Technology has an outsized impact on the modern world; it is how we have tamed our frontiers. But that role is largely ignored when it comes to the Arctic frontier. Emerging technologies, especially AI, can enable desperately needed services and infrastructure—but they can also challenge ethics, law, and policy, as they usually do. For instance, autonomous icebreaker ships pose a dual-use dilemma since they can be used for both humanitarian and military purposes. As a lesson for other frontiers, this article will broadly introduce the potential role of AI in the changing Arctic and some of the ethical concerns that deserve attention before that future arrives.
The authors thank the National Science Foundation (award #1317798) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research for their generous support. We also thank the Fulbright Specialist Program, the Icelandic Fulbright Commission, and the University of Iceland for hosting research visits. Finally, we thank Anna Kietzerow for her editorial assistance and the editors of Ethics & International Affairs for convening this timely roundtable.
1 Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi, “How a Melting Arctic Changes Everything; Part II: The Political Arctic,” Bloomberg, May 16, 2017, www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-arctic/the-political-arctic. See also “The Emerging Arctic,” Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org/interactives/emerging-arctic?cid=otr_marketing_use-arctic_Infoguide%2523!#!/emerging-arctic?cid=otr_marketing_use-arctic_Infoguide%2523; Ronald O'Rourke, Laura B. Comay, Peter Folger, John Frittelli, Marc Humphries, Jane A. Leggett, Jonathan L. Ramseur, Pervaze A. Sheikh, and Harold F. Upton, Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 2019), crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R41153.
2 Patrick Lin, “Artificial Islands, Robo-Ships, Sleepless Soldiers. Is this the Future of the Arctic?,” World Economic Forum, July 12, 2018, www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/how-floating-islands-and-robot-icebreakers-could-shape-the-arctic.
3 Eilís Quinn, “Arctic Council Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize,” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, January 16, 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/arctic-council-nobel-peace-prize-1.4490427.
4 Paul Watson, “A Melting Arctic Could Spark a New Cold War,” TIME, May 12, 2017, time.com/4773238/russia-cold-war-united-states-artic-donald-trump-barack-obama-vladimir-putin.
5 Brooks Rainwater, “How Smart Cities Will Change Our Lives,” National League of Cities, September 27, 2017, www.nlc.org/article/how-smart-cities-will-change-our-lives.
6 World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Arctic, Demystifying the Arctic (Davos Klosters, Switzerland: World Economic Forum, January 22–25, 2014), www.weforum.org/reports/demystifying-arctic.
7 Luke Coffey, “As the Ice Melts, the Arctic's Strategic Importance Sharpens into Focus,” TRT World October 19, 2018, www.trtworld.com/opinion/as-the-ice-melts-the-arctic-s-strategic-importance-sharpens-into-focus-20987.
8 Quoted in Keupp, Marcus Matthias, “Arctic Security, Sovereignty, and Rights of Utilization: Implications for the Northern Sea Route,” in Keupp, Marcus Matthias, ed., The Northern Sea Route: A Comprehensive Analysis (Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer, 2015), p. 23.
9 From European and East Asian ports, the Northern Sea Route is around 6,000 nautical miles shorter than the route around the Cape of Good Hope; around 2,700 nautical miles shorter than routes through the Suez Canal; and around 5,400 nautical miles shorter than the route through the Panama Canal. See Yevgeny Aksenov, Ekaterina E. Popova, Andrew Yoo, A. J. George Nurser, Timothy D. Williams, Laurent Bertino, and Bergh, Jon, “On the Future Navigability of Arctic Sea Routes: High-Resolution Projections of the Arctic Ocean and Sea Ice,” Marine Policy 75 (January 2017), p. 301.
10 Andrew E. Kramer and Andrew C. Revkin, “Arctic Shortcut Beckons Shippers as Ice Thaws,” New York Times, September 10, 2009, www.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/science/earth/11passage.html.
