July 22, 2021
When people hear about Artificial Intelligence, they often wonder whether the future of humankind will be as dystopian and frightening as is often portrayed in science fiction films and novels. It’s a reasonable question to ask – after all, human imagination can yield portrayals of the future that can be deeply alarming on so many levels. Although passionately debated amongst public intellectuals from all disciplines and quarters, the potential for a dystopian future involving AI capable of subjugating humankind is very real, but not deterministic. That is to say that what happens in the future depends upon the choices we make today. So, perhaps a more meaningful exercise is to examine the impacts AI is currently having on society and then extrapolating from here for insight on its future impact given that the constant in this approach is human intervention and decision making.
To begin, it’s important to note that all Artificial Intelligence Agents available today are of the Narrow or Specialized variety. This means that they are designed to perform across a very limited spectrum of intelligent tasks and they’re extremely good within this specialized domain. But even with such focused deployment, these Narrow AI Agents are proving to be quite pernicious in their ability to impact society, particularly when we consider the human feelings of safety and security.
Consider, for example, the AI Agents masquerading as social media sites on the Internet. Our Paleolithic minds have evolved over millions of years. They contain hardwired algorithms running in our Limbic system within brains that are physically limited in size, and therefore capacity, by the skull in which they reside. As a result of these biological and evolutionary limitations, human intelligence is simply no match for the intelligence of 21st century AI Agents. Through extensive analysis of data, these Agents have learned to attract teens and preteens to their platforms and to then keep them engaged for long periods of time.
Once on these platforms, children are shown images of young girls with perfect hair and makeup, perfect features, figures, smiles and teeth, beautiful clothes and homes, perfect boyfriends, families and so on. The psychological harm being done to these highly impressionable and vulnerable youngsters is unprecedented – once they recognize the gap between the idealized, manipulated images they see on these sites when compared to their own lived reality, they often begin to engage in self-harm, or worse, they attempt or contemplate suicide. The rates of such dangerous behavior being documented in hospital emergency rooms across the United States has set alarm bells ringing amongst health care providers and stakeholders and is a warning sign of the perniciousness of the application of Narrow AI in social media.
Over the last few years, AI has also been widely deployed as the backbone of State sponsored surveillance systems in both Authoritarian and Democratic societies. In Authoritarian countries, AI enabled surveillance systems can be used to demand that a society’s behavior conform to published guidelines and ideals envisioned by the State with strict mechanisms in place to quickly address any infractions. Although the case can be made that such systems are highly effective in improving law enforcement, it is not difficult to imagine how they can be abused when they eventually fall into the wrong hands. In Authoritarian China, the Communist Party’s surveillance systems are transforming the society into a previously unimaginable dystopian reality while simultaneously erasing any semblance of human agency. This reality has not been easy to suppress – despite so much turmoil in many parts of the world, even the most desperate of migrants and refugees and the traffickers that enable their journeys never contemplate emigrating there.
AI enabled surveillance technologies have also made their way into the workplace and these systems now offer managers unprecedented power to oversee labor on construction sites, in hospitals, offices, restaurants and warehouses. But there is no plan to provide reciprocal power enabling workers to transparently listen and observe the actions and decisions of management. Once again, it’s not difficult to imagine scenarios in which company management will abuse their newfound surveillance powers to maintain an authoritarian grip on labor.
Artificial Intelligence is also increasingly being deployed within the criminal justice system in the setting of bail and in sentencing. But evidence indicates that the algorithms used in these systems are inheriting and magnifying biases and inequities that already exist in the datasets used to train these AI Agents. This is very concerning and can result in the propagation of terrible injustices that will be difficult to remedy.
AI is also distorting the debate around political discourse during elections by presenting people with news stories that confirm their biases, thus keeping them engaged on various platforms for longer and longer periods of time. These distortions result in deep social chasms between various echo chambers as people feel adamant that they are the ones in possession of what is really true. In fact, social media platforms are now being flooded with so many stories that large segments of society struggle to identify truthful reports from outright fabrications and propaganda. This situation is doing tremendous harm to democracy as increasing numbers of people within society turn away from Democracy and towards Authoritarianism. In this environment, demagogues arrive on the scene promising to relieve the people of the burden of understanding the complexity of 21st century life. Instead, they spin simplistic tales blaming ethnic and religious minorities. This in effect, further foments division and violence in society.
In summary, this ability to manipulate the understanding and hence behavior of wide swaths of society is fundamentally inconsistent with democracy and may lead us down a very dark path long before the age of Artificial General Intelligence or Artificial Super Intelligence, as portrayed in the frightening tales spun by our great storytellers.
Vicar Sayeedi is a Computer Scientist and Engineer, a Lecturer and a Consultant. Vicar is also the author of several books. His most recent book is about Artificial Intelligence and is titled, The Génome Affair.
