EU member states need to turn their declarations of intent about international cooperation on technological sovereignty into real projects. According to Kai-Fu Li, former president of Google China, Europe has little chance of winning even the "bronze medal" in the global race to develop artificial intelligence (AI). Although this sounds like a harsh judgment, there seems to be widespread agreement among analysts, commentators, and policymakers that Europe is missing the boat on technological innovation in general and AI in particular. Excessive regulation, a business environment ill-suited to start-ups, a lack of investment – the list of grievances is long. But, while these concerns are not completely unfounded, they are somewhat self-flagellating.
For the next five years, I have both the honour and the responsibility of being the European Commissioner for the Internal Market in charge of the digital sector, industry and services, defence, space, the audio-visual sector and tourism. Faced with an extraordinary situation in which our continent finds itself having to tackle the challenges of both climate change and digitisation whilst at the same time coping with emerging geopolitical tensions unprecedented in this century, my mission will be to protect, transform and take forward our internal market, our industrial capabilities and services and our European model, by building on digital transformation across the board. I will be frank: there is an urgent need to pave the way for tomorrow's growth by investing now in the critical technologies of the future. I of course have in mind 5G, but also, even now, 6G, artificial intelligence, the Cloud and, looking ahead, the post-Cloud era, Edge Computing, the Internet of Things and cybersecurity, not forgetting Blockchain and quantum technologies. These are the technologies we have to master to perfection, as they will enable us to make our voice heard as a major global industrial power.
For many foreign policymakers, economic sanctions have become the tool of choice to respond to major geopolitical challenges, from counterterrorism to conflict resolution. Governments and multinational bodies impose economic sanctions to try to alter the strategic decisions of state and nonstate actors that threaten their interests or violate international norms of behavior. Critics say sanctions are often poorly conceived and rarely successful in changing a target's conduct, while supporters contend they have become more effective in recent years and remain an essential foreign policy tool. Sanctions have become the defining feature of the Western response to several geopolitical challenges, including North Korea's nuclear program and Russia's intervention in Ukraine. Economic sanctions are defined as the withdrawal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign and security policy purposes.
"Artificial intelligence" (AI) has become one of the buzzwords of the decade, as a potentially important part of the answer to humanity's biggest challenges in everything from addressing climate change to fighting cancer and even halting the ageing process. It is widely seen as the most important technological development since the mass use of electricity, one that will usher in the next phase of human evolution. At the same time, some warnings that AI could lead to widespread unemployment, rising inequality, the development of surveillance dystopias, or even the end of humanity are worryingly convincing. States would, therefore, be well advised to actively guide AI's development and adoption into their societies. For Europe, 2019 was the year of AI strategy development, as a growing number of EU member states put together expert groups, organised public debates, and published strategies designed to grapple with the possible implications of AI. European countries have developed training programmes, allocated investment, and made plans for cooperation in the area. Next year is likely to be an important one for AI in Europe, as member states and the European Union will need to show that they can fulfil their promises by translating ideas into effective policies. But, while Europeans are doing a lot of work on the economic and societal consequences of the growing use of AI in various areas of life, they generally pay too little attention to one aspect of the issue: the use of AI in the military realm. Strikingly, the military implications of AI are absent from many European AI strategies, as governments and officials appear uncomfortable discussing the subject (with the exception of the debate on limiting "killer robots"). Similarly, the academic and expert discourse on AI in the military also tends to overlook Europe, predominantly focusing on developments in the US, China, and, to some extent, Russia. This is likely because most researchers consider Europe to be an unimportant player in the area.
We live in times of high-tech euphoria marked by instances of geopolitical doom-and-gloom. There seems to be no middle ground between the hype surrounding cutting-edge technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their impact on security and defence, and anxieties over their potential destructive consequences. AI, arguably one of the most important and divisive inventions in human history, is now being glorified as the strategic enabler of the 21st century and next domain of military disruption and geopolitical competition. The race in technological innovation, justified by significant economic and security benefits, is widely recognised as likely to make early adopters the next global leaders. Technological innovation and defence technologies have always occupied central positions in national defence strategies.