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Understanding the Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence

Carlsberg Foundation Reintegration Fellowships

What

This project examines how societies imagine the future through their technical ambitions in artificial intelligence (AI). Using the theory of sociotechnical imaginaries, I will examine how AI has become a globally held, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed vision of the future.

Through a cross-national comparison of AI-initiatives in Denmark, the US, and China, I will illuminate how three political cultures – each committed to innovation, but distinct in its style of public reasoning and its expectations of the rightful role of government – have appropriated and (re)imagined the future of AI. To further examine the geopolitical ramifications of AI, I will compare AI initiatives in key international organizations (OECD, UN, EU, and G20), and in the tech-industry.

Why

In 2017, China announced its intention to become the world’s leading AI power within some 10 years, with its AI industry worth already more than $140 billion. The same year saw Russian President Vladimir Putin declare that, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere [AI] will become the ruler of the world”.

As of 2019, more than 35 countries have launched AI strategies, accompanied by major funding schemes and investments, and produced various policy papers on the subject. In 2019, the Aspen Institute published a national security report on how America could maintain its edge, focusing, in particular, on the challenges posed by AI and China’s advances in the field. In light of these rapid developments, systematic scholarship and comparative work on the geopolitical dimensions of AI is key.

How

Through in-depth document analyses and fieldwork, the project will closely follow and analyze the continuous policy work on AI in Denmark, China, and the US, as well as in international organizations. Moreover, it will look at the public reception of AI initiatives and strategies through, for example, media coverage. In the Chinese case, I will collaborate with researchers at Tsinghua University to get access to key AI policy sites in China.

Harvard University’s STS program will, along with MIT Innovation Initiative, be close collaborators in the American case. To advance an understanding of the increasing diplomatic importance of technology for small countries, the Danish case will both be followed in Denmark and through its tech-representations in the US and China.

SSR

Artificial intelligence is not only a techno-scientific matter. It promises of automation will impact the future of work, change the ways we live, and change the ways we organize society.

The project will, therefore, examine to what extent and by which means the public in the three countries are involved (or ignored) in defining and deciding the measures taken to govern AI, and if alternative (and more democratic) visions of the future is being curtailed in the process?