The Risks of AI: An Interview with Georgetown’s Helen Toner

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 1, January 2o22

The JPR interview with Helen Toner, the Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University, was conducted via email between 4 January 2022 and 13 January 2022.

Corr: What are the national security risks and benefits of AI?

Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University.

Toner: This is a huge question! AI is a general-purpose technology, meaning that—like electricity or the computer—its impacts will be felt across practically all industries and areas of society. Accordingly, it presents a huge range of potential risks and benefits from a national security perspective. One way of trying to summarize the possibilities might be as follows: the benefits will largely be in line with the kinds of benefits we have seen from increasingly sophisticated computing technology more generally: greater efficiency and accuracy, as well as the ability to perform tasks at scales impossible for humans (think: how Google search trawls the web). In terms of risks, one breakdown proposed by Zwetsloot and Dafoe is to think in terms of risks from accidents (i.e. unintended outcomes from using AI), misuse (i.e. the deliberate use of AI to cause harm), and structural changes (i.e. how progress in AI shapes surrounding systems and dynamics). I realize this is fairly abstract, but it’s impossible to enumerate specific risks without narrowing the scope to particular application areas, time frames, and actors.

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Chinese Communist Party Cooperation with Gangs and Politicians in Canada: Book Review

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 5, May 2021

By Anders Corr

The book cover of Wilful Blindness, by Sam Cooper.

Wilful Blindness How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP agents Infiltrated the West, by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, 2021, $28.95 CAD.

An investigative reporter in Canada, Sam Cooper, is at the tip of the spear, where China injects money, drugs, spies, and underage prostitutes into all of North America. Cooper provides us with a front-row seat of China’s espionage, drug supercartels, support to terrorism, money laundering, and, for a pledge of support to Beijing, campaign donations to the politicians who lurk around China’s United Front groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. Add to that investigations of trafficking in weapons. Heads of state, including Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, are linked by the author to the nefarious characters from China who are doing this dirty business.

It sounds too crazy to be true.  

But Cooper’s new book, Wilful Blindness, is nonfiction, and based on five years of his investigative reporting on the topic, and confidential sources in Canadian intelligence and police agencies. It vindicates, and brings up to date, a joint Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report that in 1997 made many of the same claims. That report, called “Sidewinder”, was suppressed by Ottawa, which at time was trying to ink new trade deals with Beijing.  Continue reading

Nasif Ahmed: Hong Kong Independence

“Hong Kong Independence”, by Nasif Ahmed.

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Democratizing China Should Be The U.S. Priority

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 7, July 2019

By Anders Corr

Protestors hold placards and illuminated smartphones beside a large banner calling for democracy during a protest in Hong Kong, China, on June 26, 2019. Some protesters held signs calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to save Hong Kong. Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. goals in relation to China, our biggest national security threat, tend to array along three main axes: military, diplomatic, and economic. But in deference to the failed strategy of engagement, we don’t use the significant normative and ideological power of democratization as a multiplier on these battlefields, nor does the prospect of democratizing China factor sufficiently in our cost-benefit analyses.

Militarily, we prioritize defense from China, but other than ongoing military support to Taiwan and the Tibet campaign of 1957-72,[1] we have not used our substantial military resources to promote democracy in China, for example in the rebellious zones of Xinjiang or Hong Kong. Economically, we prioritize U.S. market share in China, IP protection, and beating China’s GDP, technology and industrial strength. But we don’t condition our China trade on our lowest priorities, human rights and democracy.

In the short term our military and economic priorities are correct, but given the Chinese Communist Party’s growing strength globally, we must increase the prioritization of democracy as a long-term end goal in China, and we need to reevaluate opportunities to use our still substantial but relatively diminishing military and economic power to bring democracy to China. Continue reading

Celebrating Independence In Al Anbar, Iraq

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 7, July 2019

By Heath Hansen

Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in Summer 2007. Photo: Heath Hansen.

Even though it was only 0500, the heat was already approaching the high 90’s and I could feel my sticky uniform only too well, sandwiched between skin and body armor. The Humvee engines were idling and the smell of JP-8 fuel stung my nostrils. “Hansen, 2nd platoon’s electronic warfare vehicle is down. We’ll need you in the lead element for the mission. You’re truck commander.”

“Roger, sir,” I replied to my platoon leader, “My truck’s ready, I’ll let the crew know.” More than four years had passed since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and we were still trying to secure independence for this country. It was the summer of 2007, in Anbar Province, and my company was headed out for another assignment in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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