Diplomacy has remained one of the most critical aspects of international relations. Its importance can be understood from the lessons of history, and one of these lessons, is that diplomacy has been present even during the eras of tribal states, chiefdoms and has evolved in the times of empires. In the modern state system, the importance of diplomacy has increased exponentially. Prior to the industrial revolution, diplomatic communication was heavily dependent upon the means of transportation. Diplomacy was conducted and regulated via messengers that had to travel with the help of animals such as a horse and the horsemen generally dispatched with a letter to the concerned tribal states or chiefdoms.
Another example in this regard was the use of pigeons as their speed was faster compared to horses. This system of diplomacy changed altogether after the scientific and industrial revolutions. The invention of the telegram revolutionized the conduct of diplomatic relations. It is said that if telegram was not invented, the British rule would have ended with the War of Independence in 1857. The British officials not only tackled the mutiny but also improvised their diplomatic relations with the huge number of states of India with the help of the telegram system – there were more than six hundred princely states in India. This marvelous improvisation in diplomatic relations was only possible with the invention of telegram. In this way the inventions of telephone and other means of communication revolutionized the conduct of diplomatic affairs.
The nature of the means of communication remained same during the 20th century prior to the invention of the internet. Nobody could imagine that such ubiquity of the means of communication was about to materialized. It is pertinent to mention here that the development of the internet and Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the result of the communication revolution led by Alan Turing’s endeavors. The revolution that nobody could assess coming, became everybody’s supreme asset. Internet multiplied the speed of communication which is directly proportional to the speed of diplomatic affairs.
The first half of the 20th century revolutionized the conduct of diplomacy, the second half of 20th century multiplied its speed and now the first two decades of the 21st century have brought the element of ubiquity in communication. And now comes the most crucial part of intelligence, albeit it is artificial; Artificial Intelligence in the realm of diplomatic affairs.
It is pertinent to mention here that the development of the internet and Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the result of the communication revolution led by Alan Turing’s endeavors.
In recent times, the element of autonomy is being tried to be incorporated in modern machines. At this time machines (computers, smart phones, gadgets, robots etc.) are in a semi-autonomous stage. In the second half of current decade, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and other tech giants conducted unusual experiments in the AI realm. In an experiment conducted by IBM in which humans had to compete with robots in terms of communication skills, a topic of debate was given abruptly, and the robots won over humans in this skill. This is being considered the most important milestone in AI, which is based on developing cognitive linguistic skills in big sets of data in robots, although keeping them void of autonomy.
In contemporary times, the exponential increase in exchange of views/information has made happenings across the globe ubiquitous. Here arise three critical aspects that could enhance or destroy peace and stability, even in the legal realm of diplomatic affairs. Firstly, the control of tech giants on communication means is becoming stronger as compared to the control states exert on the same. For instance, the recent denial of Google to the US government to give its control over Google maps to the state shows that these tech giants are surpassing the power of states. Yes, there are a few exceptions, like China, which is controlling its tech giants. Secondly, ubiquity of means of communication allows cyber attackers to espionage, to disrupt, distort and even make dysfunctional the original message. Thirdly, the frequency of diplomatic communication has also greatly increased, which raises the probability of cyber-attacks.
In the last two years, most of the technologically advanced countries have introduced their national AI strategies. For instance, Canada, China, Denmark, the EU Commission, Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Nordic-Baltic region, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the UAE, and the UK all have introduced their national strategies, in the race for AI. Almost all the countries had underlined their AI policies featuring security and economic elements but the part on diplomacy is absent. It shows that on one hand elements of AI are being incorporated in diplomatic affairs but on the other hand holistic and systematic approach in an organized form is not present. Therefore, an organized and systematic approach based on AI features should be pivotal before policy makers in order to make diplomatic communication safe.
Khaqan Ahmad has done M.Phil in International Relations from the National Defense University, Islamabad. His areas of expertise are Indo-Pacific region, Middle East, European Affairs, International Political economy, Foreign Policy of USA, China and Russia, Philosophy, Theories of IR and Artificial Intelligence. Currently, he is working as a Research Associate at the CSCR.