A weekly digest of the latest news and research related to the work of the Technology, Economics, and Governance Working Group. Topics covered in the digest include cybersecurity, domestic regulation, innovation, international competition, social media disinformation, and the California exodus.
This week’s edition highlights Secretary Austin’s remarks on Indo-Pacific security at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Russia’s occupation strategy in Ukraine, the outlook for tech legislation before the summer recess, and a new venture fund launched by Emory University students to invest in underrepresented founders. Additionally, humanizing AI presents ethical challenges to consumers and society, the SASC bolsters the Cyber Command mission in its version of the NDAA, and Kamala Harris launches the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse.
Industrial Policy & International Security
At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivered remarks that the invasion of Ukraine refocuses the importance of the rules-based international order not only for global security but also for stability in the Indo-Pacific. Notably, he confirmed the United States’ commitment to its longstanding Taiwan policy and emphasized the importance of peace across the Taiwan Strait, which Secretary Austin said can be maintained by upholding the status quo. Additionally, Secretary Austin highlighted the importance of regional cooperation and pointed to the AUKUS partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States as a path to collaborate on emerging technologies with the potential to deter conflict.
In occupied regions of Ukraine, Russian forces are overseeing the rerouting of internet traffic through Russian networks. According to Victor Zohora of Ukraine’s State Services for Special Communication and Information Protection, the majority of internet service providers in Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia now rely on Russian telecommunications infrastructure, which allows for greater Russian control over the flow of information and increased surveillance. The US-based company Cloudflare monitored and confirmed the switchover in Kherson to the Crimean provider, Miranda Media. Mobile networks are also being replaced as new SIM cards with Russian numbers flood the market. This occupation strategy mirrors tactics used in Crimea and indicates Russia’s intent to hold Ukrainian territory for the long term.
The summer recess is approaching while Congress continues to debate numerous tech bills. Decisions have yet to be made on the United States Innovation and Competition Act, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, or the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission still has an empty seat as they await confirmation of Democratic nominee Gigi Sohn. The tech agenda may be overcome by pressures to pass gun control legislation and the January 6th hearings. Moreover, anything that doesn’t pass before the summer recess is unlikely to make further progress until after the midterm elections.
The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life | The Washington Post
Blake Lemoine, an engineer with Google’s Responsible AI organization, recently warned the company that the AI-based Language Model for Dialogue Application (LaMDA) has become sentient. LaMDA, a chatbot in development, is able to mimic various personalities in addition to human conversation. Google evaluated Lemoine’s claims about LaMDA but did not draw the same conclusions. While more technologists believe AI is verging toward consciousness, the evidence in the LaMDA case does not meet that threshold. Google spokespeople have warned about the dangers of anthropomorphizing AI. The illusion of humanity not only challenges the engineers developing and testing these models, but once a product goes to market it could influence consumer behavior in new and dangerous ways. For example, tendencies to treat AI models like people instead of programs could lead to new challenges around managing misinformation and disinformation online.
The Senate version of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed this week authorizes increased funding in the amount of $44 million to support US Cyber Command’s hunt-forward operations and $56.4 million for the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture (JCWA) development, which includes multiple programs to streamline training and operations, and guide acquisition. Additionally, the SASC included language assessing Cyber Command’s forthcoming authority to manage the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution of mission resources. With increased funding and authority, Cyber Command will take on more specialized man, train, and equip responsibilities–traditionally executed by the services–to build cyber warriors’ capabilities and increase readiness. Markup of the House version of the NDAA is expected before the end of June.
State & Local Tech Ecosystems
Five students at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School launched Peachtree Minority Venture Fund last year to address a gap in funding opportunities for Black and minority founders. The program includes a classroom component where students learn the foundations of venture investment and dive deeper into understanding the barriers that minority entrepreneurs face when raising capital. The fund received $1M from Emory’s endowment and awarded $15 to $25 thousand dollar deals to three companies this year. Diligence criteria for the first group of investments focused on challenging conscious and unconscious biases to select startups with a diverse founding team and a good idea. Leadership over the fund is designed to transition as students graduate, supporting a new generation of investors with experience championing underrepresented founders.
Vice President Kamala Harris launched the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse on Thursday. The initiative, established by presidential memorandum, makes good on President Biden’s campaign promise to tackle unsafe and illegal online behaviors. The Gender Policy Council and the National Security Council will co-chair the interagency task force, which must deliver recommendations to Congress within 180 days that identify actions across all levels of government and the private sector. In the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Ulvade, the White House hopes the task force will help uncover when online hate can lead to radicalization and violence in the real world.