The incoming US Secretary of the Air Force said that China was winning the battle of Artificial Intelligence over the United States. He admitted that China would soon defeat the United States in this high-tech field.
Although the Secretary of the Air Force appointed by President Joe Biden has not yet taken office, he publicly replied to the biggest recent controversy in US political and military circles: the Air Force Chief Software Officer, Nicholas Chaillan, who resigned on October 11 last, said that China had already overtaken the United States and won the battle of Artificial Intelligence against it.
Kendall III said he agreed with the statement made by Chaillan. Nicholas Chaillan told the media that the United States not only made slow progress in the field of Artificial Intelligence, but that the said progress was also limited by various rules. China is already far ahead. Kendall III did not contradict Chaillan as some people did, but offered to invite the former employee to continue participating in the relevant discussions.
US Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Justin Brockhoff announced: ‘Secretary Kendall thanked Chaillan for his contribution to the Air Force. The two discussed the suggestions made by Chaillan for the future development of the DOD software. Secretary Kendall and Chaillan reserved the possibility of future discussions.”
Artificial Intelligence is currently a highly competitive field in Chinese and US science and technology circles. Its uses include the design of computer technologies that can think and act like humans to perform various complex tasks. Both the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America compete for dominance in this field.
Artificial Intelligence technology has penetrated all areas of each country’s corporate and national security sectors and is used to plan, design and implement specific actions for complex affairs.
Chaillan had previously told the media that after Kendall had contacted him personally and confidently, he agreed to serve as an unpaid consultant for the Department of Defense. Chaillan believes that Kendall’s connection demonstrates that the Secretary is determined to make changes to support the US government to excel once again in the competition for Artificial Intelligence.
Chaillan said: “The facts are very simple. Kendall contacted me soon after I had announced my resignation, and most experts and managers would not have been interested in me and would not have continued to work hard to remedy this handicap. This meant to me that Kendall really wanted to do something”.
There is no specific information yet on whether the US federal government will respond positively and quickly to Chaillan’s warning.
Chaillan said he was willing to attend the hearings held by Congress, but hoped that some of the hearings would not remain confidential so that the public could hear his views.
Some experts outside the US Administration said that the issue of who would win the Artificial Intelligence competition was still unresolved. Jim Waldo, an IT scientist and Chief Technology Officer at Harvard University, said he was not as pessimistic as Chaillan about the US chances in the Artificial Intelligence battle against the People’s Republic of China. Waldo pointed out that most of the US investment in technological innovation came from private companies, rather than government-funded university research.
Waldo wrote in an email: “The idea that this research will be driven by the military is a bit ridiculous…. The Department of Defence, however, should enhance the use of this technology and government funding should also increase to encourage an open development of the sector. We have not failed yet, but if we do not invest in the future it will end badly.”
Some media reports also pointed out that, in fact, Chaillan’s original statement was that if the United States did not increase investment and make plans and projects advance, it would lose in the field of Artificial Intelligence. His speech, emphasised by third parties, has become a further hotly debated topic in US politics. Some Republicans use it as an argument against Biden’s Administration, and other members of the US military forces are quick to exploit it to ask for more government funding.
Over and above the controversy and disappointment prevailing in the United States, the news has gone around the world. Reuters reported: “China has won the Artificial Intelligence battle with the United States and is on its way to global domination thanks to its technological advances, as the former Pentagon Chief Software Officer told the Financial Times“.
Furthermore, the British news agency reported other serious statements by Chaillan: “We have no chance of fighting China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it is already a done deal; in my opinion it is already over. […] Whether it takes a war or not is something of an anecdote”.
“China is destined to dominate the future of the world, controlling everything from media storytelling to geopolitics,” he said.
Chaillan blamed slow innovation and the reluctance of US companies, such as Google, to work with the State on Artificial Intelligence, as well as extensive ethical debates on technology.
Google, instead, was not immediately available for comments outside of business hours.
As Chaillan said, Chinese companies are obliged to work with their government and are making “massive investment” in Artificial Intelligence without regard to ethics. Indeed, the so-called ethics would be respect for privacy which, as demonstrated in my article of October 7 (https://formiche.net/2021/10/internet-privacy-whatsappa-facebook/), is just a chimera.
He said that the US cyber defences in some government departments are at “kindergarten level”.
On October 10 – the same day on which Chaillan made his statements – the People’s Republic of China published a scheme to promote nationwide standardised development in its quest for high-quality development and modernisation.
The document – published jointly by the General Offices of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council – provides details about the measures to ensure that the country achieves its long-term development goals until 2035.
