The New Fire
War, Peace, and Democracy in the Age of AI
AI is revolutionizing the world. Here’s how democracies can come out on top.
Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the modern world. It is ubiquitous—in our homes and offices, in the present and most certainly in the future. Today, we encounter AI as our distant ancestors once encountered fire. If we manage AI well, it will become a force for good, lighting the way to many transformative inventions. If we deploy it thoughtlessly, it will advance beyond our control. If we wield it for destruction, it will fan the flames of a new kind of war, one that holds democracy in the balance. As AI policy experts Ben Buchanan and Andrew Imbrie show in The New Fire, few choices are more urgent—or more fascinating—than how we harness this technology and for what purpose.
The new fire has three sparks: data, algorithms, and computing power. These components fuel viral disinformation campaigns, new hacking tools, and military weapons that once seemed like science fiction. To autocrats, AI offers the prospect of centralized control at home and asymmetric advantages in combat. It is easy to assume that democracies, bound by ethical constraints and disjointed in their approach, will be unable to keep up. But such a dystopia is hardly preordained. Combining an incisive understanding of technology with shrewd geopolitical analysis, Buchanan and Imbrie show how AI can work for democracy. With the right approach, technology need not favor tyranny.