United States has lost AI battle to China, ex-Pentagon software chief says

An autonomous delivery vehicle by Meituan at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on July 8, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

LONDON - The United States has already lost the artificial intelligence battle to China which is heading towards global dominance because of its advances in emerging cyber capabilities, the Pentagon's former software chief told the Financial Times.

China, the world's second-largest economy, is likely to dominate many of the key emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), synthetic biology and genetics within a decade or so, according to Western intelligence assessments.

Mr Nicolas Chaillan, the Pentagon's first chief software officer who resigned in protest against the slow pace of technological transformation in the United States military, said the failure to respond was putting the US at risk.

"We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it's already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion," he told the newspaper.

"Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal," he said, arguing China was set to dominate the future of the world, controlling everything from media narratives to geopolitics.

He said US cyber defences in some government departments were at "kindergarten level".

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Mr Chaillan criticised the reluctance of Google to work with the US defence department on AI, and extensive debates over AI ethics, for slowing the United States down.

Google was not immediately available for comment outside business hours.

Chinese companies, he said, were obliged to work with their government and were making "massive investment" in AI without regard to ethics, the Financial Times reported.

Mr Chaillan announced his resignation at the beginning of September, saying military officials were repeatedly put in charge of cyber initiatives for which they lacked experience.

A spokesman for the Department of the Air Force said Mr Frank Kendall, secretary of the US Air Force, had discussed with Mr Chaillan his recommendations for the department’s future software development following his resignation and thanked him for his contributions.