In Episode #5, we discuss artificial intelligence (AI) with Dr. Valerie Hudson, University Distinguished Professor and George H.W. Bush Chair, Professor of International Affairs at Texas A&M University. We cover:
- Why today is a significant turning point for AI in human society.
- How the Covid-19 pandemic intensifies concerns about data collection and AI applications.
- What world business and government leaders should be considering when crafting AI policies, laws, and regulations.
- Dr. Vaerlie Hudson: The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide by Valerie Hudson et al. and The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff
- Jonathan: (The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- Fred: Ramos v. Louisiana, a U.S. Supreme Court decision on jury unanimity
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 0:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other developing and developed nations wax and wane and their importance in the global stage. While consumption and interconnectedness both increase laws and regulations changes sessom requiring businesses to stay nimble. How do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global law and business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.
Jonathan Bench 0:35
and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every Thursday we take a bite sized look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of our international guests. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finances, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 0:59
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast, please connect with us via email on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests
Jonathan Bench 1:19
People have always been enamored with technology and the way it eases our burdens while amplifying the limited computing capacity of our brains. We are surrounded by low and high technology and many of us use both nonstop throughout our days. We rely on our technology to entertain us to remember things for us and remind us to augment our reality and even to suggest improvements for our lives. How far are we willing to go? Or in other words, how much of our autonomy in thinking and doing? Are we willing to cede to our technological creations and how much do we trust other nations in their technological developments? artificial intelligence is not a new concept. Serious scholarly publications discussing AI began to appear in the 1990s and increased significantly from two Thousand 2007 and again in 2014. As of today, approximately 60,000 research papers per year are focused on AI. Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering predicts that by 2029, computers will have human level intelligence. interest in AI is global, with significant support and developments in the US, Western Europe and advanced Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea. Technology, including AI is a great societal leveler, and it only respects national boundaries when it is crafted to do so for a topic so vast, complicated and potentially perilous to human existence. Many believe we need global guidelines and agreements so that we do not see too much control to our technology. Should leadership on crafting Global Solutions come from the executive branches of world governments from international or national legislative bodies, from the business community, from universities and research institutions or from nongovernmental organizations? Can we craft a global solution among allies and antagonists to ensure fairness, accountability and transparency. Today we are joined by Dr. Valerie M. Hudson to discuss the global governance of AI. Dr. Hudson is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the george HW Bush chair in the department of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, where she directs the program on women peace and security. Her research includes foreign policy analysis, security studies, gender and international relations and methodology. Dr. Hudson’s articles have appeared in numerous journals such as international security, the American Political Science Review, Foreign Policy and Politco. She is the author or editor of several books, including Bare Branches: the Security Implications of Asia Surplus Male Population, which won the American Association of publishers award for the best book in political science and the Otis Dudley Duncan award for best book and social demography resulting in feature stories in the New York Times, The Economist, 60 minutes and other news publications. Dr. Hudson was named The list of foreign policy magazine’s top 100 Global thinkers for 2009 and in 2015, was recognized as distinguished scholar of foreign policy analysis. She has received numerous teaching awards, fellowships and grants, including a Minerva initiative grant from the US Department of Defense. Dr. Hudson is one of the principal investigators of the woman stats project at woman stats.org, which includes the largest compilation of data on the status of women in the world today. She has testified three times before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, assisted the National Intelligence Council in preparing its 2017 global trends paradox of progress report, and served as a member of the expert group on the data to x initiative. Her latest co authored book project is the first political order how sex shapes governance and national security worldwide, published in 2020, by Columbia University Press, Dr. Hudson, thank you for being with us today.
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 4:50
Thanks very much for having me here.
Fred Rocafort 4:52
Dr. Hudson. Starting a few years ago, I noticed that AI became a buzzword and I know where where I lived for, for over a decade, all of a sudden it became the fashionable thing for for youngsters to say when when you ask them what they wanted to go into. So, first of all, how would you describe AI in a simple way? And how is it that your own career path took you into AI?
