Interview with George BORETOS
Vasile SIMILEANU: Geopolitics, as a science, was challenged after the World War II.
After 1989, this science became part of the new global constructs, with effects in the economic, strategic, military fields of energy resources and, more recently, the evolution of artificial intelli–gence technologies. What are the challenges you perceive as an expert in artificial intelligence?
George BORETOS: As someone who has been involved in AI since the late 80s, I’ve seen how the field gradually evolved and expanded to capture almost every aspect of our professional and personal lives. Geopolitics is not an exception, as it is affected by the emergence of AI at many different levels. To understand this impact, let’s consider the key factors driving Geopolitics:
Geography always played a crucial role in Geopolitics, and it will continue to do so in the future. But one thing that has changed over the years with the extensive use of technology is that geography and location matter less than before.
Individuals and companies communicate every day without the need for physical presence, and this changes the dynamics of geography. E-communities are forged that “live” across countries where people of different cultures and locations meet and transact electronically without the limits of physical boundaries.
Although this is largely independent of AI, the emergence of AI, coupled with Internet of Things (IoT) fulfillment, will bring more automation and personalization to our communications and transactions, requiring less physical contact. Just imagine, for example, Amazon’s drone delivery integrated with a ChatGPT-enabled system that can interact seamlessly with customers and deliver goods across countries, and you’ll get a glimpse of our potentially geography-independent future.
Does this mean that geography is no longer important? Of course, not. It will remain a decisive factor in geopolitics (and everything else), but its power will decrease as new factors emerge.
Political Power and Institutions
AI and technology bring power to anyone using it. Sometimes this is for the greater good, and sometimes not. So, when, for instance, we use AI for new drug discovery or to automate and minimize transaction times, this is great, and we should encourage such applications. But when used to generate fake news with convincing AI-based videos, that’s troubling. The most disturbing fact is that most of these tools are in plain view and available to anyone, be it individuals, governments, or institutions. I want to think that policymakers, politicians, and people of power will have the wisdom and moral background to use new AI tools for the greater good, but this is not necessarily the case. Nations, governments, and other centers of power will be tempted to use – or are already using – AI to monitor or control the news and create trends to their benefit. This is not just a threat at a geopolitical level but also at any level where information is crucial such as business and the economy, and I believe it will affect the field of Geopolitics to a large extent.
This may be the most straightforward factor affected by AI. The AI market is an enormous multi-billion business expected to grow to nearly 2 trillion USD in a few years (source: Statista 2023). So, it’s only natural that everybody wants to take a bite of this market because it translates to economic power.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The true strength of AI is that whoever controls AI innovation has plenty of power over whoever is using this technology. According to PwC’s “Global Artificial Intelligence Study: Exploiting the AI Revolution, 2017”, AI technology could generate $15.7 trillion of revenue by 2030, boosting the GDP of local economies by an additional 26%. This is quite amazing, especially if you think that the study was released a few years before the current GPT era, so it’s probably understating the opportunity!
What does this mean in plain terms? Anyone controlling AI innovation will not only make money (tons of it) but also control, to a large extent, the fates and growth of countries’ economies, along with companies and individuals using AI. That’s a lot of power to ignore, so it’s not surprising that many countries have special initiatives to promote and leverage AI at many different levels.
Not my strong point as I don’t have experience in this field, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that AI will profoundly impact the military and supporting technologies. Telecommunications, surveillance, security, and weapons design are just some indicative examples. Combat robots and autonomous vehicles, for instance, are not something new, but think of how these can evolve with the integration of advanced AI making these technologies even more clever, autonomous, and “effective” (with all the “bitter” connotations of the latter in warfare). Perhaps, we are not quite there yet, but I believe this, or something similar, may be the vision of certain governments, and some may already be working toward this direction.
Vasile SIMILEANU: Geopolitics has become a key factor in all analyses of social, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and technological developments. What new trends are emerging in macro-economic and technological areas, with emphasis on AI – that could lead to changes in geo-political approaches?
George BORETOS: The emergence of AI is undoubtedly reshaping geopolitical approaches. Geopolitics traditionally had more to do with geography, i.e., countries and regions and their political or military power. This gradually evolved to encompass other essential elements of power and interaction, including the economy and tech-nology. The latter has become more powerful than ever with the emergence of modern AI, especially as we’ve seen this evolve in late 2022 and 2023.
AI is not something new, as it’s been here for decades. Until recently, AI was at its early stages, with mostly technology enthusiasts and visionaries discussing or using it. But in 2023, AI hit the mainstream market and became available to the masses. This also means that the footprint of AI in the market and the macroeconomic arena has grown bigger than ever and cannot be ignored by Geopolitics.
In the macroeconomic realm, AI has the potential to disrupt industries, workforce dynamics, and trade relationships. The same also stands for military or political power. AI-driven innovations might affect the distribution of resources and wealth, thereby influencing geopolitical dynamics. The race for AI dominance among nations is critical and could lead to new alliances and tensions.
V.S.: Please tell us how geopolitical approaches to business could change from further artificial intelligence development!
George BORETOS: Within the business environment, AI development has already transformed how companies operate and interact globally. This trend will continue at a higher pace in the near future. Small or big companies are now more open and have the means to conduct their business internationally with few of the previous limitations. Within this context, Geopolitical considerations are now crucial to all companies that wish to expand across countries. And vice versa, whoever analyses the Geopolitical facts of a certain region or worldwide must recognize the dynamics of the AI era.
Especially for companies involved in AI research, development, and deployment, analyzing geopolitical dynamics is essential as they need to navigate regulatory landscapes, data governance, and international collaborations.
Understanding geopolitical risks and opportunities is crucial for successful AI or other types of businesses worldwide.
