Demand for Computer Chips Fueled by AI Could Reshape Global Politics and Security

The disruption of supply chains in chip manufacturing have the potential to bring entire industries to a halt. Access to the raw materials, such as rare earth metals, used in computer chips has also proven to be an important bottleneck. For example, China controls 60% of the production of gallium metal and 80% of the global production of germanium. These are both critical raw products used in chip manufacturing.

And there are other, lesser known bottlenecks. A process called extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is vital for the ability to continue making computer chips smaller and smaller – and therefore more powerful. A single company in the Netherlands, ASML, is the only manufacturer of EUV systems for chip production.

However, chip factories are increasingly being built outside Asia again – something that has the potential to reduce over-reliance on a few supply chains. Plants in the US are being subsidised to the tune of US$43 billion and in Europe, US$53 billion.

For example, the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer TSMC is planning to build a multibillion dollar facility in Arizona. When it opens, that factory will not be producing the most advanced chips that it’s possible to currently make, many of which are still produced by Taiwan.

Moving chip production outside Taiwan could reduce the risk to global supplies in the event that manufacturing were somehow disrupted. But this process could take years to have a meaningful impact. It’s perhaps not surprising that, for the first time, this year’s Munich Security Conference created a chapter devoted to technology as a global security issue, with discussion of the role of computer chips.

Wider Issues
Of course, the demand for chips to fuel AI’s growth is not the only way that artificial intelligence will make major impact on geopolitics and global security. The growth of disinformation and misinformation online has transformed politics in recent years by inflating prejudices on both sides of debates.

We have seen it during the Brexit campaign, during US presidential elections and, more recently, during the conflict in Gaza. AI could be the ultimate amplifier of disinformation. Take, for example, deepfakes – AI-manipulated videos, audio or images of public figures. These could easily fool people into thinking a major political candidate had said something they didn’t.

As a sign of this technology’s growing importance, at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, 20 of the world’s largest tech companies launched something called the “Tech Accord”. In it, they pledged to cooperate to create tools to spot, label and debunk deepfakes.

But should such important issues be left to tech companies to police? Mechanisms such as the EU’s Digital Service Act, the UK’s Online Safety Bill as well as frameworks to regulate AI itself should help. But it remains to be seen what impact they can have on the issue.

The issues raised by the chip industry and the growing demand driven by AI’s growth are just one way that AI is driving change on the global stage. But it remains a vitally important one. National leaders and authorities must not underestimate the influence of AI. Its potential to redefine geopolitics and global security could exceed our ability to both predict and plan for the changes.

Kirk Chang is Professor of Management and Technology, University of East London. Alina Vaduva is Director of the Business Advice Centre for Post Graduate Students at UEL, Ambassador of the Centre for Innovation, Management and Enterprise, University of East London. This article is published courtesy of The Conversation.