Catastrophes in waiting

in Letters to the editor · 01-04-2021 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

EDITOR, Galloping fiercely into the 21st year of the 21st century, the revelational Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are the harbingers of modern versions of the biblical threats of catastrophe : Pestilential successive epidemics of infectious disease, War in the shape of nuclear annihilation, Famine caused by induced climate change and Death due to human negligence in the control of newly created super technology.

The first three risks are all too apparent as we tiptoe from one state of emergency to another but the fourth, in the often quoted but little understood form of Artificial Intelligence, is perhaps the greatest potential disaster of the four.

During the past decade we have seen an astonishing explosion in the application of A.I. to management activity ranging from the collection of taxes to crop control and from medical innovation to assassination by 007 drones. Savings in cost efficiency are said to be enormous although they must be accompanied by dismissals of redundant clerical and minor executive officers.

But in the next ten years the sum of information commanded by A.I is likely to square bringing with it immense social changes of which we can only guess the magnitude. There are two disturbing aspects. The first is the prospect of A.I. evolving itself into a decision making intelligence superior to that of its creators and the second the lack of any global body which has the power and authority to regulate the activities of both governmental and corporate enterprise.

And before you dismiss these projections as being sci-fi fantasy you should be aware that the British joint committee for National Security Strategy has urgently recommended that its current G7 presidency should give priority to the creation of an international regulator with the wherewithal to enforce restrictions which will protect the world´s population from this potential extortion.

Immensely powerful corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook of the West and Baibu, Uniontech and Wechat of the East must be brought to heel and prevented from exploiting for profit technologies which have the potential to protect - not annihilate - humankind.

Let us hope that the Grim Reaper will not follow too soon in the wake of the Four Horsemen.

Roberto Knight,
Cavaleiro, Tomar

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