IR Scholars and Political Scientists Should Not Be Intimidated By Artificial Intelligence

By Bhaso Ndzendze

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the definitive features of the world of tomorrow. Indeed, it already dominates areas within our field. As such, IR scholars and political scientists need to come to the table to discuss some of its features and implications, both in terms of the practical uses and the theoretical insights that stem from it.

AI is intimidating for social scientists, partially because of the “shock of the new” (compounded by AI’s continuous evolution and incompletion) but also because of its technicality. But this is true of many topics we confidently engage with: war, nuclear weapons, climate change, pandemics, economic policy, trade, and investment. I would estimate that 99% of IR scholars and political scientists are not war veterans, nuclear engineers, climate scientists, medical practitioners, policy mandarins, trade port officials, or global financiers. This does not prevent us from making insights; indeed brilliant ones.

I go further — we do not engage with them because we know them so well; quite the contrary, we research them because we do not understand them, but nonetheless recognise their worldly implications. The world is made better because social scientists have not shied away from these issues.

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