The dangers of technology according to its greatest experts
“Artificial intelligence ensures the end of the human race” – Stephen Hawking
Before we dive into the warnings from some of the most visible people in the world of technology with regards to what humanity can expect about the latest developments in artificial intelligence, the internet, social media and others, let’s focus on a simple example that shows why their warnings are reasonably concerning.
The rate at which private entities and governments are increasing their power and domination over people is alarming. More governments and technology corporations are out of control when it comes to illegally spying citizens without their consent. Sure, when using social media you provide consent for these companies to data-mine you to death, but how about intelligence agencies or governments? They do not ask for consent, do they?
The world was shocked when Edward Snowden blew the lid on illegal and unconstitutional spying against American citizens. but things have gotten much worse since then.
More and more countries have adopted the Police State model under the excuse of enhancing security, but none of them can protect you from random mass shootings, can they?
The latest example of a government power-grab comes from India, where authorities tell people that their overreach into their privacy is part of what they are labeling as a modern example of democracy.
The country prepares a network of facial recognition as a complement to its vast population control system.
From this month of October, the Government will grant tenders to companies to develop an image analysis program captured by video surveillance.
The model opens a market as promising as the Chinese – estimated at $4.3 billion in 2024 – although not as effective yet.
The project aims to complete India’s poor human resources in security – one police officer for every 724 inhabitants – connecting facial recognition with passport databases, fingerprints and other records.
This is a disturbing model in a country that lacks cybersecurity policies and whose current biometric identification program, among the largest in the world, is also among the most insecure due to the continuous leaks it suffers.
“We are the only democracy in the world that will install such a system despite having no privacy or data protection laws,” summarizes Apar Gupta, lawyer and director of the Foundation for Internet Freedom, based on the Indian capital, New Delhi.
In 2015, members of this group got national authorities to ensure net neutrality, avoiding additional provider fees.
“It will be a gold mine for companies in search of large unprotected databases,” says Gupta, referring to the leak and theft of system data that contains biometric information of hundreds of millions since it was introduced by law in 2016, to the total of the 1.3 billion inhabitants of the country.
Devised a decade ago, Aadhaar is a program that creates a unique identification number that contains physical and demographic data of each citizen for access to public services.
Thus, the system improves control over social benefits and subsidies, avoiding duplication and corruption. Without validity to certify citizenship, the Aadhaar card verifies the residence of the holder, so private companies require it to contract their services, despite being contrary to the law.
Thus, former World Bank chief economist, Paul Romer, described it as “the most sophisticated identification program in the world.” While the famous global cyber activist, Edward Snowden, explained that “there is something seriously worrying about this system” when “in India, you cannot have a birth certificate without Aadhaar.”
This number is requested more and more frequently by companies. “Aadhaar undermines citizens’ rights,” says university professor Reetika Khera, co-author of Dissent on Aadhaar: Big Data meets Big Brother.
“Not only are there problems in the voting register, but about 40 people have been killed who were denied social assistance due to related problems.”
Local publications claim that the electoral commission eliminated names of the registry by linking voter cards to Aadhaar without consent and exposed the privacy of millions. “Even the government repeatedly violates the order of the Supreme regarding Aadhaar,” says Khera.
“Like many others, I still receive notifications from the Ministry of Technology for verification,” says Gopal Krishna, whose Aadhaar number was authenticated with his biometric data without having requested it.
Coordinator of the Citizen Forum for Civil Liberties, Krishna leads a campaign of more than 3.5 million signatures against this program, forcing the Supreme Court to resolve, in 2013, that the government could not deny services to those who did not have the Aadhaar card, which is voluntary.
Since then, however, public and private entities demand it for their services. “It is a new form of slavery through profiling and technological control.
The root of the Aadhaar program is biometric technology: it has a probabilistic nature and, therefore, has authentication errors. Our rights cannot depend on algorithms,” summarizes Krishna.
“The judges always recognized that the project raised constitutional doubts and insisted that it is not mandatory. But orders are violated, even by the executive,” explains Usha Ramanathan, a lawyer who received the Human Rights Hero (2018) award for his litigation against the biometric network.
In 2016, the government drafted a specific Aadhaar bill to replace the normative absence in privacy, data protection or electronic commerce within a framework that, according to Ramanathan, approaches the “American model of laissez-faire” rather than the European model of safeguard of rights.
Declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the proposal was approved by decree in early 2019 and even Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced days ago the potential use of the system for banking transactions.
“The ruling literally says that the impact would allow the commercial exploitation of biometric and demographic information by private entities. Should we be clearer?” Asks Ramanathan, who criticizes “the processing of data as if it were merchandise.”
But that is exactly what people have become to governments and tech corporations: Objects of desire for their data for the purpose of controlling and micromanaging everyone’s life.
So, what can we expect for the near future when it comes to the role that technology will play?
Feeling vertigo, distrust and respect for all the changes that are happening is logical. Above all, because many relevant actors in these industries spare no effort in releasing their warnings.
The creator of the Cretive Commons, Richard Stallman, “Mobiles are Stalin’s dream, because they emit a location signal every two or three minutes. And worse, one of its processors has a universal backdoor that turns them into listening devices that never goes off. ”
Meanwhile, Elon Musk, warns about artificial intelligence: “I tend to be against strict regulations, but in artificial intelligence, we need it: it is a risk to our civilization. Researchers believe they are smarter than artificial intelligence, but they are wrong.”
Niall Ferguson, historian of the Hoover Institution (Stanford) and Professor at Harvard, says that “social networks work by encouraging the dissemination of false news and extreme opinions because it is what most attracts the attention of users and, thus, in the most democracies have just begun the process of political polarization. “
Yuval Noah Harari says that “we have created machines that are capable of doing things that their creators do not understand”. And this will affect our health and work. “When people live 150 years when robots take up most of the work, then a useless social class will appear.” And he adds: “Google, or some company of that style, will make the main decisions about health, about children or about us. The same can happen in other fields of life, even romantic life. If an algorithm monitors you all the time, it knows you better than you.”
Nick Bostrom, from the Institute for the Future of Humanity and the Artificial Intelligence Strategy Research Center at the University of Oxford, warns that “if artificial intelligence ends up being able to do all or much of our intellectual work better than us, we will have in our hands the last invention that humanity will have to make ”.
Silvio Micali, professor and associate director of the Department of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explains about bitcoin: “Bitcoin is a recipe for disaster. It is absolutely doomed. We need a different model.”
Vincent Mosco is an emeritus professor of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, who has dedicated his life to analyzing the transformations in communication and media, says that “cloud computing is a danger to Internet freedom”.
But it is Nicholas Carr, disseminator and technologist who warns us of what he thinks is the worst threat: “Google’s vision of the human mind is industrial.” And he adds: “Google and other companies undermine our ability to think deeply, critically and conceptually, it pushes us towards superficial thinking and far from rigor.”
His warming is similar to that of Dr. Robert Epstein, who has warned the US Congress about Google’s ability to reengineer humanity.
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Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder & editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 23 years in every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, education, technology, science, health, immigration and other current affairs. Luis has worked as on-air talent, news reporter, television producer, and news writer.