AI News, Rival Theory

The ‘Mortal Danger’ of China’s Push Into AI

Governments and companies worldwide are investing heavily in artificial intelligence in hopes of new profits, smarter gadgets, and better health care.

“I want to call attention to the mortal danger facing open societies from the instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can put in the hands of repressive regimes,” Soros said.

As in the US, much of the leading work on AI in China takes place inside a handful of large tech companies, such as search engine Baidu and retailer and payments company Alibaba.

He pointed to China’s developing “social credit” system, aimed at tracking citizens’ reputations by logging financial activity, online interactions, and even energy use, among other things.

Soros argued that synergy like that between corporate and government AI projects creates a more potent threat than was posed by Cold War–era autocrats, many of whom spurned corporate innovation.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin warned in Alphabet’s most recent annual shareholder letter that AI technology had downsides, including the potential to manipulate people.

He advised the president to be tougher on Chinese telecoms manufacturers ZTE and Huawei, to prevent them from dominating the high-bandwidth 5G mobile networks being built around the world.

He asked them to imagine a technologically oriented version of the treaty signed after World War II that underpins the United Nations, binding countries into common standards for human rights and freedoms.

This is what I said: “An alliance is emerging between authoritarian states and the large data rich IT monopolies that bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with an already developing system of state sponsored surveillance.

This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even George Orwell could have imagined.” Tonight I want to call attention to the mortal danger facing open societies from the instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can put in the hands of repressive regimes.

All the rapidly expanding information available about a person is going to be consolidated in a centralized database to create a “social credit system.” Based on that data, people will be evaluated by algorithms that will determine whether they pose a threat to the one-party state.

Unfortunately, some Chinese find it rather attractive because it provides information and services that aren’t currently available and can also protect law-abiding citizens against enemies of the state.

China isn’t the only authoritarian regime in the world, but it’s undoubtedly the wealthiest, strongest and most developed in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

As the founder of the Open Society Foundations, I’ve devoted my life to fighting totalizing, extremist ideologies, which falsely claim that the ends justify the means.

What I find particularly disturbing is that the instruments of control developed by artificial intelligence give an inherent advantage to authoritarian regimes over open societies.

use “open society” as shorthand for a society in which the rule of law prevails as opposed to rule by a single individual and where the role of the state is to protect human rights and individual freedom.

In my personal view, an open society should pay special attention to those who suffer from discrimination or social exclusion and those who can’t defend themselves.

By contrast, authoritarian regimes use whatever instruments of control they possess to maintain themselves in power at the expense of those whom they exploit and suppress.

Open societies need to regulate companies that produce instruments of control, while authoritarian regimes can declare them “national champions.” That’s what has enabled some Chinese state-owned companies to catch up with and even surpass the multinational giants.

was very fortunate because my father understood the nature of the Nazi regime and arranged false identity papers and hiding places for all members of his family, and for a number of other Jews as well.

I defined its objectives as helping to open up closed societies, reducing the deficiencies of open societies and promoting critical thinking.

It involved an exchange of visits between Hungarian economists who were greatly admired in the Communist world, and a team from a newly established Chinese think tank which was eager to learn from the Hungarians.

approved this change because I was annoyed with Chen Yizi for awarding too many grants to members of his own institute and I was unaware of the political infighting behind the scenes.

At that time, giving a grant created a sense of mutual obligation between the donor and recipient and obliged both of them to remain loyal to each other forever.

Although there was no official communique, rumor had it that the convocation disapproved of the abolition of term limits and the cult of personality that Xi had built around himself.

History has shown that even governments that want to protect individual freedom have many other interests and they also give precedence to the freedom of their own citizens over the freedom of the individual as a general principle.

As some China experts have explained to me, there is a Confucian tradition, according to which advisors of the emperor are expected to speak out when they strongly disagree with one of his actions or decrees, even that may result in exile or execution.

The committed defenders of open society in China, who are around my age, have mostly retired and their places have been taken by younger people who are dependent on Xi Jinping for promotion.

In September, he announced that “vanity projects” will be shunned in favor of more carefully conceived initiatives and in October, the People’s Daily warned that projects should serve the interests of the recipient countries.

Most importantly, the US government has now identified China as a “strategic rival.” President Trump is notoriously unpredictable, but this decision was the result of a carefully prepared plan.

Since then, the idiosyncratic behavior of Trump has been largely superseded by a China policy adopted by the agencies of the administration and overseen by Asian affairs advisor of the National Security Council Matt Pottinger and others.

The Pottinger plan doesn’t answer the question whether its ultimate goal is to level the playing field or to disengage from China altogether.

If the decline in the Chinese economy and stock market is severe enough, this social contract may be undermined and even the business community may turn against Xi Jinping.

China wants to dictate rules and procedures that govern the digital economy by dominating the developing world with its new platforms and technologies.

My key point is that the combination of repressive regimes with IT monopolies endows those regimes with a built-in advantage over open societies.

The instruments of control are useful tools in the hands of authoritarian regimes, but they pose a mortal threat to open societies.

Since Xi is the most dangerous enemy of the open society, we must pin our hopes on the Chinese people, and especially on the business community and a political elite willing to uphold the Confucian tradition.

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