The country who leads the world in artificial intelligence, rules the world. That was Russian president Vladimir Putin’s sobering message to a group of students in Yaroslavl, Russia on Friday. Putin, who was talking about the development of artificial intelligence (AI) was more forthright than we’ve heard many be about the controversial subject, indicating his desire for Russian AI dominance. Putin’s quote to the students was, “the one who becomes the leader in this sphere will be the ruler of the world.”
The statement comes as a shock, not because of the actual claim Putin made, but the honesty in which it was made. It hasn’t been the MO of high profile leaders and influencers to come out and make these types of claims about artificial intelligence, let alone the leader of the largest nation in the world by land mass, Russia. Putin spoke frankly about the power that is available for a nation to possess if they lead the world in AI, noting the implications of Russian AI dominance. This is largely due to the good vs evil debate that takes place between those working in the AI development field. Some see the growth of AI as harbor for disaster and war, much like Hollywood portrays it. Others however, see it as a way to help make the world a better place (not nearly as enticing of a storyline for Hollywood).
Putin’s openness about the possibilities of this field continued, “it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position.” This statement could have a multitude of implications. One of them is that if this technology got into the hands of the wrong country, and they were the only country to have such a technological breakthrough, it could be disastrous for the rest of the world. Another potential implication from this statement is that if Russian AI dominance were established, that they would share their findings with others so they don’t have a monopoly on AI.
Putin continued, “when one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.” This is partially why a monopoly on AI is so dangerous, yet also so sought after at the same time. Also, Putin is picturing a future where the outcome of a war is based almost solely on the use of drones.
With those thoughts in mind, it’s easy to see how the country with the most advanced technology also has the most advanced weaponry, and therefore the most global political power. The aftermath of World War II proved this. The development of nuclear weapons took off after WWII. The two most powerful countries were the two countries that had the most developed nuclear weapons. However, neither country had a monopoly on nuclear power, but were instead rather evenly matched. This resulted in a decades-long standoff between the two countries with only minor battles.
A quick survey of history will show that Vladimir Putin isn’t too far off with his claim. It’s only a matter of time before these developments take off, and those who aren’t as advanced are left behind, being forced to choose sides with those who are. The question, though, given the support of AI from Putin, is whether Russian AI dominance is the future, or simply a pipe dream.