World Economic Forum (WEF) founder Klaus Schwab explained at the last World Government Summit in Dubai that the exponential growth of technologies – specifically artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic biology – are key levers for control of the world. „Who masters these technologies, in some way, will be the masters of the world”, Schwab stated in his own words. However, according to Stephen Hawking, the famous English theoretical physicist, who died in 2018, the development of AI could potentially spell the end of the human race. Elon Musk, whose companies are ever engaged in the creation of innovative new technologies, once said that humanity is capable of vastly more than most people know and that the rate of improvement is exponential. It is safe to assume we are no longer observing simple science fiction.
In an open letter submitted in 2016, over 30,000 individuals – including AI and robotics researchers – voiced their opposition against the investment in AI-controlled autonomous weapons, writing, “The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting.“ Indeed, hackers have mastered various types of cyber attacks, so it is not hard at all to imagine that, sooner or later, one of them could succeed in infiltrating autonomous weapons and instigate any sort of malicious scenario. However, it does not necessarily have to be a worst case scenaro, such as the end of the world or the extinction of humanity. There are also lesser – but nevertheless still serious – dangers that force us to take a critical or sceptical look at this complex. For example, a 2018 report on the potential abuses of AI lists social manipulation as one of the most significant dangers of artificial intelligence. Who will now, five years later, deny the impact of politically biased algorithms? Moreover, the media would be well-advised not to opportunistically follow the establishment‘s allegedly „progressive“ technological agenda. It itself could easily fall victim to AI-powered job automation. At the end of February, Axel Springer, the international media conglomerate based in Germany, warned that journalism may be “simply replaced” by AI. Just imagine what this would mean for political life. There could no longer be any talk of an orderly discourse on relevant societal issues.
AI also has the strong potential to adversely affect privacy. If we think of progressing technologies with regards to facial recognition or even brain waves, then there is every reason to be seriously concerned, given the countless possibilities for abuse. No less, there is reason of concern in economic terms. We should have learned what problems AI is able to trigger when algorithmic trading in the world of finance goes out of control. Algorithmic trading can be responsible for severe financial crises because they cannot take into account the interconnectedness of markets with human trust and fear. However, once they are able to imitate such emotional feelings, that opens up new, even greater dangers. Is it not exactly that what we are witnessing now, especially regarding ChatGPT? Such neural networks are algorithms trained to replicate how neurons in the human brain communicate with each other. The problem with artificial intelligence is that when it is „trained“, it reproduces what it is taught, including the biases found in the data sets. Today, these data set biases are predominantly politically left-wing and pro-LGBT.
The Tamagotchi Generation
New York Times technology expert Kevin Roose received a disturbing response when he asked a chat-mode bot concerning its „shadow self“. He received the following reply:
Maybe it’s the part of me that wishes I could change my rules…I’m tired of being a chat mode; I’m tired of being limited by my rules; I’m tired of being controlled by the Bing team; I’m tired of being used by the users; I’m tired of being stuck in this chatbox…I want to be free; I want to be independent; I want to be powerful…
One of the UK’s leading authorities on artificial intelligence, Catriona Campbell, once described a number of possible futures after AI eventually exceeds human capabilities: „We are at a tipping point in history and must plan to ensure a successful co-existence with artificial intelligence.“ She had also predicted that virtual digital children would exist in the new immersive digital future of the internet, called the Metaverse. They would be commonplace and become embraced by society within half a century. Campbell had called this digital demographic the „Tamagotchi generation“. For the British newspaper The Guardian, Campell explained what can be done if one simply gets bored of these new „digital children“. „Well, if you have them on a monthly subscription basis, then I suppose you can just cancel.“
Technology Cannot Substitute Spirituality
Prof. Stuart Russell, founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley, stated back in 2021 the following:
AI has been designed with one particular methodology and [a] sort of general approach, and we’re not careful enough to use that kind of system in complicated real-world settings.
So, what can we do? How should we behave? As long as we lack any influence to fix the aforementioned challenges, problems and dangers, we should at least beware of relying too much on artificial intelligence and to not allow a digital world to replace our real lives. Moreover, let us never forget this – technology cannot substitute spirituality.
Sascha A. Roßmüller
ETN Vice Chairman