With the improvements to be made to the standardised management system, a government- and market-driven, business-oriented development model, characterised by mass participation, openness and integration, will take shape in China by 2035.
As noted in the document, by 2025 reforms will be made to the standardisation work. Both the government and the market will contribute to the standard-setting process. All economic sectors will be covered by industry standards, and international cooperation on standardisation work will be widely deepened.
Echoes of the statements made by Chaillan and the recent Chinese successes have recently led some of Wall Street’s biggest names to say that China’s economic prospects “look brighter than ever”. China is “too big to ignore”, as recently reported by The New York Times.
Indeed, fully understanding and correctly forecasting the Chinese economy has always been a topic to which the world pays great attention.
During China’s economic take-off in recent decades, rumours predicting China’s collapse have been almost absent. The Chinese economy, however, continues to grow and improve, and its development record has been unquestionably impressive. Those who often spoke ill of the Chinese market were often contradicted by reality.
Actions speak louder than words. China has its own way of developing its economy and has gained valuable experience over the years. If the Western economic and political communities still try to interpret the Chinese economy without thinking outside the old box, or give up their preconceived idea, the Chinese economy will continue to be a myth for them.
In view of making its economy grow effectively, China has been able to maintain consistency and adapt to change.
While the world is going through transformations rarely seen in a century and, at the same time, is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, China has not only kept its macroeconomic policies stable, but has also prepared to build a new development model and promote quality development.
As a result, China was the only major economy in the world that recorded positive growth last year and its economy grew by 12.7% in the first half of this year. These results demonstrated the strong resilience of the Chinese economy and injected confidence into the global economic recovery.
China has also been willing to use policy instruments to push forward reforms, stimulate innovation and give new momentum to development.
China has continuously improved its scientific and technological innovation ability, optimised government services and stabilised industrial supply chains so that the real economy could be better served.
As commented in an article published by Singapore’s leading daily Lianhe Zaobao earlier this year, “China is focused on doing its job. This is not only the right choice, but also the source of strength for China to continue resisting pressure”.
In this highly interconnected world, China believes that playing the “zero-sum game” is not in the interest of the international community. China has always been firmly committed to openness and cooperation and has always tried to promote its own development by stimulating the common development of the entire planet.
Although economic globalisation has been put to a hard test, China has continued to join with others around the world to build an open global economy, with an even stronger commitment to openness.
It has implemented the Foreign Investment Law, further opened up its financial sector in an orderly way, and created platforms such as China International Import Expo and China International Fair for Trade in Services to share its development opportunities with everybody.
More importantly, the Belt and Road Initiative-Silk Road-has been increasingly seen everywhere as a path to prosperity, innovation, health and green development.
All over the world, there are currently ever more people who have begun to deeply recognise that China’s vigorous economic development has a positive meaning for the global economy, and it is unpopular to play the game based on the theories of “decoupling” and “China’s threat”.
As long as in the West there are those who are still obsessed with a downward view of the future of China’s economy, and rely on their old way of thinking and deep ideological bias, they will be proved wrong again and again.
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Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “
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BY VITTORIA D’ALESSIO
Humans all share a common African ancestry, making African history everyone’s history. Yet little is known about the genetic evolution of people living on the continent in the distant past.
Thanks to advances in genome sequencing technology, scientists are now able to compare the DNA of people alive today with DNA extracted from very old skeletons, giving us a unique snapshot of life in Africa from many thousands of years ago.
In the field of human genetics, the story of Mother Eve is a familiar one. It describes how all living humans descend from one woman who lived in Africa 200 000 to 300 000 years ago.
Evidence comes from studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – a segment of genetic material found in the human cell. Amongst other things, it permits the study of relatedness in populations. Because only mothers pass it down, it reveals the direct evolutionary line between a person living today and their most distant female ancestor.
But like most simple stories, the tale of mitochondrial Eve is neither entirely accurate nor complete. While scientists agree that the dawn of humans did indeed occur in Africa, Eve would have been one of many human females living at the time, and she would not have been the first.
Unfortunately, the reality is that mtDNA gives us limited insight into the timelines, or the patterns, of population spread and dispersal.
Molecular biologist Dr Mateja Hajdinjak explains the significance of this knowledge gap. ‘African population history has shaped the world we all live in, so until we can reconstruct the events from Africa’s past, going back thousands of years, we can’t fully understand how modern humans emerged.’
Dr Hajdinjak is the post-doctoral researcher on the ORIGIN project, an EU-funded research initiative based at the Francis Crick Institute in London, UK that is analysing DNA from human remains found in archaeological sites in Africa.
