FOIA Document Shows The ‘Structural’ Changes To The U.S. Economy & Society Needed To Compete With China

By J.N. 04|23|20

Last year, a U.S. government body dedicated to examining how artificial intelligence can ‘address the national security and defense needs of the United States’ discussed in detail the ‘structural’ changes that the American economy and society must undergo in order to ensure a technological advantage over China, according to a recent document acquired through a FOIA request.

This document suggests that the U.S. follow China’s lead and even surpass them in many aspects related to AI-driven technologies, particularly their use of mass surveillance.

This perspective clearly clashes with the public rhetoric of prominent U.S. government officials and politicians on China, who have labeled the Chinese government’s technology investments and export of its surveillance systems and other technologies as a major ‘threat’ to Americans’ ‘way of life’

The FOIA document, obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was produced by a little-known U.S. government organization called the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI).

It was created by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its official purpose is ‘to consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States’.

The NSCAI is a key part of the government’s response to what is often referred to as the coming ‘fourth industrial revolution‘, which has been described as ‘a revolution characterized by discontinuous technological development in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, fifth-generation telecommunications networking (5G), nanotechnology and biotechnology, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and quantum computing’.

However, their main focus is ensuring that ‘the United States … maintain a technological advantage in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other associated technologies related to national security and defense’.

The vice-chair of NSCAI, Robert Work – former Deputy Secretary of Defense and senior fellow at the hawkish Center for a New American Security (CNAS)described the commission’s purpose as determining ‘how the U.S. national security apparatus should approach artificial intelligence, including a focus on how the government can work with industry to compete with China’s ‘civil-military fusion’ concept’.

The recently released NSCAI document is a May 2019 presentation entitled ‘Chinese Tech Landscape Overview‘.

Throughout the presentation, the NSCAI promotes the overhaul of the U.S. economy and way of life as necessary for allowing the U.S. to ensure it holds a considerable technological advantage over China, as losing this advantage is currently deemed a major ‘national security’ issue by the U.S. national security apparatus.

Chief among the troublesome ‘structural factors’ highlighted in this presentation are so-called ‘legacy systems’ that are common in the U.S. but much less so in China. The NSCAI document states that examples of ‘legacy systems’ include a financial system that still utilizes cash and card payments, individual car ownership and even receiving medical attention from a human doctor.

It states that, while these ‘legacy systems’ in the US are ‘good enough’, too many ‘good enough’ systems ‘hinder the adoption of new things’, specifically AI-driven systems.

Another structural factor deemed by the NSCAI to be an obstacle to the U.S.’ ability to maintain a technological advantage over China is the ‘scale of the consumer market’, arguing that ‘extreme urban density = on-demand service adoption’.

In other words, extreme urbanization results in more people using online or mobile-based ‘on-demand’ services, ranging from ride-sharing to online shopping. It also cites the use of mass surveillance on China’s ‘huge population base’ is an example of how China’s ‘scale of consumer market’ advantage allowing ‘China to leap ahead’ in the fields of related technologies, like facial recognition.