According to a special report by the BBC, Microsoft president Brad Smith is warning lawmakers to protect society against artificial intelligence (AI). He claims it will be “difficult to catch up” with the snowballing effect of technology. And the nightmare of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 could still become a reality.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is using AI to monitor everything, including its citizens. Some international experts believe that China’s dominance in AI technology could threaten democracy.
“I’m constantly reminded of George Orwell’s lessons in his book 1984. You know the fundamental story…was about a government who could see everything that everyone did and hear everything that everyone said all the time,” Smith says.
“Well, that didn’t come to pass in 1984, but if we’re not careful that could come to pass in 2024.”
China shows shades of 1984
Smith says that in China there are already signs of trouble. China is working on rapidly increasing all forms of AI technology. And trying to become the world’s leader.
In 2019, China beat the US by securing the largest number of patents for innovation in AI tech. And currently, more than half of the world’s 770 million CCTV cameras are located in China. Facial recognition software is used extensively in China to arrest dissidents.
Dr. Eric Schmidt, an ex-Google chief executive now serves as chair of the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. He has also been warning that it is important that the U.S. beat China in AI.
“We’re in a geo-political strategic conflict with China,” Schmidt says. “The way to win is to marshal our resources together to have national and global strategies for the democracies to win in AI. If we don’t, we’ll be looking at a future where other values will be imposed on us.”
Project Maven goes public
In 2016, while still employed, as the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company Dr. Schmidt became an adviser to the Pentagon. Since then, Google has been working on a variety of contracts with the Pentagon.
Project Maven was one of those projects. It developed technology that uses machine learning to recognize people and objects in videos from drones.
“Maven at the time was…a way of replacing human eyes by an automatic vision for the drone footage that was being used in the various Arab conflicts,” Dr. Schmidt said. “I viewed the use of that technology as a net positive for national security and a good partnership for Google.”
The project received widespread criticism. Google employees petitioned against Project Maven. Although Google claimed its AI was for “non-offensive purposes.” Then in June 2018, Project Maven was canceled.
Dr. Schmidt said he still believes technology that can help the military make better decisions was a “good thing.”
AI race includes military
The U.S. Department of Defence is still partnering in Silicon Valley. Because that’s where the technology is developing. And win the global AI arms race.
Seth Moulton chairs the US Future of Defence Task Force. He continues to urge tech companies to support the Department of Defence.
“Because we’re in a race, because we are in this competition, that’s really what it comes down to,” Moulton said. “Are you going to help us win this race or are you going to essentially be against us?”
“China does not have the same system of government as we do. Could the AI arms race lead to conflict with China? Absolutely,” he adds.