Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Darren Jones Darren Jones Labour, Bristol North West 3:42 pm, 6th September 2018

I also welcome our guests in the Gallery, although their presence does give me some intellectual distress in my contribution to this debate, to which I come as somewhat of a novice, but because so many of my constituents are engaged in the defence of our nation and our allies.

It is clear that the international order established after the second world war has been an enduring structure—as the Chair of the Select Committee so eloquently put it earlier—but, with the obvious geopolitical changes including the population changes and economic changes of global powers, it is under strain. I want to touch on two elements that cause me concern, given the strain on the global world order that flow from them. These elements are technology and climate change—two topics on which I feel a bit more comfortable making contributions in this debate.

Many of us will have read in the press about unmanned aircraft and the use of drones, with some air forces in the world now having more unmanned aircraft than manned aircraft in use as commonplace weapons. With the adoption of artificial intelligence and machines processing huge amounts of data to make decisions better and quicker than humans can, the use of autonomous weapons should cause us concern in this debate. As we move from drones making decisions around navigation to self-protection and now into the execution of specific missions themselves—with or without the decision making of military personnel—this will evidently lead to an arms race between nations around the world. Indeed, here in the UK we are investing in autonomous defence weapons. I was pleased to see the future combat air strategy announced by the Defence Secretary before the summer recess, not least because many of my constituents will be involved in building the engines that will go into these semi-autonomous machines. We have had announcements on the Autonomous Warrior programme, for example, whereby there will be artificial intelligence programmes looking at how the different armed services use these types of technologies.

What are the new red lines—the new rules that apply to the use of autonomous machines around the world? The use of chemical weapons has been seen to be a red line, and I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision on the Government action in Douma, but what are the new red lines for drones, for online hacking, for disinformation, or for state interference in elections? Apparently, as I learned when I was hosting a book launch with the author Carl Miller for his new book, “The Death of the Gods”, anyone can hack into our wind turbines and set them on fire. What about state interference in our national infrastructure? What are the defence and reaction red lines in terms of the new rules that need to be established in an ageing world order? What resource are we giving not just to our military personnel but to our law enforcement personnel so that we have the capability and skills to be able to respond to this technological change in our security at home and abroad?

This is why I have been involved in the AI Global Governance Commission, which came out of the all-party parliamentary group on artificial intelligence, chaired by Stephen Metcalfe and the noble Lord Clement-Jones: to work with a network of politicians from around the world who want to have this type of conversation. How do we regulate the use of artificial intelligence? What are the international standards? What are the rules that need to be established within the old institutions to deal with the new world in this technology space? I would welcome any thoughts from the Minister or the Chairman of the Select Committee about what more could be done to help that process.

We have seen over the summer many outcomes of a process of climate change. This is not just an environmental debate: there will be impacts in terms of climate change migration that will create security issues. I have recently seen a modelling of what the world will look like when the earth warms by 4°. I welcome the commitment in the Paris accord to a 1.5° limit, although I am distressed by the United States pulling out of that. In a world where we eventually reach 4° increases in our global temperature, the main areas of habitation for humans are essentially Canada, north Europe and Russia. The United States, southern and middle Europe, Asia and China become uninhabitable. What does that mean for our old institutions in a new world where suddenly, perhaps quite rapidly, we have the movement of people and the movement of power? Where is the ability to respond to these changes?

I hope that those two issues—technology and climate change—are part of this debate as well. It is not just about—I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes)—the maintenance of what we secured after the second world war and the maintenance of our relationships with the established institutions. It is also about making sure that Britain, with its research base and leading thinking in these spaces, contributes around the world to ensure that—