Monday, July 3, 2017

Export Control, AI, and Ice Giants

If you look at "Export Control" in the face of the Internet, the change in our societies and nation-states, and the rise of 3d Printing, you have to ask yourself: Is this still a thing?

Most of the policy world turns up its nose at the idea that control regimes can fail at all. Their mantra is that "it worked for nuclear, it'll work for anything". That's the "Frost Giants" argument applied to control regimes in the sense of "We did export control, and we're not dead, so this stuff must work!"

And I haven't read a ton of papers or books recently who have even admitted that control regimes CAN FAIL. But recently I ordered a sample from a 3d printer of their new carbon fiber technique. They will send it to you for free and if you've only experienced the consumer 3d printer technology (which is basically a glue gun controlled by a computer) then it's worth doing.

The newer 3d printers can create basically anything. Guns are the obvious thing (and are mostly made of plastic anyways), but any kind of machined parts are clearly next. What does that mean for trademarks and copyrights, which are themselves a complex world-spanning control regime? Are we about to get "Napstered" in physical goods? Or rather, not "if" but "how soon" on that. Did it already happen and we didn't notice?

If we're going to look at failures, then missile control is an obvious one. This podcast (click here now!) from Arms Control Wonk (which is a GREAT policy podcast) demonstrates a few things towards the end:

  • How reluctant people are to THINK about control regime failure
  • How broken the missile control regimes are in some very complex and interesting ways. When inertial controls become good enough and cheap enough that missiles that previously were only good for nuclear warheads become "artillery" basically, for example.
Acknowledging that export control needs to change fundamentally is going to be a big step. And if I had my way (who knows, I might!) we would build in sunsets to most export control, and have a timeline of around one to five years for most of these controls, and just control a ton less categories and maybe make them work with the rest of our policy. 

AI as a case example

Take a quick gander at these graphics or click this link to see directly - dotted red line is "as good as a human":
The basic sum of this story is anything you can teach a human to recognize, you can do better in the cloud and then eventually on your phone.
The Immunity analysis has always been that there are about five computers in the world, and they all have names. Google, Alexa, Cortana, Siri, Baidu, etc. Our export control regimes are still trying to control the speed of CPUs, which is insane since Moore's law is dead and every chip company is working real hard on heat control now and chips don't even run at one speed anymore and if you ran all the parts in your laptop's CPU at top speed it would melt like cheese on a Philly sandwich.

But there are no computers by our definition in Europe or Russia - they are the third world in the information age. Which at least in the case of Europe is not something they are used to or enjoy thinking about

Read it and weep.
Looking at (and emulating) China's plan may be a good first step. But what are they really doing? 
  1. Funding scientific research in the area of Deep Learning
  2. Funding companies (big and small) doing operational experiments in AI
  3. Creating an AI National Lab 
  4. Making it impossible for foreign AI companies to compete in China (aka, Google)
  5. "Rapidly Gathering Foreign AI talent" and encouraging foreign companies to put research centers in China
  6. Analyzing how Government policies need to change in order to accept AI. MAKING SOCIETY FIT TECHNOLOGY instead of MAKING TECHNOLOGY FIT SOCIETY. Such an under-looked and important part of the Chinese Government's genius on this kind of issue.
  7. Probably a whole ton of really covert stuff!
Right now, the policy arms of the United States are still wrapped up in Encryption and backdoors on phones and "Going Dark" and the Europeans are in an even sillier space, trying to ban "intrusion software". These debates are colossally stupid. It's arguing over the temperature of the tea served on board an old wooden sailboat while next door the dry dock is putting together an Aegis Cruiser! 

AI is the whole pie. It's what game changing looks like when your imagination allows itself to believe in game changing events. It's as life altering to a nation-state as pregnancy is to a marriage. We can't afford to fail, as a society, but we may have to throw out everything we know about control regimes to succeed.


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