Only 22 years after Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie “AI” (artificial intelligence) came to the big screen, the imaginary scenes in the movie are becoming real:
AI is permeating our everyday life. According to the Artificial Intelligence Index Report 2023, global AI private investment reached 91.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, and the number of bills on “artificial intelligence” passed into law globally grew from 1 in 2016 to 37 in 2022. AI has obtained new and impressive technological capabilities, making its way into people’s daily lives.
Compared with previous technological revolutions, the latest revolution led by AI technologies is sure to bring more convenience to our lives. As every sword has two edges, AI, though highly advanced with potentially enormous benefits, could also bring challenges and threats. Since it will profoundly change the way human society develops as a whole, like nuclear technology or climate change, no single country could deal with it well alone. Once misused or abused, AI may pose serious ethical problems or even existential threats to human civilizations. Global response and international cooperation are needed to address the evolution of AI.
The AI Safety Summit recently convened in Britain sent a positive signal in this sense, where all the major players in AI research and development (R&D), including the United States, China and European countries, agreed to tackle the risks from AI through international cooperation. “If the United States, the UK and China are aligned on safety, then that’s going to be a good thing, because that’s where the leadership generally is,” Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk commented during the summit.
International cooperation on AI meets the expectations of many, and only in this way can we ensure that AI would enhance rather than undermine the common welfare of humankind. It is self-evident that in AI development and application, decoupling or disruption offers no future. Building small yards with high fences for AI will backfire, not only for those who put up the fences but also for the world at large. A fragmented AI sector will eventually spell disaster for humanity.
Among all the global players, China and the United States, the two biggest economies and leaders of technological advancement, shoulder the responsibility to work together on AI enhancement. Both are leaders in AI R&D and have large AI markets. With their resources combined, they could jointly accelerate the overall AI development and innovation, thus reinvigorating the global economy as AI boosts productivity and innovative solutions.
The two countries also share obligations to build consensus on AI governance, such as data security, privacy protection, and ethical issues. The pioneers in AI should take the lead in jointly formulating AI rules and standards, paving the way for a globally accepted AI governance framework. Complementarity among parties is encouraged so that the most sensitive issue of AI-related national security could be handled and harnessed properly.
It is clear that the current U.S. policy on China, especially in science and technology, deserves a serious review. Amid U.S. “strategic competition” against China, sanctions keep mounting and China’s access to AI or other high-end technologies remains restricted, if not denied altogether.
Under the Chips and Science Act, the scope of cooperation has been severely squeezed. If the United States does not change its course based on a confrontational mind, the world could see different AI blocs led by the United States or other entities. The terrible scenes in many sci-fi stories might come true when AI is controlled by different groups battling each other.
The good news is, that when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco, they affirmed the need to jointly address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety. This commitment from leaders of China and the United States is a key milestone for AI governance, which will guide global AI for the better. This is something the two countries must cooperate on and succeed in, for the sake of mankind.