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It’s easier than ever for artificial intelligence to be used with malice

The Matrix was trending on Twitter earlier this month thanks to Logan Paul, although the discussion was focused on the concept of existing in a matrix, rather than the movie itself. This idea isn’t new, in fact, variations of the “Simulation Hypothesis” can be traced back for centuries, but in recent years it has picked up steam.

For the record, I’m not suggesting we are all living in an alternate dimension or existing in an incredibly complex Sim’s game. However, the idea that we could be — that nothing is real — seems to be less outlandish than it once was. It’s no surprise considering the incredible strides technology, particularly artificial intelligence, has made.

We live in a world where communicating with robots is commonplace and facial recognition software is the norm. At their core, these tools were created to empower others. Unfortunately, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We’ve grown used to technology’s presence in our day-to-day lives and no longer question it. As a result, it is easier than ever for artificial intelligence to be weaponized for malicious purposes, including spreading misinformation.

AI has gotten very good at mimicking natural language, making it harder for people to identify content created with the technology. This includes deep fakes, which are videos or images that have been manipulated to appear as if someone said or did something they didn’t.

Misinformation campaigns have caused many people to become distrustful of the media’s accuracy and reliability. In turn, this makes them more likely to fall for clickbait headlines or articles with unsubstantiated claims.

With about half of all Americans getting at least some of their news from social media, algorithms can be leveraged to distribute misinformation more efficiently than a human ever could. They are designed to make decisions based on user preferences and, as a result, false narratives can easily spread because people aren’t exposed to contradicting ideas. For most users, social media is simply an echo chamber of their own beliefs.

There are actions we can take to solve this problem, but too many people don’t bother. I think this is because we are afraid to be wrong. It forces us to reevaluate our perception of reality — are the things we’ve always believed true? The idea they may not be is so uncomfortable that we refuse to consider the possibility.

Furthermore, we equate being wrong with failure and accepting that your truth isn’t the truth is seen as admitting defeat. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things our determination to be right, regardless of the facts, will be our downfall.

In the Matrix, Neo was presented with a red pill and blue pill and given the choice. He chose to face reality and find the truth, despite it being much harder than remaining blissfully ignorant. By refusing to question the world around us, we are taking the blue pill. We are choosing ignorance.

To effectively address the issue, we must commit a little time each day to seek out the truth. Here are a few tips:

Consider the source: Is it from a reliable institution or expert? Are they impartial or do they have an agenda that could be influencing their presentation of facts?

Look past the headline: Take sensational headlines with a grain of salt, and most importantly, read the story for yourself. Don’t rely on the headline or social media comments to tell you the full story, because they won’t.

Push your feelings aside: Those who spread false narratives do so by producing content that makes us respond emotionally, leading us rapidly share the information with others — even if it isn’t accurate.

Presentation matters: Are the “facts” in an article or video corroborated by evidence? Are there holes in the story? If something doesn’t add up, check with other sources. Doing your due diligence may take extra time, but at least you’ll learn the truth.

Whether we live in the Matrix is still up for debate, but what is clear is that we must seek out the truth — even if it makes us uncomfortable. It isn’t hard to do if you’re willing to accept that not everything is as it seems.

Kirk Sullivan, who has experience in the technology industry, lives in Orlando.

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