All the great technological advances that led to successive industrial revolutions – as they are called, although they did not affect only industry – in turn led to corresponding geopolitical changes, as well as significant inequalities between different zones of the planet. In fact, the countries where these revolutions originated, or those that were more their protagonists, gained more weight in the world concert or even took the lead.
The first industrial revolution – the steam engine, mechanization, the telegraph – which took place in the United Kingdom between 1780 and 1830, began the period of British hegemony that lasted until the First World War. The second industrial revolution—electricity, fossil fuels, aviation—which began in the first decade of the 20th century and lasted until the 1980s led to the rise of the powers that dominated the century: the US, Germany and Japan, to name but a few. The latter two were defeated militarily and lost their technological superiority for decades. In turn, the third revolution we are witnessing today—information and communication technologies, automation, renewable energies—has shifted the world’s center of gravity toward the Pacific and helped elevate China to a world power comparable in many ways. to the USA. The first industrial revolution lasted – with its consequences – about 120 years, the second about eighty years, the third forty years, and we are already witnessing the beginning of the fourth. The story picks up speed.
The fourth industrial revolution will be “deep technology” companies, the Internet of Things, and the widespread use of “big data” and artificial intelligence. Like the previous one, it will not be limited to the field of industry, but will affect all human activities: information, transport, agriculture, trade, medicine, education, services, defense. This will lead to profound cultural and social changes and will also affect relations between states. Of course, it will culminate in the use of nuclear fusion energy, which will provide clean, cheap and inexhaustible energy, changing the paradigm of energy limitation that humanity has always experienced. But before then the transformation will be radical, perhaps the greatest since the invention of the steam engine, to the point that it is difficult to imagine all its effects today. Machines will be able to produce machines – in the required quantities and characteristics – they will communicate with each other to produce and distribute what is needed in the most rational way with available resources, always according to instructions. receiving people. Robots equipped with artificial intelligence will be able to match human capabilities in many ways, as well as perform almost all but the most creative functions that humans perform today. In other words, they will be able to do everything from the most mechanical – domestic – to the most sophisticated – space or underwater research – going through all kinds of commodity production and new technological advances.
The US-China battle
Artificial intelligence – and the data that feeds it – will be key to this coming world, more interconnected, but not more homogenous. In fact, the countries that first develop artificial intelligence and its applications, which still stand today, will gain an advantage – economic, technological and security – probably not available to others for decades, creating more differences and inequalities between nations than in colonial times. Currently, only the top two powers, the US and China, can lead this race, accompanied by other developed countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, some Europeans, India and Canada. And the fight will be fierce, because at stake – as we have already said – is global power.
It is unlikely that the inevitable battle between the United States and China—the Thucydides trap—will lead to an armed conflict between two countries that have enough nuclear weapons to inflict enormous damage on their adversary and also take it. Among them, the most important issue of tension is Taiwan, not only because of political or identity issues – on the Chinese side – but because 63% of the world’s microprocessors are produced there. One company, TSMC, owns 54% and already has access to three-nanometer technology, the most advanced in the world, necessary for the development of artificial intelligence. But there is a high chance that the “status quo” of the island will be maintained for a long time.
The confrontation between the two great powers will not be in the economic sphere, given the complex commercial and financial relationship between the two – China is the largest holder of US debt – but in the technological sphere: who will manage to lead. AI and its derivatives will achieve – or maintain – world hegemony. That is why the competition is very tough now and will be even tougher in the future. But this will not happen only among them, but will include the rest of the developed countries and mainly Europe. It is no exaggeration to say that the success of one or the other will largely depend on where the EU stands in this struggle. Europe’s adoption of Chinese technology implies a certain dependence on Beijing, which would take an extraordinarily important trick of geopolitical influence, stealing it from Washington, which could mean losing the race for the US in the current balance.
Washington is trying its best to avoid this, and in this strategy we must define the ban on the sale of Huawei and ZTE equipment in the United States last November, as well as the pressure that its government exerts on many European countries. In some, it is quite successful – so that they do the same, or even veto the implementation of 5G networks in their territories by these companies, which are leaders in terms of quality and price. The argument used is that data collected by Chinese companies can be used by Beijing authorities because they are subject to political power. But the US government also has access to data collected by its companies since the Patriot Act took effect. [impulsada por la Administración Bush justo después del ataque a las Torres Gemelas]And in fact, the European Court has already ruled twice against the US data transfer agreement (Privacy Shield), and let’s see if the same will not happen with the third attempt, which will have to be adapted in the coming weeks. EU General Data Protection Regulation.
Data is the fuel that powers artificial intelligence. And AI is the key to power. It seems that the EU cannot compete with its development, but it can maintain a balance between the two great powers, as well as a balance without committing to either. Seek your interests on a case-by-case basis, with autonomy and technical criteria, without veto or political interference. This will be? It is doubtful in today’s situation, when the war in Ukraine has once again put Europe’s strategic autonomy on the back burner and put the EU in a position of dependence on the American giant. European reflection on this matter is necessary.
Source: El Diario