I think I’m probably not alone in having mixed feelings about current “AI” tech. It clearly has a lot of great potential, but I think everyone can see the dangers presented by things like the ability to convincingly fake a high-resolution video of pretty much anyone. That one thing, by itself, is a frighteningly powerful tool for social control, both for its ability to let the powerful attack dissidents of all kinds, and for the way it will let politicians and their ilk claim that any video evidence against them is fake.
I honestly don’t know how that will affect things in the near future, but it sure seems like it’s gonna be bad.
But I don’t know that. I have a reflexive distrust of the technology, I think, that largely stems from how I’ve seen technology used to make life worse over the last few decades, and from looking at recent history. Consider how much the police rely on getting confessions from people, and how much they lie about evidence to do that. Do we really think they’ll stop short of using AI to help with that? Of course not. They’ve been using and abusing AI tech all through its development.
Malcolm X’s family is suing over government involvement in his assassination. The government famously tried to get MLK Jr. to commit suicide, and there’s certainly suspicion around his assassination. We’ve seen over, and over, and over again how the powerful will tell any lie, and go to any lengths to keep their power, so of course they’re going to do the same shit with this.
But maybe that abuse will lead to people relying more on direct personal connection and knowledge. Maybe this will somehow turn out to be a powerful weapon for a revolution that brings about real equality, autonomy, and self-governance. Maybe it will lead to advances in research that solve problems like climate change and chemical pollution.
But for now, it worries me a great deal.
As usual, I like John Oliver’s video on the subject.
Edit: I should say – Oliver goes into more depth about the ways in which bias can develop in unexpected ways based on inputs, AI hiring tech, and other stuff like that – the video isn’t particularly about the same stuff as my blog post.
I just wish everyone could have the experience of having a national news story do the rounds, about which you personally have direct expertise. It happened to me again last week. This time it was a story about a particular type of waste emission from a chemical plant. By dint of having worked at that plant, and indeed having designed equipment to abate that specific emission when it was still going on, I knew the truth. Then I read what was printed on the website of a reputable British newspaper. If required to sum it up in two words I’d pick “scaremongering bullshit”.
The problem I have with this is: on the very rare occasions when I have personal, first-hand knowledge about a story in the national news, EVERY SINGLE TIME what gets printed and disseminated to the masses is a ludicrous distortion of what I know to be the facts, even in the outlets that are aligned with my politics. This puts me in the invidious position of not being able, therefore, to trust anything they say about anything, even when what they say backs up my worldview and chimes with what I already believe. I can’t even trust my own echo chamber.
And it’s not reasonable, in 2023, to limit myself to basing my decisions only on what I know from personal experience to be true – the world is too big and complicated.
I think this places politicians in a difficult position too, though. It’s already possible to deepfake a video AND a voice to a degree of fidelity that the ordinary person can’t detect. Why then should I believe anything?
I’m frankly surprised that there aren’t already viral tiktok videos of Rishi Sunak (or whatever your local equivalent is) tearing out the hearts of living children and eating them, or similar nonsense (or did I just miss them – I’m not on tiktok?). With modern tech you could mock that up on a laptop in a weekend.
The time since ChatGPT was released has felt…. odd. Like an inflection point in civilisation. I think when people remember the early 2020s, the pandemic might be just a footnote, and the real memorable thing was the tickover of AI from toy to tool.
Why bother? Such videos would arguably be less convincing that the ordinary lies endlessly repeated in the regular press, because they’d be remarkable enough to make people take notice, rather than just seeping almost invisibly into the background noise of daily life. Besides, people have already demonstrated that they’re perfectly happy to either make up complete bollocks in their own imaginations, or utterly ignore matters of verifiable fact, as suits the requirements of their political beliefs and the exigencies of the moment.
Alan G. Humphrey says
Dunc @2 Well said.
Now my $0.02. Homo is not sapiens. In large enough groups we become insane. How else to explain Judaism and its interactions with the Romans; Christianity though the ages with mass excommunications, the HRE, witch trials, various Crusades, Reformations and Inquisitions, its mass pedophilia rings, cults turned World religions, and Trump the new Messiah; various Islams; World Wars; the English and their oh so civilised [sic] world influence; Communism as religion; Africa and its ongoing and never-ending colonization; USA taking on England’s worldwide interference campaigns, but with more vigor and breadth; Capitalism as Democracy as Consumerism; Social Media as enthralling entertainment; and like the climate I’m only just warming up. but my oh my, this list is insanely long, so I’ll conclude with…
… most humans may be sane, but humanity is insanity.
Abe Drayton says
There’s a difference between what “humanity” does, and what ruling classes do.
The bad stuff is part of humanity, sure, but so is the good stuff.
If you look at history, it has taken a lot of energy, resources, and blood to force “humanity” onto its current path, and in many ways it’s down to accidents of history and geology that that’s how things went.
Alan G. Humphrey says
Once a group of humans grows to more than about 2,000 individuals, then the insanity of a ruling class begins to creep into the society, and no ruling class has successfully had a benign rule because if they did it would still exist today and it would be the one world government. They always go for ultimate power and the results are what we have today. The only peaceful way to start to get there, in my opinion, is to have a full USian general strike that leads to a global one that wakes up the ruling class and their media servants to their peril. The Sword of Damocles is a myth, but we must make them fear its existence in us. Then if they want to remain in power they give us, at least, universal free education, universal living income, and access to clean housing, food and water. The world has plenty for everyone, so the ruling class can have twice as much as the rest of us, and everyone can be happy. Now it’s time to wake up and hide, because it’s not going to be peaceful.
Abe Drayton says
That’s a problem with people and power – with having a ruling class at all.
Which is why the goal is to remove said class from existence, ideally non-violently.
I agree that we need the level of organization that would allow a general strike, I just don’t have a lot of faith that the ruling class will take the hint and back down.