U.S. and China Seek AI Agreement U.S. and China open dialogue to prevent AI catastrophes

Jun 5, 2024
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2 min read
U.S. and China Seek AI Agreement: U.S. and China open dialogue to prevent AI catastrophes

The United States and China opened a dialogue to avert hypothetical AI catastrophes.

What’s new: Officials of the two nations met in Geneva for an initial conversation intended to prevent AI-driven accidents or worse, The Washington Post reported.

How it works: The meeting followed up on a November meeting between U.S. president Joe Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping. The discussion was conceived as an opportunity for the nuclear-armed superpowers, both of which have pegged their strategic ambitions to AI technology, to air their concerns. It resulted in no public statements about concrete actions or commitments.

  • The meeting aimed to prevent a “miscalculation” that might lead to unintended conflict, U.S. officials said. They ruled out the possibility that it might promote technical collaboration.
  • U.S. diplomats wished to discuss China’s “misuse” of AI, a U.S. government spokesperson said without further clarification. Chinese envoys expressed dissatisfaction with “U.S. restrictions and pressure in the field of artificial intelligence,” such as U.S. restrictions on the sale of AI chips to Chinese customers.
  • Neither side indicated whether or when further meetings would occur.

Behind the news: AI-related tensions between the two countries have intensified in recent years. The U.S. government, in an effort to maintain its technological advantage and hamper China’s AI development, has imposed controls on the export of specialized AI chips like the Nvidia A100 and H100 to Chinese customers. Restrictions on the development of models that bear on U.S. national security may follow if further proposed export controls are enacted. Such controls have rankled the Chinese government. Meanwhile, both countries have developed and deployed autonomous military vehicles, and autonomous weapons are proliferating. In November 2023, both countries signed the Bletchley Park declaration to mitigate AI-related risks including cybersecurity, biotechnology, and misinformation.

What they’re saying: “The real verdict on whether these talks were successful will be whether they continue into the future.” — Helen Toner, analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and former OpenAI board member, quoted by Associated Press.

Why it matters: Officials and observers alike worry that rivalry between the U.S. and China may lead to severe consequences. However, just as the red telephone enabled U.S. and Soviet leaders to communicate during emergencies in the Cold War, face-to-face dialogue can help bring the two countries into alignment around AI-related risks and ways to reduce them.

We’re thinking: We support harmonious relations between the U.S. and China, but we’re deeply concerned that export controls could stifle open source software. This might slow down China’s progress in AI, but would also hurt the U.S. and its allies.


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