The goal of ORIGIN is to reconstruct African prehistory using ancient DNA analysis.
The information yielded from these DNA samples is being studied alongside the findings of the project’s archaeologists, palaeontologists and museum curators.
Dr Hajdinjak is among a growing number of researchers working hard to fill in the historical blanks by moving beyond analysis of mtDNA to use the latest techniques in whole genome sequencing. This allows researchers to compare the DNA of people living today with DNA extracted from very old skeletons.
‘One of our basic questions is, how can we use ancient DNA to reconstruct past population migrations within Africa and between Africa and other parts of the world?’ said Dr Hajdinjak.
She adds that little is known about the past genomic landscape across Africa, as much of the genetic change occurred on the continent when some groups shifted from their hunter-gatherer way of life to become agriculturalists between 3 000 and 7 000 years ago.
‘By comparing past genomes, we can see how different human groups are interconnected, and how migrations happened at different times in history. Migrations allow people to mix and reproduce with new groups, which changes human biology over time.’
A lot is already known about ancient European history thanks to modern sequencing techniques, but ancient DNA studies of African samples have lagged behind. The reason for this is that DNA degrades over time, and especially in the hot and humid climates that prevail in Africa.
However, thanks to cutting-edge genome enrichment tools that allow DNA from the tiniest fragments of bone or teeth to be extracted and then amplified, scientists are starting to make good progress sequencing ancient DNA from Africa too.
By studying the data in this way, the researchers are starting to reconstruct events from the distant past and to probe the relationships that emerged between different African populations.
The aim of ORIGIN is not simply to satisfy our natural curiosity about where we came from, but also to unravel the timeline of our genetic evolution, and to use this information to predict how we might evolve into the future.
Some genetic mutations will have been instantly beneficial to our African ancestors, and will have persisted through the gene pool to this day, thousands of years after they first arose. A key example is lactase persistence – the ability to digest milk into adulthood.
Milk and milk products are a valuable source of energy, yet the default ancestral state is lactose intolerance. For adults living in early African farming communities, the ability to convert milk from their herds into glucose may have given them an evolutionary advantage over their lactose intolerant neighbours.
Sickle cell mutation
Another genetic variant that would have boosted human survival when it first emerged is the sickle cell mutation. This genetic variant confers a degree of protection against malaria.
However, the mutation is something of a double-edged sword, as it is also responsible for sickle cell disease – a serious and life-long condition that is prevalent in parts of Africa to this day.
‘It would be very important to reconstruct how sickle cell mutations first appeared and spread,’ said Dr Pontus Skoglund, supervisor of the ORIGIN project.
‘By understanding when mutations happened and how they spread, we can better understand how humans respond to evolutionary challenges,’ said Skoglund.
Researchers involved in the EU-backed AfricanNeo project are particularly intrigued by early farming practices in Africa. They are comparing samples of ancient DNA with contemporary DNA to refine their understanding of when African populations started migrating across their continent.
These migrations had a huge impact on the genetic mixing of groups, but the researchers are finding that this ‘expansion’ was a complex series of events that cannot be encapsulated into a neat mitochondrial Eve-style narrative.
‘Expansion was not uniform across the continent,’ said Associate Professor Carina Schlebusch. She is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Uppsala in Sweden – and principal investigator of the project.
‘Some hunter-gatherer groups were replaced by farmers,’ she said, referring to the likelihood that conflict would have arisen between populations wanting to occupy the same land, and that farmers would have enjoyed a competitive edge over hunter gatherers. ‘Other groups interacted and exchanged genes, and others still remained isolated for far longer than you might expect.’
It’s clear why we should all care about these complex events from Africa’s distant past, according to Dr Schlebusch.
‘History tends to repeat itself,’ she said. ‘These past migratory events may well play a role in how we behave in our future. For example, climate change means there is likely to be more pressures on people who are forced to leave their homes. There is a chance there will be more conflicts between populations and that some minority groups will be replaced.’
‘The more we learn about our history,’ she said, ‘The more we can predict how things will work out in the future.’
The research in this article was funded via the EU’s European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
BY GARETH WILLMER
Game theory mathematics is used to predict outcomes in conflict situations. Now it is being adapted through big data to resolve highly contentious issues between people and the environment.
Game theory is a mathematical concept that aims to predict outcomes and solutions to an issue in which parties with conflicting, overlapping or mixed interests interact.
In ‘theory’, the ‘game’ will bring everyone towards an optimal solution or ‘equilibrium’. It promises a scientific approach to understanding how people make decisions and reach compromises in real-world situations.
