Artificial intelligence (AI) is currently driving a transformation across various industries. Its influence is now extending into the realm of diplomacy.
As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, an essential tenet of diplomacy is analysis, in which AI can play a pivotal role in decision-making.
According to Robert Cooper’s latest book, The Ambassadors: Thinking about Diplomacy from Machiavelli to Modern Times, the field of diplomacy is undergoing a radical transformation due to developments in AI.
This shift encompasses “high politic” issues dealt with by top-tier diplomats and “lower politic” matters handled by junior diplomats.
While diplomats frequently confront intricate, time-sensitive challenges necessitating swift and informed choices, AI is transforming the sector.
For example, AI algorithms, combined with extensive data analytics, can rapidly process, and analyse copious information, offering diplomats invaluable insights and recommendations.
This capability aids in crafting effective policies, responding to global crises, and mitigating potential risks.
AI has become a significant topic in diplomatic discourse, occupying the realm of “high politics” discussions. Its impact will reverberate across several critical areas of diplomacy, including negotiation, conflict resolution, intelligence gathering, and the overall decision-making process.
Therefore, governments and diplomats worldwide must acknowledge this rapidly evolving landscape and should adapt it accordingly.
On the other hand, capitalising on its potential can help many countries to address both high-level and lower-level diplomatic matters.
AI algorithms also can analyse extensive datasets, including historical diplomatic documents, public statements, and cultural nuances, to identify potential areas of compromise and predict negotiating strategies.
Drawing patterns from past negotiations, AI offers diplomats valuable insights, facilitating more informed negotiation decisions.
Innovations in AI could lead to the development of AI-enabled virtual assistants and chatbots that simulate negotiations, providing diplomats with a risk-free environment to practice and enhance their skills.
The impact of AI on negotiation processes between nations is poised to be profound.
In conflict resolution, AI is set to offer data-driven solutions. Sifting through vast datasets, AI algorithms can identify underlying causes and potential solutions for complex conflicts.
These algorithms can be used in political, economic, and social indicators to generate models that predict conflict escalation or de-escalation.
These predictive models can also guide diplomats in formulating effective strategies for conflict resolution and increasing the chances of achieving peaceful outcomes.
Another critical aspect of diplomacy that AI is set to revolutionise is intelligence gathering. Traditional methods of intelligence collection and analysis have always relied on human sources. This will be complemented and augmented by AI-powered tools.
AI algorithms can sift through vast amounts of unstructured data from diverse sources such as open-source intelligence, social media, and news outlets to uncover pertinent information and patterns.
These insights will enable diplomats to comprehend public sentiment, forecast reactions, and more effectively assess potential opportunities and threats.
But a more profound revolution within the diplomatic practice is the evolving topics diplomats must engage with.
These are based on negotiation for and how to advocate in the context of the convergence between AI and various practical fields.
For instance, trade negotiations will now encompass questions regarding AI-driven commerce, while peace and security discussions will involve AI-driven cybersecurity issues, among other domains.
Despite the promises, adopting AI in diplomacy still poses emergent challenges that demand attention. One primary concern is the ethical implications of using AI algorithms to make international relations decisions.
But to ensure transparency and accountability of these algorithms, it is fundamental to guarantee that such decisions align with international norms and values.
Moreover, there’s a risk of over-reliance on AI, potentially undermining human creativity, intuition, and cultural comprehension.
All these are essential elements in diplomatic interactions. Therefore, maintaining a balance between AI and human diplomacy is vital to uphold ethical and effective prudent practices.
That is why the upcoming UN Summit of the Future in September 2024 provides a platform to enhance collaboration on critical issues, including those posed by AI, addressing gaps in global governance, and reaffirming commitments to Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Charter.
Diplomats and governments should embrace AI as a potent tool, leveraging its potential to optimise diplomatic engagements and contribute to global peace and stability, necessitating the re-skilling and re-tooling of the 21st-century diplomat.
And advancing a revitalised multilateral system better equipped to positively impact lives. Central to these discussions is how the concept and structure of sustainable development will pivot in the AI age.
Diplomats are responsible for contributing to norm-setting in AI in collaboration with AI technical experts to shape the world's future as we know it today.
While AI offers substantial advantages in analysis and prediction capabilities, ethical considerations and the preservation of human diplomacy must be carefully weighed.
AI technology is reshaping diplomacy by influencing negotiation, conflict resolution, intelligence gathering, and decision-making processes.
Dr Ndemo is Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mission to the European Union, Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States and World Customs Organization. Ms Njambi is the second secretary at the Kenya Mission to the European Union. The article is written at a personal level.