The Age of AI Nationalism and its Effects

Paper by Susan Ariel Aaronson: “This paper aims to illuminate how AI nationalistic policies may backfire. Over time, such actions and policies could alienate allies and prod other countries to adopt “beggar-thy neighbor” approaches to AI (The Economist: 2023; Kim: 2023 Shivakumar et al. 2024). Moreover, AI nationalism could have additional negative spillovers over time. Many AI experts are optimistic about the benefits of AI, whey they are aware of its many risks to democracy, equity, and society. They understand that AI can be a public good when it is used to mitigate complex problems affecting society (Gopinath: 2023; Okolo: 2023). However, when policymakers take steps to advance AI within their borders, they may — perhaps without intending to do so – make it harder for other countries with less capital, expertise, infrastructure, and data prowess to develop AI systems that could meet the needs of their constituents. In so doing, these officials could undermine the potential of AI to enhance human welfare and impede the development of more trustworthy AI around the world. (Slavkovik: 2024; Aaronson: 2023; Brynjolfsson and Unger: 2023; Agrawal et al. 2017).

Governments have many means of nurturing AI within their borders that do not necessarily discriminate between foreign and domestic producers of AI. Nevertheless, officials may be under pressure from local firms to limit the market power of foreign competitors. Officials may also want to use trade (for example, export controls) as a lever to prod other governments to change their behavior (Buchanan: 2020). Additionally, these officials may be acting in what they believe is the nation’s national security interest, which may necessitate that officials rely solely on local suppliers and local control. (GAO: 2021)

Herein the author attempts to illuminate AI nationalism and its consequences by answering 3 questions:
• What are nations doing to nurture AI capacity within their borders?
• Are some of these actions trade distorting?
• What are the implications of such trade-distorting actions?…(More)”