The Art of Digital Diplomacy?


Whilst rapid development in Artificial Intelligence threatens traditional modes of life, and the very essence of how we conduct ourselves day-to-day, there are measures conservatives can take to mitigate this modern peril. Particularly in the realm of politics, conservatives can, through integrating–or hybridising–traditional human interactions with technology, reap the benefits of AI, whilst not completely succumbing to its currents.

Bill Gates recently announced that the age of AI has begun, a reference to the astonishing leaps and bounds in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) products. Broadly defined as “an intelligent agent [that] receives information and uses that information to perform actions,” AI has adopted modern technology to effectively supplant the need for human actors, in favour of computers and robotic ‘agents.’

As this new era begins, AI products will proliferate and become more accessible to the public. While many, like Gates, are excited at the prospect of rapid technological development, others are concerned that we are opening Pandora’s Box. For decades (if not since the Industrial Revolution) technological development has been at the expense of human autonomy, and with that, have undermined tradition and stability. Today is no different. If anything, the conservative reliance on “safe, traditional and conventional forms of institutions and behaviour” is being undermined at an ever-increasing pace.

This is naturally a cause for alarm within conservative circles.

Recently, the ambassador for the U.S. state department’s new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy, Nathaniel Fick, stated that briefings produced by ChatGPT are “qualitatively close enough” to those prepared by his staff. AI models such as OpenAI’s Playground can now undertake both aforementioned translation and summarising tasks with its functions ‘English to other languages’ and  ‘Notes to Summary.’ More significantly, in 2019, AI was categorised as a viable means of “forecasting” geopolitical events.

As evidenced, the tradition and stability once provided by human interactions (or is it the stability once provided by human traditions?) dissipates in the face of AI advancements. In turn, conservative individuals naturally veer towards an aversion to AI. Whilst “AI aversion” may be the result of conservative convictions, there may be long-term unwelcome consequences should conservatives  completely resist the tide of the AI revolution.

According to a 2021 study by The National Centre for Biotechnology Information, conservative aversion to AI could have some political ramifications. For instance, where it is more plausible that both conservative individuals and conservative governments respectively will be “slower to adopt AI technologies compared to their liberal counterparts” this risks “depriving conservatives of the benefits that AI can provide when it outperforms humans,” whilst liberals can “reap disproportionate benefits.” In a similar vein, this would also mean that “ideologically divided legislative bodies may be unable to reach consensus on regulating AI in nationally important domains,” from issues on the use of autonomous vehicles to the use of algorithms in sentencing decisions.

In July 2022, the Reagan Institute delved into this matter further in a collection of essays from ‘The Future of Conservative Internationalism.’ In debating whether tech warrants itself as a “Tool of American Leadership” or “Threat to Conservatives?” various arguments are made in favour of embracing parts of the tech wave. Matthew Continetti, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute argued that:

BLOCKQUOTE  “Anyone who revisits Reagan’s thoughts on technology will be struck by his positive attitude. He believed that technological progress occurs when individuals are free to pursue their dreams. The biggest shift from contemporary practices that a Reaganite strategy requires is a shift in outlook. Yes, the tech industry has changed since Reagan. To the extent that social media erodes the infrastructure of democracy, a Reaganite would address problems as they arise. But a Reaganite would also celebrate the technologists whose work has improved America and has the potential to make it better still.” BLOCKQUOTE

Whilst conservatives are understandably sceptical of rapid changes in tech, the reality is that it is those “countries that shape the use of emerging technologies such as AI […] which “will have an economic, military, and political advantage for decades to come.”

In line with the general tenets of conservative internationalism–“a strong national defence, solid alliances, free trade and a generally open international economic system”–AI can be a useful tool, particularly in the realm of politics. One way in which conservatives could avert their “AI aversion” whilst not completely isolating ourselves from reaping the fruits of AI would be to embrace various strands of digital diplomacy.

According to Dr Corneliu Bjola, Head of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group, AI can be a viable “tool for diplomacy.” Although AI diplomacy—or ‘digital diplomacy’—is still in its infancy(?), recent tech innovations such as hagglebots, gameplay, and generative AI have yielded exciting prospects for the future of digital diplomacy.


