Overlapping risks

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

If the decision-making processes of democratic societies are hijacked by ignorance manufactured by Artificial Intelligence, humanity will be seriously threatened.

At the end of last week, we had yet another news story about the dark use of light technologies. This time, a gang used tools of deep fake to carry out a million-dollar coup, which was very successful. deep fake, as you well know, is the name given to these doctored videos that seem as genuine as the metallic speech of the news anchors. National Journal. They are fraudulent videos, but so exquisitely fraudulent, so crystal clear, that they make credible, reliable, perfect and irrefutable images of events that never happened.

They are everywhere. On the cell phone screen, celebrities say phrases that they didn't say in the real world, not to mention public figures starring in orgiastic gestures that – fortunately or unfortunately – never really existed. What happened now is that the same illusionist resources convinced an employee in the financial sector of a multinational in Hong Kong that his boss, via teleconference, ordered the immediate transfer of 25,6 million dollars to an unknown account. The guy obeyed, the fortune slipped away and the local police are looking for the damage and the thieves. It appears that some arrests have already been made.

You may think this is not enough. Maybe you'll say there's nothing surprising about a crime high tech and that since the world is filthy, evil deeds require the services of innovations, be it a piece of chipped stone, a curare, a typewriter or, more currently, the smartphone. Even so, it would be prudent to examine another episode, this one a little more intriguing.

In December, a robot attacked an engineer on the assembly line at one of Tesla's facilities in the United States. The machine even sank its steel claws into the arm of the unsuspecting human being. The explanations came biased, unwillingly and, until now, there are doubts about what happened and how. What happened there? Was it a programming error? If the hypothesis is true, the lubricated monster was not at the service of an unscrupulous criminal, but would have acted on his behalf, as if he had free will, or, at the very least, insane arbitrariness. This, in fact, is more intriguing.

Now imagine a combination, or an overlap, between the first and second news. Imagine a virtual robot (a muzzle, as they say) that commands the creation of artificial images that satisfy the audience's thirsty curiosities. Sometimes, this immaterial being would work under the commands of supposedly human beings.

Other times, however, thanks to the admirable feats of automation, our cybernetic being would be capable of, autonomously, devising breathtaking feats, much like the Spotify algorithm, with its well-trained automatisms, is able to choose the music you will listen to. next, and get it right. Imagine, then, a muzzle that manipulates the deep fake to please the perverse retinas of the angriest crowds, who delight in the suffering of those to whom they dedicate their most venomous hatred and who, in the name of their unconditional hatred, take as definitive truth any outrage that confirms their prejudices and their defects.

Did you imagine? Now go further. It's needed. The World Economic Forum (WEF) went further. In January, the World Economic Forum named misinformation and the tools to spread it as the biggest risk humanity will face in the next two years. This risk is real, insidious and looming right around the corner from your house. In 2024, more than two billion voters will be called upon to decide the fates of 58 countries, including Russia, Mexico, India and the United States. Half of the planet will go to the polls only in 2024, the biggest election year ever, according to statistics. If the industrialized lie continues to cause the damage it is already doing, cumulative disasters will occur.

There is no longer any way not to see it. If the decision-making processes of democratic societies are abducted by ignorance manufactured by Artificial Intelligence, humanity will indeed be seriously threatened. The World Forum is right, there's no denying it. For now, it's true, we're just talking about a risk, but this risk is nothing like a “little flu”. It's for real. If disinformation triumphs, democracy will generate its opposite and be swallowed up by it. And we have no shortage of practical tests that prove the imminence of the worst-case scenario. In our days, I have insisted on this, misinformation is power.

Can electronic circuits and digital media serve for good? Yes, obviously they can. There are the accounting of Fraternity Campaigns, the virtual telemedicine consultations, the ultra-complex weather forecast models. Every technique can serve good causes. But, ungoverned or surrendered to the whims of capital, lawless technique will lead us to the worst of cliffs. Thinkers like Günther Anders, who understood the inversions of the Enlightenment, sensed the appearance of the apocalypse produced by the technique. But what is coming, if we do nothing, is even more astonishing.

* Eugene Bucci He is a full professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of Uncertainty, an essay: how we think about the idea that disorients us (and orients the digital world) (authentic). [https://amzn.to/3SytDKl]

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.


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