G7 AI partnership seeks standards to support shared values, counter China’s influence
In terms of AI productivity, 2019 would be hard to beat. Twenty-nine new and updated political schemes were announced for domesticating artificial intelligence, according to the United Nations.
But one announcement this year — the formation of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence — obviates or overshadows most of the AI development plans published since 2016, when China pushed the world’s first statement out.
The global partnership, or GPAI, solidified last month. And it only happened after Western democracies (notably the United States) realized that all the go-it-alone development and control approaches in the world will not stop China from dominating the technology all by itself.
According to the group’s debut announcement, it will “support the responsible and human-centric development and of use of AI in a manner consistent with human rights, fundamental freedoms, and our shared democratic values.” Generally, shared values do not need to be fostered in international agreements when the values, as stated, are inherent.
Read another way, the global partnership is a defensive move. The most obvious goal would be the creation of AI standards that corral software developers toward political and industrial ends. Theoretically, it expedites development, but state-imposed standards are something that conservative U.S. politicians will not tolerate.
But no credible doubt exists that the authoritarian government of China can reorient its command economy to do for algorithms and hardware what it did for global-scale, low-cost manufacturing.
Government officials, at least in the halls during international economic summits, fret about how handily China is stickering the world’s next-generation telecommunications infrastructure with “Made in China.” And its surveillance state is a marvel in more ways than one. A national working group was established in China to set standards for biometric facial recognition last year.
Left unchallenged or under-challenged, China’s AI products could be dominant fast. Maybe before coronavirus is subdued, and the entire world is in a full run at that global economic threat.
The only argument since December 2018, when France and Canada began pushing for a permanent Group of Seven AI agenda item, has been what a successful answer to China should look like.
No proposal was viable without the participation of the United States, and since 2016 the White House has unilaterally pulled out of almost every significant international military, trade, cultural, health care and technology-oriented agreement ever signed by the country.
Then, the White House posted a note on wsj.com by U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios saying Washington will lead the G7 in supporting the GPAI.
Fig leaf in place, the global partnership now begins the process of collectively responding to the China’s determined aim to show the world: You cannot spell “China” without “A and I.”