China has already beaten the US in the artificial intelligence (AI) arms race and is blazing towards global dominance because of its technological advancement, says the Pentagon's former chief software officer Nicolas Chaillan.
“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,” Chaillan said in a recent interview with the Financial Times (FT).
According to Chaillan, the US is too focused on big-budget hardware developments, such as cutting edge military jets, and has largely ignored emerging technologies, such as AI, machine learning, and cybersecurity. Speaking to the FT, he said the cyber defenses of some US government departments were at “kindergarten level.”
When it comes to tech, Chaillan believes the US has lagged behind China due to Google’s reluctance to work with the US defense department on AI and extensive debates over AI ethics. Meanwhile, China’s big tech giants have been impelled to work alongside the state and have rocketed ahead with little concern for ethics.
Chaillan recently left the US Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force after serving as the first Chief Software Officer in the US Government. Announcing his resignation at the beginning of September 2021 in a LinkedIn post, he described the role as the “most challenging and infuriating” of his career. Citing bureaucracy and funding troubles, he believes that the US is failing to push forward with the necessary technological innovation needed to maintain technological supremacy.
“I realize more clearly than ever before that, in 20 years from now, our children, both in the United States’ and our Allies’, will have no chance competing in a world where China has the drastic advantage of population over the US,” Chaillan wrote on LinkedIn.
“If the US can’t match the booming, hardworking population in China, then we have to win by being smarter, more efficient, and forward-leaning through agility, rapid prototyping and innovation. We have to be ahead and lead. We can’t afford to be behind,” he added.
Chaillan is not alone in his warnings. A recent report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence concluded that China is likely to surpass the US as the world’s AI superpower within the next decade.
Even beyond AI, China has been flexing its muscles as a scientific behemoth in the past few years. As of 2017/2018, China started publishing more scientific articles than the US, marking a significant shift in the power balance. As just a few examples of their significant scientific accomplishments, China claimed “quantum supremacy” last year after demonstrating that the Jiuzhang photonic quantum computer takes 200 seconds to perform an operation that would take the best supercomputer 2.5 billion years. The past few years have also seen China’s space program make some outstanding achievements.
While being the leading scientific superpower doesn’t necessarily facilitate being the top geopolitical superpower, it’s apparent that AI will become a defining force in the coming century — and dominating this force will undoubtedly provide some overwhelming advantages.