PART II: WINNING THE TECHNOLOGY COMPETITION
Chapter 15: A Favorable International Technology Order
Following is a summary of Part II, Chapter 15 of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence's final report. Use the below links to access a PDF version of the Chapter, Blueprint for Action, and the Commission's Full Report.
The United States cannot compete with and counter the global technology ambitions of authoritarian rivals if it acts alone. Like-minded countries must work together to advance an international rules-based order, protect free and open societies, and unleash economic innovation.
The authoritarian challenge to the global technology order encompasses five distinct but related elements:
- A rising challenge to U.S. and Western technology firms for global market share, impacting the prosperity and global economic position of the United States and its allies and partners;
- China’s increasing influence and strategic leverage over countries that utilize technologies and infrastructure built and developed in China;
- The prospect of authoritarian consolidation in states that gain easy access to digital tools that can strengthen repressive rule;
- The prospect of democratic backsliding in states with governments that may be tempted to utilize digital tools in ways that undermine liberal values; and
- A threat to the cohesion of democratic allies as an influential bloc of states with the capacity to shape global technology norms and standards.1
The United States must pursue a comprehensive strategy in close coordination with our allies and partners for artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and adoption that promotes values critical to free and open societies.
Furthermore, the United States must collaborate with its closest allies and partners to develop principles for employing AI tools ethically and responsibly, defend the integrity of international technical standards, promote digital markets, leverage comparative expertise to develop privacy-preserving technologies, and share practices and resources to defend against authoritarian attacks on digital infrastructure and democratic values.
To achieve these goals, the Commission proposes that the White House request the Department of State to lead an effort with other key agencies to:
Develop and implement an International Science and Technology Strategy (ISTS).
Develop and implement an ISTS to help coordinate AI and emerging-technology policies government-wide and with our closest allies and partners; apply the tools of foreign assistance, technical expertise and guidance, and development finance; and foster collaborative R&D. The ISTS should serve as the international component of the National Technology Strategy (see Chapter 9 of this report). The ISTS should be centered around four big initiatives:
- Build an Emerging Technology Coalition of allies and partners to promote the design, development, and use of emerging technologies according to democratic norms and values; coordinate policies and investments to counter the malign use of these technologies by authoritarian regimes; and provide concrete, competitive alternatives to counter the adoption of digital infrastructure made in China.
- As part of the Emerging Technology Coalition, launch an International Digital Democracy Initiative with allies and partners to align international assistance efforts to develop, promote, and fund the adoption of AI and associated technologies that comports with democratic values and ethical norms around openness, privacy, security, and reliability.
- Implement a comprehensive U.S. national plan to support international technology efforts around technical standards, foreign assistance, development finance, and export controls.
- Enhance the United States’ position as an international emerging technology research hub for collaborative R&D efforts by formalizing a partnership between the U.S. National AI Research Institutes and multilateral initiatives like the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI), creating a Multilateral AI Research Institute (MAIRI) in the United States with key allies and partners, and catalyzing international collaboration and talent exchanges.
Build an Emerging Technology Coalition (ETC).
The ETC of like-minded nations either as part of a larger democracy summit or as a stand-alone endeavor. The immediate step for the ETC should be to organize its efforts to synchronize policies around the following seven critical areas:
- Developing and operationalizing standards and norms, in support of democratic values and the development of secure, reliable, and trusted technologies;
- Promoting and facilitating coordinated and joint R&D on AI and digital infrastructure that advances shared interests and benefits humanity;
- Promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law through joint efforts to counter censorship, malign information operations, human trafficking, and illiberal uses of surveillance technologies;
- Exploring ways to facilitate data-sharing among allies and partners through enabling agreements, common data archival procedures, cooperative investments in privacy-enhancing technologies, and addressing legal and regulatory barriers;
- Promoting and protecting innovation, particularly through export controls, investment screening, supply chain assurance, emerging technology investment, trade policy, research and cyber protections, and intellectual property alignment;
- Developing AI-related talent, by analyzing labor market challenges, harmonizing skills and certification requirements, and increasing talent exchanges, joint training, and workforce development initiatives;
- Launching the International Digital Democracy Initiative.2
Launch an International Digital Democracy Initiative (IDDI).
