‘AI is transformative for the geopolitical order,’ Ian Bremmer says

Artificial Intelligence will have significant impacts on geopolitics and globalization, Ian Bremmer told CNBC.

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Artificial Intelligence will have a significant impact on both geopolitics and globalization, according to Ian Bremmer, political scientist and president of the Eurasia Group.

“I think that AI is transformative for the geopolitical order, both in good ways and in problematic ways,” Bremmer told CNBC’s Tania Bryer for “The CNBC Conversation.”

On the plus side, AI could drive “a new globalization,” Bremmer said — at a time when questions about the state and future of globalization abound. The new technology could see the creation and development of a new global middle class get a boost, he added.

“Anyone with a smartphone will have access to it,” Bremmer explained, adding that he believes this will increase human capital around the world. Areas like medicine and education will be strengthened, while industrial and scientific processes will become more efficient, he suggested.

“In other words, I’m an enthusiast about what this technology will do for the world,” Bremmer said.

However, he also pointed to risks that could lead to negative disruption — and warned that the world is not yet prepared for this. For example, anyone can use AI to write code, but it can also be used to hack into systems or create malware, Bremmer pointed out. Similarly, it may be used to develop vaccines — but also viruses — he added.

“That means that the governance that occurs is going to have to be not just about governments, but the technology companies too. We’re not ready for that, but that’s the reality,” Bremmer said.

Policymakers catching up

Global leaders and policymakers may not be ready yet, Bremmer told CNBC, but they are catching up.

“A year ago, I can’t think of a single conversation I had with a global leader, anywhere in the world, where they were asking about AI — where they were fundamentally concerned about the implications of AI for their political systems, for the global economy, for national security,” he said.

“Today, I can barely think of a single global leader that doesn’t ask me about it.”

This includes countries around the world such as China, the U.S. and U.K., as well as international organizations like the European Union and G7, Bremmer explained. While learning about AI, they are assessing what they do and don’t know, as well as the role technology companies play, he said.

Since the AI boom began at the end of 2022, countries have been racing to understand and regulate the technology. It’s proved a significant challenge for lawmakers due to the incredibly fast growth of AI in the public domain, and the varying challenges it could bring — from job security to national security.

In June, EU lawmakers passed regulations that would require new AI tools, such as chatbots, to be reviewed before being released to the wider population, and ban elements of the technology such as real-time face recognition.

Elsewhere, China announced rules for generative AI services like OpenAI’s viral ChatGPT in July, stating that licenses may be required before such AI tools can be made publicly available.

Steps to AI regulation

But for AI to be properly regulated, a greater understanding of it needs to be established, Bremmer told CNBC.

“You can’t govern it until you know what it is,” he said.

“We need a United Nations-driven process, an intergovernmental panel on artificial intelligence, with the governments, the scientists, the companies together to understand the basic state of play of what AI can do, who the principal actors are, what the opportunities are, what the dangers are.”

For Bremmer, it’s crucial that countries and other actors work together in this field — rather than compete with each other.

“It’s not like nukes, where you have a few countries that have them and you stop everyone else from getting it,” he said. Instead, the decentralized, open-source nature of AI means that anyone will be able to access the latest developments and use them for either good or bad.

Global oversight is therefore key, Bremmer said, suggesting a “geo-technology stability board” as one possible solution. This would see countries and tech companies work together to “try to ensure that we don’t regulate people out of existence, but we have the ability to respond to ensure that the market of AI globally continues to function.”

“It cannot be the U.S. versus China,” Bremmer concluded.

Some countries have already indicated they would be open to collaborating on AI regulation, or at least engaging with peers on the topic. Top French politicians, for example, said they would work with the U.S. on laws around the technology.

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