Oh, By Gosh, By Golly.
It’s Time For Mistletoe and CSET Experts in the News!
At a time of year when many are focusing on last-minute presents, our researchers have perfected the art of … omnipresence. They’ve weighed in on the biggest issues in national security and emerging technology, including the recent hack of U.S. federal agencies, technology transfer to China, semiconductor export control strategies, immigration policy and more. To put a bow on 2020, here’s a rundown of some of the places CSET experts have appeared since our last edition:
The New York Times
Beijing needs massive amounts of computing power to sustain its vast surveillance system. According to The New York Times, one centralized compound responsible for tracking the people of Xinjiang (the western region of China where Beijing has reportedly interned millions of Uyghurs) relies on U.S.-designed chips from semiconductor giants Intel and Nvidia. CSET Founding Director Jason Matheny spoke to The Times about the responsibility of U.S. tech companies to ensure their products don’t end up in the wrong hands. “Government and industry need to be more thoughtful now that technologies are advancing to a point where you could be doing real-time surveillance using a single supercomputer on millions of people potentially,” Matheny said.
This week, news broke that hackers, suspected of acting on behalf of a Russian intelligence agency, had infiltrated multiple U.S. federal agencies. For an “explainer” article about the scope of the hack, the Associated Press reached out to CSET’s Ben Buchanan. “There’s no evidence that this was meant to be destructive,” Buchanan told the AP. He called the hack “impressive, surprising and alarming,” and compared it to the 2015 Chinese hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
As the U.S. military seeks to integrate artificial intelligence into its warfighting capabilities, one key issue has the potential to upend the enterprise: Are AI professionals willing to work with the Pentagon? The recent issue brief by Catherine Aiken, Rebecca Kagan and Michael Page, “Cool Projects” or “Expanding the Efficiency of the Murderous American War Machine?”: AI Professionals’ Views on Working With the Department of Defense addressed that question. Aiken, Kagan and Page surveyed 160 U.S. AI industry professionals about their views on working on AI projects funded by DOD grants or contracts. FedScoop picked up on the brief and recapped its findings in an article last month.
An Axios story about the lack of U.S.-China cooperation in space cited two papers by CSET authors, both written for a recent Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory series. The first, by Senior Fellow Matthew Daniels, recounted the history of the U.S. and Chinese space programs and discussed whether greater cooperation with China is in the United States’ best interest. The other, by Visiting Researcher Lorand Laskai and Richard Danzig, discussed the strategic context of U.S.-China “decoupling” and what the future of the relationship might look like.
As China inches closer to tech superpower status, Western democracies are looking for ways to increase collaboration and box out Beijing. The European Commission recently proposed a “Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council” that would enable closer cooperation on technology policy between the United States and the European Union. In a recent edition of Politico’s China Watcher newsletter, CSET Director of Strategy Helen Toner commented on the EU’s overtures to the incoming Biden administration. “EU rhetoric on technology over the last few years has often focused on achieving independence from both China and the U.S. rather than adopting the U.S. view that liberal democracies should push back together against China,” Toner said. “If EU leaders are willing to soften that stance and the U.S. manages to coordinate with them on specific initiatives, that could lead to a real shift in the global power dynamics around technology.”
University World News & Voice of America
In recent years, the U.S. government has focused more intently on issues of technology transfer to China. Earlier this year, for example, the Justice Department arrested several Chinese researchers who allegedly failed to disclose their affiliation with the Chinese military on their U.S. visa applications. A University World News story about Chinese researchers in the United States quoted Research Analyst Emily Weinstein and cited her Chinese Talent Program Tracker. She said some of Beijing’s recent moves indicate that U.S. pressure appears to be having an effect. Weinstein also discussed the Tracker with VOA’s Mandarin service for a Chinese-language article.
Also on the subject of China’s efforts to acquire foreign technology, the MERICS China Briefing newsletter reviewed the new book China’s Quest for Foreign Technology: Beyond Espionage, co-edited by CSET Lead Analyst William Hannas with contributions from several CSET colleagues. The laudatory review recommended the book especially to “readers in Europe, where the phenomenon remains strikingly under-researched despite the region being one of the main targets of Chinese acquisition efforts.”
As we near President-elect Biden’s inauguration, experts are weighing in about policy changes the new administration should consider. On the subject of technology and immigration policy, a recent C4ISRNET article cited the CSET data brief Most of America’s “Most Promising” AI Startups Have Immigrant Founders by Tina Huang, Zachary Arnold and Remco Zwetsloot. As its title suggests, that brief found that immigrants had founded 66 percent of the startups listed among Forbes’s 50 “most promising” U.S.-based AI startups. C4ISRNET proposed that the Biden administration consider allowing more highly skilled immigration in order to boost U.S. technological innovation.
Apple’s new M1 chip is attracting attention both for its impressive performance and for the decision to eschew previous CPU designs in favor of a system-on-a-chip design. In an article about the broader implications of the M1 chip, TechRepublic cited the CSET report AI Chips: What They Are and Why They Matter by Saif M. Khan and Alexander Mann.
South China Morning Post
China has poured billions into its domestic chip industry. But partly due to export controls imposed by the United States and its allies on semiconductor manufacturing equipment, it has yet to see that investment result in chips equal to those produced elsewhere. For an article about how the Biden administration might leverage export controls against Beijing’s semiconductor industry, the South China Morning Post turned to CSET’s Will Hunt. “I hope to see collaboration with Japan and the Netherlands on targeting [China] for linchpin technology like semiconductor manufacturing equipment rather than the much broader controls that we saw over the past few years,” Hunt said.
Podcasts: ChinaTalk, The Cyberlaw Podcast, and Diplomatic Immunity
Unlike this week’s flurry of D.C. snow, CSET’s experts have successfully blanketed something: the airwaves. In the last month, they’ve appeared on:
- ChinaTalk: Emily Weinstein joined ChinaTalk’s Jordan Schneider to talk about open source China research and Chinese talent programs.
- The Cyberlaw Podcast: CSET Research Fellow Tim Hwang went on the Cyberlaw Podcast to discuss the dynamics underlying digital advertising with Steptoe & Johnson LLP partner Stewart Baker.
- Diplomatic Immunity: CSET Senior Fellow Andrew Imbrie appeared on Diplomatic Immunity, hosted by Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, to discuss his new book, Power on the Precipice: The Six Choices America Faces in a Turbulent World.
With cold weather firmly upon us, why not curl up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate (or something stronger) and CSET’s newest research? Sign up for our day-of-release reports — and while you’re at it, have a look at our biweekly newsletter, policy.ai.