Insights from the Future #10: Ethiopia accuses Chinese AI manufacturer of orchestrating its AI war loss (and profiting from the result)
This is the tenth chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. It is a collaborative exercise, and you are invited to participate.
October 11, 2037
The Ethiopian government has accused the Chinese manufacturer of its military AI of intentionally losing its recent war with Eritrea. According to the prime minister, Ethiopia turned down a major China-led investment in the months before what people are calling AI War 3.
“They told us there would be consequences,” Ethiopian PM Ahmed Siad said today at a press conference in Addis Ababa. “We didn’t know they would kill thousands of our citizens.”
AI War 3 is now over, with the UN having brokered peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. But the aftermath is just beginning, and evidence is beginning to emerge that suggests the war may have been not just fought by AI, but ignited by Ethiopia’s military AI.
And, according to Ethiopian military sources, intentionally lost by Ethiopia’s China-sourced military AI.
General Abraham Katemi, for instance, said yesterday that there were multiple signals of impending hostilities from neighboring Eritrea that the Ethiopian military AI saw as evidence of preparation for war. However, it’s not clear that the signals were real, or that they necessarily were indicative of battle preparations, and Eritrea denies initiating the war.
Residents of the border zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea have refuted the AI’s claims that the Eritrean army was massing near Badme, Eritrea.
American artificial intelligence experts have been examining the data and attempting to determine what the AI saw and why it interpreted the data as evidence of hostile intent. However, understanding precisely why an AI draws any given conclusion remains a murky task, researchers say.
The Chinese manufacturer of the military AI suggests this is all grandstanding as a result of a defeat.
But Panda AI also supplied the Eritrean military, and there’s evidence that in the weeks before the war, Panda AI gave Eritrea a free upgrade to the latest version of its artificial intelligence. Ethiopia’s military AI, on the other hand, was several months out of date — an eternity in the fast-moving world of generative AI.
Jiang Li, CEO of Panda AI, says that’s just a coincidence.
“We update our software regularly, and sometimes the sales division will reward a good client with a free update. Ethiopia was actually scheduled to be updated months ago, but had missed a royalty payment.”
The investigation continues, but China has filed a formal protest with the Ethiopian government over the presence of American experts in the country.
In other news, major Ethiopian stocks were massively shorted the week before the war.
Some conspiracy theorists are suggesting that the opportunistic investors can be traced back to Panda AI insiders, who may have had insider awareness of the coming conflict … and perhaps even knowledge, they allege, of which country was scheduled to win.