Oct 12, 2023
Generative AI: The Catalyst for a Potential International Information Arms Race
In a rapidly evolving landscape of technological advancements, generative AI has emerged as a transformative force, garnering the attention of governments worldwide. While the potential economic benefits of this technology are substantial, recent studies suggest a darker underbelly, with nation-states eyeing the use of generative AI as a potent weapon in the realm of misinformation, potentially sparking an unsettling AI arms race among global superpowers.
Two separate reports released this week shed light on the concerning trend of nations harnessing generative AI for information warfare. Researchers at RAND, a non-profit think tank advising the United States government, have uncovered evidence of a Chinese military researcher openly discussing the application of generative AI in information campaigns. Although there is no concrete evidence of such activities currently underway, this discourse raises alarm bells regarding the future potential for AI-enhanced influence campaigns.
William Marcellino, an AI expert at RAND, expresses concerns about the scale and power that generative AI could bring to influence campaigns. The prospect of creating millions of fake accounts, convincingly portraying individuals from different nationalities to push state narratives, is unsettling and represents a qualitative and quantitative shift in the landscape of information warfare.
Traditionally, online information campaigns, exemplified by Russia's interference in the 2016 US election, have relied on manual labor. However, recent advancements in AI algorithms enable the mass production of deceptive text, imagery, and videos, potentially automating persuasive interactions on social media. Remarkably, launching such a campaign could cost as little as a few hundred dollars, making it an attractive avenue for state and non-state actors alike.
The RAND report highlights that numerous countries, including the US, are likely exploring generative AI for their own information campaigns. The widespread availability of generative AI tools, including open-source language models, has lowered the entry barriers for anyone interested in launching such campaigns.
In parallel, a report by the Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP) emphasizes the potential for generative AI to become a source of competition among nations. It encourages substantial investment by the US government in generative AI, not only for its transformative impact on various industries but also for the military capabilities, economic prosperity, and cultural influence it can confer.
Both reports suggest a troubling trend—a looming arms race in the adaptation of generative AI for military and cyber applications. If these assessments are accurate, the world could be on the brink of an information-space arms race that proves challenging to contain.
To avert the nightmarish scenario of an internet overrun by AI bots programmed for information warfare, human cooperation is vital. The SCSP report calls for the US to take a leadership role in fostering transparency, trust, and collaboration on a global scale. Meanwhile, RAND researchers propose diplomatic discussions between the US and China to address the risks associated with generative AI.
In a world where the lines between reality and deception become increasingly blurred, safeguarding the integrity of the internet is a collective endeavor. As Marcellino aptly puts it, "It may be in all of our interests not to have an internet that's totally polluted and unbelievable." This sentiment resonates as a universal goal we should all strive to achieve.
Original story from Wired: https://www.wired.com/story/fast-forward-generative-ai-could-fuel-a-new-international-arms-race/