AI HAS HACKED THE OPERATING SYSTEM OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION

The famous 42-year-old Israeli historian reflects on the capabilities and horizon of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in this recent article published by The Economist (www.theeconomist.com) dated April 28, 2023.

The writer argues that new artificial intelligence tools have emerged in recent years that threaten the survival of human civilization from directions never thought before. The AI has acquired some remarkable abilities to manipulate and generate language, be it with words, sounds or images, and in this sense, the AI has hacked (or «hacked» according to the RAE) the operating system of our civilization.

The writer argues: “Language is what almost all human culture is made of. Human rights, for example, are not inscribed in our DNA. Rather, they are cultural elements that we create by telling stories and creating laws. The gods are not physical realities. But rather, cultural elements that we create by inventing myths and writing sacred scriptures.” Although to complement this point, Noah Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics and one of the most lucid minds of our times, has already said that neither the product of AI nor the way in which it is produced can resemble what it is in its current state. What does the human brain do?

Continuing with his argument, Harari adds: “Money is also a cultural element. Banknotes, let’s say, are nothing more than pieces of colored paper, although today, more than 90% of money does not even take the form of banknotes, it is just digital information in computers. And he emphasizes the following: “What gives money value are the stories that its owners, bank owners, finance ministers and cryptocurrency gurus tell us about it. Sam Bankman-Fried, Elizabeth Holmes and Bernie Madoff” … – protagonists of gigantic frauds -… “They weren’t particularly good at creating real value, but they were all extremely capable at telling stories.”

Next, the writer reflects: «What will happen once a non-human intelligence is better than the average human at telling stories, composing melodies, drawing pictures, and writing laws and holy scriptures?»

When people think of ChatGPT and other new AI tools, the first thing that comes to mind are examples of how school-age children will be able to use AI to write homework. What will happen to the school system when kids do that? However, this question leaves out the global figure. Forget schoolwork. Think about the next US presidential race in 2024 and try to imagine the impact artificial intelligence tools can have by producing political content, large-scale fake news and holy scriptures for new cults.

The article continues by arguing that by skillfully handling language, AI could even enter into intimate relationships with people and use the power of intimacy to change our opinions and worldviews. Although there is no indication that AI has consciousness or feelings of its own, being able to foster false intimacy with humans is enough if the AI can make them feel emotionally attached or identified with it.

By way of illustration, the author mentions that in a political battle for hearts and minds, privacy is the most effective weapon, and artificial intelligence has just achieved the ability to produce intimate relationships en masse with millions of people. As is more than well known, during the last decade, social networks have become a battlefield to control human attention. Well, with the next generation of artificial intelligence, the battlefront is shifting from attention to privacy. What will happen to human society and human psychology when AI fights against AI in a battle to fake intimate relationships with us, the same ones that can later be used to convince us to vote for particular politicians or buy certain products on the Internet? particular?

But, even without creating «false privacy», the new AI tools would have an immense influence on our opinions and worldviews. People can come to use a single AI advisor as an all-knowing, know-it-all oracle. No wonder Google is terrified. Why bother searching, when I can only ask the oracle? The news and advertising industry should be terrified too. Why read a newspaper when I can just ask the oracle to tell me the latest news? And what is the purpose of advertisements, when I can only ask the oracle to tell me what to buy?

As Harari emphasizes, history is the interaction between biology and culture; between our biological needs and desires for things like food and sex, and our cultural creations like religions and laws. History is the process through which laws and religions shape food and sex. What will happen to the course of history when AI takes over culture and begins to produce – ie invent – stories, melodies, laws and religions? Earlier tools, such as the printing press and radio, helped spread the cultural ideas of humans, but never created new cultural ideas of their own. The AI is fundamentally different. AI can create completely new ideas, a completely new culture.

Lest we lose perspective, let’s not forget that the fear of artificial intelligence has haunted humanity for only the last few decades. Yet for thousands of years, humans have been haunted by a much deeper fear. We have always realized the power that stories and images have to manipulate our mind and create illusions. Consequently, since ancient times, humans have always feared being trapped in a world of illusions.

Adolfo Cunyas Zuranich
Corporate Communications
Russell Bedford Peru