Technology changes at a rapid pace, in fact, so rapid, that our lives are completely different from even ten years ago, but in a way, it also develops slowly enough that sometimes we don’t notice it. We live in the future, and at times, it takes a moment to realize what a weird and disturbing this future is.
Two controversial billionaires have created programs aimed at reading the masses’ minds. Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, revealed the latest step in his plan to develop mind-reading implants by merging humans with computers not long ago. Moreover, he recently unveiled that the implants will be so well combined with the networks that they will be able to stream music straight into your brain.
Musk suggested that the technology would be significant for when the AI takes over the world: “Even under a benign AI, we will be left behind. With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we will have the option to go along for the ride.” This means that he pushes a project that will make humans robots, no more, no less.
If you can’t beat em, join em
Neuralink mission statement
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2020
In the meantime, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who created an AI to manage his home, has unveiled his company’s own success at building a mind-reading device. The billionaire had already had his share of failure when the robots he created for Facebook started to communicate with each other in an unknown language.
Facebook’s version of the technology requires probes to be inserted into people’s brains. The first phases of the experiment succeeded after the technology recorded answers to nine sets of questions from a list of 24 potential responses.
The End of Ambiguity
TV shows, such as CSI, usually resort to a technician being able to ‘enhance’ a photo, which would magically sharpen a pixellated image. This was a joke among professionals because enhancing images like that was not possible.
However, that is not the case anymore. Machine-learning techniques for developing and manipulating images are capable of sharpening a blurry image. They can also recognize faces from images of only 88 pixels.
Once, we had a decent amount of privacy and anonymity as we lived our lives. That is, though, coming to an end now as cameras are high-resolution, AI can enhance that further, and facial recognition techniques can associate us to databases with comparative ease. What was a cautionary tale is now a reality with all the drones now flying around recording everything people do.
Voluntary Surveillance in Audio Version
Most people today have always-on microphones in their kitchens, cars, pockets, and wrists, with brand names such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. They are ‘supposed’ to only transmit data when we command them to, but they were found to actually register ambient noise or background conversations and record them.
A good portion of those recordings is then listened to by human beings ‘for quality-control purposes.’ Numerous whistleblowers have come forward and released that their conversations are being listened to by Alexa, Google Home, and Siri.
“There have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters, and so on,” an Apple contractor revealed.
Voluntary Surveillance in Location Version
Google’s Android, which is the operating system running on about 88 percent of all smartphones sold today, constantly sends your location to the company. Google also develops the first- and second-most used navigation apps for the OS that runs on most of the remaining 12 percent of the phones, and constantly sends your location to its servers as well.
Google is actually open about this fact. Users can check the massive amount of location data that they are voluntarily handing over by visiting a website that will show them the gigantic history of their location. They can, if they know about it, disable the levels of surveillance. However, many of them do not, because the continuous monitoring of your location by an unaccountable private company is used ‘to give you personalized maps, recommendations based on places you’ve visited, and more.’
Robots and Humans
For instance, companies like X.ai, Expensify, and Edison, have sold AI products online, only to be discovered that they turned around and used human labor to do the work. The ambiguity could get to a situation where people are polite to both humans and machines, but that hope seems rather irrelevant as a far more plausible future is one in which low-paid service work ends up being less pleasant as employees’ humanity is basically concealed from those they are serving.
Not everything about the peculiar cyberpunk future is deeply disturbing and scary, as there’s now cruelty-free low-carbon veggie meat, 3D-printed bionic limbs, and almost-instant machine translation between numerous languages.
However, we should sometimes pause to review all this. The world is different… but is it better?