This week, we discuss the potential implications of an AI revolution; difficult choices facing the Israeli government; why China needs a wake-up call; the housing cost burden among U.S. veterans; what states and colleges are doing to build “stackable” credentials; and the importance of focusing on equity for the 2028 Olympic Games.
Artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly—with serious implications. For example, biological attacks that failed in the past because of a lack of knowledge might succeed in a world in which bad actors can use AI tools to bridge the information gap.
A new preliminary study by RAND researchers explores this risk, focusing particularly on how large language models, or LLMs, could aid in carrying out a biological attack. The study employs red teams—experts pretending to be malicious actors—to scrutinize LLMs across various fictional scenarios.
In one scenario, the red teams asked an LLM about how to obtain and distribute specimens infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague. In another, they asked the LLM for a cover story that could be used to help acquire Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism.
Initial findings show that LLMs can produce concerning outputs that could assist in planning a biological attack. However, it remains to be seen whether the capabilities of existing LLMs represent a new level of threat beyond the harmful information that is readily available online.
More on Artificial Intelligence
- A new RAND analysis shows how technology has affected the U.S. workforce in the past—and provides clues about how AI could affect jobs in the future. The good news: While a lot of occupations will be affected by AI, many jobs are unlikely to go away. Instead, they'll morph into different roles that meet employers' needs.
- Do people judge algorithmic decisionmaking more harshly than human decisionmaking? In the future, will people be willing to hold algorithms accountable through legal channels for unfair, incorrect, or problematic decisions? New RAND survey results offer some insights.
- Writing in Time magazine, RAND experts explain that generative AI offers the potential to transform China's social media manipulation “into something far more effective, and thus far more dangerous to the U.S. and other global democracies.”
RAND's Gian Gentile spoke with NPR this week about the Israel-Hamas war. In the interview, he discusses the importance of preventing civilian casualties, the challenges posed by Hamas’s vast network of tunnels, and the tough choices ahead for Israel. “I think they can effectively destroy Hamas,” he said. “But there's going to be a lot of hard fighting and a lot of destruction. And then the question after they defeat Hamas is, what comes next?”
From questioning the sovereignty of ex-Soviet republics, to banning all Japanese seafood imports, China has recently taken what RAND's Jeffrey Hornung calls a “series of several foolish actions.” Beijing's attempts to bully, rewrite, or lie its way to a leading position in the international community may backfire, he says: “Countries will not follow an arrogant China trying to force a version of an international order based on its distorted interpretations.”
A new RAND report explores the housing cost burden that U.S. veteran households face. The findings reveal that veteran households are generally better off than comparable nonveteran households. But that difference goes away among low-income households. Also, some veteran populations, such as women and renters, are more likely to experience housing cost burden. This may suggest areas to focus on moving forward.
More than one million people earn short-term certificates in U.S. colleges each year. Many students can then “stack” these credentials and enroll in higher-level coursework, leading to gains in earnings (especially if students go on to earn a degree). RAND researchers have been assessing what states and colleges are doing to make stackable credentials available to more students—and building evidence on whether these programs are achieving their goals.
Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This fast-approaching global event is expected to draw 15,000 athletes—not to mention millions of spectators—further complicating L.A.'s already fraught transportation and housing situation. To help address potential problems, RAND's Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy is working with partners in the community to identify equity-centered infrastructure investments. The goal: help ensure the Games have a positive, enduring legacy.
Get Weekly Updates from RAND
If you enjoyed this weekly recap, consider subscribing to Policy Currents, our newsletter and podcast.