As part of the ETC, the United States, with its allies and partners, should launch an IDDI to align international assistance efforts to develop, promote, and fund the adoption of AI and associated technologies that comport with democratic values and ethical norms around openness, privacy, security, and reliability.
The IDDI will be critical for enabling nations around the world to adopt secure, trusted, and open digital ecosystems,3 empowering communities to use AI and digital technologies in ways that strengthen democracies, promote sustainable development, and advance shared values like privacy, human rights, and the rule of law. IDDI further provides an opportunity for the United States and like-minded allies and partners to counter authoritarian uses of AI, particularly by providing alternatives to digital infrastructure projects that are used for illiberal ends, endanger the social cohesion among and between democracies, and threaten collective security.4
As international digital and telecommunications infrastructure investment needs continue to grow5 and China continues to use digital development to export authoritarianism and expand influence, the United States and its allies and partners must join forces to coordinate a strategy that maximizes the impact of government assistance efforts and also catalyzes private-sector investment to address shared challenges.
Implement a comprehensive U.S. national plan to support international technology efforts.
The ISTS should include an integrated government-wide plan for using and bolstering the tools of U.S. foreign policy—including technical and foreign assistance, development financing, and export controls—to advance the ETC, the IDDI, and stand-alone projects. As demonstrated below, the plan should include methods to shape international technical standards; coordinate and expand programs of the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and other federal agencies; and use targeted export controls to preserve key U.S. and allied technical advantages and also further transparency and accountability. It will require significant, dedicated appropriations to achieve meaningful results.6
Enhance the United States’ position as an international emerging technology research hub.
The United States must maintain its leadership in international R&D by further establishing itself as a hub of international research into and involving emerging technologies to foster AI collaboration and coordination with key allies and partners. These efforts will facilitate critical support to the ETC and IDDI by developing digital technologies and best practices that comport with democratic values; enhance U.S. contributions to existing and future international efforts like GPAI; and provide avenues for the United States and allies—particularly European allies—to pool resources to address commercial gaps in R&D and overcome challenges to collaboration around cross-border data-sharing. Making the United States an international emerging technology research hub has three components:
First, the United States should provide formal research support to key international efforts such as GPAI and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,7 particularly through the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s National AI Research Institutes.8 The important research undertaken by the National AI Research Institutes—run by the NSF and other U.S. agencies—and by other United States departments and agencies is an incredible resource that should support these international efforts and advance AI and digital goals of the U.S. and like-minded partners.
Second, the United States should work with key allies and partners to establish the Multilateral AI Research Institute (MAIRI). MAIRI will facilitate joint efforts to develop technologies that advance responsible, human-centric, and privacy-preserving AI/machine learning (ML) that better societies and allow allies to pool their talents and resources. It will provide a model for equitable, multilateral research, facilitate AI R&D that builds on like-minded countries’ strengths, and foster a global AI workforce for the next generation. MAIRI will be key to a U.S.-led effort to promote values of free and open societies, win the global technology competition, unleash AI innovation and economic prosperity, and develop AI applications that benefit humanity. MAIRI members will champion agreed-upon research integrity principles, leverage trusted infrastructure and research resources, and seek to be a part of a federated network of global research institutes. NSF should be the anchor partner, but MAIRI should be structured to enable participation of other federal agencies, like the Departments of State and Energy.9 The United States should fund the initial startup costs, including acquisition of MAIRI’s physical center located in the United States.
Third, the United States should leverage existing O and J visa programs to facilitate foreign researchers’ involvement in joint projects. Sustained, strong collaboration between the United States and allies and partners is critical to winning this techno-competition and unleashing innovation and entrepreneurship across like-minded countries. There is no substitute for shoulder-to-shoulder research for building relationships, exchanging ideas and expertise, and sparking future collaboration.10
Reorient U.S. foreign policy and the Department of State for great power competition in the digital age.
New outward-facing digital foreign policy initiatives are only part of the equation for ensuring the long-term success of global technology policy. The United States must make inward-focused reforms to the Department of State as well.
