Usually, hardcore technophiles get hurt in the pocket. I still recall people spending £800 on VHS video recorders (about £3,900 in today’s money) only for them to fall to a fraction of that soon afterwards. Likewise with early laptops and cellphones.
What’s concerning about AI’s earliest adopters is both their blasé attitudes to its many flaws and weaknesses, and their insistence on foisting AI-driven “solutions” upon the rest of us.
Which brings us to the Synthetic Party. On paper no doubt it sounds great. Remove those problematic humans from decision-making. But politics takes place in the very real world of human society, not on paper or in bits and bytes.
This scenario – actually of an AI coming to power – was workshopped at the Athens Democracy Forum by a very interesting organisation called Apolitical. Our collective conclusion was very clear that AI isn’t ready to rule – and perhaps never will be.
Even if the advent of AI was at worst likely to punish enthusiasts financially, as with previous technology early adopters, I’d still have issues with it. AI needs to be fed with data to learn, and that data is your and my personal information, whether gathered legitimately with full consent or not.
However, AI could have ramifications far beyond our worst current nightmares. As always, we dream negatively in Orwellian terms, fearing technology will turn on us like Frankenstein’s monster or the Terminator, when history suggests that dystopia more often manifests in Huxleyan terms.
We are sleepwalking into this, and judging by these Danish early adopters, we will happily embrace our own slavery. It would be much preferable if the cost of AI was merely financial. But the ramifications are likely to be much more impactful.
Already in many democracies, a large proportion of the electorate simply don’t engage. And when they do, a growing proportion are voting for parties with extreme ideologies. On our current vector, we could easily end up volunteering for our own obsolescence.
What the Synthetic Party promise is true technocracy – rule by machines and algorithms rather than rule by unelected officials as we currently understand the term. As always, be careful what you wish for.