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AI technology leader will “become ruler of the world”, says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered his comments on the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI), arguing that whoever masters the technology will master the world.

While speaking to students at a careers guidance forum in Moscow, President Putin offered his thoughts on the emerging technology, arguing that grasping the technology could allow for great influence in global affairs. He added that he believed no one country should “monopolise” the field of AI.

“If we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with the entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today,” he said.

“[AI] is the future, not just for Russia, but for all humankind,” he said, according to RT, the state-owned television network. “It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become ruler of the world.”

The Kremlin has got a long way to catch up if Russia is to become the world leader in AI. While the US and Russia may have gone head to head in the space race, the US and China are emerging as the AI superpowers of the future.

In July, the Chinese State Council announced a national AI development plan, which aims to make the country a global leader in AI technology – on the same level as the US – by 2020 and “the world’s premier [AI] innovation centre” by 2030.

The US released a similar plan to grasp the opportunities of AI in a report released in October 2016, “Preparing for the future of artificial intelligence”, which warned that Chinese researchers were publishing more studies relating to machine learning than US researchers.

More recently, a Pentagon report recommended that US regulators are given greater oversight over the Chinese acquisition of “sensitive” technologies, including machine-learning technologies. Beijing has invested extensively in research and foreign acquisitions relating to AI to bolster its growing command of the technology.

Beyond strengthening economies and contributing to innovation in sectors such as health and education, AI has the potential to significantly boost a country’s military strength through the development of cyber weapons, autonomous weapons - such as drone swarms - and more sophisticated surveillance technologies.

During his speech, President Putin also suggested that drones were the future of warfare: “When one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender”, he commented.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to Putin’s comments by tweeting that “competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3”. Musk has frequently warned of the dangers of AI, describing it as the “greatest existential threat” to humanity and “vastly more risky than North Korea”.

Recently, Musk joined 116 influential tech leaders in signing a petition to the UN calling for an international ban on the development of lethal autonomous weapons.

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