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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution cemented Great Britain's claims to global superiority, and later catapulted the United States into dominance. But they were not alone. Japan and Germany also arose as major industrial, military and political powers.
What's going on: In a transition that could be as momentous, the U.S. and China today are racing to master artificial intelligence. But it's no longer clear, as had seemed the case, that one or the other will hold the field to itself. According to a new study, the winner may be forced to share geopolitical sway with smaller nations like Israel, Russia or Singapore.
The study, released by the Center for a New American Security, suggests that the U.S. government has been flat-footed in the race, and reprises a refrain that Beijing is richly supporting its own private players.
The U.S. is ready for neither potential outcome, the report says.
One question is why experts think that AI will confer unusual geopolitical leverage. The report says:
Navigating in Xi'an, China. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft/Getty
In the 1930s, New York building commissioner Robert Moses built one highway and bridge after another, with the aim of relieving congestion in America's biggest city. But each time, the result was the same: worse traffic.
What's going on: Eight decades later, transportation experts are observing a similar phenomenon with the world's newest urban innovation: ride-hailing services.
Why it matters: A major promise of the self-driving, ride-hailing future has been cleaner, more walkable, and people-friendly cities, with much more efficient, individual transportation. But if the study — like others before it — is accurate, we are instead heading toward a bigger problem.
Bruce Schaller, a former New York deputy commissioner of transportation and author of the report, tells Axios that when people use a ride-hailing company, they are opting to do so rather than take public transportation, walk or bike. They generally are not choosing between hailing and driving themselves.
Schaller's report aligns with an October study released by UC Davis. It found that, in U.S. cities, 49% to 61% of ride-hailing trips would have not been made at all, or by walking, biking, or public transit.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
AI experts — concerned about reported blunders with high-stakes systems from Amazon and IBM — are urging more oversight, testing, and perhaps a fundamental rethinking of the underlying technology, Kaveh Waddell writes.
In an earlier case, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March.
But there are reasons experts are worried: Wall Street, the military, and other sectors expect AI to make increasingly weighty decisions in the future, with less and less human involvement. And if the systems behave inaccurately or display biases, the consequences outside the lab could cause harm to real people.
Jack Clark, strategy and communications director at OpenAI, says these cases are not marks against deep learning as a technology — just indications that the method was poorly implemented in this case. Speaking to Axios, he urged that AI systems be "vigorously and transparently tested in the wild" before they’re put to work in the real world.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Sombra poses with fans at El Dorado Airport. Photo: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty
Among Colombia's pantheon of media stars is Sombra, a drug-sniffing German shepherd with a $7,000 bounty on her head — dead or alive — from the irate Gulf Clan cocaine cartel, reports Manuel Rueda of The Associated Press.
What's going on: Over her career, Sombra, working with the Colombian police, has pointed the way to more than two tons of cocaine.
That record has naturally ignited the ire of the Gulf Clan, so in January, police shifted her duties. Now Sombra sniffs out illicit cargo at El Dorado Airport in Bogota. When she goes off duty, she often has two police guards.