11 Patrick Barkham, “Russian Tanker Sails through the Arctic without Icebreaker for First Time,” Guardian, August 24, 2017, www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/24/russian-tanker-sails-arctic-without-icebreaker-first-time.
12 Joseph V. Micallef, “Russia, China, and the Geopolitics of the Northeast Passage,” Military.com, February 20, 2018, www.military.com/daily-news/2018/02/20/op-ed-russia-china-and-geopolitics-northeast-passage.html.
13 Conley, Heather A., Pumphrey, David L., Toland, Terence M., and David, Mihaela, Arctic Economics in the 21st Century: The Benefits and Costs of Cold (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). See also Gautier, Donald L., Bird, Kenneth J., Charpentier, Ronald R., Grantz, Arthur, Houseknecht, David W., Klett, Timothy R., Moore, Thomas E., et al. , “Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in the Arctic,” Science 324, no. 5931 (May 2009), pp. 1175–79; Henderson, James and Loe, Julia, The Prospects and Challenges for Arctic Oil Development (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, November 2014), p. 4, www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/WPM-56.pdf.
14 Bird, Kenneth J., Charpentier, Ronald R., Gautier, Donald L., Houseknecht, David W., Klett, Timothy R., Pitman, Janet K., Moore, Thomas E., Schenk, Christopher J., Tennyson, Marilyn E., and Wandrey, Craig J., Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal: Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas North of the Arctic Circle, U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2008–3049 (Reston, Va.: US Geological Survey, 2008), pp. 1–4; Jeff Desjardins, “This Infographic Shows How Gigantic the Arctic's Undiscovered Oil Reserves Might Be,” Business Insider, April 7, 2016, www.businessinsider.com/how-gigantic-arctics-undiscovered-oil-reserves-might-be-2016-4.
15 Bird et al., Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal, p. 1.
16 Conley et al., Arctic Economics in the 21st Century, p. 19.
17 Hassol, Susan Joy, Impacts of a Warming Climate: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 5.
18 Eli Kintisch, “These Ice Cellars Fed Arctic People for Generations: Now They're Melting,” National Geographic, October 30, 2015, news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/151030-ice-cellar-arctic-melting-climate-change/; Fritz Allhoff, “Alaska, Food Security, and Climate Change,” Law and Biosciences Blog, April 25, 2016, law.stanford.edu/2016/04/25/alaska-food-security-and-climate-change/; Fritz Allhoff and Luke Golemon, “Bioethics in the Arctic: The Alaska Context,” HEC Forum (forthcoming).
19 Michaeleen Doucleff, “Are There Zombie Viruses in the Thawing Permafrost?,” January 24, 2018, radio broadcast, All Things Considered, 6:48, www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/01/24/575974220/are-there-zombie-viruses-in-the-thawing-permafrost.
20 Allhoff and Golemon, “Bioethics in the Arctic.”
21 Commane, Róisín, Lindaas, Jakob, Benmergui, Joshua, Luus, Kristina A., Chang, Rachel Y.-W., Daube, Bruce C., Euskirchen, Eugénie S., et al. , “Carbon Dioxide Sources from Alaska Driven by Increasing Early Winter Respiration from Arctic Tundra,” PNAS 114, no. 21 (May 2017), pp. 5361–66.
22 Schuster, Paul F., Schaefer, Kevin M., Aiken, George R., Antweiler, Ronald C., Dewild, John F., Gryziec, Joshua D., Gusmeroli, Alessio, et al. , “Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury,” Geophysical Research Letters 45, no. 3 (February 2018), pp. 1463–71.
23 Heininen, Lassi, “State of the Arctic Strategies and Policies—A Summary,” Arctic Yearbook (2012), p. 2. See also Brosnan, Ian G., Leschine, Thomas M., and Miles, Edward L., “Cooperation or Conflict in a Changing Arctic? Opportunities for Maritime Cooperation in Arctic National Strategies,” in Zellen, Barry Scott, ed., The Fast-Changing Arctic: Rethinking Arctic Security for a Warmer World (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2013), pp. 83–102.
