AI and Math to Play Bigger Role in Global Diplomacy, Expert Says | Artificial intelligence (AI)
IInternational diplomacy has traditionally relied on negotiating power, secret channels of communication, and personal chemistry among leaders. But a new era is upon us in which impartial knowledge of AI algorithms and mathematical techniques such as game theory will play a growing role in agreements between nations, according to the co-founder of the world’s first center for science and diplomacy.
Michael Ambühl, professor of negotiation and conflict management and former Switzerland-EU chief negotiator, said recent advances in AI and machine learning mean that these technologies now have an important role to play in diplomacy. international, including at the Cop26 summit starting later this month. and in post-Brexit trade and immigration agreements.
“These technologies are partially already in use and it will be the intention to use them further,” Ambühl said. “Everything related to data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning… we want to see how this can be made beneficial for multilateral or bilateral diplomacy. “
The use of AI in international negotiations is still in its infancy, he said, citing the use of machine learning to assess data integrity and detect fake news in order to to ensure that the diplomatic process rests on a reliable basis. In the future, these technologies could be used to identify the economic data models that underpin free trade agreements and help standardize certain aspects of the negotiations.
The Lab for Science in Diplomacy, a collaboration between ETH Zürich where Ambühl is based and the University of Geneva, will also focus on ‘negotiation engineering’, where existing mathematical techniques such as game theory are used either to help frame a discussion or to play out different scenarios before engaging in talks.
These tools are not new. Game theory was developed in the 1920s by Hungarian-American mathematician John Von Neumann, initially to formalize the concept of “bluffing” in poker, and then used to assess nuclear strike scenarios during the Cold War. However, until recently, these techniques fell into disuse, “not because of a lack of technology but rather a lack of knowledge,” according to Ambühl. “Diplomats are not used to it.
But as the world becomes increasingly tech-savvy and data-savvy, those who ignore quantitative methods risk selling themselves short. Ambühl said that as Switzerland’s chief negotiator for the EU, he conducted a simulated game theory ahead of the talks that led Switzerland to join the Shengen space and a series of agreements with the EU on Taxation, Trade and Security. The analysis indicated that it was in Switzerland’s interest for the negotiations to proceed as a whole rather than sequentially, and the Swiss government therefore insisted on this point as a basis for the discussions.
Has the EU done its own analysis? “I don’t think so,” Ambühl said. “We didn’t tell them we were doing game theory.”
Taking a mathematical approach can also help “demotivate” underlying conflicts, according to Ambühl. He cites talks between Iran and the P5 + 1 countries in Geneva in 2005, where, as a facilitator, he proposed a mathematical formula for the rate at which Iran would reduce its number of nuclear centrifuges. “When we pitched the idea, it was, ‘Now let’s talk about the size of this gradient, alpha, which is between 0 and 1’,” he said. “You discuss it on a more technical level. “
Can deep-rooted political issues really be distilled into a gradient on a curve? Ambühl said this is missing the essential, which is to crystallize what is being negotiated so as not to come up with a fully formed solution. “This is not about making a technical agreement,” he said. “It’s a political question, but you break it down. You break it down into problems and sub-problems and sub-sub-problems.
A more scientific approach does not mean abandoning traditional methods. “I’m not claiming that you can only negotiate well if you do it that way,” he said. “It always depends on a lot of other factors like your bargaining power, whether you have a charming negotiator, whether you have a prime minister behind who supports difficult negotiations and how well prepared you are.”
Are there any risks that one of these new approaches will backfire, with rival AIs compounding conflicts or resulting in mathematically optimal diplomatic solutions, but having dire consequences in the real world?
“You don’t go to war just because a blind algorithm decides to – it goes without saying that that would be silly,” Ambühl said. “It is still only a decision-making tool.
“You can’t blindly trust this, but neither can you blindly trust the feelings of these politicians,” he added. “You have to do a smart combination of new technologies and political analysis.