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April 04, 2023

America Can Win the AI Race

By Paul Scharre

Throughout history, technology has been critical to determining which countries dominate global politics. By rapidly industrializing in the 1800s, Germany and the United Kingdom overtook Russia in economic strength. Europe’s broader industrialization had an even more profound effect. In 1790, Europe, China, and India held roughly the same shares of global manufacturing output, but by 1900, Europe—then home to a quarter of the world’s people—controlled 62 percent of the world’s manufacturing. By contrast, China had six percent and India had less than two.

If the United States wants to win the AI competition, it must approach Beijing carefully and construct its own initiatives thoughtfully.

European powers translated their economic might into military power, launching a wave of colonial expansion. By 1914, Europeans occupied or controlled over 80 percent of the planet’s land surfaces. The states were able to make this translation because the Industrial Revolution had altered the key metrics of power, transforming coal, steel, and oil production into critical components of military success. In World War II, the United States turned its mighty manufacturing capacity to the business of war, retooling factories to build tanks and airplanes and making its military into the world’s most powerful. At the height of the war, Allied factories were producing over 3.5 times as many aircraft and tanks as the Axis powers, burying Germany, Japan, and Italy beneath an onslaught of iron.

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