The world witnessed a shift from different forms of authoritarian rule (oligarchies, monarchies, etc.) to the rise of liberal democracies. This fall of dictatorships was a result of insufficient tools to centralize data and power to a single place — thus, planting the need for a decentralized system for governance and handling data. The technological advances during that time also favoured distribution of data — paving the way for capitalism and democracy. This democratic wave arose due to the revolts of the working class against exploitation and their demand for political power in exchange for their vital contribution to the economy.
The ideals of liberty and equality on which democracy is predicated project it as the sanest and the fairest form of governance, however, it is equally fragile too. The current situation of world politics — with people favouring extremists and rulers inclining towards demagoguery and autocracy is enough to manifest the decline of liberal democracy. The ebb and flow of politics is such that the world keeps swinging from liberal democracy to dictatorship — currently approaching dictatorship. The technology that favours democracy is now becoming irrelevant with the breakthrough of Artificial Intelligence, which demands the concentration of data on one system for effective results. There are complex reasons accounting for the declining faith in liberal democracy and the rapid developments in the field of AI attributes majorly to it.
Artificial Intelligence has caused an upheaval in every dimension of our lives — be it how we explore movies/music or how we commute. The millennials depend on Spotify/Netflix for media recommendations and will get lost without Google Maps showing them the way. Because of this sort-of addiction to technology for taking even the most trivial decisions, we are plugged in 24x7 like nodes on the network — feeding this network without any questions asked. We are ready to compromise our privacy for free subscriptions and promo-codes. Afterall, who doesn’t like to watch a cat playing a piano on a Sunday morning?
Humans and electronics are constantly connected. We are all collectively programming the AI and making technological giants such as Google, Facebook, and Instagram colossal cybernetic collectives. Artificial Intelligence is informed by the human limbic system. The more limbic resonance, the more engagement. Our likes, dislikes and fears — it is all on the internet. Google/Facebook and other such platforms use this data to influence our thinking. The case of Cambridge Analytica is a great example of how people can be manipulated into buying a product, service, or even a political ideology by using the very information fed by them over the internet. Only a thin percentage of the population is wary of what they see on the internet and the majority become prey to the pitfall.
We are building progressively greater intelligence and the percentage of Artificial Intelligence is increasing exponentially. Eventually, humans will represent only a small percentage of intelligence. However, at least for a few decades, artificial intelligence won’t be able to substitute human intelligence in a lot of fields. Thus, as computers take up routine cognitive jobs, more and more creative jobs for humans will emerge. This could be a good thing, as Human-AI teams can perform exceedingly well, not just than humans, but also than stand-alone computers.
Having said that, these new jobs in collaboration with AI won’t be suitable for the unskilled labour as it will require sophisticated and ingenuine thinking. Moreover, AI will keep evolving with time and will reach a point where it makes human intelligence irrelevant and ridiculous, leaving no room for creative jobs for humans. For instance, from IBM’s Deep Blue to Google’s AlphaZero, AI has evolved from training humans to play chess to now creating its own novel moves that no human can think of. AlphaZero wasn’t taught Chess by humans. Rather, it learnt the skill on its own by using machine-learning principles in mere four hours. Chess has always been one of the benchmarks to test and boast human intelligence, but AI has wiped the glory out of it by going from Clueless to Grandmaster on a whim. The picture of Chess now is that any creative move by a player is suspected to be that of a robot, and has to undergo scrutiny to rule out the possibility of cheating. AI’s creativity isn’t limited to Chess but is widespread. Sooner or later, Artificial Intelligence replacing human-AI teams in the fields of Medicine, Security, Automobile, etc. seems inevitable.
In Elon Musk’s words, we have become “biological bootloaders for digital superintelligence”. As fancy as it sounds, this can prove to be more dangerous than the nukes. To be fair, this is a classic case of Schrödinger’s cat: it can go either way. The future of Artificial Intelligence could be terrible or could be great, but we will not be able to control it. Musk compares this situation to the singularity of Black Holes. May be the singularity is happening but we are not realizing it. It is like plucking the chicken: one feather at a time and nobody notices.
AI will soon become an extension of humans, turning us into cyborgs. Essentially, we are all cyborgs already if we consider our smartphones as our extension — only limited by the data exchange rate. The long-term existential standpoint is to create a high bandwidth neurolink to the brain to make us symbiotic with the AI and giving us superhuman cognition. Now, imagine if a dictator has an AI extension, and then he dies: eventually, that AI extension will become self-reliant to rule and become invincible as it does not age or die like humans do. From a survival point of view, if we can’t beat it then we must join it. A solution can be to lay regulations over the usage of AI.
What makes AI so potentially dangerous is that it combines human intelligence with qualities unique to the computer such as precision, repeatability, connectivity, and updatability. Connectivity is what the world lacked in the 20th century which hindered the growth of dictatorships, but now, with AI, people can be controlled more efficiently than ever by a centralized system. China’s Social Credit System is the trailer of what the future could be like. Citizens of China are minutely monitored and on the basis of their actions, be it offline or online, they are given a “social score” which governs the benefits or the punishments the citizen will be awarded with. This is possible at the cost of infringement of the Human Right to Privacy. This practice enables the Chinese Government to control each and every citizen’s behaviour, thinking, and growth in accordance to its policies.
Times have gone when ownership of land was the symbol of power. With the advent of AI, one who has control over the data of the people is the one who rules. This data that we so casually feed on various internet platforms has become the weapon of a section of the society that intends to control our thoughts and behaviour to eventually rule us. This is dangerous because access to data is concentrated in the hands of a few big shots and they can use it to make the world a puppet show for them. As mentioned earlier, the only way to prevent the exploitation of the masses by a few is to lay out carefully and strategically crafted regulations on these tech giants and the influentials over the usage of our data. Another way to go about it is to encourage technologies that favour decentralization of data, such as Blockchain.
Machines are not spontaneously malevolent. If we use Artificial Intelligence strategically, ethically, and responsibly, we can realize Karl Marx’s dream of Utopia. If we fail to do so, the future can be undesirable for the masses. Just like Socialism is the basis of both: the Nazi Party and Finland’s world-class education system; similarly, how our future shapes depends on how we use this unfathomable power Artificial Intelligence possesses. It is not the cards we are dealt with that decides our fate, but how we play with them!