24 Heininen, “State of the Arctic Strategies and Policies.” See also Andrew Wong, “China: We Are a ‘Near-Arctic State’ and We Want a ‘Polar Silk Road,’” CNBC, February 14, 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/02/14/china-we-are-a-near-arctic-state-and-we-want-a-polar-silk-road.html.
25 Patrick Lin, “The Moral Gray Space of AI Decisions,” Ethical Machine, Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics and Public Policy, December 3, 2018, ai.shorensteincenter.org/ideas/2018/12/1/the-moral-gray-space-of-ai-decisions-6sc59.
26 See Scharre, Paul, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War (New York: W. W. Norton, 2018); Robert Work, “Remarks by Deputy Secretary Work on Third Offset Strategy” (speech, European Policy Committee Meeting, Brussels, April 28, 2016); Lin, Patrick, “Military 2.0: Ethical Blowback from Emerging Technologies,” Journal of Military Ethics 9, no. 4 (December 2010), pp. 313–31.
27 Leanna Garfield, “Food Prices Are Insanely High in Rural Canada, Where Ketchup Costs $14 and Sunny D Costs $29,” Business Insider, September 21, 2017, www.businessinsider.com/food-prices-high-northern-canada-2017-9.
28 Orri Jóhannsson, “Food Security in Iceland” (European Consortium for Political Research, 2011), p. 2, ecpr.eu/Filestore/PaperProposal/0d9be52b-e783-4442-8fa5-54cf5d68257b.pdf.
29 Kaleigh Rogers, “Amazon Prime Is a Blessing and a Curse for Remote Towns,” Motherboard, July 13, 2017, motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/xwz4dz/amazon-prime-is-a-blessing-and-a-curse-for-remote-towns.
30 “First Prime Air Delivery: December 7, 2016, Fully Autonomous — No Human Pilot, 13 Minutes — Click to Delivery,” Amazon Prime Air video, 2:05, www.amazon.com/Amazon-Prime-Air/b?ie=UTF8&node=8037720011.
31 “Transforming the Way Goods are Transported,” X, x.company/projects/wing/.
32 Allhoff, “Alaska, Food Security, and Climate Change.”
33 Stephanie Harper, “The Greenhouse Where Tomatoes Grow in Iceland,” Atlas Obscura, June 13, 2018, www.atlasobscura.com/articles/farms-in-iceland.
34 Khari Johnson, “Microsoft Researchers Beat Tencent and Intel in Autonomous Greenhouse Competition,” VentureBeat, December 14, 2018, venturebeat.com/2018/12/14/microsoft-researchers-beat-tencent-and-intel-in-autonomous-greenhouse-competition/.
35 Matt Simon, “Lab Grown Meat Is Coming, Whether You Like It or Not,” WIRED, February 16, 2018, www.wired.com/story/lab-grown-meat.
36 “Addictive Manufacturing: Food Industry,” GE, www.ge.com/additive/additive-manufacturing/industries/food-beverage.
37 Clement, Joel P., Bengtson, John L., and Kelly, Brendan P., Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic: A Report to the President (Washington, D.C.: Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, March 2013), pp. 20–21, 30, www.afsc.noaa.gov/publications/misc_pdf/iamreport.pdf. See also Clark, Dylan and Ford, James D., “Emergency Response in a Rapidly Changing Arctic,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 189, no. 4 (January 2017), pp. E135–36.
38 Allhoff and Golemon, “Bioethics in the Arctic.”
39 Alex Brokaw, “Autonomous Search-and-Rescue Drones Outperform Humans at Navigating Forest Trails,” Verge, February 11, 2016, www.theverge.com/2016/2/11/10965414/autonomous-drones-deep-learning-navigation-mapping.
40 Allhoff and Golemon, “Bioethics in the Arctic.”
41 “A Swarm of Robots to Clean Up Oil Spills,” SA+P, sap.mit.edu/article/standard/swarm-robots-clean-oil-spills.