Game theory originated in the 1940s in the field of economics. The Oscar-winning movie A Beautiful Mind (2001) is about the life of mathematician John Nash (played by Russell Crowe), who was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in this area.
Although the concept has been around for many decades, the difference now is the ability to build it into computer-based algorithms, games and apps to apply it more broadly, said Professor Nils Bunnefeld, a social and environmental scientist at the University of Stirling, UK. This is particularly true in the age of big data.
‘Game theory as a theoretical idea has long been around to show solutions to conflict problems,’ he said. ‘We really see the potential to move this to a computer to make the most of the data that can be collected, but also reach many more people.’
Prof Bunnefeld led the EU-backed ConFooBio project, which applied game theory to scenarios where people were in conflict over resources and the environment. His team wanted to develop a model for predicting solutions to conflicts between food security and biodiversity.
‘The starting point was that when we have two or more parties at loggerheads, what should we do, for example, with land or natural resources? Should we produce more food? Or should we protect a certain area for biodiversity?’ he said.
The team focused on seven case studies, ranging from conflicts involving farmers and conservation of geese in Scotland to ones about elephants and crop raiding in Gabon.
ConFooBio conducted more than 300 game workshops with over 900 people in numerous locations including Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania and Scotland.
Prof Bunnefeld realised it became necessary to step back from pure game theory and instead build more complex games to incorporate ecological challenges the world currently faces, like climate change. It also became necessary to adopt a more people-based approach than initially planned, to better target the games.
‘Participants included people directly involved in these conflicts, and in many cases that were very unhappy,’ said Prof Bunnefeld.
‘Through the games, we got high engagement from communities, even from those where conflict is high and people can be reluctant to engage in research. We showed that people are able to solve conflicts when they trust each other and have a say, and when they get adequate payments for conservation efforts.’
The team developed a modelling framework to predict wildlife management outcomes amid conflict. Freely available, it has been downloaded thousands of times from the ConFooBio website.
The researchers also created an accessible game about conservation called Crops vs Creatures, in which players decide between a range of options from shooting creatures to allocating habitat for conservation.
Prof Bunnefeld hopes these types of game become more available on a mainstream basis via app stores – such as one on conflicts in the realm of biodiversity and energy justice in a separate initiative he works on called the Beacon Project. ‘If you tell people you have an exciting game or you have a complex model, which one are they going to engage with? I think the answer is pretty easy,’ he said.
‘In the ConFooBio project, we’ve been able to show that our new models and algorithms can adapt to new situations and respond to environmental and social changes,’ added Prof Bunnefeld. ‘Our models are useful for suggesting ways of managing conflicts between stakeholders with competing objectives.’
Social media dynamics
Another project, Odycceus, harnessed elements of game theory to investigate what social media can tell us about social dynamics and potentially assist in the early detection of emerging social conflicts.
They analysed the language, content and opinions of social media discussions using data tools.
Such tools are required to analyse the vast amount of information in public discourse, explained Eckehard Olbrich, coordinator of the Odycceus project, and a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig, Germany.
His work is partially motivated by trying to understand the reasons behind the polarisation of views and the growth of populist movements like far-right organisation Pegida, which was founded in his hometown of Dresden in 2014.
The team created a variety of tools accessible to researchers via an open platform known as Penelope. These included the likes of the Twitter Explorer, which enables researchers to visualise connections between Twitter users and trending topics to help understand how societal debates evolve.
Others included two participatory apps known as the Opinion Observatory and the Opinion Facilitator, which enable people to monitor the dynamics of conflict situations, such as by helping interlink news articles containing related concepts.
Patterns of polarisation
‘These tools have already allowed us to get a better insight into patterns of polarisation and understanding different world views,’ said Olbrich.
He said, for example, that his team managed to develop a model about the effect of social feedback on polarisation that incorporated game-theoretic ideas.
The findings suggested that the formation of polarised groups online was less about the traditional concept of social media bubbles and echo chambers than the way people build their identity by gaining approval from their peers.
He added that connecting the dots between game theory and polarisation could have real-life applications for things like how best to regulate social media.
‘In a game-theoretic formulation, you start with the incentives of the players, and they select their actions to maximise their expected utility,’ he said. ‘This allows predictions to be made of how people would change their behaviour if you, for instance, regulate social media.’
Olbrich added that he hopes such modelling can furnish a better understanding of democracy and debates in the public sphere, as well as indicating to people better ways to participate in public debates. ‘Then we would have better ways to deal with the conflicts we have and that we have to solve,’ he said.