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 5:26
Well, my current path has been not very straight forward in terms of artificial intelligence. That is to say when I was a doctoral student, I did work heavily in AI. We were trying to adapt AI technologies for the purposes of studying international affairs. And so actually, my very first book project was one called artificial intelligence and international politics. But that was you know quite some time ago, and in the meantime, I’ve been involved in very large data projects, such as the woman stats data project, but I’ve always had one eye that on, on how these artificially intelligent mechanisms that I studied as a doctoral student and, and created as a doctoral student. We’re beginning to be used by governments to not only monitor their populations, but to control their populations. If you’ve lived in China recently, perhaps from what you say you have, you know, that the government is tracking you virtually every moment of the day. Anything that you do is, for example, one of my friends who lives in In China now, if he wants to use the washing machine in his apartment complex, he will have to do a contactless card that will allow him to do so. So he can’t even do his laundry without the Chinese government knowing that he has done his laundry, it is really amazing to see how much the state of China has begun to utilize these systems in a for social control. And that’s why I was very interested in picking up this thread. Once more.
Jonathan Bench 7:44
Dr. Hudson we know that China has been on the rise, especially for the last 20 years, and so has obviously been a big player in this conversation. But why do you see now as a turning point for AI in our society,
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 7:59
that’s a brilliant Question. And I think the reason that is is a turning point is that other states outside of China have seen the example of China. And many of them are eager to emulate China. But China is a closed one party system that makes no pretenses about being an authoritarian political unit, whereas the other countries that are looking at China, with some jealousy are based on different political principles. So the question becomes now before we start wholesale importing, if you will, the Belton srong, the worldview that China has on artificial intelligence and social control, before we start deploying the technologies that China has begun to deploy this time For us to ask ourselves, what we want the limits of this technology to be in order to maintain the core political values of our society.
Jonathan Bench 9:15
If I can ask you a follow up question on that. I see and I’m sure you see this too. Those of us who are watching the international stage see a collision. I mean, we have the natural collision between authoritarian governments and more democratically the governments. And I, I applaud you for what you’re trying to do. And we’ll talk about in a little bit, it seems to me that that China is so good at putting up it’s it’s Great Firewall and exporting. It’s its frame of governance and the technology to back it up. That Do you ultimately this is just kind of a gut feeling. Do you feel like we have a positive future ahead of us? Or is it going to be a long slog no matter what,
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 9:54
oh, the future is always a long slog. It was never meant to be something Sort of cakewalk. You know, human society calls out best in the worst and all of us. And for those who are committed to maintaining a livable society that also has been in full freedom and agency. It will be a constant struggle necessitating constant vigilance. Because the allure of AI is that you don’t actually have to spend a lot of human effort, human discernment, human ethical discussion and deliberation. It allows previously programmed technologies and algorithms to do that for you. And I would say that, at the heart of it, one of the things that is evolutionarly programmed into human beings is to expend the least amount of effort required to do something. At heart We are all evolutionarily programmed to be quite lazy. And therefore I think it is very natural for decision makers to adopt these technologies that allow for the substitution of intense human effort and deliberation. So they will be appealing not simply to authoritarians, but to every human ruler. And I think that’s the inherent risk with developing these quote unquote, labor saving technologies.
Fred Rocafort 11:46
Dr. Hudson, these risks that you described, that go hand in hand with the older technology. Do you think that the ongoing covid 19 pandemic is in any way intensifying the risks associated with artificial intelligence.
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 12:05
You bet. Absolutely. Every emergency is a double edged sword. A disruptive emergency, like the current pandemic emergency allows very good ideas to come to the fore. But it also allows the justification of measures that we would never countenance in a non emergency situation. So for example, the state of Washington, as you know, is very keen on civil liberties. And yet because they were one of the initial hotspots for the corona virus, they have also been the first to legalize the deployment of facial recognition technology. This was shocking to me. I could never imagine that a state like Washington would be the first to agree to this, but it was justified As an emergency measure to counter the needs of the current pandemic. Likewise, Connecticut, Connecticut is a deeply blue state. Connecticut is now experimenting with drone systems to remotely take the temperature of those in Connecticut cities and towns, as well as to artificially in determine whether a person is coughing or sneezing. This should raise alarm bells that in the bluest of states, those that would one would assume with the most committed to civil liberties, that this pandemic has resulted in the deployment of technology that I would argue their citizens would otherwise be very wary about.
