UN Secretary-General: US-China Tech Split Worse Than Cold War

And we see the impact of inequality more and more, not only among countries but within each country, and we see the disquiet in so many societies because people feel frustrated that they are left behind.

NT: That was a profound description of the problems on all three levels. Let’s start with the first one—the geostrategic level. One of the metaphors that people sometimes use for this fracture between the US internet and the Chinese internet is that we’ll have a new Cold War. And countries will have to choose sides—they’ll have to choose whether they want to build with American or Western technology, or with Chinese technology. Do you think that is an appropriate metaphor? And how does it differ from the Cold War we had before?

AG: The Cold War in the past was more predictable and more well defined. In the end, there were two worlds that were indeed separated. But the risks of confrontation were limited. The main risk was, of course, atomic confrontation. But with time and with wisdom, after some risky situations, mechanisms were created and a disarmament agenda was in place that, in the last decades of the last century, worked. And we have seen remarkable reductions in nuclear arsenals.

When we look at cyberspace, it’s much more complicated. First of all, I am convinced that if one day would have a major confrontation, it would start with a massive, massive cyber attack, not only on military installations, but some civilian infrastructure. And we do not have clarity on legal frameworks on this. I mean, there is a general principle that international law applies in cyberspace, it is not clear how international method in law applies and these other laws of war. The self-defense principle of the UN—how does it apply in this context? When is it war, when is it not war in these situations? And then, of course, artificial intelligence will develop new kinds of weapons.

We are totally against—and this is a position I’ve been stressing strongly—we are against weapons, autonomous weapons, that can have the right to choose targets and kill people without human interference. And we know that the technology is available for that.

And there is no consensus in the world about how to regulate it. Some countries think that they should be forbidden, as I believe, some countries think that no, that is not justified.

NT: Quick side point: Would you forbid the use of unmanned defensive weapon systems, or just offensive?

AG: It’s very difficult to distinguish what it is defensive and what is offensive. Our position is that weapons, autonomous weapons, that have the right to kill people, that they choose without human interference, when accountability mechanisms cannot be established, should be banned. But that is our position. There is no consensus in the international community about it. What I’m trying to say is that the Cold War of the past was much more predictable than an environment in which there will be no serious international cooperation in the future if this decoupling takes place—and in which the number of ways in which we can create havoc in the world is much bigger.

So I mean, the level of uncertainty and the unpredictability is bigger. That is the reason why I strongly believe that an effort must be made to address this challenge, and to create the conditions, as I said, to have a universal economy, a universal internet, and to have a number of mechanisms of dialogue and coordination and cooperation, to establish a set of rules that allow for these risks to be minimized. So, to use an old expression. It was the rise of Athens, and the fear that rise created in Sparta, that made war inevitable. Now, I don’t believe that war is inevitable. On the contrary, history proves that in many situations like these, there was no war. But we need to have leadership on both sides and on the international community committed to create the conditions for this evolution to take place in a harmonious way, and to avoid forms of decoupling or separation that might create bigger risks in the future.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/un-secretary-general-antonio-guterres-internet-risks