AI Will Determine Outcome of US-China Cold War, Waltz Says

AI Will Determine Outcome of US-China Cold War, Waltz Says
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) speaks with members of the American Legion during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 16, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke

Ongoing competition between China and the United States for next-generation technologies will define the future of artificial intelligence (AI), according to one U.S. congressman.

AI, in turn, will determine the outcome of the New Cold War between the two powers, said Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.).

The only way to ensure U.S. victory in the AI race, and thus the New Cold War, he believes, is to sever ties between the two nations’ tech sectors.

“I just don’t see a path forward without decoupling,” Waltz said during a June 5 talk with the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

“We’re in a global arms race with an adversary that, unlike any in American history, has the economic and military capability to truly supplant and replace us, which, again, is their stated goal.”

Accelerating AI Development Is Key

Waltz said that U.S. dependencies on China for manufacturing and critical supply chains were “fantastically dangerous.” Given the growing divide between authoritarian and democratic technospheres, he said, the United States would need to combine effective decoupling with industry-supportive policies. It would also need a more aggressive entrepreneurial ecosystem to out-innovate the communist regime.

Despite the growing fear that so-called “breakout moments” in AI “could prove to be very dangerous,” Waltz said, the United States may need to embrace less regulation of the technology in favor of accelerating its advanced technology development.

“I would take an unregulated or less-than-ideally regulated Western-developed AI, rather than a Chinese Communist Party [CCP] techno-dictatorship-developed AI, that has the potential to dominate both militarily and economically, if those are our two bad options,” Waltz said.

“When you put it in the context of the global competition that we’re in … that the Chinese Communist Party has entered into a Cold War with the United States and is explicit in its aim to replace the liberal Western-led world order … and that AI could be an incredibly powerful tool for them to achieve that end, then it seems to me that tapping the brakes could actually be incredibly dangerous.”

Different Paths

A critical issue in the ongoing AI competition, Waltz said, is developing and implementing military AI, and particularly AI-enabled lethal autonomous systems.

The United States and CCP have taken different paths on the issue.

Both powers theoretically allow for the development of lethal AI systems. However, the United States has constructed stringent rules that no proposed project has ever made it through. The CCP, meanwhile, is working to create decision-making and lethal autonomous systems that will command and kill in future wars.

Waltz said that limiting U.S. development of lethal AI for the military could hinder its competitive advantage.

“Our adversaries, I think, will have no issue removing humans from the loop if it gives them a critical first-mover advantage,” Waltz said.

“Humans in the loop, in any fashion ... will continue to prove to be a hindrance [and] will put us at a disadvantage.”

Though controversial, Waltz said that few would have urged the United States to cease its nuclear development to counter the Soviet Union. AI development, he said, is just as important.

“We’re in uncharted territory, and we have two completely, diametrically different systems trying to drive this forward,” Waltz said. “Would [people] have asked us to halt our nuclear weapons development in the 1950s and 60s?”

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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