Today we will begin to focus on analysing how artificial intelligence affects changes in the world order from two viewpoints, namely structure and international rules. As to the international situation, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to influence the balance of power between countries in the economic and military spheres. The capabilities of non-State actors will also expand unprecedentedly and international competition around technology will become more intense.

In terms of international rules, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change the form and principles of warfare and impact existing international laws and ethics. The security and governance challenges posed by AI technology are issues that must be addressed by all mankind.

Countries should look at the problem from the perspective of building a community with a shared future for mankind and discuss the future of AI international rules starting from the concept of common security.

It must be said, however, that the topic and issues pertaining to Artificial Intelligence do not stem from the spread of the Internet and cyberscience in recent years, but go back a long way.

In 1950 British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-54) proposed the concept of Artificial Intelligence. In 1956 the first symposium on Artificial Intelligence was held in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, USA, and AI was later officially recognised as a science by the international community of scholars.

As we entered the second decade of the 21st century, the research and development of AI technology stepped up its pace. Today, almost seventy years after the first theoretical approaches, Artificial Intelligence is widely used in an increasing number of production and human life areas. In some specialised fields, it is almost at the same level or even surpass the human brain’s performance.

As a ubiquitous technology with the potential to transform human society, Artificial Intelligence has been widely discussed in the areas of science and technology, industry, the military, society and ethics, as we mentioned above.

Hence will Artificial Intelligence have an impact on international relations? What kind of impact will it have? It is worth exploring some of these issues. It should be noted that AI technology itself is complex, hard to explain and uncertain. If you are not an expert in the field, you cannot go into its “workings”, but you can set logical and moral grounds for discussing it.

An attempt will be made to analyse Artificial Intelligence only on the basis of the events that have occurred as a function of it, or of the development trend generally recognised by the academic community as having an impact on international relations, with the hope of trying to explore the necessity and possibility of building a common rule.

There are certainly many exaggerated expectations about how science and technology will affect modern international relations. Some people, like Alvin Toffler in his book The Third Wave – published in the United States in 1980 and in Italy in 1987 – predict that the future world will be fraught with risks and nuclear weapons and on the brink of economic and ecological collapse. They also predict that the existing political system will quickly become obsolete, and the world will face a major crisis.

Such predictions often overestimate the difficulties that technology causes to human beings, but underestimate the human will and ability to solve them. After the Cold War, against the backdrop of globalisation, multilateralism gradually turned into international consensus – at least until the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – as did the effectiveness of the international non-proliferation system; the global movement to tackle climate change; and the increasingly strengthened cooperation between countries to tackle a new ecological order. The same holds true for the development of peace movements, which have shown consensus and responsible attitude of mankind in upholding founding values and responding to challenges.

The problems caused by technology can be solved through the continuous evolution of technology itself, and human beings must also build a rigorous system of prevention through ethics and laws. Indeed, each technological revolution has accelerated the process of globalisation, bringing a number of planetary issues onto the agenda of international politics. Hence the world at least has become more transparent and integrated than in the past.

But before getting to the heart of the discussion, several issues need to be clarified. The first question is the following: what Artificial Intelligence are we talking about?

1. Are we talking about Artificial Intelligence in the strict sense that can simulate individual human behaviour, such as recognition, learning, reasoning and judgement?

2. Or are we talking about a general Artificial Intelligence with autonomous consciousness and independent innovation capabilities similar to the human brain that can then set itself above man himself?

3. Are we talking about a weak Artificial Intelligence, which exists to solve specific tasks, and is only good at voice and image recognition, and at translating certain materials, such as Google’s AlphaGo and iFLYTEK’s intelligent translator? That is to say, a mere waiter?

4. Or are we still talking about a strong artificial intelligence, capable of thinking, planning, problem-solving, abstract thinking, understanding complex concepts, learning quickly, learning from experience and other human-level artificial intelligences, such as the prototype Mecha child David, capable of experiencing love in the movie AI (2001), or the humanoid robot Ava in the movie Ex Machina (2015) with the consciousness of living a normal life?

5. Or are we talking about an artificial super-intelligence, experiencing “singularity” with computational and thinking capabilities that far surpass the human brain in all areas including scientific innovation, general knowledge and social skills? (Such is the definition of superintelligence by the Swedish philosopher from the Oxford University, Nick Bostrom, known for his reflections on the so-called existential risk of humanity and the anthropic principle).

When we discuss the AI impact on international relations and even on its model, we can only confine ourselves to the well-known AI technology and its applications based on big data, deep learning, as well as computing power and algorithms as its three major pillars. We cannot speak of future AI technologies that have not developed yet (at least as far as we know) such as the technology of simulating the brain’s activities at 100% of its total operation, while today we know that the human brain only works at 10% in different areas each time and never, as a whole, at the aforementioned 100%. The second question is the following: can Artificial Intelligence influence international relations and hence the international order? So far, the answer is yes. Throughout history, technological innovation and spreading have revolutionised the fate of one or more countries countless times, changing regional patterns and even the world situation. Just think of the impact of technological revolutions recorded over time on the military, as well as on the methods of organising government, on beliefs, and hence on the transfer of power between countries, with the related evolution of power structures.

Around 1700 B.C. the discovery/invention of the chariot in battle changed the power structure in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and the Yellow River region of China. For instance, the Aryans entered Northern India, and the rise of the Shang dynasty (1675-1046 B.C.) took place. After 1200 B.C. the emergence and spread of iron-casting technology enabled ordinary infantry – equipped with (relatively cheap) armours and weapons made of such metal – to overturn chariots, which were driven by the opposing warring elites.

However, not only the military aspect should be considered. The consolidation of bureaucratic dominance – i.e. the prior acquisition and mastery of alphabetical structures and arithmetic calculation – made possible the rise of agricultural empires such as Assyria and Persia. In the 7th century B.C. the number and technology of horse archers once again broke the military and political balance in Eurasia, and the steppe nomadic peoples – such as the Mongols – gained an advantage over rural peoples, forming the largest empire of all time (1206-1368).

Just to make another more recent example, the emergence of nuclear technology changed the modern world’s political landscape and further strengthened the power structure of the major powers shaped at the end of World War II, which created and imposed upon themselves the status of permanent members in the Security Council of the United Nations. Those powers set a series of international rules, such as the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; the nuclear States’ commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the non-nuclear States’ access to peaceful nuclear technology. At the same time, they enacted a series of international agreements such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the UN Negotiating Mechanism for Nuclear Disarmament, the Global Nuclear Security Summit, and the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

Hence we should not be surprised that there is no difference between the aforementioned war chariot and Artificial Intelligence, or the dual use of nuclear energy (for military or peaceful purposes), all of which changed and are changing the balance of international power. (1. continued)

Giancarlo Elia Valori