What is the central political question of our day?

No, it is not about The Woke.  From my latest Bloomberg column, here is the core argument:

How to respond to climate change is often postulated as the central question of our time, and while that’s undeniably important, I have another nomination: How will we stop our new and often splendid technologies from being weaponized against us?

I use the term weaponization quite literally — drone attacks, cyberattacks, hostile uses of artificial intelligence, and attacks from space, bioweapons and more. It’s good that the world is emerging from a period of technological stagnation, but therein lies a danger: It is a general principle of world history that new technologies, even the most beneficial ones, are eventually used either as weapons themselves or as instruments of warfare. That was true of the horse, the railroad, the airplane and, of course, nuclear power. It likely will be true for these new developments, too…

Most current ideologies are unprepared for this coming new world. These problems do not have obvious solutions, nor do they offer any obvious way to confer political advantage. The U.S. hasn’t even made much progress on preparing for the next pandemic, and that is with more than 2,500 Americans dying a day from Covid-19.

Here is another point:

There are ideologies that address parts of the weaponization problem. Effective Altruist circles, especially those that focus on the dangers of artificial general intelligence (AGI), are afraid that super-smart AI will develop a mind of its own and impose its will on us, or otherwise engage in evil activities.

That may be a valid concern, but my fears are more general. If AGI is so powerful, then it stands to reason that intermediate products could, in conjunction with human efforts, cause a lot of military conflict. The problem isn’t necessarily Skynet going live. It’s that 40% of Skynet will be plenty dangerous.

The Luddites also have an ideology, namely that the development of new technologies should be stopped altogether. One could debate the benefit-cost ratio of that decision, but suffice to say that China, Russia, and many other rival nations have no such plans, and the U.S. has no real choice other than to try to stay ahead of them.

China is discussed as well, recommended.


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