At an AI conference in Moscow last Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled plans to aggressively develop Russia's domestic AI capabilities to counter dominant Western influence over the technology.
Putin warned that leading Western AI models like ChatGPT potentially "cancel Russian culture" due to being trained predominantly on English language data sets. He announced a new national strategy prioritizing investments into generative AI and supercomputing infrastructure to achieve technological independence.
Putin's remarks echo a growing body of research indicating biases in AI systems developed primarily in English-speaking countries. Studies have shown that these biases can lead to the exclusion or misrepresentation of non-English languages and cultures.
"Our domestic models of artificial intelligence must reflect the entire wealth and diversity of world culture, the heritage, knowledge, and wisdom of all civilizations," Putin said.
The move comes amidst growing global scrutiny over AI's societal impacts and warnings that authoritarian regimes could potentially misuse next-generation tools for oppression or manipulation. Putin, however, insists Russia seeks to ensure its cultural heritage thrives alongside AI.
By staking its claim in AI development, the Kremlin aims to wield influence over a technological field that is increasingly being described as a new "arms race." Putin's adversarial framing of Russian AI as countering Western cultural erasure echoes his broader geopolitical stances.
In contrast to Russia's burgeoning ambitions in AI, China has been rapidly advancing in the field of generative AI. Over the last year, the country has led the rest of the world in enacting regulatory measures governing generative models and making vast investments into the field. With Chinese generative AI startups raising approximately $13.8 billion in the first half of 2023 alone, the country is leading globally in funding for the technology. Moreover, forecasts predict China's generative AI market itself could balloon to over $30 billion by 2025. Though still behind leading Western powers, China's rapid advancement combined with strong governmental support places it well within the swiftly escalating global AI arms race.
Russia's bid for AI relevance faces steep data and talent gaps compared to the tech giants and startups in Western countries and China. But with Putin declaring AI a top national priority, Russia appears to be preparing to channel extensive state resources into closing the divide.