The year 2023 marked a significant milestone in the realm of technological advancement, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). This period of rapid innovation has provided valuable lessons on how technology can rapidly evolve and impact various aspects of society and global politics.
AI’s leap forward: From theory to reality
One of the most striking developments of 2023 was the unexpected and swift progress in AI technology, epitomized by the advancements in GPT-4. Previously, the widespread transformative impact of AI was not a mainstream expectation. However, within a year, this perspective shifted dramatically. The rapid development in AI, especially in fields such as GPT-4, has led to predictions that AI could surpass human capabilities in most intellectual endeavors within a decade, with some experts anticipating this transition in even less time. The possibility of achieving Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), once a distant concept, now seems within reach, albeit at a significant cost.
This swift progress in AI challenges previous notions that major technological innovations emerge only after prolonged periods of development. Instead, it suggests that significant breakthroughs can occur rapidly, following what may seem like stagnation. This phenomenon parallels the unexpected speed in developing mRNA vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic, overturning the conventional timeline expectations for vaccine development.
The diminishing power of deterrence
Another key observation from 2023 is the apparent reduction in the effectiveness of deterrence in international conflicts. The ongoing conflicts involving Israel and Hamas, and Russia’s war in Ukraine, despite substantial international support and heavy losses, indicate a shift. These examples demonstrate that the persistence and conviction in one’s cause can outweigh the power of deterrence. This realization is particularly concerning for the United States, which has historically relied on deterrence to maintain its international alliances and support global stability.
This trend suggests a potential rise in international conflicts, challenging the notion, popularized by psychologist Steven Pinker, of a world becoming progressively more peaceful. Instead, it appears that periods of peace may inadvertently set the stage for future conflicts, lending credibility to cyclical theories of world peace and conflict.
Governance challenges in educational institutions
The year also highlighted significant governance challenges, particularly within American universities. The handling of issues such as antisemitism, academic freedom, and student safety has been widely criticized, reflecting poorly on the governance mechanisms of these institutions. The unwieldy size of governing boards, as seen in institutions like MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, has led to ineffective decision-making in times of crisis. This situation underscores the importance of efficient and responsive governance structures, not only in educational settings but across various sectors.
Looking ahead: Governance and AI in 2024
The lessons from 2023 underscore the importance of governance in managing the challenges and opportunities presented by rapid technological advances. As AI continues to evolve at an unprecedented rate, the governance structures in place will play a crucial role in shaping the impact of these technologies on society. The balance between the positive potential of AI and the risks associated with failed deterrence and governance issues will be a defining factor in the coming years.
2023 was a year of significant and surprising developments both in technology and international relations. The advancements in AI have opened new possibilities and challenges, while the shifts in global politics have raised concerns about the effectiveness of traditional strategies like deterrence. As we move into 2024, the quality of governance will be critical in navigating these complex and rapidly changing landscapes.