Experts on the Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to International Psychological Security: Review of the report
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, despite their high significance for social development, raise threats to national and international psychological security (IPS) to a new level. The use of AI to destabilize the economy, political situations, and international relations through targeted high-tech psychological impact on the consciousness of citizens is of a growing danger. Economic difficulties, social contradictions and political conflicts against the background of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic create an objective basis for the malicious use of AI (MUAI) in Northeast Asia. The region has not developed its own security system that would cover all countries of the region and meet their interests. Negative information and psychological impacts associated with various factors of national and international development are increasingly affecting the system of interstate relations in Northeast Asia. Recently, the pace of development of AI technologies in the countries of the region, especially in China, Japan, and South Korea, has sharply increased, which, despite the progressiveness of these achievements, also creates new challenges to psychological security in the region, which require a timely response from state and non-state, national and international structures and institutions.
The report “Experts on the Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to International Psychological Security”  published by Edition of the International Center for Social and Political Studies and Consulting is a result of the implementation of the research project titled “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges to Psychological Security in Northeast Asia,” funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), project number 21-514-92001.
The author of the report is Professor Evgeny Pashentsev, who is a Leading Researcher at the Diplomatic Academy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and the Director of the International Center for Social and Political Studies and Consulting (Moscow). He is a coordinator of the International Research Group on Threats to International Psychological Security through Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence (Research MUAI).
This report presents the responses of 19 experts from 10 countries to questions regarding threats to psychological security posed by the MUAI. The pool of specialists in the field of international relations, AI, geopolitics, political communication, law, cybersecurity engineering, psychology, security sciences had the opportunity to express their expert opinion on 3 groups of issues:
- general threats to ISP caused by the MUAI from now until 2030;
- threats to IPS caused by the MUAI in the countries of residence of the experts;
- situation of the MUAI and IPS in Northeast Asia. This region was chosen due to the fact that AI technologies there are at a fairly high level, which also makes easier its malicious use.
It should be noted that due to the current international situation, 4 out of 19 experts expressed a desire not to publish their answers as part of the report.
Experts were asked to choose an option reflecting their point of view on how much the MUAI increase the level of threat to IIPS today. About 10% of experts believe that such an influence is “only slight”, 56% selected the “noticeably” option, 22% of experts believe that the influence is “strong” [p. 13]. The option “not at all” was not selected by any of the experts. Most experts believe that the situation will worsen by 2030: 53% of the experts answered that the MUAI will “strongly” increase the threats to the IIPS and 47% answered “noticeably”. The options “only slightly” and “not at all” were not selected by any expert [p. 14].
Based on the results of the survey, the most relevant threat is a targeted complex impact on the psyche of large target groups in order to obtain specific political dividends through the psychological management of target audiences. The manipulation of the information agenda, the use of AI technologies to destroy the control process, the malicious use of emotional AI leave a wide field for discussion, although many experts drew attention to the particular danger of a qualitative increase in the level of manipulation of public consciousness with the help of AI [p. 9-13].
Most experts agreed on the need for international cooperation in successfully countering the MUAI. At the same time, a number of experts stressed that such cooperation is difficult to achieve at the global level due to geopolitical confrontation [p. 19-20, 22]. Some of them think that it can be implemented within the framework of international associations, for example, with the active participation of Russia within the BRICS and SCO [p. 20-21].
According to experts, the threats of the MUAI in Northeast Asia are determined by such factors as the conflict situation in the region, the high level of development of AI, the influence of external actors (primarily the United States) who conduct information campaigns against China by using AI [p. 27-29].
In conclusion, the experts analyze the level of public awareness of the countries of Northeast Asia about the existing threats to IPS and try to assess the degree of readiness of the state bodies of the countries of the studied region to respond and confront this kind of threats. The opinions of experts are divided on this issue: some believe that the public of the leading countries is quite well aware of the threats, some believe that the public’s level of awareness is extremely low [p. 32-33]. In my opinion, the reason is that the experts, when answering this question, were guided by various criteria. If we talk about the general awareness of the society in Northeast Asia (including education, information, and economic opportunities), then the level of awareness is really not high enough. Nevertheless, at the state level, the problem of the MUAI is recognized as a challenge to national security, and real measures are already being taken to counter this threat.
Evgeny Pashentsev concludes that among the threats to IPS experts did not mention such a form of the MUAI as the threat of targeted distortion of information about AI, associated with the formation of overestimated expectations from it. Evgeny Pashentsev showed the actual danger of the formation of a financial bubble (as a rule, the occurrence of a bubble is characterized by a rush demand for some product, as a result of which the price for it rises significantly, which, in turn, causes a further increase in demand and may lead to financial ruin). The extremely rapid growth of Big Tech is inextricably linked with AI technologies, which is fraught with financial collapse in the not too distant future.
According to the results of the expert survey, this report demonstrates limited but real opportunities for international cooperation in a new, very important, and yet extremely problematic area of interdisciplinary research that is taking its first steps: the MUAI and IPS. The high degree of readiness of specialists to take part in the survey and, in general, the comprehensiveness and professional competence of the answers received are highly encouraging. During the survey, experts expressed coinciding, significantly different, and even mutually exclusive points of view, which is understandable given the novelty and particularity of the issues being discussed.
The author of the report would like to believe that this survey is just a prologue for future joint international research in the field of the MUAI and IPS. Such research will not only be designed to solve important scientific problems; its principal practical task will be to help ensure the psychological security of society. People must have a clear systemic understanding of the surrounding reality to make conscious choices in their lives. AI is a means to take away this choice in the interests of antisocial actors, but, to a greater extent, it is also a tool for the protection and self-development of the individual and society as a whole.
In conclusion, it should be noted that this report once again proves that the rapid development of AI is accompanied by an increase number of threats. The report shows that in order to effectively counter the threat of the MUAI, it is necessary to introduce technical, political and legal measures within the framework of a socially oriented transformation of the social system. In addition, it is necessary to continue the search for scientifically based solutions to strengthen national defense at the state level, as well as deepen international cooperation in this area within the framework of international organizations. This report represents a tangible contribution to the understanding of the MUAI problem as a threat to the IPS from the point of view of specialists from various fields of science and countries.
1. Evgeny Pashentsev. Experts Comment on AI Malicious Use and Challenges to International Psychological Security. January 2022, RIAC. URL: http://globalstratcom.ru/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/MUAI-and-IPS-Report.pdf