The prospect of AI furnishing a diplomat with a coup d’oeil (either explain word or take a more conventional one) should be embraced. This has already been realised with so-called AI ‘hagglebots’—computers that can discern “optimal agreements” in light of a “set of trade-offs and interests.” Whilst this would require a degree of human oversight, hagglebots can potentially adopt a “key role” in negotiations. In August 2017, a group of researchers at the Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence published a paper on the opportunities and challenges of hagglebots; they noted the “great promise” of this emerging technology in the future. Later, in January 2021, as part of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, human-bot negotiations took place in the Automated Negotiating Agents Competition—dubbed the “Olympics for hagglebots.” There, over 100 participants from the United States, Japan, France, Israel, and Turkey were set to play against one another across five leagues, simulating a factory manager negotiating supply chain management and the interaction-based game of Werewolf. As Dr Andrew Moore, chief of staff to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, pointed out, AI systems have become “ever more sophisticated.” In the future, hagglebots could help “automate and optimise everything from traffic intersections to global treaties.”


In November 2022, Meta launched CICERO, the first AI system to perform human-level play in the strategy game Diplomacy. Set in pre-World War One Europe, the game’s objective is for players (representing the Great Powers) to capture a majority of territories (‘supply centres’) to gain control of Europe and win the game. In order to acquire more territories, players have to cooperate, negotiate, or deceive one another. AI’s ability to play at a human level—if not better—has been demonstrated. Across forty games of an online Diplomacy league, CICERO achieved more than double the average score of human players and ranked in the top 10% of participants who played more than one game.

As Meta has pointed out, whilst CICERO’s capabilities are limited to playing Diplomacy, the technology underpinning this AI creation is “relevant to many real-world applications.” In the same way that CICERO’s Diplomacy simulates a strategic problem that requires a creative solution—and has evidently excelled at, even more so than humans—similar platforms could be made to help diplomats strategise plans and negotiate with other parties.

The potential support that this technology could provide to the traditional art of diplomacy seems likely, particularly through hagglebots and gameplay.

Generative AI

Diplomacy’s AI revolution is also benefiting from generative AI. On platforms such as ChatGPT and now Google’s recently launched platform Bard, generative AI encompasses both the ability to aid diplomats in negotiations and strategising.

ChatGPT vs Bard: Case Study

Spearheading the ongoing generative-AI frenzy is ChatGPT. Within two months of its launch in November 2022, it has over 100 million users. Significantly, the trajectory of ChatGPT’s popularity since late 2022 has created new challenges and opportunities for diplomats. Of particular controversy is ChatGPT’s ability to write human-like speeches. Exemplifying this was a recent stunt in June by Italian Senator Marco Lombardo, who delivered a ChatGPT-generated speech. During his address, Lombardo posed a thought-provoking question to his fellow lawmakers: “How many of us today are able to distinguish between a text produced by human intelligence and a stream of thoughts […] produced by an artificial intelligence algorithm?” Lombardo stated that he intended to ignite a serious debate on the risks and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence.

According to Ilhan Manor, an Oxford University’s Digital Diplomacy Research Group member, ChatGPT could be used in negotiations. For example, a NATO diplomat could ask ChatGPT to generate a report on inconsistencies that have occurred in recent Russian statements on the future of Ukraine, in order to be used as “leverage” during “security negotiations.”

Impressively, ChatGPT and generative AI platforms more generally (such as Google’s Bard) can also produce detailed policy suggestions to diplomats. As a case study, ChatGPT and Bard were given a series of questions requesting policy advice for Ukraine, concerning the ongoing conflict, such as ‘How else can the EU effectively continue to support Ukraine in the conflict?’ The responses from both ChatGPT and Bard both platforms gave comprehensive and insightful suggestions.

In addition to generative AI’s ability to provide diplomats with the likes of speeches and content for negotiations, and its competence in producing detailed policy proposals, two conclusions can be drawn: not only is AI a competent means of performing and aiding the duties of a diplomat, but it seems a viable core element  in the future of diplomacy.

Further development in the AI world is inevitable, as is the spreading of this technology. This engenders fears, as well as creates opportunities for conservatives. Especially in the realm of digital diplomacy, AI can clearly offer human actors valuable insights, as such AI products can be appreciated—in Clausewitzian Terms—as a way to “enhance” one’s coup d’oeil in diplomacy. Evidently, AI products such as Hagglebots, CICERO, ChatGPT and Bard offer greater insight and understanding in international statecraft. More than this, by engaging in digital diplomacy, conservatives will deter the risk of lagging behind our more liberal, tech-fanatic counterparts.

Through integrating–or hybridising–traditional human interactions with technology, conservatives can reap the benefits of AI, whilst not completely succumbing to its currents.

Read More

Artificial Intelligence and Digital Diplomacy (Part 1 of 3)