The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence
Bill Hibbard June 2017I submitted the following letter to the editor of the New York Times on 25 June 2017, although they did not print it:
However, he is wrong to dismiss the threat of A.I. controlling humans as a problem that may not arise for hundreds of years. Consider that many of the large A.I. companies he lists provide their services free of charge, making money from clients who pay to embed persuasive messages in those free services. Like most commercial TV broadcasters, those companies are in the persuasion business. But unlike commercial TV that broadcasts the same message to all viewers, the A.I. companies are building "big data" repositories that contain detailed information about us and the social relationships among us, enabling them to customize persuasion to each of us and to create peer pressure among groups of people. Imagine how well they will know us and be able to persuade us when they can speak with us as we speak with each other, which is a top development priority for the A.I. companies. Many children will learn to talk by talking with A.I.
This threat is imminent and is difficult to address because it is subtle and less visible than economic inequality. The first step is for the A.I. companies and their clients to inform the public about the goals of all their persuasion and the means by which they seek to reach those goals.