Vicar has lectured widely on the subject of Artificial Intelligence including at the National Hemophilia Foundation, The Royal Boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster in London, the National Library of Singapore and in Silicon Valley, California.
Vicar is most interested in the big questions facing humankind. He is particularly focused on studying at the confluence of the five great disciplines of Human History, Political Science and Thought, International Affairs, Science and Technology. This intersection offers a deep understanding and pedagogically important lessons of how advances in human endeavor have influenced and impacted civilization.
Vicar has been writing books, essays and poetry for many years. For the past 30 years, Vicar has worked in the Technology and Pharmaceutical industries. He is currently a Consultant in the Life Sciences Industry and lives in suburban Chicago with his wife and their three grown children.
You can find Vicar’s recent book on AI, The Génome Affair on Amazon at this link:
The most recent episodes of Vicar’s ai & u! Podcast are on YouTube at the following links:
Episode 1 – https://youtu.be/yNYr28jtY_k
What is Artificial Intelligence? What is Human Intelligence?
Episode 2 – https://youtu.be/kAEgDNh1Nwc
How Did We Get Here? Machine Learning, Neural Networks & the AI Lexicon, Exciting AI Agents
Episode 3 – https://youtu.be/3PYCyv1pCgM
Deep Mind – How Powerful is Narrow AI? State Surveillance and Surveillance Capitalism
Episode 4 – https://youtu.be/WvobCMIM_H4
Impact on Societies That Possess Artificial Intelligence Versus Those that Do Not!
Episode 5 – https://youtu.be/4JVpvm4g79g
Surveillance Capitalism, Surveillance State, 4th Industrial Revolution, Bifurcation of Sapiens
Episode 6 – https://youtu.be/e1q2GgcWQok
AI, Blockchain & Quantum Computing – Implications for Global and National Governance
Episode 7 – https://youtu.be/4bDSUvrOdd4
Popular Perceptions of Intelligence, the Seat of Human Intelligence and Implications for AI
Episode 8 – https://youtu.be/3GjHqQZL7Pk
AI – Why Should I care? Plus Exciting Updates from Elon Musk and Neuralink!
Episode 9 – https://youtu.be/enpecqDecC8
AI – Excellence, Innovation & Genius
Episode 10 – https://youtu.be/UsriESlTjdA
Implications for AI as China and the West Decouple
Episode 11 – https://youtu.be/0CpaMb-yw3g
Artificial Intelligence: Ethics, Law & Society
Episode 12 – https://youtu.be/PLzodrLWMq0
AI & Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems
Episode 13 – https://youtu.be/Lm_nrNyJRbA
AI & the Future of Work in Industry 4.0 – the 4th Industrial Revolution
Episode 14 – https://youtu.be/_3E1Mhr_Dt8
Artificial Intelligence and its Implications for Authoritarianism and Democracy
Episode 15 – https://youtu.be/IpMUqHOEd7w
Artificial Intelligence, Consciousness & the Future of Homo Sapiens
Episode 16 – https://youtu.be/mIf7_VMzGKo
AI and its Implications for America’s Political Environment
Episode 17 – https://youtu.be/gsMRPnovZGI
Special Episode: Reading From The Génome Affair
Episode 18 – https://youtu.be/UxNxtWDCREM
Artificial Intelligence – Digital Tyranny, Datocracy and the Imitation Game
Episode 19 – https://youtu.be/Db8U0QQWWuY
Does Artificial Intelligence Really Replicate Human Intelligence?
Episode 20 – https://youtu.be/Np18AEq-6DM
AI & Rising Geopolitical Tensions Between China & The West
Episode 21 – https://youtu.be/fOMSvNiixA0
AI & In-vitro Fertilization [IVF]
Episode 22 – https://youtu.be/EQPpRhIV6Kw
AI & Human Intelligence: A Complex Relationship
Episode 23 – https://youtu.be/EAbQ7stY7JQ
AI Upends the World of Structural Biology
Episode 24 – https://youtu.be/Bsb1F8uoBpA
AI & COVID-19: An Extraordinary Contribution
Episode 25 – https://youtu.be/PqL5PCRc8tA
AI, Connectomics & Transhumanism: the Future of Humankind
Episode 26 – https://youtu.be/HI8Zjl8VM8U
Dramatic Upheaval Inside Google’s Ethical AI Team
Episode 27 – https://youtu.be/TqWwJYc2GxQ
AI & Cyber Espionage | How Will the Sunburst Attack Affect Our Security?
Episode 28 – https://youtu.be/89BcThqgcfQ
AI & the Rapidly Escalating Threat from Deep Fake Videos
Episode 29 – https://youtu.be/zvOHRMmJNB4
AI, Facial Recognition Technology & The Digital Surveillance State
Episode 30 – https://youtu.be/br4ygfEWdk0
AI & Social Media | The Most Destructive AI We’ve Ever Seen?
