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Artificial Intelligence and U.S: National strategic approach against future technological threats



Artificial Intelligence (AI): too many words revolve around this concept, but there is not still a standard definition to define its meaning and importance.

To start with, it is fundamental to understand what is generally meant by artificial intelligence.

In the broadest terms, the AI it is the ability of a technological system to sort out problems or perform tasks and activities typical of the human mind and ability. Looking at the IT sector, we could identify AI as the discipline that deals with machines (hardware and software) capable of taking actions autonomously.

Increasing trust in and adoption of AI are necessary ingredients for economic growth and the fuel for future innovations that can benefit society as a whole. Hence, it is a natural consequence how AI warrants attention from States and their Governments and why the White House has been particularly investing its resources in the AI Research and Development (R&D) since years.

AI is definitely inclined to metamorphose every industry and is forecasted to be impactful on every edge of the Department of Defense (DoD) in the long run. Through spanning operations, training, sustainment, force protection, recruiting and healthcare, the US are gaining an opportunity to sharpen the national security, enhance the affordability of military operations, ward citizens and shielding the allies.

According to the Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of USA, the strategic approach must consist in “anticipating the implications of new technologies on the battlefield, rigorously defining the military problems anticipated in future conflict and fostering a culture of experimentation and calculated risk-taking”.

Demonstrating constant attention to the topic, in May 10, 2018, the White House hosted the Artificial Intelligence for American Industry Summit to highlight the need of maintaining the United States leadership in the age of Artificial Intelligence and promise its engagement in AI R&D.

One month later, United States Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios led the American delegation to the G7 Innovation and Technology Ministerial. All G7 members agreed on adopting AI technologies in ways that advance security, peace, and stability via promoting education initiatives and public awareness of the benefits gained thanks to AI, including the respect for privacy as a fundamental value, complying with lawful frameworks for data protection and developing devices able to ensure the accountability of AI systems.

On the wake of these events, in 2018 the United States Department of Defense (DoD) articulated its approach and strategy for advancing the acquisition of AI-enabled capabilities to hone the efficiency of their missions and empower military with a view to the national security.

According to the Summary of the 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the initiatives launched by the Department concerned:

  • seizing AI impact through creating a common foundation of shared data, reusable tools and standards which enable decentralised development and experimentation;
  • focus on a leading AI workforce, by a risk-informed method towards AI implementation;
  • negotiating with academic, industry and international allies and partners to tackle the global challenges;
  • driving to military ethics and AI safety in accomplishment with laws and values.

To further seize upon the outstanding potential of AI technology, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) has been established in 2018 with the purpose to advance the American national security. Hence, the JAIC has rapidly become a jolly of the DoD strategy.

The Center has been meant to leverage the AI-enabled capabilities, balancing the imminent impact of AI within the Department and harmonising all the DoD AI activities.

In more detail, the JAIC accountabilities equalised the aforementioned DoD initiatives and additionally it held promise to pursue an AI policy, governance, safety and cybersecurity coordination and create a world-class AI team which planned new learning and training experiences in technology at all professional level.

The 2019 acted a landmark year for the United States when, on February 11, President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order 13859 to announce the USA AI Initiative. Key pillars of the Initiative were preserving and enhancing AI technology through a whole-of-government strategy in cooperation with private and public sectors, academia and international partners and allies. The most noteworthy detail is the hail for Federal agencies to rate AI research and development (R&D) investments as top priority along with ensuring an open door to high-quality cyberinfrastructure and Federal data.

In support of the American AI Initiative, the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence of The National Science&Technology Council (NSTC) followed up with the release of the National AI R&D Strategic Plan, which set the tone for the rest of the year.

This 2019 up-to-date document was required to supersede and refresh the first National AI R&D Strategic Plan spread in 2016, taking into account significant progresses and considerations which have arisen over the previous three years and ascertaining that Federal R&D investments continued on the forefront of the technological era.

Making an overview of the 2019 Plan, it reviewed and affirmed the persistent relevance of the original seven strategies brainstormed in the above-mentioned 2016 document and came up with a new eighth one. Particularly, these strategic objectives included:

  1. make long-term investments in AI research to further address the constant challenges of technology;
  2. progress effective methods for human-AI collaboration which needs a far-reaching understanding of the AI structure by the human user;
  3. identify and respect the ethical, legal and social involvement of AI in the next future;
  4. ensure a safe, secure and confidential use of AI systems by researchers;
  5. reduce barriers to the use of AI technologies and strengthen shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing;
  6. seize and evaluate AI technologies through proven standards: the more the Nation develops methods to evolve both AI abilities and security, the more it must test and assess them. Only if the method turns successful it can be hired as a world-wide standard;
  7. individualise the national AI R&D workforce lacks to lead the world in AI research and applications;
  8. increase partnerships between the Federal Government and academia, industry, and other non-Federal entities to achieve breakthroughs in AI.

One year later the launching of the US Artificial Intelligence Initiative, the Year One-Annual Report 2020 has reviewed the strategic objectives of the Initiative and stressed the tremendous need to prioritize AI R&D investments and international engagement.

In light of this, it is evident that there are several factors displaying a reticence by American companies to invest in the research needed to make fundamental breakthroughs and underspin the battlefield disputed with Chinese and Russian superpowers.

A lack of investments in the technological research might be translated in a lack of breakthroughs and it would certainly put China and Russia in an excellent position to threaten and overtake the US alleged advances. Not by chance, China and Russia are making significant investments in AI for military purposes and it undoubtedly shows up how both superpowers are strong-willed to achieve a leadership in the AI field.

It is not a new that the US bear the marks of a long-standing race and the Artificial Intelligence risks to appear as a new scapegoat to maintain its strategic position and prevail on future battlefields.

From our partner International Affairs

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn



Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer



When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them



Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*

In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.

New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming

To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.

Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.

We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.

How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?

Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.

As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.

Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.

Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.

Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.

Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.

Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.

Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.

Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.

Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

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