42 Agency for Science, Technology and Research, “Nanotechnology Providing the Tools to Clean Up Oil Spills,” Phys.org, October 11, 2016, phys.org/news/2016-10-nanotechnology-tools-oil.html.
43 Lin, “Military 2.0.”
44 Cecelia Kang, “Melting Arctic Ice Makes High-Speed Internet a Reality in a Remote Town,” New York Times, December 2, 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/technology/from-the-arctics-melting-ice-an-unexpected-digital-hub.html. See also Arctic Council Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic, Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic: A Circumpolar Assessment (Tromsø, Norway: Arctic Council Secretariat, 2017), oaarchive.arctic-council.org/bitstream/handle/11374/1924/2017-04-28-ACS_Telecoms_REPORT_WEB-2.pdf.
45 “Loon for All: Balloon-Powered Internet for All,” Project Loon, Google, www.google.com/intl/es419/loon.
46 Palma, David and Birkeland, Roger, “Enabling the Internet of Arctic Things with Freely-Drifting Small-Satellite Swarms,” IEEE Access 6 (November 13, 2018), pp. 71435–43, ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8533329.
47 “GNSS: Addressing the Challenges of Arctic Navigation; Workshop on Challenges in Arctic Navigation, 16–18.4.2018, Olos, Lapland,” European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, last updated April 25, 2018, www.gsa.europa.eu/newsroom/news/gnss-addressing-challenges-arctic-navigation.
48 Clement et al., Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic, pp. 18–21.
49 Ronald O'Rourke, Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress [May 24, 2018] (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, 2018), www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=811054.
50 Jose Luis Blanco, Steffen Fuchs, Matthew Parsons, and Maria João Ribeirinho, “Artificial Intelligence: Construction Technology's Next Frontier,” McKinsey & Company, April 2018, www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/artificial-intelligence-construction-technologys-next-frontier.
51 Dawn Stover, “Nuclear Power Plant of the Future?,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 29, 2018, thebulletin.org/2018/08/nuclear-power-plant-of-the-future.
52 Tracy Lindeman and Citylab, “Norway Is Entering a New Era of Climate-Conscious Architecture,” Atlantic, December 15, 2018, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/12/norway-energy-positive-buildings/578245.
53 Gharbi, Ridha B. C. and Mansoori, G. Ali, “An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence Applications in Petroleum Exploration and Production,” Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, vol. 49, nos. 3/4 (2005), pp. 93–96, www.sciencedirect.com/journal/journal-of-petroleum-science-and-engineering/vol/49/issue/3.
54 Pliant Energy Systems, “Robotics,” www.pliantenergy.com/home-1.
55 Winnie Hu, “Your Uber Car Creates Congestion: Should You Pay a Fee to Ride?,” New York Times, December 26, 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/26/nyregion/uber-car-congestion-pricing-nyc.html.
56 O'Rourke, Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China.
58 Megan Specia and Mikko Takkunen, “South China Sea Photos Suggest a Military Building Spree by Beijing,” New York Times, February 8, 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/world/asia/south-china-seas-photos.html.
59 Nathan J. Robinson, “Is It Ethical to Use Amazon?,” Current Affairs, December 8, 2018, www.currentaffairs.org/2018/12/is-it-ethical-to-use-amazon.
60 Lin, “Moral Gray Space of AI Decisions.”
61 Darren Quick, “Nano-Particle Coating Prevents Ice Buildup on Roads and Power Lines,” New Atlas, October 30, 2009, newatlas.com/anti-ice-coating/13231/.
* The authors thank the National Science Foundation (award #1317798) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research for their generous support. We also thank the Fulbright Specialist Program, the Icelandic Fulbright Commission, and the University of Iceland for hosting research visits. Finally, we thank Anna Kietzerow for her editorial assistance and the editors of Ethics & International Affairs for convening this timely roundtable.
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