Episode 31 – https://youtu.be/sOy12ii8zwM
The Democratization of AI & The 2021 Maiflower Expedition | Plymouth, England to Plymouth, MA
Episode 32 – https://youtu.be/bixdLL74reE
Sino-American Cold War | A Blessing in Disguise for America?
Episode 33 – https://youtu.be/tTRm312DgMc
AI & the Tyranny of Meritocracy
Episode 34 – https://youtu.be/FpPzC5VP6GM
In the Midst of Chaos and Pandemic | A Big AI Announcement From the Trump Administration
Episode 35 – https://youtu.be/bK3xCBwrG8w
Artificial Super Intelligence – Can We Control It?
Episode 36 – https://youtu.be/Rc60DQ0L86Q
A New America | Hope with a Big Dose of Caution
Episode 37 – https://youtu.be/UBenYYHbYqM
Will AI [Science & Tech] Benefit From a New Cold War with China?
Episode 38 – https://youtu.be/JewJnPywnOU
Will AI Eventually Replace All Other Forms of Government?
Episode 39 – https://youtu.be/ibuJ8vozyqg
Will AI Perpetuate Bias in Employment, Health Systems, Law and Society?
Episode 40 – https://youtu.be/IJYbPfGC-08
AI | Will it be the Bain of Cyber Criminals?
Episode 41 – https://youtu.be/ozrO5_XTYKQ
AI | What Will it Mean for the Future of Work?
Episode 42 – https://youtu.be/kDKapDK-Vb0
AI | A Harbinger for the End of Democracy?
Episode 43 – https://youtu.be/7XeNyE8CA9I
AI & the Life Sciences | Developments in Connectomics & Radiology
Episode 44 – https://youtu.be/mWaPW_UolVo
AI & Geopolitics | Critical Strategic Planning in the Age of China
Episode 45 – https://youtu.be/qOSOc3vJRBk
AI & Humankind | What Might the Future Hold?
Episode 46 – https://youtu.be/atMSV1WAFkg
AI Enabled Surveillance | An Important Tool to Contain Dangerous Personality Traits?
Episode 47 – https://youtu.be/kz7-EDmlGXc
Will AI Favor Authoritarianism or Democracy?
Episode 48 – https://youtu.be/uTvKWQgdOaI
AI | A Key Enabler of Universal Basic Income?
Episode 49 – https://youtu.be/sy48Xqo-3qM
AI & The Future of Government, Industry, Markets &Trade
Episode 50 – https://youtu.be/JU1oGzb5TS0
AI & Surveillance | America’s New Strategy in the Middle East
Episode 51 – https://youtu.be/nOCQjUxLWJY
AI-Enabled Global Government | An Idea Whose Time Has Come?
Episode 52 – https://youtu.be/g1VJqiI3HyE
AI & Healthcare | What Will the Future Look Like? Will it be More Equitable?
Episode 53 – https://youtu.be/ie9KAg_kF7Q
AI & Surveillance | The Ethical Dilemma of Facial Recognition Software
Episode 54 – https://youtu.be/ie9KAg_kF7Q
AI & Regulation | Europe is Leading the Way
Episode 55 – https://youtu.be/l-gcYTZMsm8
AI & Consciousness | Will Machines Soon be Sentient?
Episode 56 – https://youtu.be/-8BaouCn9cs
AI & Regulation | Europe Announces New Rules
Episode 57 – https://youtu.be/243zm7aHImQ
AI & Human Emotion Recognition | Is it Inherently Flawed?
Episode 58 – https://youtu.be/rdXllGj8rbo
AI & Autonomous Vehicles | Where are We Now?
Episode 59 – https://youtu.be/EMbqpN5mbqw
AI & the 4 Little Trees | More on Emotion Recognition
Episode 60 – https://youtu.be/K5wtkj-VTrk
AI & the Colonial Pipeline Attack | Cyber Threats are Growing Rapidly
Episode 61 – https://youtu.be/03KysO3VJgI
AI & the Coronavirus | A Postmortem
Episode 62 – https://youtu.be/7wmSIWgbuQI
AI on the Battlefield | The Conflict in Gaza
Episode 63 – https://youtu.be/a_1AmLJD3lo
AI and Xenophobia | Will We Finally Break the Cycle?
Episode 64 – https://youtu.be/9s-Go1TYK9c
AI, Cyber Attacks & the Future of War | Where are We Headed?
Episode 65 – https://youtu.be/1nKbTMzfpqM
Artificial Intelligence | Humankind’s Final and Greatest Invention
Episode 66 – https://youtu.be/cplR62KTa88
America & the 4th Industrial Revolution | Where do We Go From Here?
Episode 67 – https://youtu.be/RMrqreI-PRw
Artificial Intelligence | [Digital] Life After Death
Episode 68 – https://youtu.be/KzR8NkVdT0Q
Artificial Intelligence | The Fear Factor