MI6 spy chief: race is on for AI mastery

Technological progress
Technological progress "is a white-hot focus for MI6", chief Richard Moore says.

The chief of Britain's foreign spy service warns the West's adversaries such as China and Russia are racing to master artificial intelligence in a way that could revolutionise geopolitics during the next decade.

The world's spies, from Langley and London to Moscow and Beijing, are trying to grapple with seismic advances in technology that are challenging traditional human-led spying operations that dominated for thousands of years.

Richard Moore, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, says quantum engineering, engineered biology, vast troves of data and advances in computer power pose a threat that needs to be addressed by the West.

"Our adversaries are pouring money and ambition into mastering artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology, because they know that mastering these technologies will give them leverage," Moore, who rarely surfaces for speeches, will say on Tuesday.

Moore, a former diplomat who became MI6 chief in 2020, says technological progress during the next decade could outstrip all tech progress in the past century.

"As a society, we have yet to internalise this stark fact and its potential impact on global geopolitics. But it is a white-hot focus for MI6," he says.

Of particular concern to the West's spies are Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies, which have rushed to harness the power of a range of sophisticated technologies, sometimes at a faster pace than in the West.

Western intelligence agencies fear Beijing could within decades dominate all the key emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics.

China's economic and military rise in the past 40 years is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union which ended the Cold War.

Australian Associated Press