Russia struggles to catch up in global AI race

Russia lags behind the West in AI innovation indicators and supercomputing capacity. The country is facing challenges such as a brain drain of IT specialists, sanctions limiting access to advanced chips, and dwindling private investment in tech. The Russian government aims to increase supercomputing capacity, improve AI professional training, and enhance cooperation with BRICS countries. Despite progress in military AI, Russia falls behind in general-purpose civilian AI, an area where Western and Chinese strategists expect economic and geopolitical advantages. The state’s involvement in the industry brings inefficiency and a focus on military AI rather than civilian applications.

Russia flag is depicted on the screen with the program code

Russia faces significant challenges in the AI race, particularly with the dominance of Western AI models. The success of OpenAI’s Chat GPT, an AI tool, has led Putin to warn against the dangers of relying on Western AI models trained on English-language data, fearing they could undermine Russia’s perspective on the world. As a result, the Kremlin banned Chat GPT and Russian companies are now attempting to develop alternatives.

While Russia has made some progress, it still lags behind the West in AI innovation. It produced only one “significant” machine learning system in 2022, compared to 16 in the US and eight in the UK. Russia also has limited access to advanced chips due to sanctions and struggles with private investment in the tech sector. Furthermore, many Russian developers and engineers have left the country due to the ongoing war and invasion of Ukraine.

To catch up, Russia has outlined an ambitious AI strategy focusing on increasing supercomputing capacity, expanding AI training, and improving cooperation with countries like China and India through the BRICS bloc. However, experts question the feasibility of these plans given the challenges Russia faces.

In response to these hurdles, Putin has sought to tighten the state’s control over the AI industry. State-controlled entities like Sber and Rostec are involved in AI development, while Yandex, Russia’s search giant, has integrated its own AI model, Yandex GPT-2, into its virtual assistant service.

Despite Russia’s developments in military AI, particularly in drones, the emphasis in the West and China has been on civilian AI applications like Chat GPT. This focus on general-purpose AI applications grants economic, geopolitical, and military advantages. Russia’s war footing hampers its progress in this area.

Overall, Russia faces significant challenges in AI development due to a combination of factors, including limited resources, brain drain, and Western dominance in the field.

Source: The Economist