Are we scared yet?

October 5, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Sci-fi writers over the decades of the 20th Century got it right over and over. Their dire predictions of authoritarian control over “the masses” – well, all the dire predictions are being tried, and some predictions are being surpassed.

In April 2007, Celine Dion sang a duet of ‘If I Can Dream’ with the hologram of Elvis Presley as a once-only performance in Las Vegas. People were dazzled, and technology was applauded by all.

Extremely fast forward, the debates and concerns about AI have begun to dominate much of the intercourse of conversation everywhere. We read and heard from the “grandfathers” of AI, the original researchers and developers of AI, that it was time to scale back, to be wary of AI, not to let it become a version of humans, to watch out against it developing self-awareness and self-consciousness.

Too late, they must have realized, far too late and since then, they have been quoted as saying not to worry. AI is good; AI will bring no harm – we have control over it.

The history of Artificial Intelligence, according to Rockwell Anyoha, a Harvard graduate, was initiated by the theorizing of Alan Turing, famous for cracking the Nazi codes during WWII. In the early 1950s, Turing explored the mathematical possibility of artificial intelligence, suggesting machines could be adapted to learn information in much the same way as people. The cost of proof was too high until, in 1956, Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence conference, amid some chaos and controversy, laid out the possibilities of AI. Subsequent research and development began to flourish through various sources of investment and the up and down pathways to the AI that actually presents as much a risk as a service has come into the late 20th Century and where we are today.

Thousands of customer service jobs are now being handled by AI chatbots for businesses around the world. They lay off thousands of employees and save fortunes in wages. Company executives claim problems are frequently solved quicker by technology.

Recently, Tom Hanks objected to his face being overtaken by AI as part of a dental advertisement. The long-term strike of film writers and actors in Hollywood has been largely concerning over that very matter when technology replaces flesh, and so well, it is hard to tell the difference. Not only the issue of replicating a person but perhaps also, importantly, the issue of money. How does replacing an actor or writer with their images or literary duplication by AI cut costs to the studios if they manage not to pay the artists? This was a part of the months-long strikes.

It looks as though, somehow, those issues have been largely resolved, for Hollywood is back in business so viewers can anticipate their shows’ return.

Yet and yet, we have barely scratched the surface of how AI affects our lives, everyone’s lives. Let us leap forward, not in time but in effect and affect…

China is determined to lead the world in AI technological development and is in the race with the United States for world dominance. Professor Keyu Jin explains in a BBC video that China is devoting its entire national resources to winning the race to be the leader worldwide in AI technology by 2025, an ambition lead by the country’s leader, Chairman Xi Jinping.

“That’s how important this is,” she says.

Congressman Seth Moulton admits that the United States is indeed in the race as eagerly as China to be the AI technology leader globally. There are two systems of values, he attests, and whoever wins the race will set the value system for the world.

“That’s why the stakes are so high,” was his warning.

The Chinese City of Chongqing, the biggest city in the world by population, is one of the first thoroughly Smart cities where AI technology is built right into the foundations. There are 300,000 surveillance cameras in the city, covering every aspect of the inhabitants and visitors alike: face recognition and an intensive list of personal information that is cross-checked with other sources about each individual to the tune of thousands of bits of data for everyone. 

Not only for economics and security is this heavy-handed surveillance important but also for social conditioning to control the 1.4 billion population to keep Xi Jinping’s ruling party in power. 

There are more than 900 million surveillance cameras in the world. More than half of them are in China. Having said that, there are over 942,562 CCTV cameras in London, UK. These have nothing like the same analysis capacity as the surveillance cameras used in China, but they are still a presence, seemingly everywhere one goes.

Actually, back to the cinema, the AI-created faces on our little and large screens are always somehow wrong – an element is different from what little we have seen of them. It seems to us possible and very irritating to recognize the missing humanity or of an animal, the truth of this simulation. Never quite right, not quite really alive, as though the falsehood is instinctively divined.

All we’re saying is, nothing replaces the reality of humanity or the truth in nature’s family.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.