Robotics & Geopolitics: Nations Use Robots to Protect Their Culture
November 02, 2018      

In a week where two nations are cooperating on artificial intelligence rules, two other nations are clashing around the use of military drone swarms, and a third nation is developing robots to preserve itss culture’s languages.

Robotics Business Review has partnered with Abishur Prakash at Center for Innovating the Future to provide its readers with cutting-edge insights into recent developments in international robotics, AI, and unmanned systems. Are you ready to be updated?

Japan, Europe partner on AI rules

Robotics development: The European Union (EU) is asking Japan for assistance in developing rules around artificial intelligence. These rules will be wide-ranging, covering everything from how AI impacts privacy to how AI should be regulated in defense. This AI partnership is part of a broader exchange between Japan and the EU to take collaboration to the next level.

Geopolitical significance: What Japan and the EU are doing is the new way nations are building ties: by partnering and collaborating around new and emerging technologies like robotics and AI.

This isn’t just taking place in Europe. In Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed agreements with Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, to cooperate around AI. Nigeria wants one of its governmental agencies to develop AI capabilities, and the UAE will play a big part in making this happen.

In North America, the U.S. is working with the U.K. to create a framework around AI in the military domain.

Fragmented European Robotics Market Follows Traditional StrengthsIn Asia, Japan signed an agreement with India for joint-research into AI and talent creation. These deals point to the new geopolitical reality in the world, and as this happens, it could tilt geopolitical power.

Consider the deal between Japan and India. Some of the discussions between Tokyo and New Delhi had to do with giving Japan access to the data that 1.3 billion people in India are generating. If this happens, it will give Japanese AI firms a huge advantage in India. AI companies from the U.S., China, South Korea, the EU, and elsewhere may be unable to compete as Japan has exclusive access to powerful data sets.

But this also gives New Delhi a trump card. Tomorrow, India could turn off the flow of data to Japan or threaten to open its data up to other nations, threatening Japanese businesses that may have become dependent on India. The same applies to Japan and Europe.

What Japan and the EU are exploring is unprecedented. At a time when AI could generate $2.5 trillion for Europe, the EU is allowing a foreign country to help it create AI rules. This gives Japan immense power. Tokyo might be able to steer the EU’s policy around “killer robots” to something that is more favorable to Japan. Or Tokyo could work with the EU to create a policy around AI and privacy that targets a Japanese adversary.

As nations cooperate and collaborate around AI, it’s not only creating a new era of international relations, it is also changing the balance of power in these relations.

Drone swarm attack strains U.S., Russia relations

Robotics development: Russia has accused the U.S. of supporting a drone swarm attack on a Russian military base in Syria earlier this year. Moscow claims that the U.S. supported this attack by communicating with the drones through a Poseidon P-8A plane. This plane has drone communication capabilities. The attack consisted of 13 drones, seven of which were destroyed with missiles. The remaining six were neutralized by Russian cyber warfare units, which took control of the drones.

Geopolitical significance: For several years, I warned that drones (and drone swarms), could change the rules of geopolitics. Now, drone swarms are doing just this.

Consider the attack on the Russian base in Syria. Under any “normal model,” this attack would be considered an act of war. However, the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin simply called the drone attack allegation “very alarming,” a far cry from the kind of reaction that would have come out of the Kremlin during the Cold War.

P-8A Poseidon culture article robotics geopolitics

P-8A Poseidon

In other words, the rules changed because of drone swarms. This may further incentivize the use of drones. Countries and organizations around the world are building drone swarm capabilities.

India’s air force, which recently signed a multi-billion dollar deal with France’s Rafaele, is holding a competition to develop drone swarms for the military. In Europe, Airbus has tested an advanced drone swarm that can communicate with manned fighter jets. Meanwhile, the terrorist group “Al Qaeda,” warned it could use drone swarms to attack enemy warships.

The emergence of drone swarms, in both conventional and unconventional settings (i.e. militaries vs. terrorist groups), may end up pushing warfare into a dangerous situation. If drone swarms don’t lead to all-out war, then what will? If the answer is nuclear weapons or invasions by soldiers, then the world may become even more volatile. Nuclear weapons haven’t been used since World War II, and invasions seldom occur.

That means, in a world gripped by paranoia, competition, and suspicion, drone swarms may become the first tool that nations reach for when tensions rise.

Australia protects its culture through robots

Robotics development: To protect the more than 100 unique languages that are spoken in Australia, researchers have created a robot that can teach these languages to children, passing them on to the next generation.

The robot, named “Indigenous Language Opie,” uses facial recognition and tablets to interact with children. Currently, Opie is being deployed in indigenous communities.

Geopolitical significance: As the world changes, in large part thanks to new technologies, certain cultures are being eroded while others are being strengthened. This is leading to a new “clash of cultures.”

In this new clash, nations may turn to robotics and AI to compete and win. One way this could happen is through language translations. Until now, certain languages were more important to learn and know due to the advantages they gave someone. Take, for instance, English in the West, Mandarin in China, Hindi in India. This has meant that certain cultures were more well-known than others.

But in a world with more than 6,500 languages, how do “lesser known” languages and cultures get recognized? AI could be the answer.

For example, AI is reaching a point where it can accurately translate languages, meaning that in the coming years, people may no longer need to learn a language. They could use AI to translate.

Baidu has developed AI that can translate any two languages, such as Chinese to English. MIT is also working on unsupervised algorithms for translation, while Google has “Google Translate,” the most well-known AI translator in the world.

Through AI translation, people may be able to interact with foreign cultures in ways that wasn’t possible before. People may be able to read books written in foreign languages, or speak with people in far corners of the world.

Through AI, cultures could interact and compete in a new way. All of this means that as nations seek to protect and promote their own culture, AI and robotics could be one of the ways they do this. As this new clash of cultures takes place, robotics and AI could be used not only to take a culture around the world, but also to stop it from spreading.