Jonathan Bench 13:51
I think for me this calls to mind the bringing home all of the military style equipments from the wars and and letting local police units buy it or lease it or get it really cheaply from the government, right, where all the sudden we have things that were never intended for civilian use being being deployed in civilian environment is does that is? Am I seeing that wrong? Do you see a parallel there as well, Dr. Hudson?
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 14:21
I do see a parallel there because as as you know, the best funded areas of AI are those which have military applications and are able to have massive Defense Department funding behind them. So yes, while people are saying, you know, oh, this wonderful military technology, if we tweaked it a little, you know, it could be good for a civilian purpose. I think you’re absolutely right, that we must remember the origin of a lot of this technology and the origin of A lot of this technology is the military desire to win to dominate, to totally monitor to control, and that those capabilities are built right in to the existing off the shelf technologies. Similarly, I would argue that those technologies that are coming from the corporate world have built right into them ideals of economic monitoring and economic control. And so, it seems to me that citizens ought to be very vigilant about technologies that have been originated by those who have different motives than the average citizen would want for his or her own life.
Jonathan Bench 15:54
So if we are looking at some kind of global governance structure, and you you’ve said that it needs to be something beyond a digital Bill of Rights, but do you think is needed that can really get the conversation started in a in a meaningful way?
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 16:07
Yes. Well, I think it starts with a digital Bill of Rights. You know, I think, if you recall why we even have a bill of rights is that there was a substantial proportion of the colonial population That was very leery of having a strong federal government. And that it was only by promising these folks that there would be a bill of rights that would set out inalienable rights that every person had simply as a result of existing, not rights that were given to them by the state, for rights that were inherent to the dignity of the human situation. You know, that was key to having the American political system as we know it today. And so now In the face of these new technologies, what we need is a digital bill of rights that sets out what kind of rights a human being has in the face of a new and an overwhelming governance structure. But in addition to a digital Bill of Rights, and I think there could be broad agreement about the values inherent in in that, in that Bill of Rights, but beyond expressing that Bill of Rights, we now need to develop the architecture, the institutions, and the oversight that would be capable of In fact, enforcing this digital Bill of Rights upon the actors, whether they be government actors, corporate actors, you name it, whatever actors are interested in deploying artificially intelligent systems and that’s where I’m working working now with a group, an interdisciplinary group of scholars, which is, once we have a broad agreement on what sort of rights an individual has in our digital and artificially intelligent New Age, how exactly can government assure and force those rights?
Fred Rocafort 18:24
Dr. Hudson, turning away from AI. I’d like to ask you about your other areas of research. And in particular, I’d like to ask about your work regarding gender imbalance in China. This is an area that is still of much interest to me. And when I when I first went to China, I was a foreign service officer. I was working at the US consulate in Guangzhou, worked in the economic political section, and this was one of the issues that we tracked and for those of who paid close attention to it, there was a very alarming issue. I remember looking at some of the statistics, not at the national level, but for some of the some of the provinces within our consular district. And these were astounding statistics that even when considered at a superficial level, raised alarms, so I’d love to hear more about about your work in that field, and also about other research areas in which you have worked.
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 19:38
Thank you very much for that question. Yes. in graduate school, I also turned my attention to the question of how what’s going on with women affects the national security of the nation state. When I was doing my doctoral program in international relations and security studies at Ohio State University, you could have gone through My entire graduate program and not known there were women on the planet Earth. It was that woman less. And so the idea that national security could hinge in any way shape or form upon what was happening with women would have been seen as utterly ludicrous, utterly ridiculous at that time point. So it actually took me a while of thinking, reflecting observing the world around me to begin to realize that it is impossible for what’s going on with half literally half the population of the world not to have an effect on what’s going on within nation states. So my first foray into that proposition with my co author, Andrea Den Boer, and she and I did a massive work. It took us years to do this work examining whether there was any linkage between the culling of girls from the birth populations of China in India, and national security challenges that those nations were facing or would be facing in the future. And that required us to really become radically interdisciplinary, bootstrapping ourselves up in demographic techniques and sociology and history, anthropology, it was really quite an amazing journey. And that resulted in our being able to suggest that culling 12 to 15% of the females of your society really does not have a salutary effect on your national security, but rather, it stabilizes your society and makes it more prone not only to violence, but to Collective male grievance, which is highly problematic for these nation states. And I think we’re certainly as you know, both China and India, I think are reaping some of the consequences of their decision to so devaluate the lives of females, that families were incentivized to simply get rid of girls.
