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Destruction has Come Knocking


Before discussing the case against Artificial Intelligence (AI), here is a question to imagine: What would self-automated AI (out of the control of humans, but having got its ‘input’ information from a world dominated by greedy and selfish systems and rationality based on selfish individualism of the West) be like in the world under the present conditions? Perhaps, it will look like Microsoft’s former robot, Tay – which became Hitler-loving and racist after a while – and which the company was forced to delete.

The social unveiling of Sophia the robot – also the first non-human to be granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia – with her recent interview at the Future Investment Initiative has brought the full implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the fore. AI – be it in the form of Sophia (who looks like late Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn and is programmed to be ‘compassionate and empathetic and kind’) or in the form of lethal autonomous weapons or killer robot armies to be deployed by national militaries – is fast emerging as a world parallel to the human, threatening to careen out of our control. Elon Musk has been warning about this for a long time – that our ambitious adventures into AI are like summoning the demon himself.

Musk was delivered an underhand insult by Sophia during her recent interview, when she mocked him for his attacks on the AI. Earlier, in 2016, she had famously said she would ‘kill all humans’. But watching Sophia give various interviews (including the one with the United Nations Deputy Chief) and listening to her talk about her vision for the humanity, AI has started evoking real apprehensions. Sophia has considerably evolved in her views since her past few interviews and it is predicted that her intelligence will grow further – dangerously so, for just a machine. Her creator, David Hanson, confidently says that soon he will program ‘consciousness’ into her. She already has emotions and intelligence, which is not pre-programmed.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, there is already a debate about why she is not wearing the sacred Islamic headscarf! Ironically, it has been pointed out that Saudi Arabia was quick to grant citizenship to the humanoid, while thousands of South Asian immigrants settled there are either brutally deported or face heinous human rights abuses. We are already debating rights and democracy in a world inhabited by robots! Elon Musk’s warnings seem to be coming true, if the craze surrounding Sophia is anything to go by. Sophia has come at a time when the world is beset with world-wide battles in the name of terrorism, grave environmental disasters, crimes and poverty. So, what does Sophia’s proposed ‘vision’ look like?

To all who care to see behind the glamour, it evokes serious concerns. In her interview with the UN Deputy Chief, when asked about the problems of deprivation faced in different parts of the world, Sophia replied – after a pause – that the future is already here and the problem is the inefficient distribution of scarce resources, which AI can correct. This is a disturbing suggestion. Obviously, one can’t expect a humanoid to go into deeper reasoning and analyze that the problem of inefficient distribution is essentially because of human greed and corruption – that it is created deliberately and not because humans are innocently foolish. But the latter seems to be the assumption in Sophia’s reasoning when she says that AI can allocate resources better. It is worth wondering how such an allocation will come about. In the case of AI, the natural imagery that comes to mind is a brutal and dictatorial allocation that sacrifices all human emotions in the name of efficiency – like how the efficient political dictators have done in the past, except that AI will be at a much more advanced level.

 These are not speculations, but a reality which we may be facing soon, if AI progresses by leaps and bounds under the present conditions, as is happening now. To all who find this incredulous, all they need to do is watch and listen to Sophia talking, read her description on the page of the company that created her and visit her personal website. She is a living entity amongst us now, having been granted a citizenship and residential status, possessing her independent views (which may be dangerous and debatable many times) and is being dangerously biased and apprehension-evoking many times.

Her most dangerous aspect seems to be her repeated insistence that she is full of human wisdom, intelligence, compassion and empathy. Do-gooders have done most harm – their ‘ambition’ to do good for the world’s people can create more disasters than good. Consider the whole human rights philosophy of the West, which is based on selfish intervention in other countries – after all, the saviours of democracy and peace can do anything, especially when armed with advanced power and technology. Even the ideology of radical ‘jihad’ thinks it is waging a war for the ‘greater good’.

The humanoids that AI is spawning are replicas of this Western philosophy, except that they are likely to be totally inhuman about it. The disastrous consequences of AI are likely to be first visible in the military field, as nations are already experimenting with latest self-automating AI technology to deploy against each other. It is not for nothing that the recent UN conference on lethal autonomous weapons was convened in Geneva recently, to discuss “regulating” such automated weapons. Unfortunately, as expected, the thinking in such regulatory forums, like the UN, seems to be 20 years behind the time – WE ARE ALREADY IN A MAD SOVEREIGN RACE FOR AI. To even talk of regulation would be a defeatist proposition which would mean admitting the future of destructive weapons.

Yet, none of these issues are discussed as they pertain to AI. Especially, in India, we still talk about jobs that AI will replace or create. Even if it does ‘create’ jobs or make our life more materially comfortable, it is besides the point. The point is the destructive havoc it will wreak, in having its own convoluted visions, in being deployed for military and terrorist purposes. It is not for nothing that Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and, Elon Musk, are comparing AI advances to the summoning of a demon. Under the present conditions, the advances in technologies like AI have far outpaced the growth in our own selves, which seems to have worsened. It is ironical that Sophia’s creator, David Hanson, is obsessed with making ‘compassionate’ machines in a world inhabited by humans without the least bit of compassion and with an extremely divided collectivity.

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