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Geopolitics in the era of Cold War 2.0

Geopolitics in the era of Cold War 2.0

As China assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council and the Presidents of China and the US meet in San Francisco on the sidelines of APEC summit this month, the two superpowers are expected to take serious steps to bring the conflicting parties— Israel-Palestine and Russia-Ukraine— into negotiating table for tangible outcomes.

As compliant partners and rational competitors, the two giants should work for the greater good of society, humankind and the universe, keeping in mind that they will be able to retain their prime positions only through decent leadership, equable and nimble rationality, amity and cooperation. 

Globalization and a corresponding drive toward neoliberalism had a role in shaping the global political order in the past. At present, the intricacy of ‘techno-geopolitics’ and ‘techno-nationalism’ is making a sway in digital, economic, social and democratic order thereby impelling a new global order.

‘Democracy’ is said to be in decline in many parts of the world, while its global state is ‘complex’, ‘fluid’ and ‘unequal’ in 2023 (Global State of Democracy Initiative). Considered to be a process rather than a “system” or any form of institution, democracy can come to a halt when it encounters critical threats from any actor— be it human or machine.

 “The human being ranks higher than machines and technology”, reads Article 12, Section 1 of the 1947 Constitution of Bremen, an entity of the German federal state, perhaps foreseeing the prospective supremacy of machines (AI) over humans. 

An Open Letter titled “Pause Giant AI Experiments” originally signed by a 1000-plus tech, social and AI leaders around the world on March 22, 2023 has garnered more than 33700 signatures, including that of this author. 

It reads, “Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk the loss of control over our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks manageable…” 

Unlawful development and deployment of generative AI has heightened risks of weaponization of AI technology to the detriment of humanity and human civilizations. The extensive misuse of AI has been posing a serious threat to democracy and humanity through ‘deep-fakes’ or ‘scams’.

After a Covid-19 pandemic that continues to haunt humanity, the world is witnessing two major threats—the “tech threat” that is challenging the sovereignty of nations, posing crucial threats to democracy and impinging on personal sovereign dignity of individuals; and the “religious radicalism” that could foment civilizational clashes and lead to disastrous consequences like ethnic cleansing. These two threats can sweep human civilization by wreaking havoc around the world.

Civilization clashes—be it Hindu-Muslim conflicts or the Manipur violence in India, Islam-Christian tensions around the world after 9/11, Black-White racial clashes in the US, the Rohingya sweeping in Myanmar, ethnic conflicts in Africa or Middle-East or ethnic clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh, the  diplomatic fiasco between India and Canada that is deep-rooted to religious radicalism or the recent Hamas attack in Israel and the Israeli counter-attack that are fuelling Muslim-Jews clashes—all reflect domination of religion over religion, culture over culture, human over human, nation over nation, and civilization over civilization. These developments could permeate beyond national boundaries and end up challenging the existing global social, civilizational or democratic order. 

Transnational issues such as terrorism, war, crimes, financial issues, climate change, economic stability, energy and food security, intellectual property rights, cybersecurity, nuclear and AI threats, maritime security, poverty and pandemics are also causing chaos worldwide.  

The author is a geopolitical analyst. This article is part 2 of a three-part series