Jonathan Bench 22:27
And so can you speak broadly about which countries besides India and China have have reaped the downside of this? Are there countries in the Middle East and Africa that are also impacted in any major way?
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 22:40
Thank you for that question. Sex selective abortion and female infanticide have roots in in every culture, we could not find one single culture, whether in the Western Hemisphere or the eastern hemisphere, that had not historically been touched by females infanticide is the culling of girl infants. However, in the 20th century, that phenomenon was largely confined to China, India and the environments there. So South Korea, Taiwan, India, and its surrounding countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, Nepal. However, in the 21st century, or even, even slightly earlier than that, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, we did find that nations turned again, to the culling of girl infants. So in in 2015, we haven’t got in the 2020 census figures yet, so we don’t know the latest figures. So in 2015, we find actually now almost I think there’s almost 20 nations that have abnormal birth sex ratios and those include places such as Albania and Georgia, in Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as places such as Egypt, island nations such as Vanuatu, Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam. So we have been seeing over the last decade or more a growing spread of sex selective abortion and female infanticide in places that we really did not see that happening in the 20th century. Though, as mentioned before, if you go back far enough, you can find this kind of approach to females in virtually every society.
Jonathan Bench 24:47
And do you see the United States at least under our current administration, at the pulling backs and international obligations and really a feeling of responsibility to to help foster well Western ideals in the rest of the world. Do you see all of this in the backdrop is as affecting, is it accelerating any trends? Is it? Is it good or bad? I have to assume that it’s not a good trend. But what do you what do you think generally, if I can get a little political on you?
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 25:16
You know, it’s certainly was the case that when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State in the first four years of the Barack Obama administration, that she did an amazing work on the promotion of women’s empowerment and women’s rights as a means of stabilizing nations, as, for example, the Office of Global Women’s Issues was large and raised in status tremendously during those first four years, we established an ambassador for global women’s issues, which position had never existed before we developed the quadrennial diplomacy and development review. So an analogue to the Quadrennial Defense review, the which is the QDR, we had the QDDR, The diplomacy and defense review, which really honed in and focused and emphasize the idea that unless we raise the situation of women in the world, societies will continue to be violent and unstable. And I think that most of the research that I’ve done over the last 20 years, has tried to provide an empirical support for that proposition. As mentioned, for example, in our latest book, The first political order how sex shapes governance National Security worldwide. So, unfortunately, after Hillary Clinton stepped down as Secretary of State, there was a fading, even within the time period of the Obama administration on the importance of these issues. Under the Trump administration, the Office of Global Women’s Issues, the ambassador for the Global Women’s Issues, that position went unfilled for virtually three years, we only just got Ambassador Kelley Currie into that position after a long period of time in which that office was simply not filled. I think the emphasis has turned from political and security rights for women to focus almost exclusively on economic empowerment of women under a buck of Trump, who has promulgated the women’s development program as being the the sort of sole focus for women in institution. So, you know, I think there has been that we did have a heyday with Hillary Clinton. But I think that the emphasis on these issues has faded over time in the United States.
