Canadian journalist, writer and activist Naomi Klein, author of books such as No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, has published a very important article on artificial intelligence, which is the controversial topic of the last period.
In her article, Klein talks about distorted hallucinations in the world of artificial intelligence. She criticizes not the AI itself for this, but the tech CEOs who unleashed it, along with a group of fans who are both individually and collectively in the grip of savage hallucinations.
Advocates of this technology say that artificial intelligence will end poverty. It will cure all diseases, solve the climate crisis, make our work more meaningful and exciting. Thus, by helping us regain our humanity that we lost in the capitalist order, it will offer us a free time and a more enjoyable life. In fact, it will end our deep loneliness… Klein claims that all these are distorted artificial intelligence hallucinations and will not happen.
These are not the only criticisms. She also hypothesizes harshly: “These are powerful and compelling cover-up stories for the biggest and most important theft in human history. Because what we are witnessing is that the richest companies in history (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Meta, Amazon) unilaterally seize the total human information on the digital plane and imprison it in proprietary products.”
Largest art heist in history?
Art is a critical example. The ‘works’ created by artificial intelligence by learning and processing all visual art elements produced by artificial intelligence are the subject of discussion in many respects. Painter and illustrator Molly Crabapple is spearheading an artists’ movement that challenges this. “Artificial intelligence art engines have been trained on enormous datasets containing millions of copyrighted images collected without the knowledge of their creators, let alone compensation or consent. This is the largest art heist in history.” Of course, it’s not just art. The status of content produced by artificial intelligence, from academia to the publishing world, is open to criticism on ethical, moral, reality, copyright, etc. axes.
Naomi Klein also opens up for discussion some of the issues that are emphasized that artificial intelligence will provide sharp benefits for humanity.
1- Will AI solve the climate crisis?
In general, one of the positive aspects of artificial intelligence is the claim that these systems will somehow solve the climate crisis. This is spoken everywhere from the World Economic Forum to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the risks to AI are worth taking, adding: “If you think about the biggest problems in the world, they’re all really difficult; climate change, the geopolitical order, etc. That’s why I always want people to be smarter.” According to this logic, the inability to “solve” major problems such as climate change is due to people’s lack of intelligence. Indeed, many scientists have not been able to reason and tell our governments what to do to solve these problems for decades! However, the reason why issues like the climate crisis are overlooked is not because we have a mental problem or because we somehow need machines to think for us. Doing what the climate crisis demands of us will devastate trillions of dollars of fossil fuel assets while challenging the consumption-led growth model at the heart of our interconnected economies. So we know what to do and what it will cost. But we need a paradigm shift. The real question is: do we intend to do this?
And as companies begin to invest heavily in AI to sell more products, it becomes clear that this new technology will be used in the same ways as the last generation of digital tools. Promises to spread freedom and democracy that begin with generosity result in micro advertisements targeting us to consume more.
Another critical issue is the world of media and news. The more the media is swamped with deep forgery and clones of various kinds, the greater the feeling of sinking into the swamp of information. When we don’t trust anything we read or see in an increasingly uncanny media environment, we also become less equipped and unwilling to solve pressing problems.
2- Will AI save us from drudgery?
There’s a simple reason why Silicon Valley is now making AI available to everyone in a benevolent fashion. Artificial intelligence is currently at a stage where we can think of it as fake socialism. It’s part of a familiar Silicon Valley game now.
How? First, create an attractive product (a search engine, a mapping tool, a social network, a video platform…) Charge nothing or distribute for a few years almost free. And this without a recognizable viable business model (“Play with bots,” they say, “see how much fun you can create!”); Make many arrogant claims that you do it because you want to spread freedom and democracy or “connect people”. Then watch as people become addicted using these free tools and some work is now handed over to artificial intelligence. Once the domain is cleared, promote targeted ads, continuous surveillance, police and military contracts, black box data sales, and increased subscription fees. Let the consultants introduce artificial intelligence into companies as new employee candidates in the name of human resource efficiency.
While some professions are being killed in the name of operational effectiveness, let the new definition of work be: “work is no longer something you have to do to fill your stomach, it is something you do as a way of creative expression, fulfillment, and happiness.”
We are ‘feeding’ the machines!
We all. They were fed by humanity’s creativity and inspiration. These models have become vampires, devouring and privatizing our collective intellectual and artistic legacies as well as our individual lives. And their purpose has never been to solve climate change, make our governments more accountable, or make our daily lives more comfortable.
Well, the obvious result of replacing manpower with bots in capitalism was always more profit! Is all this an outdated resistance to over-dramatic or exciting innovation? Maybe! But it is clear that there are issues to be discussed. The world of deep falsehoods and worsening inequality that will come with artificial intelligence is not inevitable. This is actually an option.
Here, as throughout history, humanity will have to choose between the universal good for masses and the interests of the elites surrounded by capitalism. Or maybe it already did…
You can read the full article by Naomi Klein in The Guardian (USA) May 9, 2023 issue.