Why Technology Favors Tyranny

from The Atlantic

There is nothing inevitable about democracy. For all the success that democracies have had over the past century or more, they are blips in history. Monarchies, oligarchies, and other forms of authoritarian rule have been far more common modes of human governance.

The emergence of liberal democracies is associated with ideals of liberty and equality that may seem self-evident and irreversible. But these ideals are far more fragile than we believe. Their success in the 20th century depended on unique technological conditions that may prove ephemeral.

In the second decade of the 21st century, liberalism has begun to lose credibility. Questions about the ability of liberal democracy to provide for the middle class have grown louder; politics have grown more tribal; and in more and more countries, leaders are showing a penchant for demagoguery and autocracy. The causes of this political shift are complex, but they appear to be intertwined with current technological developments. The technology that favored democracy is changing, and as artificial intelligence develops, it might change further.

Information technology is continuing to leap forward; biotechnology is beginning to provide a window into our inner lives—our emotions, thoughts, and choices. Together, infotech and biotech will create unprecedented upheavals in human society, eroding human agency and, possibly, subverting human desires. Under such conditions, liberal democracy and free-market economics might become obsolete.

More here.

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2 Responses to Why Technology Favors Tyranny

  1. Alexander Fialkowsky September 14, 2018 at 12:52 pm #

    Our global expansion of technology and intelligence has allowed us to thrive in so many areas of human life, including medicine, communication, and even business. Companies have artificial intelligence that can analyze and predict trends in stocks. There are also robotic nurses in countries such as Japan to help patients in quarantine, as well as cheer up young patients. All of this advancement has led us to the lives we have now. However, if we continue to progress, will the outcome always be favorable? The answer is no. Technology is at a critical point right now where it the most advanced pieces of tech have almost human-like capabilities. There are artificial intelligence robots who can project and sense human emotion. Frankly, I have seen too many movies to ever support such technology. It is supposed to be a tool that people can use to help benefit their lives, not take over their lives. And if we continue down this path that is what it may come to. In the article, the author, Harari, talks about a “Useless Class” that will arise if automation is not regulated. People with jobs such as food service, retail, transportation, manufacturing and many more could all be replaced with automated workers. If you think about it, these labor-intensive jobs make up a large population of the world, and even more so, the middle and lower classes. If this useless class does come about, there would be mass poverty and outrage. People would turn to their governments for aid such as Unemployment and Healthcare. By reaching their hand out for these services, if the government chooses to comply, they will have even more control over these groups. There would be likely not many jobs for these people to choose from for long periods, which would mean that they would have to rely on the government’s aid that much more. The point I think Harari is trying to make is that with such a large portion of the population under government aid, the government could become more tyrannical and ignore the voices of the people because they in a sense directly control their income and resources. So the people would not object so that they can avoid biting the hand that feeds them. If this does become the case, there is not much that can stop it, so we must take necessary precautions now. Including regulatory measures on artificial intelligence and automated workers. As well as protection of human workers from replacement. Technology is a powerful tool, as long as the power is used correctly, if not, we could destroy ourselves as easily as pushing a button.

  2. Yash Wagle September 14, 2018 at 7:00 pm #

    As level of technology is rapidly advancing it brings about some beneficial change, yet what is perhaps is more concerning is the way technology is beginning to interfere with people’s livelihood in countless aspects. In the Atlantic article in notes the depths to which these advancement of technology could concentrate power towards a small elite possessing power over the majority. The article brings up several points about how different technologies may soon rule the future.
    One of the biggest topics in the article brings up the power of artificial intelligence (AI) or robots. Technology for a long time has been disrupting the job market by taking manual jobs such as manufacturing. Yet with the advance of AI it is not only manual skilled jobs that would be at risk, but also cognitive skilled jobs that would be at risk. AI has proven itself the ability to rapidly advance and develop its own thinking. At the moment human cognitive skill may surpass those of AI, but human and AI are not competing, in fact they are cooperating in that new jobs demand humans to work alongside with AI. But as AI is constantly improving even these jobs would be at risk. The article gave an example of Google’s AlphaZero program playing chess against a Stockfish 8 programs. These two computers possess the ability to play chess higher than that of any human. Interestingly enough, AlphaZero the winner of the chess championship learned chess by itself without the help of any human. Even more amazing is that the program learned the game of chess in a period of hours playing against itself. Even more amazing is that the program made moves in such way that even humans would at first find them meaningless. This chess match in shows the power of AI and how it possess the ability beyond that of any human, this makes the fear of AI taking over human jobs an alarming possibility. AI has the possibility to advance in the fields of transportation, as well as the ability to take over the field of medicine. What makes AI so special is that it does all this work with precision making occupations from truck drivers to doctors may soon be no longer done by humans. What will end up happening is that the lack of human jobs would create a “useless class” class of people would fail to meet the requirements compared to their AI counterpart.
    Yet what is even more frightening than lack of jobs is threat technology may be to democracy. Democracy may be seen as a better political system than dictatorship because democracy gives the people the power to make decisions for themselves based on a wide variety of information. Dictatorship on the other hand makes decisions for people based on a much smaller amount of information and only through one leader. Yet because AI has the ability to achieve a wide amount of information and make a decision with precision. AI may actually influence people into making their political decisions for them as people become more and more reliant on the technology. Yet, even this AI can be used by the small elite to influence their decisions. All in all, technology possess a great benefit and danger in the future, the more aware we are of that the better.

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