What This Dystopia

The development of technology proceeds at its rapid pace. My great-grandmother’s life spanned from horse carts to rocket ships. Mine has seen a dozen major technologies appear and disappear just as quickly. The impact of these changes on culture is a trope used in video media to express how out of touch older generations are. 

Today’s explosive new tech is embraced as “AI” – Artificial Intelligence. We have been arguing about the potential benefits and hazards of AI since before we had mechanical computers, so it’s clear that we understand on a basic level that mechanical others with consciousness would dramatically change society. Many of the stories that discussed this topic asked what sort of people we would become.

The recently discovered hazards of AI aren’t really new. We’ve had plagiarism and  forgery forever, and some of it was so good that we still discover it today. What’s different is the mechanical nature of the thing: this sort of mechanically generated forgery presented in the AI art forums has completely overwhelmed social media to the point where you can’t tell if any photo is “real” or not. But it has also been true that to expect that any image found on the internet is real is naive at best.

If the ability for AI to be weaponized to make your favorite media star mouth the words of fascists is what scares you, if you’re frightened that AI could trick you into believing that real things are fake and fake things are real, then this is an excellent opportunity to recognize that this kind of thing has been going on for a long time and they didn’t need AI to do it. It’s just happening a lot faster now.

I’ve seen famous people lie on camera my whole life. Obvious, demonstrable lies are told without shame or consternation. Before cameras, people lied in speech or writing, in word and in deed. Powerful, wealthy people, authority figures, and spiritual leaders have manipulated others forever, and claimed things that were not their own as a matter of course. Marriages were sundered, kingdoms usurped, and fortunes squandered by liars. We are not charting some new universe where AI holds the moral destiny of humanity at bay. What is being called “AI” today is merely the automation of what had previously been a manual process. Now, instead of lying to one person at a time, they can lie to everyone at once.

The technology isn’t evil, it’s neutral. The use of the technology is what can be good or evil. The fact that it’s being leveraged to do more of what we were already doing to ourselves simply points out that what our culture had been allowing was evil. Now it’s just so big we can’t hide from it.  

AI isn’t evil. We are.


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