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US has lost AI race with China, ex-Pentagon chief says

October 11, 2021

US cyber defense capabilities are at "kindergarten level" in some government departments, the Pentagon's former chief software officer told a British newspaper.

a security camera, a face of a man and ID card next to him
The US has already lost the battle against China in the field of artificial intelligence capabilitiesImage: Imago Images/H. Lucas

China has the competitive edge against the US in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Pentagon's former chief software officer.

"We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years," Nicolas Chaillan said in an interview with London-based business newspaper, Financial Times.

He called the current situation "a done deal," adding that, in his opinion, the race between China and the US was "already over."

Chaillan predicted that China is heading for global dominance because of its advancements in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber capabilities, the Financial Times reported.

He slammed US cyber defense capabilities as at "kindergarten level" in some government departments.

Chaillan made the comments in his first interview since leaving the post as the Pentagon's first-ever software chief.

He recently resigned in protest at the US government's slow pace of technological change, particularly in the military.

Are the US and China in a tech race?

In June, the US Senate approved the United States Innovation and Competition Act to boost US semiconductor production, artificial intelligence development, and other technology.

The injection of around $250 billion (€216 billion), to be invested in the next five years, was widely seen as much-needed cash in the race for technological innovation against China.

After the bill passed, US President Joe Biden said: "We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off."

China's National People's Congress foreign affairs committee said in a statement that the bill "smears China's development" and "interferes in China's internal affairs under the banner of innovation and competition."

How important is AI technology?

Top officials are increasingly paying attention to AI and the future threats it may pose.

In mid-September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed the urgent need for a moratorium on the sale and use of AI systems.

AI was also on the agenda at the inaugural meeting of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting of US and EU officials.

The director of the US government's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in early October said that AI architecture and networks "are weapons" that need to be treated as such.

He explained that there are a number of new threats that come with adversarial, such as data poisoning, spoofing and deep fakes.

He said that as AI technology develops and grows, it will increasingly become a target of cyberattacks and that security of these networks is crucial.

kmm/aw (Reuters, AFP)