Last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a televised address on the topic of AI. “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only of Russia, but of all mankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” He warned that “it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position.”
It’s 2017, people. Not only does our president believe global warming isn’t real, but robots may possibly take over the world.
Putin, speaking with students at Friday’s meeting, said the development of AI raises “colossal opportunities and threats that are difficult to predict now.”
Today, Russia’s military robots and drones are operated by humans. However, Putin predicts that the future Russia plans to field “intelligent robotic complexes,” or military units powered by AI systems, that can fight and kill without human operation. In fact, by 2030 the Russian Military Industrial Committee plans for Russian combat to consist entirely of remote-controlled and AI-controlled robotic platforms.
Aside from war tactics, Russia also plans to use AI to fully power its espionage and propaganda. Here’s where stuff gets sort of creepy: Russian intelligence agencies already employ thousands of staff to create fake news articles and social media posts. These tens of millions of “bots” pretending to be real people push propaganda worldwide. Researchers at the Computational Propaganda Research Project at the Oxford Internet Institute found that nearly half of all Twitter accounts that comment on Russian politics are bots.
Also, according to Congressional testimony by former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts, Russian bots have the capacity to drive US media coverage of fake news, and to influence American company stock prices. Russia achieves this with bots that possess only primitive digital automation. Researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated AI technology that is able to generate realistic video and audio with the voice and appearance of anyone.
The US still leads in both AI and robotic technologies, though that lead has shrunk over the past ten years. Russia, however, could be a leader in weaponizing AI in pursuit of its grand strategy, which may be to end US hegemony in the international system and re-establish Russian influence over the former Soviet region. Russia never lead in internet technology, but they built a large and capable enough force of hackers that knocked out a substantial portion of the Ukrainian power grid, infiltrated US nuclear facilities, and may have even brought chaos to the US’s 2016 presidential election.
Putin predicts that “when one party’s drones are destroyed by the drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.” After seeing all of Putin’s comments, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that competition for AI superiority could be the cause of our next WW.
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