V.S.: How should state actors react to pressures from non-state actors? Is there collaboration between geopoliticians and business?
George BORETOS: It’s not so much how State actors react but how they should react from now on. In other words, State actors must level up their game as they are usually laggards in recognizing new technologies and their impact. They cannot afford to do so anymore as AI has already hit the mainstream market, and its impact is already felt, and this is just the beginning of an emerging new and powerful trend.
State actors should recognize and leverage non-state actors, such as multinational corporations, international organizations, and AI innovators, in shaping AI policies and technologies. Their collaboration is vital to fostering responsible AI development and addressing shared challenges, ensuring alignment with global objectives while safeguarding individual interests.
V.S.: What are the geopolitical and geo-strategic challenges of impact and how are they reflected in the strategies you promote within your organization?
What impact do geopolitical theories have on leadership decisions you?
George BORETOS: As an entrepreneur who has launched three startup companies in the field of AI targeting the global market, I discovered that geopolitical consider-ations are a vital ingredient of any successful go-to-market strategy. For instance, I consider it essential to examine countries’ relative economic strength and potential and their relationships or similarities to other countries when selecting the appro-priate target audience and adjusting the approach based on local needs or how they conduct business. Also, considering risks and barriers, like language or access to the market, is critical as well. I believe that geopolitical analysis can and should be combined with the study of specific markets or niches to help shape AI strategies, alert about potential risks, and enable informed and resilient leadership decisions in an ever-changing global landscape.
V.S.: New technological changes have led to the emergence of new geopolitical theories such as GeoIntelligence: the geopolitics of information, which we promoted in Romania in 2014, Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence: the fifth dimension of geopolitics (2019) and Exopolitics: the geopolitics of outer space as the sixth geopolitical dimension (2021), theories that have been presented in the pages of GeoPolitica Magazine.
How do you assess these theories?
Are there such concerns in the business world? How are new trends being countered or, on the contrary, adopted and adapted?
George BORETOS: Information, AI, and Space are all essential factors of development and power for businesses and countries.
We all understand why data has been quoted as the new “oil”. We’ve seen how big companies have leveraged data-driven information to increase their footprint in the market and profit. Google and Meta use data to target their audiences, offering great search, communication, and advertising platforms worth billions (lots of billions!). And these are just a couple of examples, as companies of all sizes and sectors can and should leverage data. All businesses need data to analyze target audiences, build their products, adjust their pricing, and monitor or predict their markets. And countries need data as well, for instance, to analyze market, economic, or societal trends and identify security or national threats.
AI goes hand in hand with data as the latter is the fuel and the former is the engine that moves information extraction. AI can generate valuable and actionable insights about the past and the future and discover hidden patterns with numerous applications in our everyday professional and personal lives. Perhaps, the most well-known example is the result of the Open AI & Microsoft partnership in the area of Generative AI and how this turned a niche concept into a worldwide sensation (i.e., ChatGPT success). But AI’s applications don’t stop there. Predictive AI can generate sales forecasts, predict market trends, analyze consumer behavior, and optimize pricing. And the list continues, including, for example, process automation, computer vision, robotics, and autonomous cars. It’s not a surprise that most countries are already investing in AI or at least closely monitoring AI developments and the ongoing paradigm shift at the corporate, individual, and country levels.
And this brings us to the last part, space. Again, not a new thing, as we’ve been intensively exploring and traveling in space since the second half of the 20th century. Our motives for doing so vary greatly, from mere curiosity to see what’s out there or our desire to search for alien life to scientific research, colonization of outer worlds, military objectives, or commercial applications. The commercialization of space turned out to be a big market, including satellite networks, telecommunications, rocket technology, asteroid mining, space tourism, and many other applications.
Space was and is part of our endeavors at a business and geopolitical level. What has changed though during the past few decades is that space is no longer an oligo-poly of a few governments, and the private sector now takes more initiative than ever. China, Japan, and India are among the countries entering the space arena. And private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic founded by billionaires Musk, Bezos, and Branson, respectively, are leading, among other players, the way into space commercialization, exploration, and research.
There is a lot of power in information, AI, and space, so it’s not surprising that all these factors are gradually integrated into geopolitical agendas and, vice versa, are influenced by geopolitical rivalry. The new thing to consider is how important the private sector is in all these initiatives calling for closer coordination between state and private actors.
V.S.: How do you rate GeoPolitica Magazine? What should we do for visibility and attractiveness? Do you consider it appropriate to collaborate with the Romanian GeoPolitica Magazine on these approaches? We would be honoured to publish your analysis in the magazine’s pages!
George BORETOS: Although I am not an expert in Geopolitics (my domain is tech-nology and especially AI), I have published in the past with the GeoPolitica Magazine regarding the Future of Europe (and many of the estimates mentioned there have now been realized to a large extent) and my experience was very positive then, as it is now!
I am honored to collaborate with the Romanian GeoPolitica Magazine and contribute to the discussion on AI and its geopolitical implications.
George BORETOS has over 25 years of professional experience in leadership positions in pricing, marketing, sales, and strategy, a deep understanding of AI, and a successful journey as an entrepreneur raising $9mn in Seed & Series A funding, working with Fortune 500 and other customers worldwide. He has designed and launched AI applications, including price optimization, and created predictive models that have produced successful forecasts about technology diffusion and the economy. His work has been published in renowned international journals and book publishers, such as Elsevier, Nova Science Publishers, Marketing Research Association, GeoPolitica, and Foresight. He is a member of the International Institute of Forecasters. His most recent endeavor, FutureUP, combines this extensive experience in Pricing, the B2B SaaS market, and AI technologies to help enterprises optimize pricing and achieve their sales and profitability goals.