IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/arx/papers/2106.04338.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Engines of Power: Electricity, AI, and General-Purpose Military Transformations

Author

Listed:
  • Jeffrey Ding
  • Allan Dafoe

Abstract

Major theories of military innovation focus on relatively narrow technological developments, such as nuclear weapons or aircraft carriers. Arguably the most profound military implications of technological change, however, come from more fundamental advances arising from general purpose technologies, such as the steam engine, electricity, and the computer. With few exceptions, political scientists have not theorized about GPTs. Drawing from the economics literature on GPTs, we distill several propositions on how and when GPTs affect military affairs. We call these effects general-purpose military transformations. In particular, we argue that the impacts of GMTs on military effectiveness are broad, delayed, and shaped by indirect productivity spillovers. Additionally, GMTs differentially advantage those militaries that can draw from a robust industrial base in the GPT. To illustrate the explanatory value of our theory, we conduct a case study of the military consequences of electricity, the prototypical GPT. Finally, we apply our findings to artificial intelligence, which will plausibly cause a profound general-purpose military transformation.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey Ding & Allan Dafoe, 2021. "Engines of Power: Electricity, AI, and General-Purpose Military Transformations," Papers 2106.04338, arXiv.org.
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:2106.04338
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://arxiv.org/pdf/2106.04338
    File Function: Latest version
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David, Paul A, 1990. "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 355-361, May.
    2. Cristiano Andrea Ristuccia & Solomos Solomou, "undated". "Can general purpose technology theory explain economic growth? Electrical power as a case study," Working Papers 18, Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge.
    3. Cristiano Andrea Ristuccia & Solomos Solomou, 2014. "Editor's choice Can general purpose technology theory explain economic growth? Electrical power as a case study," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(3), pages 227-247.
    4. Crafts, Nicholas, 2004. "Productivity Growth in the Industrial Revolution: A New Growth Accounting Perspective," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 521-535, June.
    5. ., 2019. "Technological change," Chapters, in: The Invention of Technological Innovation, chapter 2, pages 36-58, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 347-372, June.
    7. Erik Brynjolfsson & Daniel Rock & Chad Syverson, 2018. "Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda, pages 23-57, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Peter Dombrowski & Eugene Gholz, 2009. "Identifying Disruptive Innovation: Innovation Theory and the Defense Industry," Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, MIT Press, vol. 4(2), pages 101-117, April.
    9. Brian Benjamin Crisher & Mark Souva, 2014. "Power at Sea: A Naval Power Dataset, 1865--2011," International Interactions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(4), pages 602-629, August.
    10. Ruttan, Vernon W., 2006. "Is War Necessary for Economic Growth?: Military Procurement and Technology Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195188042.
    11. Lipsey, Richard G. & Carlaw, Kenneth I. & Bekar, Clifford T., 2005. "Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199290895.
    12. Timmer, Marcel P. & Veenstra, Joost & Woltjer, Pieter J., 2016. "The Yankees of Europe? A New View on Technology and Productivity in German Manufacturing in the Early Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(3), pages 874-908, September.
    13. Smil, Vaclav, 2005. "Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195168747.
    14. Thompson, William R., 1990. "Long waves, technological innovation, and relative decline," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 201-233, April.
    15. Morgenthau, Hans J., 1964. "The Four Paradoxes of Nuclear Strategy," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 23-35, March.
    16. Darrell J. Glaser & Ahmed S. Rahman, 2014. "Engineering and labor specialization during the industrial revolution," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 8(2), pages 173-200, May.
    17. Stowsky, Jay, 2004. "Secrets to shield or share? new dilemmas for military R&D policy in the digital age," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 257-269, March.
    18. ., 2019. "Technology and social change," Chapters, in: The Invention of Technological Innovation, chapter 4, pages 74-91, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Coccia, Mario, 2015. "General sources of general purpose technologies in complex societies: Theory of global leadership-driven innovation, warfare and human development," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 199-226.
    2. Clifford Bekar & Kenneth Carlaw & Richard Lipsey, 2018. "General purpose technologies in theory, application and controversy: a review," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 28(5), pages 1005-1033, December.
    3. Mario Coccia, 2017. "General purpose technologies in dynamic systems: visual representation and analyses of complex drivers," IRCrES Working Paper 201705, Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth - Moncalieri (TO) ITALY - former Institute for Economic Research on Firms and Growth - Moncalieri (TO) ITALY.
    4. Coccia, Mario, 2018. "A Theory of the General Causes of Long Waves: War, General Purpose Technologies, and Economic Change," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 287-295.
    5. Svante Prado, 2014. "Yeast or mushrooms? Productivity patterns across Swedish manufacturing industries, 1869–1912," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(2), pages 382-408, May.
    6. Edquist, Harald & Henrekson, Magnus, 2004. "Technological Breakthroughs and Productivity Growth," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 0562, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 23 Jan 2006.
    7. Olena Ivus & Matthew Boland, 2015. "The employment and wage impact of broadband deployment in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 48(5), pages 1803-1830, December.
    8. Sergio Petralia, 2020. "GPTs and Growth: Evidence on the Technological Adoption of Electrical & Electronic Technologies in the 1920s," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 2033, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Aug 2020.
    9. Shih-tse Lo & Dhanoos Sutthiphisal, 2008. "Crossover Inventions And Knowledge Diffusion Of General Purpose Technologies? Evidence From The Electrical Technology," NBER Working Papers 14043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Liu, Yong & Du, Jun-liang & Yang, Jin-bi & Qian, Wu-yong & Forrest, Jeffrey Yi-Lin, 2019. "An incentive mechanism for general purpose technologies R&D based on the concept of super-conflict equilibrium: Empirical evidence from nano industrial technology in China," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 185-197.
    11. Edquist, Harald, 2005. "Do hedonic price indexes change history? The case of electrification," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 586, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 29 Apr 2005.
    12. Guillou, Sarah & Lazaric, Nathalie & Longhi, Christian & Rochhia, Sylvie, 2009. "The French defence industry in the knowledge management era: A historical overview and evidence from empirical data," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 170-180, February.
    13. Crafts, Nicholas & Mills, Terence C., 2020. "Is The Uk Productivity Slowdown Unprecedented?," National Institute Economic Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 251, pages 47-53, February.
    14. Lewis, Joshua & Severnini, Edson, 2020. "Short- and long-run impacts of rural electrification: Evidence from the historical rollout of the U.S. power grid," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    15. Feldman, Maryann & Tavassoli, Sam, 2014. "Something New: Where do new industries come from?," Working Papers 2014/02, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Department of Industrial Economics.
    16. Ajay Agrawal & Joshua Gans & Avi Goldfarb, 2019. "Economic Policy for Artificial Intelligence," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 139-159.
    17. Дементьев В.Е., 2013. "Структурные Факторы Технологического Развития," Журнал Экономика и математические методы (ЭММ), Центральный Экономико-Математический Институт (ЦЭМИ), vol. 49(4), pages 33-46, октябрь.
    18. Taalbi, Josef, 2017. "Origins and Pathways of Innovation in the Third Industrial Revolution: Sweden, 1950-2013," Lund Papers in Economic History 159, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    19. Josef Taalbi, 2017. "Development blocks in innovation networks," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 461-501, July.
    20. Mauro Napoletano & Andrea Roventini & Sandro Sapio, 2004. "Yeast vs. Mushrooms: A Note on Harberger's "A Vision of the Growth Process"," LEM Papers Series 2004/03, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:arx:papers:2106.04338. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://arxiv.org/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: arXiv administrators (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://arxiv.org/ .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.