI research focuses “not on displacing humans but assisting them in ways that adapt to how humans think and process information.” Lastly, Axios summarized the results of a new CSET brief, “‘Cool Projects’ or ‘Expanding the Efficiency of the Murderous American War Machine?’: AI Professionals’ Views on Working With the Department of Defense.” That post highlighted CSET Survey Specialist Catherine Aiken’s finding that most AI experts were either positive or neutral about working with the Pentagon.
National Defense Magazine
Beijing is investing heavily in artificial intelligence, aiming to surpass the United States and become the global AI leader by 2030. For an article about China’s ambitious plans, National Defense Magazine tapped CSET Research Analyst Husanjot Chahal. Chahal, who wrote about China-U.S. AI competition in her recent brief “Messier than Oil: Assessing Data Advantage in Military AI,” told National Defense that Beijing sees artificial intelligence development as a rare opportunity to leapfrog the United States.
The United States’ lead in R&D spending has diminished over the last 60 years — dropping from 60 percent of the global total to 28 percent in 2018 — putting its singular tech dominance at risk. But when U.S. allies such as France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea and the UK are included, the old margins return: “[T]he U.S.-led network of allies and partners still accounts for roughly two-thirds of global R&D spending,” Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Professor Hal Brands wrote for Bloomberg. Brand cited four CSET publications in his opinion piece about how “techno-multilateralism” can help the United States deal with the challenge of a rising technological superpower like China:
- The Question of Comparative Advantage in Artificial Intelligence: Enduring Strengths and Emerging Challenges for the United States by Andrew Imbrie, Elsa B. Kania and Lorand Laskai.
- Global R&D and a New Era of Alliances by Melissa Flagg.
- Shaping the Terrain of AI Competition by Tim Hwang.
- Agile Alliances: How the United States and Its Allies Can Deliver a Democratic Way of AI by Andrew Imbrie, Ryan Fedasiuk, Catherine Aiken, Tarun Chhabra and Husanjot Chahal.
While government funding was once the major driver behind strategic technologies, artificial intelligence has been different. Private sector investment is booming, with private AI firms pulling in $40 billion in 2019 alone. That investment is making its way to consumers in the form of products such as Lobe, Microsoft’s new machine learning software. A Psychology Today article about Lobe’s release drew on CSET’s recent “Tracking AI Investment: Initial Findings From the Private Markets,” by Zachary Arnold, Ilya Rahkovsky and Tina Huang. That report found that U.S. AI companies — like Lobe, which is based in San Francisco — attract the majority of global private investment, bringing in 64 percent of all disclosed investments in 2019.
China Digital Times
Beijing is leveraging its extensive research into computer vision technology to enhance its surveillance capabilities. In an article about China’s unprecedented “Sharp Eyes” government surveillance program, China Digital Times cited several publications by CSET Research Analyst Dahlia Peterson: her 2019 three-part series for China Digital Times about Sharp Eyes with Joshua Rudolph, and her recent CSET policy brief, “Designing Alternatives to China’s Repressive Surveillance State.” In that brief, Peterson examines Beijing’s incorporation of AI technologies into its surveillance systems and outlines the actions the United States and its allies can take to combat the spread of surveillance systems that threaten basic human rights.
CSET Research Analyst Emily Weinstein appeared on the Heritage Foundation’s China Uncovered podcast to discuss technology transfer to China and Beijing’s artificial intelligence ambitions. Weinstein had just released her “Chinese Talent Program Tracker,” which maps China’s state-sponsored talent recruitment programs. She discussed a handful of CSET and CSET-affiliated publications during her appearance, including:
- Designing Alternatives to China’s Repressive Surveillance State by Dahlia Peterson.
- US-China STEM Talent Decoupling: Background, Policy, and Impact by Remco Zwetsloot.
- Overseas Professionals and Technology Transfer to China by Ryan Fedasiuk and Emily Weinstein.
- China’s Use of AI in its COVID-19 Response by Emily Weinstein.
GovCon Different & OODAcast
CSET Senior Fellow Melissa Flagg appeared on the GovCon Different podcast and OODAcast. On GovCon Different, Dr. Flagg discussed the United States’ R&D model and her vision for the country’s future AI development strategy. On OODAcast, she shared her views on technology trends and the future of AI, quantum computing and biological sciences.
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