Entering a New Cold War Era – The AI Race

In the past, the old Cold War took place between the two major countries, the United States and the former Soviet Union (now Russia), engaged in an arms race. The emergence of nuclear weapons during that time marked a groundbreaking development, as it was the first weapon in human history capable of annihilating the entire human race.

The nuclear strategy of that era was based on the concept of a “first strike.” If a nuclear war were to break out, both sides would aim to launch as many nuclear warheads as possible to ensure the complete destruction of the other side’s nuclear capabilities. However, the targeted side might still have surviving warheads that could launch retaliatory strikes, known as a “second strike.” It was believed that even with just 200 remaining warheads, one could still inflict devastating destruction upon the opponent. To ensure their ability for a second strike, both the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a historical arms race, producing tens of thousands of nuclear warheads. Each side’s warhead count was sufficient to destroy global civilisation at least six times over. The underlying psychological factor behind this race was the lack of trust and inherent anxiety in human nature. The focus was on securing the destruction of the other side to guarantee one’s own survival and maintain a perceived superior position. The consequences or side effects of such actions became irrelevant, as the desire for survival and the fear of death overshadowed everything else.

Today, the main actors in this scenario have become the two most powerful economies, the United States and China, representing opposing ideologies. Humanity has encountered another new weapon – AI (Artificial Intelligence). I refer to it as a weapon because AI can serve as the soul of an offensive weapon, but at the same time, it can also drive products and serve as a competitive tool in the business market. In short, it can be the driving engine behind all products and weapons, capable of attacking or even destroying the opponent, whether on the battlefield or in the marketplace. However, there is a difference this time. Unlike the concrete understanding of the destructive power of nuclear bombs that was witnessed through the bombings of Hiroshima and the nuclear tests, the threat of AI to humanity remains within the realm of science fiction or imagined scenarios from movies. Therefore, the fear of consequences is essentially absent. It is unlike the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union at that time, who deeply understood the stakes. Once the first nuclear bomb was detonated, regardless of its target, both sides and humanity as a whole would face the same fate – destruction and death. There would be no winners. It was this sober awareness that prevented nuclear war. However, today, with uncertain consequences and no firsthand experience, all discussions are purely speculative. Meanwhile, the psychological fear of being surpassed, conquered, or destroyed by the opposing side is very real and “looming.” As long as major powers exist and hypothetical adversaries are present, there is a “necessity” to develop AI at any cost. Even if one side refrains from doing so, the other side will surely proceed. Being beaten by the enemy, that is consequence no leadership could ever bear .

However, developing AI is expensive, just like producing nuclear weapons. The United States utilised the arms race to economically exhaust the Soviet Union, leading directly to its dissolution. Today, Microsoft has invested 10 billions dollars in OpenAI, which has allowed us to witness the emergence of ChatGPT, and we can even use it for free. The development of AI is no longer something a single country’s finances can support. It requires capital market rules and the encouragement and support of the state towards enterprises. However, investment must bring in revenue and returns; otherwise, sustainable development is impossible. In this regard, following the footsteps of Microsoft, rapid market entry of AI products (such as embedding AI like ChatGPT into Microsoft’s products) is essential to recoup costs and support ongoing development. As for the necessity of conducting thorough testing and risk control, it can be time-consuming and costly. Therefore let the consumers play the roles of guinea pigs, how about consequences? Well, that is just something novelists would imagine, who may find it an intriguing theme for their next books. The anxiety fuels the cycle and the cycle is running and running 🙏.

If you pull my head up, you may see in the far distance, there is a parent standing under a giant billboard, previously gripped by severe anxiety. But now through the window, once he sees his child is studying diligently in the tuition class, he finally breathe a sigh of relief. As the camera zooms in, the content of the billboard becomes visible:

“Come to us, and we’ll nurture your child. If you don’t come, we’ll nurture your child’s competitors!”