Media have been seeking out our experts for their views on the latest research at the intersection of security and emerging technology. This month, they weighed in on the Chinese military’s adoption of AI, global trends in robotics patents, the U.S. AI workforce and much more.
In “Small Data’s Big AI Potential,” recently featured in Politico, CSET’s Helen Toner and Husanjot Chahal make the case that bigger datasets are not always better when it comes to artificial intelligence. “Small data approaches can reduce the incentive to collect large amounts of personal data. And this is through approaches such as artificial data generation, where we don’t even need to collect real world data,” Chahal told Politico. Toner noted the report was meant to “myth bust a little about this idea that has caught hold in DC that data is this huge strategic asset and that the U.S. is at some disadvantage relative to China, because China supposedly has access to so much more data and data is so critical. We think that both of those points are not actually correct and that if your policy is being made on the basis of that understanding, that will probably be bad policy.”
In his report “Harnessed Lightning,” Research Analyst Ryan Fedasiuk and a team of CSET researchers sifted through more than 66,000 open source procurement records to learn how China’s People’s Liberation Army is using AI in its military strategy. “Procurement contracts show what the Chinese military wants to buy, what it’s actually buying and from where,” Fedasiuk wrote in a Politico Magazine opinion piece. “Some of the contracts we reviewed are mundane, documenting purchases of office supplies like toilet paper and staplers. More salient are the records showing that China is working to make its military more connected and autonomous in the immediate future.” He went on to note, “although China is working diligently to make its military supply chain more independent of the U.S. and free itself from reliance on Taiwan for semiconductors, industry leaders say it will likely be years before Beijing can achieve its dream of self-sufficiency.”
Fedasiuk also discussed his findings in an opinion piece for Breaking Defense. “To effectively slow Chinese military progress on AI,” he wrote, “U.S. policymakers should continue to scale up investment in the organizations meant to regulate technology outflow, like the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement; and crack down on third-party intermediaries who supply the Chinese military and defense industry with US-made equipment…. By striking an appropriate balance between promoting innovation at home and preventing the leakage of US technology abroad, the United States can keep its edge in military AI.”
The Economist detailed how China’s intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security, (MSS) has been partnering with cybersecurity talent from Chinese universities for cyber-theft operations. “Now the government is expanding the potential supply of hackers by creating a vast new teaching and research facility in the central city of Wuhan,” the magazine noted, citing recent work by CSET Research Analyst Dakota Cary. “The 40-square-kilometer campus, called the National Cybersecurity Center, is under the direction of the Communist Party’s Cyberspace Affairs Commission, led by Mr Xi. The center will produce its first graduates—1,300 of them—next year.” Cary also created an interactive map to explore the NCC campus.
Cary also discussed China’s use of state-sponsored hackers to carry out cyber espionage in an opinion piece for TechCrunch. He wrote that China has been laying the groundwork to professionalize state hacking teams. In addition to the NCC, he noted, China has built World-Class Cybersecurity Schools to create in-house talent. “As China’s security-backed hacking steadily sheds its veneer of criminality, we can expect to see a slowdown over the next decade in cybercrime conducted by contract hackers and others connected to the state. But this trend away from thuggery will be paired with a rise in espionage and intellectual property theft. In hindsight, China’s reliance on criminal hackers will seem like a vestige of the old MSS — corrupt and even amateurish,” Cary wrote.
Wall Street Journal
In a story about how U.S. visa restrictions against Chinese STEM students endanger U.S. innovation in science and technology, the Wall Street Journal pointed to the work of CSET’s Ryan Fedasiuk and Emily Weinstein. The two research analysts had estimated that current visa restrictions “could be used to block up to 5,000 students, or roughly one-quarter of all Chinese science, technology, engineering and math graduates who would otherwise have headed to the U.S. each year.” In another CSET report, Fedasiuk and Weinstein found that “almost three-quarters of the nearly 6,000 graduates recruited by Chinese state-owned defense companies in 2019 came from six of the Seven Sons.”
Recently-released research by CSET’s Margarita Konaev and Sara Abdulla found that China accounts for more than 25,000, or almost 35%, of the global robotics patents between 2005 and 2019. Nextgov featured their report to illustrate why the United States, which once dominated robotics patents, has fallen to fourth place. “The surge in Chinese patenting activity and robotics development may be the result of a deliberate government effort to garner a majority market share over China’s domestic robotics market and with that, become a world leader in robotics, as outlined in the Made in China 2025 plan,” Konaev and Abdulla wrote. “The United States has fallen significantly behind China in robotics patents output in part because of broader challenges associated with current U.S. intellectual property laws and their ability to adapt to innovation in emerging technologies such as robotics, AI, 5G telecommunications and quantum computing.”
Federal News Network
Research Analyst Ngor Luong joined the Federal News Network’s podcast, Federal Drive with Tom Temin, to discuss her CSET research on how defense contractors are investing in AI startups to supplement their internal AI spending.
Government CIO Media & Research
As a panelist during Government CIO Media & Research’s virtual event, AI Gov: National Security, CSET’s Diana Gehlhaus discussed broadening the talent base of the AI field. “One challenge is informationally really helping people understand, as they’re approaching their career and educational decision-making, all the different types of jobs that are going to be out there that are needed — the different roles and responsibilities that are involved in AI design, development, and deployment and what that means and making sure that our educational infrastructure is set up in a way that we can grow, cultivate and train talent,” Gehlhaus said. In a recent CSET report, Gehlhaus offers policy recommendations on how to diversify the AI talent pipeline and build a defined AI workforce.
Spotlight on CSET Experts: Ryan Fedasiuk
Ryan Fedasiuk is a Research Analyst focused on military applications of artificial intelligence, as well as China’s efforts to acquire foreign technology.
His work has appeared in Politico, Breaking Defense, Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, and more.
Interested in speaking with Ryan or our other experts? Contact External Affairs Specialist Adrienne Thompson at email@example.com