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The Explosion of Digital uncertainty

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  • Published
    21st Oct, 2023


Recent advances in Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) have captured the imagination of the public, businesses and governments alike. It also the new threat that the world is contemplating now; but this is only the beginning

It is almost certain that this wave of AI will lead to fundamental changes in the skills landscape, and implicitly, in terms of underlying threats and dangers.

Why it’s a threat?

  • Digital infrastructure is built on layers upon layers of omniscient machine intelligence, human coded software abstractions, and undependable hardware components. Each of the layers interconnects through complex and deeply embedded protocols. The narrow aperture of understanding of such aspects means that the vast majority of people are ignorant of the implications. Even less understood is that complexity of this kind begets vulnerabilities.
  • There is an exponential explosion of digital uncertainty. Few are able to fully comprehend the nature of the new threat, the likes of which have not been witnessed in past decades, if not centuries. Few also realise the grave implications of what it means to have our lives and our economies run on what may be described as fertile digital topsoil. Even fewer realise the kind of intrinsic problems that result from this.
  • Manipulation is a threat which hampers with decision making abilities, among other aspects, this manipulation by news media by powerful non-state actors poses huge risks. It entails the art of using technological tools to alter the cognition of human targets, which are often unaware of such attempts.

Disrupting Decision-Making

  • Manipulation of Information: One significant challenge lies in the deliberate manipulation of information by powerful non-state actors through news media. This involves using advanced technological tools to influence the perception and decisions of unsuspecting individuals.
  • Erosion of Trust: The consequences of such manipulation can be profound, including the erosion of trust among individuals and institutions. Breaches of confidentiality and the undermining of governance capabilities further compound the issue.
  • Behavioral Control: More alarmingly, this manipulation has the potential to alter the behavior of entire populations through sophisticated psychological techniques. Such control over public behavior poses ethical and democratic dilemmas.
  • Resource Drain: Governments and their agencies are dedicating substantial resources to combat the effects of misinformation and disinformation. However, there's a growing realization that this might not be sufficient. The full extent of how AI-driven technologies are contributing to this information manipulation is not yet entirely understood.
  • Truth Decay: These concerns contribute to what can aptly be termed "truth decay." The reliability and integrity of information are being systematically compromised, raising significant ethical concerns in a world increasingly dependent on data and information.
  • Ethical Considerations: In addressing these issues, ethical considerations play a vital role. Safeguarding the integrity of information, ensuring transparency in data manipulation, and respecting individual autonomy are ethical imperatives. Striking a balance between maintaining a free flow of information and preventing malicious manipulation is a complex ethical challenge that governments, tech companies, and society as a whole must confront.

The unimaginative aspect of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

  • If AI is the grave threat that the world is currently contemplating, we are only witnessing the tip of the iceberg. As growing numbers of people — cognitively and psychologically — become dependent on digital networks, AI is able to influence many critical aspects of their thinking and functioning. What is simultaneously exhilarating and terrorising is the fact that many advances in AI are now being birthed by the machine itself.
  • Sooner rather than later, we will witness the emergence of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) — Artificial Intelligence that is equal and or superior to human intelligence, which will penetrate whole new sectors and replace human judgement, intuition and creativity.
  • There is real fear that it could alter the very fabric of nation-states, and tear apart real and imagined communities across the globe. Social and economic inequalities will rise exponentially. Social anarchy will rule the streets as we see happening in some of the cities closest to the epicentre of technological innovation. It has an inherent capacity to flood a country with fake content masquerading as truth, and for imitating known voices with false ones that sound eerily familiar. This could lead to a breakdown of the concept of trust.
  • AGI will enable highly autonomous systems that outperform humans in many areas, including economically (valuable) work, education, social welfare and the like. AGI systems will have the potential to be able to make decisions that are unpredictable and uncontrollable which could have unintended consequences, often with harmful outcomes.
  • It would enhance inequalities and exacerbate social disparities, and worsen economic disparities. Reining in, or even halting, the development of the most advanced forms of AGI, or disallowing unfettered experimentation with the technology may not be easy, but the alternative is that it has the potential to shape the nature of the world in a manner well beyond what can be anticipated. Today, AGI seems to imitate forms of reasoning with a power to approximate the way humans think.

The lesson to be learnt is that an over-dependence on AI and a belief in its invincibility could prove to be as catastrophic as ‘locking the gates after the horse have bolted’. Further with AI and its advancements the victim is ones right to privacy and biasedness which can be given to AI. AI algorithms can inherit biases present in their training data. This can result in discriminatory outcomes.

The impending advent of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) represents a turning point, where AI becomes equal to or even surpasses human intelligence. While this promises great advancements, it also harbors the potential to disrupt the fabric of society. AGI's unpredictability and autonomy in decision-making could lead to unintended and harmful consequences, aggravating inequalities and social disparities.

As we journey into an AI-driven future, balancing innovation with ethical responsibility is paramount to ensure a harmonious and equitable coexistence with this transformative technology.

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