Deleted ethical subroutines

Coronavirus Covid-19: What will our AI dominated societies look like after the pandemic?

So what will our societies look like after the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic when artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere?

Deleted ethical subroutines
“They deleted my ethical  subroutines”: Star Trek Voyager Series 5 Episode 25 © ® ViacomCBS

Expect more #techlash when more and of the non tech oriented population understands their life is ruled and ruined by algorithms largely based on profiteering.  Additionally enhancing people’s often faulty preferences with recommender systems or looking for conflict and “engaging” subjects like FB will further polarise societies.

More and more uncontrolled AI programmed by non emphatic Asperger personalities creates more trolls and a divided society.

The likes of Trump, Farage, Katie Hopkins, Orban and their racist offspring are proof enough.

AI companies, spearheaded by Google, Facebook and Twitter are running an uncontrolled social experiment on a very aggressive species that has still not recovered from the “Great Recession 2008” and this species will now be hit after the Corona Virus with an economic depression.

Humans do react in different ways to a pandemic.

  1. Self-Preservation
  2. Group Preservation
  3. Blame Setting
  4. Justice Seeking
  5. Renormalizing

These are called Galea’s five stages adapted to public health.

Millions and millions of frightened, and angry people will look within these stages  for their personal paranoia on the internet.

And Google will try to maximise it’s profit to find every “theory”. Why are there still “flat earthers” and anti vaxxers otherwise?

This will increase the echo chamber effect of cognitive bias.

Giving people what they want (in searches) might be profitable but will not always be advisable.

Yes the internet will first increase cooperation but equally it will also strengthen the effects of blame, hate and justice seeking.

While populations always reacted in negative ways to pandemics the increased deployment of socially untested AI will increase and strengthen these effects. One would like to say that rationality would also be strengthened by these algorithms but both Brexit, Trump and the attack on weak democratic systems show that this is not the case when some of the richest countries in the world have ancient pseudo democratic systems like FPTP or the electoral college that allow minorities to gain full governmental control, and as it is the case in Britain, even without effective opposition and  no codified constitution.

In totally undemocratic countries as China, where AI is already used on a daily basis to control and suppress people’s individuality, the consequences for freedom under AI will be even more catastrophic.
Face recognition, behavioural tracking and automatic ranking will suppress dissent in a quarantine, but will unlikely be lifted afterwards.

India, now also a nationalist country with ethnic suppression on Muslims, is using an app to track corona cases.

AI is as such, without proper scrutinisation and control, a most destructive and ultimately immoral application as it is based on data science. Data scientists are essentially business analysts. They use the tools of science  to increase profit for  monopolies like Google, Facebook and Amazon that will have the resources to employ massive hardware expenses that no ethical correct company will be able to compete with.

Many AI start ups solely exist by angel or capital venture funding and are not viable per se, yet they are allowed to run socially untested algorithms for example on British Patient Data.

Until AI is controlled and it’s positive outliers like medical imaging diagnoses are the only ones existing, we will face another anti human capitalist arms race. Anti human as it allows not for human variation and fallibility.

Look at what travelling salesmen type algorithms are doing to exhausted   delivery drivers.

Machine Learning and AI after Corona will see all the private medical insurers that already refuse to insure for Corona implement another set of unknown algorithms to increase profit.

Unlike real humans, AI will not make an occasional slip up out of compassion. While also many human corporate psychopaths exist, occasionally a compassionate lapse would occur, intended or unintended. With AI, compassion does not come into it. The systems are designed to maximise profit and profit alone.

This will make the post Covid-19 world even harsher and more inhuman than it already would be. Undoubtedly AI based profiteering will be used by unscrupulous companies and governments to enhance profit and control over societies with China, the UK, Russia  and the USA being the front runners.

China’s unethical use of AI  and algorithmic oppression is already well documented.  The UK is well on China’s heels with constant CCTV surveillance with London being the 6th most-surveilled after China holding the places 1 -5 and  followed by Wuhan on place 7. The UK governments advisers obsession and cavalierness with abusing public data for party political gains is meanwhile legendary and continues to go unchallenged. The USA is of course the main player in uncontrolled AI companies, having unsuccessfully controlled the main monopolies of today’s world: Google,  Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft  and so on. The USA’s antitrust laws are inefficient to protect the world from the menace these companies pose to societal cohesion. Russia’s electoral interference is by now common knowledge.

So the post Covid-19 (Coronavirus) world in Galeo’s stages  will quite clearly be ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous companies and governments. These actors exist as has been shown above and will most likely use these tools again. 

Yes the mega trusts like Google will use their AI to track Covid 19 but they will do this not out of good will or to increase human knowledge. It will teach them more on how to sell ads even in adverse conditions. Google’s data collection obsession might be useful at times but ultimately has only one goal: to sell you ads and to take advertising money from desperate societies in economic decline.

AI should as such  only be employed by ethical companies that have a good history of employing not only computer scientists but real scientists and social scientists that know about the underlying domain, that are driven by compassion and not only profit.

Computer Scientists and Physicist might be good at implementing algorithms but they have no training in large scale systems and effects on them. Epidemiologists, Mathematical biologists, ecologists and social scientists need to be in control of these engineers, so that naive search for profit or sheer ignorance and anti social behaviour is not the only drive of AI, especially after Covid 19 has caused a devastated economic landscape, humanity has not known since the last pandemic catastrophe of 1918-20 Spanish Flu.

Read how AI and Brexit interact.