Emerging Technology

IBM Comments to U.S. Department of Commerce on Export Controls for Emerging Technologies

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Today IBM submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Commerce on Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) concerning review of controls for certain emerging technologies.

The executive summary of these comments is below. The entire document is available for download here.

Executive Summary

For more than a year, IBM has publicly advocated for the modernization of U.S. export controls, with the goal of developing a narrow list of “emerging technologies,” control of which would support the country’s economic and national security interests.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the seven fundamental questions listed in the ANPRM and commend the Department of Commerce’s commitment to moving forward with this process in a thoughtful, deliberative manner.

Many of the technologies on the ANPRM list are, in fact, longstanding and widely used technologies with global availability.  It is therefore essential to differentiate and clarify the difference between “established” and “emerging” technology, and to focus controls on specific applications as opposed to entire categories of technology that may in fact be well established.

We believe any new controls should be narrowly focused, because broad application of new controls could significantly harm U.S. industries and put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage while failing to actually restrict access by parties of concern.  For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) generally is a poor candidate for control as an “emerging technology,” but specific applications of AI using certain data sets could prove to be an effective chokepoint.  On the other hand, Quantum Computing (QC) is still a nascent technology with its roots in fundamental research.  Even as specific offerings in a limited set of commercial and non-commercial applications come into focus, QC continues to require a large ecosystem to derive not only the correct technology to apply but also the relevant commercial opportunities to explore.  Any new controls in this space should adopt a “do no harm” principle that promotes innovation by focusing narrowly on specific uses of QC in certain non-commercial applications.

Recognizing the difficulty inherent in these determinations, we have proposed in these comments several threshold questions to help evaluators determine whether or not a technology warrants control.  These include:

  • Distinctly Novel: Is the technology truly new and different?
  • Innovation: Is the technology dynamic, growing, and constantly evolving?
  • Ease of Access: How widely available is the technology? Will controls actually prevent access, or can the technology be procured elsewhere?
  • Ability to be Contained: Are the means for evolving the technology known only to a select few?
  • Ability to Reverse Engineer: At the current rate of knowledge and understanding of the field, is it challenging to maintain differentiating, proprietary knowledge?

IBM looks forward to working closely with the Administration as it progresses beyond the ANPRM to a Proposed Rule and, ultimately, to a narrow list of “emerging technologies” essential to U.S. national security.  We are committed to contributing our considerable technical and human expertise as we work together toward a necessary, important and much-needed modernization of America’s export control framework.


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