• Fear itself is the real threat to democracy, not tall tales of Chinese AI | Artificial intelligence (AI) | The Guardian

    Pathological anxiety about China runs through the entire document like the words in a stick of Blackpool rock. “On a level playing field,” it burbles, “the United States is capable of out-innovating any competitor.” But apparently there is “a fundamental difference in the US and China’s approaches to AI innovation that puts American AI leadership in peril”. The playing field, it seems, is not level because US tech companies “are not instruments of state power”. Since “China is organised, resourced, and determined to win the technology competition”, the US approach has to change. What’s needed, apparently, is “a hybrid approach meshing government and private-sector efforts to win the technology competition”.

    Pause, for a moment, to extract the signal from this message. First, the gobbledegook about “AI” is in fact almost entirely about machine learning, a flaky technology that has an insatiable demand for detailed data about humans and their activities. The Chinese are ahead because their tech companies have to turn all their data over to the authorities; Americans are hobbled because, while their state can always get the data from the tech companies that hoover it up, sometimes it has to jump through legal hoops to get it. The “hybrid approach” that is deemed necessary involves “meshing” the US government with the country’s tech companies.

    Now what might that imply? You only have to ask the question to know the answer. If American tech giants are finally recognised as strategic partners of the US government in the coming existential hegemonic struggle with China, then Washington’s enthusiasm for curbing said monopolies will rapidly decrease. Indeed, this may already be happening, if an inspection of the number of tech-company insiders who have been recruited by Biden is anything to go by. And the argument made to the US Congress by, among others, Mark Zuckerberg – that shackling US tech giants will guarantee Chinese hegemony – will once again find a ready audience in Washington.

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