As artificial intelligence (AI) continues its ascent, it promises benefits and challenges alike. While big tech firms and the tech oligarchy see AI as a potential savior, concerns about computational autocracy, data privacy, job threats, and negative social impacts cloud this optimism. It's crucial to navigate these waters carefully to ensure AI serves humanity, rather than becoming a tool for imbalance and control.
Big tech's potential AI dominance
The rise of AI, while beneficial in many ways, could lead to the dominance of big tech firms such as Apple, Meta, Google, and Microsoft – creating a form of 'computational autocracy'. This term, coined by virtual reality guru Rony Abovitz, suggests an imbalance of power, with tech giants controlling AI and, by extension, much of our digital lives. This potential shift represents a serious existential risk and could accelerate if AI develops into 'artificial general intelligence', enabling machines to perform tasks without human input.
While AI has the potential to revolutionize several sectors, including medical technology, transportation, energy, and business analytics, concerns remain about its economic and social ramifications. As Northwestern economist Robert Gordon notes, the impact of AI may not be profoundly positive. In fact, it hasn't notably boosted productivity like previous technological advancements. Moreover, much of the tech industry's focus has been more inclined towards creating profitable ephemera rather than addressing real-world problems.
AI's potential for enhanced surveillance
There's a growing concern about AI's potential misuse, with tech firms and autocratic regimes using it to enhance their surveillance capabilities. This escalating 'super-snooper' trend, as seen in China, has led to an increase in lawsuits against AI companies for pervasive personal data scraping. In the West, there's a fear that AI could allow tech firms to collect and use private data in more invasive ways, representing a significant threat to personal privacy.
The potential implications of AI's integration with social media are worrisome, particularly considering the negative impact of the latter on young people's mental health. Experts like New York University professor Jonathan Haidt and San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge have highlighted the significant psychological problems associated with social media use, particularly among the young. If unchecked, AI's pervasive role in social media could amplify these issues.
AI's threat to job security
With AI's growth comes the imminent threat of job loss, as machines become capable of replacing human labor, including educated white-collar professionals. This development could lead to significant political challenges, particularly for progressives and their allies. The fear of decreased earnings due to AI-powered advancements is already causing conflicts in industries like entertainment. Therefore, understanding and mitigating the potential job threats posed by AI is becoming increasingly crucial.
Regaining control over AI
To ensure a positive future for humanity, it's essential to resist the domination of AI by tech oligarchs. We must seek ways to make AI work for our benefit rather than for the interests of a select few. By prioritizing public interest and well-being over corporate profits, we can steer AI's development in a direction that serves us all. The challenge lies in maintaining a careful balance between technological advancement and its impact on society.