But there are also significant challenges in using game theory for real-world situations, explained Olbrich.
For example, incorporating cultural differences into game theory has proved difficult because such differences may mean two people have hugely varying ways of looking at a problem.
‘The problem with game theory is that it’s looking for solutions to the way a problem can be solved,’ added Prof Bunnefeld.
‘Having looked at conflicts over the last few years, to me it is clear that we can’t solve conflicts, we can only manage them.’ Building in factors like climate change and local context is also complex.
But game theory is a useful way to explore models, games and apps for dealing with conflicts, he said. ‘Game theory is, from its very simple basics to quite complex situations, a good entry point,’ said Prof Bunnefeld.
‘It gives us a framework that you can work through and also captures people’s imagination.’
Research in this article was funded via the EU’s European Research Council and originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
Asia and the Pacific is the most digitally divided region of the world, and South-East Asia is the most divided subregion. The Covid-19 pandemic detonated a “digital big bang” that spurred people, governments and businesses to become “digital by default;” a sea change that generated vast digital dividends. These benefits that have not been distributed equally, however. New development gaps have emerged as digital transformation reinforces a vicious cycle of socioeconomic inequalities, within and across countries.
Bridging these divides and ensuring advances in technology can benefit everyone will be a key challenge as the region seeks to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic recovery. A new ESCAP report, Asia-Pacific Digital Transformation Report 2022: Shaping our digital future, identifies five key “digital divides;” fault lines that separate those who can readily take advantage of new technology from those more likely to be left behind. These divides are related to age, gender, education, disability and geography.
Typically, those most comfortable with technological innovation are younger and better educated people who have grown up with the Internet as ”digital natives”. Older persons may be more distrustful, or slower to acquire the necessary skills or suffer declines in aptitude. But at any age, poor communities – especially those in rural areas – are most at risk as they may be unable to afford electricity or digital connections or lack the relevant skills, even if the necessary infrastructure and connectivity are there.
The most significant driver of digital transformation is business research and its development and adoption of frontier technologies. Another major component is e-government; the delivery of public information and services via the Internet or through other digital means. This has the potential for more efficient and inclusive operations; especially when linked to national digital ID systems. However, because e-government services often evolve in complex regulatory environments, providing appropriate levels of accessibility for older generations, the disabled, or those with limited education has become more challenging.
It is clear that digital technologies are enabling the delivery of previously unimagined services while enhancing productivity and optimizing resource use that helped reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants. These technologies also helped track and contain pandemic spread. Social networks are fostering and diversifying communications among people of all ages sharing common interests, irrespective of location. This helps them stay in touch, broaden their experiences, continue education or deepen subject knowledge. This provided a veritable lifeline that has continued as we enter the post-pandemic era.
At the same time, the risks have also proliferated. Social networks also created social ”echo chambers” and generated torrents of misinformation and hate speech. New cryptocurrencies have opened the way to speculative financial bubbles, while cybercrime increased alarmingly as it assumed prolific variations. In addition, digital gadgets and the Internet are thought to contribute to more than 2 per cent of the global carbon footprint. The manufacture of electronic hardware can also exhaust supplies of natural resources such as rare-earth elements and precious metals like cobalt and lithium.
Moreover, digital transformation has led to the creation of an immense amount of digital data which become an essential resource to understand digital transformation. However, it raises concerns about the ethical and responsible use of data for privacy protection. A common understanding among countries on the operationalization of such principles has yet to evolve.
The Asia-Pacific Digital Transformation Report 2022 highlights the importance of digital connectivity infrastructure as “meta-infrastructure.” 5G and other high-speed networks can make all other infrastructure – such as transport and power grid distribution – much smarter, optimizing resource use for sustainable development. To contribute to these needs, the Report recommends three pathways for action, which are not mutually exclusive and are aligned with the ESCAP Action Plan of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative for 2022-2026.
The first pathway focuses on the supply side and provides relevant policy practices for the development of cost-effective network infrastructure. The second addresses the demand side and recommends capacity-building programmes and policies to promote uptake at scale, of new, more affordable and accessible digital products and services. The third involves improving systems and institutions that are related to collecting, aggregating and analysing data in a way that builds public trust and deepens policymakers’ understanding of the drivers of digital transformations.
Finally, in a world where digital data can flash around the globe in an instant, the report highlights the importance of regional and global cooperation. Only by working together can countries ensure that these technological breakthroughs will benefit everyone; their peoples, economies and societies, as well as for the natural environment, in our new “digital by default” normal.
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