Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Humanity Threatened By AI-controlled Propaganda – Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is concerned about the frenetic propaganda efforts by governments and tech companies to convince us with propaganda spread through mainstream media that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is with us and machines are already as smart as humans and are set to surpass us. The Wikileaks founder predicts a dystopian future world where human perception is no match for Artificial Intelligence - controlled propaganda and the consequences of AI are lost on its creators, wide eyed idealists who envision a nirvana-like future and the gimlet eyed power addicts they work for. 
Like Assange I was an Information Technology professional and although I do not agree with his view that Artifical Intelligence already or will ever exist, I share his concerns. My view is that machines outperform us in their ability to parse vast amounts of data incredibly quickly and match strings. A computer has and can never have the ability to understand the data it processes, to translate binary strings into words and numbers and infer meanings from those numbers, Thus I have always said the only way to make computers truly intelligent is by radically defining what we mean by intelligent.
But enough of my opinions, I broadly agree with Assange about the ability of software bots to manipulate perceptions in order to advance political agendas so let's look at what he said about the threat of AI-controlled social media when speaking through a video link at rapper and activist M.I.A.’s Meltdown Festival in the Southbank Centre, London.

Addressing the future of AI, Assange told a panel including Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek that there will be a time when AI will be used to adjust perception.

“Imagine a Daily Mail run by essentially Artificial Intelligence, what does that look like when there’s only the Daily Mail worldwide? That's what Facebook and Twitter will shift into,” he said.

Assange also referenced the intense pressure Facebook and Google were under to ensure Emmanuel Macron, and not Marine Le Pen, won last month’s French presidential election runoff.

When asked by M.I.A. if AI and Virtual Reality (VR) technology will make society more vulnerable to political manipulation, Assange replied: “Yes, of course we can be influenced, but I don’t see that as the main problem.”

"Human beings have always been influenced by sophisticated systems of production, information and experience, [such as the] BBC for example.”

The technologies “just amplify the power of the ability to project into the mind,” he added.

The main concern for Assange’s is around how AI can be used to advance propaganda.

“The most important development as far as the fate of human beings are concerned is that we are getting close to the threshold where the traditional propaganda function that is employed by BBC, The Daily Mail, [or The New York Times and CNN] and cultures also, can be encapsulated by AI processes,” Assange said.

“When you have AI programs harvesting all the search queries and YouTube videos someone uploads it starts to lay out perceptual influence campaigns, twenty to thirty moves ahead. This starts to become totally beneath the level of human perception.”
Admitting his vision was dystopian, he suggested that he could be wrong.

“Maybe there will be a new band of technologically empowered human beings that can see this [rueful] fate coming towards us, [which] will be able to extract value or diminish it by directly engaging with it – that's also possible.”

Another insight offered by the WikiLeaks founder was his opinion that engineers involved in AI lack perception about what they’re doing.

“I know from our sources deep inside the Silicon Valley institution[s] that they genuinely believe that they are going to produce AI that's so powerful, relatively soon, that people will have their brains digitized, uploaded to these AIs and live forever in simulation, therefore have eternal life.”

“It's like a religion for atheists,” he added. “And given you’re in a simulation, why not program the simulation to have endless drug and sex orgy parties around you.”

Assange said this vision makes them work harder and the dystopian consequences of their work is overshadowed by cultural and industrial bias to not perceiving it.

He concluded that the normal perception someone would have regarding their work has been supplanted with “this ridiculous quasi-religious model in which humans learn to process data the way computers do it, and that's it all going to lead to nirvana.”

The ambition of the Nerds to create a computer controlled world has been foreseen and satirized in novels and movies. but we only have to look at how dysfunctional or misanthropic tech billionaires like bill Gates, Page and Brin, Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg are to understand their vision of a tech utopia will be a living nightmare for normal, well balanced human beings. See a video of Assange's full s address below.


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