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date: 20 April 2024

International Relations, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligencelocked

International Relations, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligencelocked

  • Ehud Udi EiranEhud Udi EiranUniversity of Haifa

Summary

Scholars and practitioners of international relations (IR) are paying special attention to three significant ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) and big data (BD) are transforming IR, against a background of earlier debates among IR scholars about the effect of technology on the field.

First, AI and BD have emerged as arenas of interstate, mostly great power competition. In this context, scholars suggest, AI and BD are important because an effective use of AI and BD adds significantly to military and economic power. The current competition in these fields, between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, brought scholars to highlight at least four ways in which AI and BD are important: (a) Automating decisions about the use of nuclear force could affect nuclear stability, but scholars still cannot agree in what direction; (b) The central role played by the private sector. This, as opposed to the Cold War era, when the state played the leading role in the development of technology ; (c) the gap between the current two great powers in these technologies is narrow, in contrast to the significant gap in favor of the United States during the Cold War; and (d) the wave of new technologies, including AI, makes weapons systems cheaper and more available for smaller powers and political entities, thus offering a possible curb on the dominance of great powers.

Second, AI and BD are expected to affect national decision-making in the areas of foreign and security policies. Here, scholars highlight three possible transformations: (a) AI will allow states a path for better decision-making on security and foreign policy matters, through the optimization and speeding of existing policy processes; (b) the technology will omit some of the human shortcomings in decision-making, further optimizing the policy process; and (c) AI will be able to offer predictions about policies of other actors in the international system and create effective simulations to help manage crises.

Finally, the inclusion of AI and BD in weapons systems, most notably the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, brings the promise (or horror) of greater efficiency and lethality but also raises significant ethical questions. AI and BD are also affecting other arenas of interstate conflict including the cyber domain and information warfare.

Subjects

  • Conflict Studies
  • Foreign Policy
  • Qualitative Political Methodology
  • Security Studies

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