In the grand scheme of things, artificial intelligence (AI), as it currently is, is still a newborn, a toddler at most. However, its potential power has nations racing to achieve true AI power. As things stand, AI will be as important as many of the usual factors determining where a country sits on the geopolitical pecking order. Additionally, with the integration of deep learning into AI, the technology is well sought after as it becomes capable of non-linear “thinking.” Despite not being the first technology weaponized for political gains, political AI could very well be the end-all-be-all.
Geopolitical Power in the Global Arena
Regardless of their size, countries aim to have geopolitical power in the global arena. They will utilize any and all unique characteristic that comes with their locations. Nevertheless, this power heavily relies on a nation’s actions and behavior on the global stage. A country’s political weight depends on several substantial factors.
In a 2018 “Conflict and Security” article published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Nayef Al-Rodhan draws the seven parameters that determine a country’s geopolitical standing.
Social and Health Issues
Demographic factors (i.e., population and age trends) influence a state’s ability to function and act. As a result, nations that can limit disparity and use existing imbalances more productively will reap greater legitimacy and stability.
A country’s political system significantly impacts its stability: its legitimacy is frequently fragile and can be quickly lost if mishandled. As a result, a loss of trust in political institutions undermines stability directly and indirectly due to the government’s perceived inadequacy allowing for finger-pointing from all sides.
A state in economic turmoil risks losing its independence due to the need for outside assistance to avoid collapse or permanent loss of its international standing. Additionally, when a state cannot manage on its own (i.e., managing its economic affairs, building the required physical infrastructure, and interacting sustainably in global markets), the terms of the offered assistance benefit those providing it rather than those receiving it.
While all states will be affected, given that climate change will generate worldwide refugee crises and complex socio-economic and geopolitical challenges, states most vulnerable to climate change’s effects will face unprecedented threats to their stability. As a result, nations recognized as good environmental stewards will wield significant soft power.
Science and Human Potential
The ability to conduct high-level research and development and have a well-educated, highly skilled workforce significantly contribute to state power and stability. Such characteristics contribute to a domestic economy, and human resources are highly fungible. Accordingly, such a state’s workforce can be more easily retrained to adapt to new technologies and circumstances.
Military and Security Issues
Despite cyber and non-territorial threats complicating the security landscape, military resources and a state’s ability to protect its sovereignty and physical borders remain essential foundations of state power. Nevertheless, these resources are insufficient to ensure a country’s long-term prosperity or the legitimacy of its government. So, while military capabilities play an essential role, ideas, aspirations, and human dignity are also crucial in political affairs.
As evidenced by its membership and behavior within international institutions, the perception of a state as a combined entity in the global domain will become increasingly important. The inverse is also true: while economic and other reasons for withdrawing from various forms of international partnerships may be advanced, no state should be willing to risk isolation in 21st-century geopolitics.
Political AI: Tipping the Scales
As the world keeps moving toward a technologically advanced future, certain innovations are bound to hold global merit on their own while other team up (i.e., the Digital Silk Route). One such innovation is AI and its functions (i.e., deep learning, etc.). Under those circumstances, the countries will be divided into three categories: Those who implement AI, those who don’t, and those who fail to implement it adequately.
So that We Are on the Same Page
Let me make one thing clear, AI is not sentient, and chances are it will not be so anytime soon. But the technology itself has powers that, if harnessed, could easily tip the scales. After all, it does hold a great place in essential fields (i.e., biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, etc.), and that threatens the foundations of global peace and security.
You may roll your eyes at this, but the developers of smartphones and social media apps did not foresee their political power. In fact, everyone was surprised how much of a game-changer and a weapon of mass convincing these became. And the future of AI is going to be eerily similar.
The Role It Plays
Unfortunately, the court of public opinion is an important one to appeal to, and with AI, governments could manipulate the algorithms to manipulate the masses. We would then only see feeds curated for political propaganda and the suppression of the freedom of expression. And this situation is only a snippet of what AI could do to get us with the program.
AI and Foreign Policies
Foreign relations and global security are currently regarded as AI hotspots. Advances in AI contributed to four main aspects of geopolitics:
- Placing new topics on the international agenda
- Challenging geostrategic relations
- Serving as a tool for diplomats and negotiators
- Creating new opportunities and concerns about human rights
Policymaking, public diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral engagement, information gathering, and analysis are all part of the AI toolbox in foreign policy. AI has also become a vital tool in international diplomacy in global security, autonomous weapon systems, the monitoring of concluded agreements, and military power in cyber-security, threat monitoring, and warfare.
AI is better understood as an accelerating and enabling force that is more likely to accelerate and worsen already occurring trends than it is to generate significant, unforeseen changes in local and international politics. AI will be a vital factor in future interactions between countries as a crucial tool of contemporary governance; as a result, it is necessary for scholars, states, and the global community as a whole to start preparing for international politics in the era of AI.
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