The AI Column: How To Think About China, Silicon Valley And CFIUS

The Long March
SOFWERX hosted a Cyber Capability Expo at their newest facility in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 19, 2017.
U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Barry Loo

This month, Congress is debating the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act. One of the most difficult defense issues on the table has nothing to do with new weapons systems, force structure or personnel. The bill includes a plan for changing the interagency process for vetting foreign investment and reforms to the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS reviews and can stop foreign investment in what are deemed to be critical industries to national security. CFIUS has come under increasing scrutiny as China has invested heavily in the U.S. tech sector and many fear are attempting to buy or steal the crown jewels of U.S. technology


The tech world has bristled at the expansion of CFIUS. China has deep pockets and has thrown money at many budding Artificial Intelligence startups. China has aspirations to lead the world in AI, robotics, and aerospace; and has invested heavily in those areas. However, Chinese investment in the U.S. in the first half of 2018 have dropped 90% compared to the same period in 2017. Some of this is due to CFIUS and some of this is a reflection of the budding trade war that the Trump administration has hinted about since the campaign.

China is a dream market for tech start-ups. Its size and growing affluence make it hard to ignore. While Europe has led the way in new digital privacy and “right to be forgotten” laws, China has gone in the opposite direction, centralizing their internet and giving their tech titans access to some of the largest data sets in the world. And, as new Artificial Intelligence applications depend on access to larger and larger data sets, “Data is the new oil” has become the new, trendy tech maxim.

Some national security experts think that CFIUS has not gone far enough. Senator Marco Rubio is one of the loudest voices opposing the Trump administration’s lifting a seven-year ban on Chinese telecom ZTE from selling in the US. The Commerce Department imposed the ban after the intelligence community raised concerns about ZTE installing backdoors in its phone’s security to more easily allow Chinese hackers to spy on them. The Commerce Department choose to waive the ban in exchange for a $1.4 billion fine and sacking the firm’s leadership.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has gone farther, criticizing Google for pulling out of recent DARPA AI project citing ethical concerns while expanding its presence in China. “Google has a center in China, where they have a concept called civil-military fusion,” he said. “Anything that’s going on in that center is going to be used by the military.” China has combined its lack of privacy laws and its newfound acumen in big data and AI to spy on its people, stifle dissent, and oppress its ethnic minorities in its Western provinces.

All technological advantages are fleeting and vulnerable. The Global Positioning System originally only offered selective availability to the civilian world to prevent our enemies from using it against us. When the signal was unscrambled in 2000, what was a niche military technology became a ubiquitous commercial technology. This made it both possible and practical to put a GPS device in every pocket and gave us disruptive, hyper-localized systems like Yelp, Uber, and Tinder.

While the decision to unscramble the signal was wise, it was almost fait accompli. The Russian government was developing a similar satellite system that could have guided their ICBMs to our cities if they hadn’t already cracked our encryption. On balance, developing the GPS system gave us both a temporary military advantage and a more substantive technological and economic advantage that we still enjoy today.

The challenge for CFIUS is knowing how and what to protect. Trying to defend all American intellectual property is a fool’s errand. Expanding the definition of “critical industries” to include these new technologies is undoubtedly wise.

However, too many restrictions might not only harm our businesses but also deny the world the progress that AI promises. It also makes the hubristic assumption that the U.S. will continue to maintain its lead in the AI world and that Chinese advances won’t bleed over into the U.S. as well. We must hope that they choose their battles wisely.

‘Mal Ware’ is the nom de guerre of someone who was fighting in the AI wars before you even knew there was one.

Chief Mass Communication Spc. Keith DeVinney sleeps between exercises during Fleet Combat Camera Pacific's Winter Quick Shot 2013 combined field training exercise in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, Calif., Feb. 17, 2013. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair)

(Reuters Health) - Soldiers who experience sleep problems during basic combat training may be more likely to struggle with psychological distress, attention difficulties, and anger issues during their entry into the military, a recent study suggests.

"These results show that it would probably be useful to check in with new soldiers over time because sleep problems can be a signal that a soldier is encountering difficulties," said Amanda Adrian, lead author of the study and a research psychologist at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.

"Addressing sleep problems early on should help set soldiers up for success as they transition into their next unit of assignment," she said by email.

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The Armed Forces Service Medal has a green, blue and yellow ribbon and a bronze medal featuring a torch like that held by the Statue of Liberty. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Thousands of U.S. service members who've been sent to operate along the Mexico border will receive a military award reserved for troops who "encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action."

The Pentagon has authorized troops who have deployed to the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since last April to receive the Armed Forces Service Medal. Details about the decision were included in a Marine Corps administrative message in response to authorization from the Defense Department.

There is no end date for the award since the operation remains ongoing.

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Photo: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.

Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.

It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.

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Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

It all began with a medical check.

Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.

It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.

Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.

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U.S. Army Cpt. Katrina Hopkins and Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, assigned to Task Force Warhorse, pilot a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operation at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javion Siders)

U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.

However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

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