Fred Rocafort 28:23
Dr. Hudson, this has been a most informative conversation. In addition to what we glean from conversations with folks like you, we we also want to share with our listeners, the materials that we are we are reading Ewing in order to give them even more opportunities to learn about about interesting subjects. And on that note, I’d like to ask you if you could if you could recommend something that you’re you’re reading at the moment or perhaps something You’re watching could be a movie could be a TV series, anything in fact that could be interesting to our listeners
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 29:09
with reference to the two topics that we’ve engaged today. If one wishes to know more about the threat of data collection and artificial intelligence to our democracy, I think the most magisterial work is Shoshana Zubov Surveillance Capitalism. It’s approximately 800 pages long. But it is wonderfully set up so that if it’s on your nightstand, read about 10 pages or 20 pages before you go to bed at night. It’s it it sort of accretes over time, concept on concept precept on precept. So that is actually a good way to read the book. And it is a deeply concerning examination of what technologies are currently available. And I think it’s sparked my interest in developing policy mechanisms to handle and cope with this threat. On the issue of how the situation of women affects the national security and even international security of our world, then, you know, I don’t mean to be self serving, but I would like to suggest that our book The first political order, which is talking about how the very first political order in any society is the first political order established between the two halves of that society many And women, and that everything that that that is in our society is molded and dyed with the flavor of that first political order. And that was just published last month by Columbia University Press. It’s also pretty long. It’s about 600 pages in length, but I can assure you that your readers would be very, I think, interested in both books. So Shoshana Zubov Surveillance Capitalism, in my own work with my co authors, Donna Lee Bowen and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen called the First Political Order, How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide.
Fred Rocafort 31:52
Thank you for sharing. Jonathan, what about you?
Jonathan Bench 31:55
I’ve been thinking a lot about how the economy is going to recover post COVID-19 In a little while ago, I read a book called The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. He’s the co founder of Andreessen Horowitz, which is a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, very respected entrepreneur. And what I like about this is he looks at business as a series of hard decisions to be made, since a lot of books really glossed over, you know, the kind of focus on the CEO or whoever success, what they did what they did right over time, you know, time and time again. And he really digs into his own past and dealing with a lot of turnaround situations and dealing with some gut wrenching decisions like, how do you fire your best friend from a company you’re in? Which is, it’s it’s not a very feel good book other than I think it’s really good to think that. Like Dr. Hudson said, Life is a long slog, and it’s going to be a series of difficult decisions. And for those of us who are millennials or trend toward the millennial mindset, I think it’s very helpful to remind ourselves that this was not intended to be easy. It’s intended to be a very serious work. out in our lives. And so I like the know the real straight talk that we get from Ben Horowitz in this book and I think it offers some good insights for companies that are struggling now with the effects of COVID-19. And also how to rebuild their companies as we rebuild the economy this year and in the coming years.What about you, Fred, what have you been reading?
Fred Rocafort 33:20
My reading has been a pretty pretty lawyerly, I have to say I’ve been I’ve been really focused on a Supreme Court decision that that just came down came in the name of the cases, Ramos versus Louisiana. And it is a decision that involves or examines the question of unanimity in in jury verdicts. And it is of interest to me for a number of reasons. One of which is the fact that the split in the decision is very atypical. We know you have judges that typically stand on opposite sides sort of banding together, as they considered this one issue. Part of what also is interesting to me is the fact that this decision will have an outsized impact on Puerto Rico, where I grew up. The The only states that are really affected by the decision are Louisiana, and Oregon, as well as Puerto Rico. These are the only jurisdictions that have that allow non unanimous verdicts. And perhaps the most interesting aspect of it for me is this analysis of how it is our laws change and how much an import we should give to two traditions. One of the writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch, he talks about the importance of common law principles regarding the importance of unanimous jury verdicts. But the irony is that the UK has moved away from unanimity. And it actually allows, you know, non unanimous verdict. So it’s interesting to see the arguments made. So it is a bit a lawyerly, like I said, not not perhaps the most exciting reading for some, but at least for anyone who, who has an interest in these issues, I’d recommend you take a look at Ramos versus Louisiana.
Jonathan Bench 35:49
Dr. Hudson, thank you for your time today. We appreciate you and your insights. And I feel like we can ask you questions for hours and hours and never get tired, but I’m sure you would. So thank you again. for being with us, and we look forward to following your work. And with this new book that came out just last month.
Dr. Valerie M Hudson 36:07
It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Fred Rocafort 36:10
Jonathan Bench 36:15
We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to discuss developments in global law and business. and tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.
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