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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Today's great powers are sliding toward a new arms race, this time on the battleground of lethal computer code, but experts say that rushing to develop autonomous weapons — which can be erratic and easily stolen — will make violent conflict more likely and yield no winners.
Kaveh writes: The countries leading in artificial intelligence research (U.S., China, Russia, U.K., France, Israel and South Korea) are all developing weapons that hand off increasing portions of the killing process to computers.
In a new report coming out tomorrow and reported first by Axios, PAX, a Dutch nonprofit, describes "clear signs of the start of an AI arms race."
Unlike nuclear weapons, which can be guarded in bunkers and require deep expertise to manufacture, autonomous weapons are not easily locked away. "Once you develop them, these weapons will proliferate widely," Daan Kayser, the PAX report's lead author, tells Axios. "They'll also be used against you."
The reflex to treat AI as an arms race is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, Paul Scharre, an autonomous weapons expert at the Center for a New American Security, warns in Foreign Affairs. In a security dilemma that resembles the Cold War, as countries build up their defenses, the world becomes more dangerous.
But, but, but: The phrase "arms race" conjures images of the Cuban Missile Crisis, while a bigger conflict is likely to play out on the economic battlefield, says Amy Webb, an NYU professor and founder of the Future Today Institute.
What's next: The U.S., unlike most countries, has a clear-cut policy against using weapons that target and kill people without any human input.
Xi Jinping, in Beijing, April 30. Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Getty
For Beijing, this is not 2018: After a year of unwinding problematic debt and leaning in to its transformation to a service economy, China is enjoying a manufacturing and economic rebound.
Axios markets editor Dion Rabouin writes: While the Trump administration amps up its trade rhetoric, China, unlike its more sickly condition last year, is suddenly more important to global economic health than the U.S.
Driving the news: Chinese shares closed up today after yesterday's plunge following new threats from the U.S. It shows that investors perhaps aren't quite ready to declare China's economy DOA despite the shouting from the White House.
The bottom line: The world needs China.
Go deeper: The trade war isn't breaking China's economy
Vacant houses in Newburgh, New York. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty
Japan's aging trend is swelling the number of vacant houses in the country: There were 3.47 million vacant private homes in Japan last year, up 9.1% since 2013. That's 5.5% of the total number of houses, according to Tomohiro Ebuchi and Shohei Nomoto of Nikkei.
That's a lot, but the surge of housing vacancies — for varying reasons — is a global trend.
In the U.S.:
Sumatran orangutan, Suaq Balimbing, Indonesia. Photo: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty
A 2016 Uber protest (left); the Citi building in Long Island City (right). Photos: Getty; Erica Pandey/Axios
Yesterday our top two stories chronicled the Amazon effect in Long Island City, Queens, and a wave of Uber and Lyft protests. These two stories have more in common than we thought.
Erica writes: An observant reader emailed to let us know that the photo we used in our ride-hailing story (see above) was taken in Long Island City as well. It's an image of a 2016 protest against low wages for Uber drivers outside the company's first NYC office, which was on Jackson Avenue in Queens.
Looks like Amazon was not the first tech titan to get interested in Long Island City.