July 7, 2020
Emerging technologies: new challenges to global stability
The world may be fast approaching the perfect storm, with the intersection of two major global trends. At a moment of historic transition, when the post-WWII and post-Cold War international order is eroding amid competing visions of world order and renewed geopolitical rivalries, the world is also in the early stages of an unprecedented technological transformation. It promises to be a period of exponential change, the second—and far more disruptive—chapter of the digital revolution that began with the Internet in the 1990s. Historically, technology usually races ahead of institutions, rules, and norms. The extraordinary magnitude of change at a time of global institutional fraying and disorder, however, portends a particularly dangerous gap in global governance impacting economies, societies, and the future of war.
Substantially more technology-driven change will take place during the coming two decades than in the first ICT (information and communications technology)-based revolution, with profound social, economic, and geopolitical ramifications. This new wave is a convergence of technologies, a digital synergy of artificial intelligence (AI), big data (the cloud), robotics, biotech/biosciences, three-dimensional (3D) printing, advanced manufacturing, new materials, fifth-generation (5G) powering the Internet of Things (IoT), nanoengineering and nanomanufacturing, and, over the horizon, quantum computing. It is a still thickening merger of the digital and physical economies (called “online-to-offline,” or O2O), transforming business models, transport, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, agriculture, warfare, and the very nature of work itself.
As a practical matter, as these technologies are deployed over the coming decades, they will bring about accelerating economic and geopolitical change beginning in the 2020s. For example, using AI powered by superfast 5G technology (up to one hundred times faster than the current 4G), the Internet of Things (IoT) will monitor and manage farms, factories, and smart cities. The increased productivity of ICT-connected sensors will warn of factory equipment needing maintenance; monitor energy use in buildings; give farmers real-time information on soil conditions; maintain and operate driverless vehicles; optimize energy-grid performance; and monitor remotely and diagnose individuals’ health, with gene editing, engineering the demise of malaria-carrying mosquitos, and perhaps erasing hereditary DNA to eliminate horrific diseases. In the national security realm, AI, 5G, and the IoT portend radical changes in missions from logistics and inventory management to surveillance and reconnaissance with air and undersea drones of all sizes and with autonomous capabilities.
The full text of the paper is split across the various articles linked below. Readers can browse in any order. To download a PDF version, use the button below.
About the author
Issue Brief Jul 7, 2020
Trade and financial fragmentation: New challenges to global stability
By Robert A. Manning
There is greater uncertainty today about the future of global trade than at any time since the post-World War II trading system was created seven decades ago. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic froze much of the world economy; the health crisis has added a new layer of uncertainty. We are at a historic inflection point: the global trade regime urgently needs renovation and updating to meet new challenges, yet it is fraying and fragmenting.
Timely Commentary & Analysis Jun 5, 2020
Artificial intelligence principles: Avoiding catastrophe
By Robert A. Manning
An urgent challenge for the coming decade is to forge a global consensus to operationalize widely-shared ethical principles, standards, and norms to govern the development and use of artificial intelligence.
Issue briefs and reports Mar 27, 2020
AI, society and governance: An introduction
By Peter Engelke
AI’s increasing range of applications are having real-world consequences, both positive and negative. Those consequences, in turn, have animated spirited and at times emotional debates about how governments can craft policies to come to grips with a world increasingly shaped by AI.