Who’s afraid of Sophia?

By Hassan Baig
June 09, 2024
Artificial Intelligence words are seen written along with a robotic figure in this illustration taken, May 4, 2023. — Reuters

It was quite interesting to see AI robot ‘Sophia’ interacting with all at the entrance of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. The highlights of the summit showed the colossal emerging power of artificial intelligence (AI), which could deliver huge benefits to humanity while averting dire risks of total collapse.


AI is the epitome of new technological development. It is powered by chips and semiconductors, which is a comparatively new industry, where big powers are investing hundreds of billions of dollars.

The new development knows no bounds. It is open ended. No one knows where the buck will stop with AI. The competition amongst the world powers to monopolize the chips industry is at such a high scale that it can now be dubbed: the chip wars. The Chips and Science Act passed by the US Congress in August, 2022 was the start of the chip wars amongst the powerful international players including the US, the EU, China, Russia etc. The basic purpose of the Chips Act was to bring the semiconductor industry back to the US through incentives for chips manufacturing companies to monopolize and control this vital industry and dominate the world.

Chips are also at the centre of electric power and China is dominating EV technology, although the US and the West are not far behind. It started when Tesla began celebrating battery day with the invention of electric vehicles, but China is now dominating this industry. The US is already building a wall against Chinese EV manufacturing dominance, flooding the international market with taxation and tariff restrictions. Semiconductors and chips are at the core of EV systems, from battery management to adaptive cruise and control, enhancing efficiency and safety for EVs.

The competition in the field is at such a high scale that chip firm AMD recently launched new AI chips to take on rival Nvidia in two years’ time and a team of Chinese and Swiss scientists have developed neuromorphic chips that mimic neurons. It was wonderful to see Noland Arbaugh become the first human to receive Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implant chip device: ‘The Link’.

Meanwhile, Dutch firm ASML has opened a laboratory to test the newest chip-making tool in collaboration with Belgium chip research firm 1mec. The international market is abuzz with technological development based on new chip designs and chip factories. The world’s largest semiconductor chip manufacturer is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) with a market share of more than 50 per cent, followed by Samsung and Intel.

Future world trade is going to shift from traditional supply chain methods to chips-based AI systems that are now shaping up in the form of e-commerce. Control of chips has become the centre stage of international politics in the advanced world, especially when it comes to relations between the US and China. The US has imposed restrictions on their companies investing in semiconductors and the chips industry to seriously control exports to other countries. They are pressing their allies to not export semiconductor chips to China. That is why China has now announced that it will invest $47 billion in state-owned chip manufacturing companies to help avoid future crisis. That being said, other multinational companies in the private sector in China are investing billions of dollars in this industry to capture the huge market.

The same is happening in the US, where the Department of Commerce is overseeing $50 billion to promote the semiconductor and chips industry and is directly administering $11 billion to help support and advance US leadership in semiconductor research and development. They are also giving huge incentives to companies investing in this industry. Some other countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia are also investing hundreds of billions of dollars in this industry.

AI has to be earnestly regulated as the unregulated dynamics of this new technology would pose a great risk to humanity. It is feared that if robots and robotic machines are imparted human-like intelligence, it may cause incalculable losses to humanity. Every field will end up being dominated by robots and machines from education and healthcare to defence. This may trigger unforeseen consequences, especially in case of war. The critical question is: who will stop the war, as robotics lack critical thinking or decision making.

Chatbots and generative AI may be useful and helpful in completing our daily assignments, but they also raise concerns and questions when it comes to cyber security. Cyber security overlaps with the security concerns of the state, which cannot be compromised under any circumstance. This is one aspect of the issue of AI but other issues like social media influence through digital tools have also started playing a role in shaping up politics in almost all countries. Politics and political leadership is at stake in this new era of deep fakes, which are directly connected to the new technological revolution.

The most pressing question is how to regulate AI for the best use of humans. There are also genuine concerns that AI has the potential to pose a worst kind of threat to human existence, if not properly regulated and utilized. The lack of critical thinking in such machine intelligence is a real threat to humanity. That has to be taken care of.

Generative AI is the main data tool being used for robots and chatbots including Midjourney or ChatGPT by OpenAI. There is also a race among hi-tech businesses when it comes to AI-backed social media platforms. The future lies with AI backed platforms like Xai, Eleven Labs, which are voice AI startups that have gained unicorn status after their latest round of fundraising.

There seems to be a new human history in the making with the introduction of AI. The future is all about the AI revolution which seems destined to overtake human labour. While emphasizing the importance of open access to AI algorithms and data to facilitate and enhance human capabilities, regulation to ensure accountability and transparency in AI development and deployment is a must. There is a long way to go to regulate or limit AI as it is uncharted territory.

The writer is a former additional secretary and can be reached at: