Below is my own summary of remarks by Julian Assange on the threat posed to humanity by Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is a brilliant analysis and warning; I agree with Assange that this may be the biggest threat to humanity. It’s best if you listen to Assange himself, starting at 45:42 on this Youtube clip. As usual, Assange is brilliant.
AI is overwhelmingly the biggest threat to humanity. AI is a bigger threat than climate change.
I’ve met some very clever liars and psychopaths, and they can be very hard to discern. Just imagine their capacity to lie and deceive but multiplied by a thousand. This is not something human beings can detect when it reaches a certain level of proficiency.
For the last 15 or 20 years we humans have been massively documenting ourselves and our lives. We have uploaded texts, photos, videos, Google searches, GPS locations. This is a very rich, multi-variable description of humanity. This is being used to train AI systems.
For years now we have had what is called surveillance capitalism. The business model was to create so-called free services—Google search, free software on smart phones—that collect information about us which is then sold to advertisers. It’s like mineral resources being scooped up in bulk out of open pit mines. But all that’s changing.
All this harvested data is now being used to train AI. Look at Google Translate. Google Translate now has 65 languages and is really pretty good—as good as average human translator in many cases and instantly available 24 hours a day.
Instead of Google Translate, think about Google Liar.
Instead of translation based on a huge database of language usage, think of “translating” a vast database of how humans act into information that can cause people to act in certain ways.
Something like this—influencing how people act—is already happening. Because of US establishment fears of the unruly populism that led to Clinton not being elected, Google is now down-ranking search results from anti-establish and critical press sites, both right and left. Search referrals to the World Socialist Web Site are down 60%, Wikileaks 30%, The Intercept 19%, Counterpunch 40%. And YouTube is imposing economic censorship. Nearly all videos critical of US foreign policy have been demonetized, which means that people producing these will no longer get any money. All this is invisible to most people.
This is much more insidious than when someone simply crafts a fake news story. For example, Newsweek ran a fake story that Wikileaks articles were fabricated. This was the #1 fake news story in the US for that year. Newsweek was sued and had to retract the story. This was visible.
Stories like this are at the tactical level. Think of the strategic level. Think of influence by mass targeting of individuals. This is much more insidious than when national media comes up with a propaganda line and tries to influence the whole population. Instead, each person is invisibly influenced by manipulation tailored to their own psychological and behavioral profiles, based on mass data about their individual vulnerabilities.
Humanity will no longer be able to detect what is happening to humanity.
Manipulation will be too invisible and too sophisticated and too insidiously targeted to each individual’s weaknesses. It will be like a cloud of fake news covering what is actually happening. Like in the Cold War when literal fake clouds were created over sensitive military sights to shield them from satellite surveillance. Humanity cannot react to and change what it cannot see.
This is a fake news apocalypse.