AI can impact diplomacy in two ways; first, by changing the environment in which diplomacy is practised; and second, by offering new tools to diplomats to help them in their activities. For that to happen, retraining of diplomatic personnel and renovating diplomatic mechanisms become imperative for the best use of AI in diplomacy
The world today is abuzz with ever expanding digitalisation with its grip ever increasing. The first two decades of this century have witnessed its growing use in social, economic and political activities, and even in sensitive security concerns. It appears that without its use nothing can move forward. Amazingly together, artificial intelligence (AI) has been making its speedy progress as an integral part of the digitalisation process to meet the challenges not only of mundane human activities but also of state actions.
The term artificial intelligence was first coined by an American scientist, John McCarthy, in 1956, who defined AI as "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs". Currently, experts define it as a machine-based (computerised) system, for given human defined objectives, making predictions, recommendations or decisions influencing real or virtual environments.
Some other experts go further and use the term "super intelligence" to describe AI that exceeds human intelligence across any task. People see the defeat of Russian global chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997 by a computer-set programme as a spectacular feat of AI. Russian President Vladimir Putin has predicted that "artificial intelligence is the future... for all human kind... whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the leader of the world".
Meanwhile, experts expect the winners of the AI development race to dominate the coming decades economically and geopolitically, potentially exacerbating tensions between countries. This comment indicates some negative consequences, too. There is every possibility that tech-nationalism, protectionism and dysfunctional fragmentations might undermine the benefits of AI, while increasing the risk of abuses by state and nonstate actors.
However, a prominent author on AI opines that a crucial mass of visionary leaders in governments, corporations, non-profit organisations, research institutions and initiatives on the ground can make a difference.
Surprisingly enough, given the current divisive and national interest-exacerbated geopolitics, this positive scenario would hardly come up, nor a straight forward process.
People think that the full realisation of the benefits of AI is necessary for the world to take the pathway to a peaceful world. Under such circumstances, AI can play the role of a new international game changer.
Obviously AI can render its invaluable services to diplomacy as a strategic tool in advancing international understanding and collaboration across the globe.
It is understood that AI can impact diplomacy in two ways; first, by changing the environment in which diplomacy is practised; and second, by offering new tools to diplomats to help them in their activities. For that to happen, retraining of diplomatic personnel and renovating diplomatic mechanisms become imperative for the best use of AI in diplomacy.
New dynamics demand better management and new skills infused by the required mode and node to navigate in the AI-induced diplomatic field.
Extensive research is being made in the developed world to create humanised artificial intelligence empowered with understanding, feelings, empathy and sympathy for diplomatic performance and to equip AI with trust, confidence and credibility. AI will also be enabled to recognise time and space and learn the necessary tacts. There is a need for the AI triad of data, talent (to develop algorithms) and computing power even to negotiate and represent national interest.
Researchers describe the current times as the "AI spring" as the "AI winter" of the last century has already passed.
It is well known that the U.S. government had approved the "National Artificial Intelligence Act 2020" to promote AI and advance all its essential constituents encompassing social, financial, environmental and public welfare. The State Department, which plays a crucial role in AI development and deployment, has provided policy guidance to implement trustworthy AI programmes through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) AI Policy Observatory, a forum established in February 2021.
The European Union's Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Age (AIDA) is proactively engaged in advancing AI with dynamism.
DeepNet in Canada and DeepMind of England equipped with the neural networks are already up to advance AI technology.
China is also making speedy progress in advancing AI. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken considers China as a significant competitor in the race to make AI a tool for national advancement. The United States has corporate giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon (GAFMA) to achieve technological advancement in the sphere of AI.
China, on the other hand, has its big technological giants Baidou, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) and a dynamic start-up in Shenzhen engaged in the AI competitive game.
Nepal is still a least developed country with little signs of AI development.
However, in August this year, Kathmandu University announced it was starting Bachelor and Master's level courses on AI from September. Other universities should now come forward with initiatives to advance AI education in the country.
Importantly enough, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) needs to promote and expand AI research to juxtapose Nepal with other countries. Obviously, Nepal cannot expect to conduct AI diplomacy without its basic template of AI education and relevant training.
AI needs to be embraced as an essential tool to achieve modern development for socio-economic advancement.
The world has been taking fast strides to jumpstart AI development and its use in all dimensions of national progress. Nepal must grasp its pressing need to navigate in the turbulent sea.
A version of this article appears in the print on September 23 2021, of The Himalayan Times.