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IFS/STICERD/UCL Development Work in Progress Seminar

AI-tocracy

Noam Yuchtman (LSE), joint with Martin Beraja and David Yang

Thursday 23 September 2021 12:30 - 14:00

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About this event

Can frontier innovation be sustained under autocracy? We argue that innovation and autocracy can be mutually reinforcing when: (i) the new technology bolsters the autocrat's power; and (ii) autocrats' spending on the new technology generates further innovation that moves out the general technological frontier beyond mere political applications. We test for a mutually reinforcing relationship between frontier innovation and autocracy in the context of facial recognition AI in China. We gather comprehensive data on firms and government procurement contracts, as well as on social unrest across China during the last decade. First, we show that autocrats benefit from AI: local unrest leads to greater government procurement of facial recognition AI, and increased AI procurement suppresses subsequent unrest. Second, the AI sector benefits from autocrats' suppression of unrest: the contracted AI firms innovate more both for the government and commercial markets. Taken together, these results establish the conditions for sustained AI innovation under the Chinese regime: AI innovation entrenches the regime, and the regime's investment in AI for political control stimulates further frontier innovation.

This seminar series is jointly organized by the IFS, STICERD, and UCL.

IFS/STICERD/UCL Development Economics Work In Progress seminars are held on Thursdays in term time at 10:00-14:00, at the IFS, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar organisers: Oriana Bandiera (STICERD, LSE), Imran Rasul (UCL), Britta Augsburg (IFS) and Jonathan Weigel (LSE).

For further information please contact Lubala Chibwe, either by email: l.chibwe@lse.ac.uk.

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