Morality and Law
Ethics as Applied Intelligence

An important and visual lesson from the pandemic is that technology is wonderful; it improves the quality of life, gives us new materials, communication, medicines and vaccines. It increases the quality of life and productivity. Life becomes much more comfortable. At the same time, the majority of successful and popular technological innovations are motivated in their entirety by economic factors rather than political ones. Even among social innovations, techniques for exploiting greed have, in many ways, turned out to be much more compelling than love for one's neighbours. This has saved a lot of lives: people in post-Soviet countries began to put children in car seats precisely in order to avoid fines.

In any event, the competition between companies and mega-corporations, the rivalry among states, around intelligence and technology have different facets. At the national level, the club of the smartest brains is still very small, but more democratic, than the military technology club. If a country rushes to be more significant, there is no alternative than to develop technologies and patents, with an emphasis on a certain specialisation, or all at once - if it claims to be a superpower. This resembles  technological napalm.

The simplest and in some ways, of course, superficial criterion is patents. Almost 2/3 of the applications are from Asian patent offices. Two million of the world’s 3.2 million applications for patents come from China and the United States. 85% are concentrated in the five largest patent offices. The top ten countries account for more than 90% of all patents. Regional leaders are also active, be they Iran, Brazil, Turkey or Thailand, and they are more active than their regional neighbours. The process is logical and fairly linear. Germany is the leader in transport patents, and Asia is the leader in electronics. South Korea is absolutely brilliant - the world leader in the number of patent applications per unit of GDP.

But if you look at this through the lens of world politics and international relations, the conclusions are completely non-linear. The French company L`Oreal is the first in the world in terms of the number of trademark applications. However, this does not mean at all that the great powers should now take up the development and marketing of ‘sovereign’ mascara.

What is interesting that not a single new natural science technology as such over the past half century has fundamentally changed the balance of power in relations between countries; nor radically change any country's influence in the international arena directly.

IT companies entered the markets of the whole world and began to sell their goods and services. The Internet did not create a ‘wow’ effect for world politics as such (for political technologies, yes). For the world of advertising, leisure, and education - of course. For convenience of life - certainly. It has even increased vanity. But it hasn’t done as much for world politics.

However, technology really can do it: it has fundamentally changed and is changing nuclear weapons - a political technology of immediate effect. Are there other deadly technologies? There are entirely comparable ones. But it was nuclear weapons that became the basis of the new ethical coordinate system of force. This was convenient, naturally, especially for the strong. Maybe cyber weapons will provide such a new framework. But for now, its ethical boundaries are vague.

Intelligence, technology and ethics

Of course, there is a connection between technology and politics - technology and the state. However, technology that does not alter ethical standards does not really present a problem, challenge or opportunity for the state as an institution or, accordingly, for world politics.

Ethically neutral technologies can be an object of competition and colossal income, but the state as an institution is activated precisely at the stage of mobile ethics. The most obvious advance is weapons of mass destruction.

How can this neutrality be defined? Many technologies evoke vivid emotions, but in order to assess their influence, it is important for states to separate what is unethical or unusual? One is not at all equal to the other.

Today these are combat robots and drones. Because their use raises questions about the response: Is it ethical to kill enemy soldiers for destroying an arsenal of drones? Ethicists argue over the genetic alteration of future children – tailor-made kids. But what is bad about it if children will definitely not get sick with some kind of terrible disease? There are many fears associated with anthropomorphic machines. But a smooth-voiced home assistant - Alexa in the US or Alyssa in Russia - doesn't trigger panic attacks. It's just a brand new item. Will the machine be able to joke or lie? Maybe it's scary, or maybe it's okay. Advertising invented by people constantly lies to us; if machines do the same, should it provoke fear and horror?

In conclusion, let us dwell on the technology of digital platforms, where purely ethical issues of free will and algorithmic predetermination converge. We see a pure battle or symbiosis of three intelligences: the natural intelligence of the user, the trained intelligence of the developer and artificial intelligence.

Algorithms that guide choice and behaviour are not an innovation. In addition to states, religion did an excellent job with this at a certain stage. Monasteries provided free will and supported information bubbles stronger than Google. There are far fewer design differences between willingness to share information about oneself today and practicing confession five hundred years ago than you might think. Digital confession simply has a different objective: convenience, not eternal salvation.

Mega-corporations are not concerned with ethical issues as much as they are with earnings and share prices. Ethics are a concern only insofar as it is necessary for the preservation and increase of profits and the growth of share value. In terms of the logic of power, political relations between states and within states, much less has changed than in instruments.

Therefore, intelligence, not artificial, but quite natural and trained, will be in maximum demand by states in matters of balancing technology and ethics, and in rule-making.

Whoever is the first to push ethical boundaries with the help of intellect and technology, and then fence them, as was the case with nuclear weapons, has a chance to succeed in fundamentally new technologies that change our way of life and political alignments. In other words, the question is not even who will create technologies – be it states, corporations, or networks of scientists and enthusiasts. It is important who will be the monastery defining technological heresy and dogma. This is the most important strategic point of applying intelligence in the foreseeable future, in my opinion.
Climate, Urbanism, Intelligence, Identity, and the Russia Hub. Day 3 of the Valdai Club Annual Meeting
On Wednesday, October 20, the Valdai Club experts continued their work. The third day of the Annual Meeting was very eventful: four sessions were held, including a special session, as well as a meeting with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.