There is currently no clear lead for emerging technology policy or diplomacy within the State Department, which hinders the Department’s ability to make strategic technology policy decisions. It also creates confusion for allies and partners, who regularly express uncertainty regarding which senior official should be their primary point of contact for issues related to key topics such as AI, 5G, quantum computing, biotechnology, or new emerging technologies. Competitive diplomacy in AI and emerging technology arenas is a strategic imperative in an era of great power competition and necessitates an intensified reorientation of the Department of State. The United States must redesign the internal structure, focus, and culture of the State Department to adapt U.S. diplomacy for the digital age and empower diplomats to advance American interests at the intersection of technology, security, commerce, and human rights. Supporting these efforts and succeeding in U.S. diplomacy will require targeted appropriations from Congress.
1 The threat to allied cohesion also extends to the military realm, insofar as building divergent or incompatible digital systems poses challenges for interoperability or creates risks for U.S. forces operating in allied countries. See Daniel Kliman, Why the United States Needs a Digital Development Fund, Center for a New American Security at 2 (Oct. 10, 2019), https://www.cnas.org/publications/commentary/why-the-united-states-needs-a-digital-development-fund (“Over the long term, China’s digital investments could render some developing countries off-limits to U.S. forces, constricting the geography of American military access.”). 2 Detail on these critical areas can be found in the Chapter 15 Blueprint for Action and Appendix: Blueprint for the Emerging Technology Coalition. 3 USAID’s Digital Strategy defines the “digital ecosystem” as the “stakeholders, systems, and enabling environments that together empower people and communities to use digital technology to gain access to services, engage with each other, or pursue economic opportunities.” This includes “a sound enabling environment and policy commitment; robust and resilient digital infrastructure; capable digital service providers and workforce; and, ultimately, empowered end-users of digitally enabled services.” Digital Strategy 2020-2024, USAID at 4 (June 2020), https://www.usaid.gov/usaid-digital-strategy. 4 The Chinese government’s global infrastructure projects and its widespread state influence within its private sector have enabled Chinese firms to provide surveillance and smart-city technologies to hundreds of cities globally, particularly in developing countries, bolstering autocratic regimes and enabling Chinese geopolitical coercion and government data collection. See, e.g., Hugh Harsono, China’s Surveillance Technology is Keeping Tabs on Populations Around the World, The Diplomat (June 18, 2020), https://thediplomat.com/2020/06/chinas-surveillance-technology-is-keeping-tabs-on-populations-around-the-world/; Testimony of Steven Feldstein before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Strategic Aims in Africa (May 8, 2020), https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Feldstein_Testimony.pdf. 5 To support the G20, the Global Infrastructure Hub has forecasted global telecommunications infrastructure investment needs at $8.9 trillion over the next approximately 20 years, with current trends falling short of these needs by $1 trillion. Forecasting Infrastructure Investment Needs and Gaps, Global Infrastructure Hub (last accessed Jan. 13, 2021), https://outlook.gihub.org.
6 Detailed recommendations for U.S. agencies and Congress can be found in the Chapter 15 Blueprint for Action. 7 GPAI was launched in 2020 to “foster responsible development of AI grounded in these principles of human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth.” Current members include Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the OECD and UNESCO as Permanent Observers. GPAI bridges “the gap between theory and practice,” particularly through research and technical expertise shared via multi-stakeholder working groups. About GPAI, GPAI (last accessed Jan. 6, 2020), https://www.gpai.ai/about/; UNESCO Joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence as Observer, UNESCO (Dec. 10, 2020), https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-joins-global-partnership-artificial-intelligence-observer. 8 Artificial Intelligence at NSF, NSF (Aug. 26, 2020), https://www.nsf.gov/cise/ai.jsp. 9 For example, the Department of Energy may provide critical expertise on undertaking applied research with industry or through its national laboratories, particularly on high-performance and quantum computing, while the Department of State can provide foreign policy expertise and support initiatives on data-sharing and AI research clouds with allies and partners. 10 Detailed recommendations for each of these components can be found in the Chapter 15 Blueprint for Action.