WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange predicts an impending dystopic world where human perception is no match for Artificial Intelligence-controlled propaganda and the consequences of AI are lost on its creators, who envision a nirvana-like future.
Assange spoke of the threat of AI-controlled social media via video link at rapper and activist M.I.A.’s Meltdown Festival in the Southbank Centre, London.
Speaking about the future of AI, Assange told a panel including Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek that there will be a time when AI will be used to adjust perception.
“Imagine a Daily Mail run by essentially Artificial Intelligence, what does that look like when there’s only the Daily Mail worldwide? That’s what Facebook and Twitter will shift into,” he said.
Assange referenced the apparent intense pressure Facebook and Google were under to ensure Emmanuel Macron, and not Marine Le Pen, won last month’s French presidential election runoff.
When asked by M.I.A. if AI and VR technology will make society more vulnerable to becoming apolitical, Assange replied: “Yes, of course we can be influenced, but I don’t see that as the main problem.”
“Human beings have always been influenced by sophisticated systems of production, information and experience, [such as the] BBC for example.”
The technologies “just amplify the power of the ability to project into the mind,” he added.
The main concern in Assange’s eyes centers around how AI can be used to advance propaganda.
“The most important development as far as the fate of human beings are concerned is that we are getting close to the threshold where the traditional propaganda function that is employed by BBC, The Daily Mail, and cultures also, can be encapsulated by AI processes,” Assange said.
“When you have AI programs harvesting all the search queries and YouTube videos someone uploads it starts to lay out perceptual influence campaigns, twenty to thirty moves ahead. This starts to become totally beneath the level of human perception.”
Using Google as an example, and comparing the wit involved to a game of chess, he said at this level human beings become powerless as they can’t even see it happening.
Admitting his vision was dystopian, he suggested that he could be wrong.
“Maybe there will be a new band of technologically empowered human beings that can see this [rueful] fate coming towards us, [which] will be able to extract value or diminish it by directly engaging with it – that’s also possible.”
Another insight offered by the WikiLeaks founder was his opinion that engineers involved in AI lack perception about what they’re doing.
“I know from our sources deep inside the Silicon Valley institution[s] that they genuinely believe that they are going to produce AI that’s so powerful, relatively soon, that people will have their brains digitized, uploaded to these AIs and live forever in simulation, therefore have eternal life.”
“It’s like a religion for atheists,” he added. “And given you’re in a simulation, why not program the simulation to have endless drug and sex orgy parties around you.”
Assange said this vision makes them work harder and the dystopian consequences of their work is overshadowed by cultural and industrial bias to not perceiving it.
He concluded that the normal perception someone would have regarding their work has been supplanted with “this ridiculous quasi-religious model that’s it all going to lead to nirvana.”