Artificial Intelligence – Utopia or Dystopia

The Rising of Transnational Superpowers: Hidden Forces without State Identity, Transparency, Accountability, Ethics, Social Responsibility or Democratic Mandates

by Hardy F. Schloer

Advancing in an era of increasingly armed conflicts and geopolitical tension between many nations and cultures has consequently focused increased attention on border security and national territorial and cultural integrity within nations. Nevertheless, even in more peaceful times, nations would not likely welcome others to invade their borders, rule or profoundly influence their citizens, especially against their interests, and take control of commercial, economic, social, or political processes, regardless of which means and forms they became imposed. Such activity would likely be considered an act of confrontation or at least viewed as antagonistic meddling in a country's integrity, security, and national affairs. It is, therefore, nothing less than astonishing how a relatively new rising force in the form of pervasive Artificial Intelligence has become such an obscure entity of possibly even greater power than conventional armies or police forces any nation-state could presently muster.

Artificial Intelligence as transnational societal influence and power

The problem is complex. Artificial Intelligence, or short AI, primarily when operating as an economic or societal influence, is by nature elusive, invisible, virtual, without physical properties or appearance, yet its pervasive effects are everywhere. AI is now quickly becoming integrated into any aspect of our daily life. AI has become omnipresent. It is also most influential in that AI begins to control information, actions, responses, conclusions, opinions, emotions, and voluntary or involuntary decisions on all levels of society, economically, socially, and politically. What poses an even greater risk to society is that this invisible force can now be deployed by anyone capable of operating a computer, writing programming code, and accessing reasonably powerful server hardware connected to the global Internet. One can deploy such powerful AI tools from anywhere in the world and target any audience of any profile, geography, culture, or demographic, and apply any economic, social, or political focus to direct its often opaque and none-transparent purpose to manipulate and gain economic, social, or political leverage. This artificially intelligent force never sleeps, operates around the clock at the breathtaking speed of light, is parallel in force and application, and is fully scalable in pursuing its given goals. AI is now operating far beyond the horizon of human cognitive abilities to manage or curtail its pervasiveness.

However, to understand this article correctly, we must first differentiate between various types of AI applications and their purposes. There are genuinely great benefits when AI is used to assist in very clearly defined, specific, and transparent processes of our day-to-day lives. For example, AI creates vital knowledge to aid education, decision support, security applications, and complex forms of scientific data analysis, such as predicting long-term weather patterns for farming or when applied in computerized heart surgery in hospitals. Other examples are AI-powered robotics in the precision assembly of technical products such as computer chips and micro-technologies 3-D printing. AI-enabled decision support can successfully automate the autonomous trading of financial securities. Enormous quantities of research data can be used to build a complex information matrix, for instance, to predict climate-change models or to evaluate potential multi-contextual risks for the future. Self-driving cars are another great AI application, and these real-time AI programs can bring great convenience to our day-to-day lives.

AI can genuinely help, when applied correctly, to make much better decisions on a societal level. These applications have much room for improvement, as they all operate very fragmented and disconnectedly. However, this is an easily solvable problem. We can learn to utilize AI in future applications globally and within a common transparent data and analytics standard. This practice would allow the creation of a global information ecology, which can benefit all applied AI equally across all fields and all human activity applications.

Nevertheless, the AI we are critiquing in this article is not the utilitarian and universally beneficial use of such applications for convenience or management of processes, as described in the last paragraphs. We would like to focus on the many hidden tools of powerful, economic, social, and political AI-generated influence that give rise to unprecedented transnational powers over whole societies in all shapes and forms.

Let's look at these three forms of influence individually, as they pose big questions about how AI shapes society and security for humanity's collective future.

First: AI for Commercial and Economic Exploitation

Motivated by economic gains, most commercial operators now unleash increasingly powerful AI technologies to capture potential consumers with financial resources, large or small, to order, accept, buy, or subscribe to their commercial offerings. The engagement through these sophisticated technologies is now becoming one-sided and heavily tilted in favor of commercial interests. This powerful coercion is beginning to blur the borders between economic corruption and legal opportunity. Let us be clear: It is all about convincingly framing the narrative and acceptance of products and services, their information, and descriptions, and in this way, to seduce and vigorously promote favorable economic behavior by targeted consumers.

Most of us will call this fair game and clever marketing. Nevertheless, the fact remains that AI-based applications can very successfully create, manipulate, frame, control, time, distribute, and filter information in any legit or legit way required to archive any desired effects and economic behavior to profitably capture the financial resources from consumers, at the highest speed, bandwidth, efficiency, and for the lowest cost and risk exposure possible. Such a form of AI knows no morality or ethics, only given goals and targets.

Just like in a gambling casino, where the casino operator has no qualms about seducing a gambler to wager away the food money for his children, AI-armed business operators can increasingly use any available powerful technology to achieve the same effect to inspire impulsive and unjustified spending, or accepting excessive debt. The goal is to sell as often and as much as any offer, regardless of how unnecessary or overpriced products or services may be to its buyers. Furthermore, in extreme cases, AI is increasingly used to defraud consumers skillfully. But not limited to deep-faking and imposter any legitimate product or service. Profits are the religion, and its 'stairway to heaven' is leading to the fast wealth of the AI weaponized commercial operator. It's the onset of a new AI-powered gold rush.

This form of profiling and targeting consumers is neither new nor uncommon, as it has been a commercial practice since humanity invented money, trade, sales and marketing, and financial and commercial systems. To be clear, we have come to accept this as a standard practice of modern entrepreneurship, and we do not evaluate whether this is useful or moral in this article. However, what is new and frightening is that the human marketer no longer deals with a human buyer in a coherent and hopefully somewhat sensible human-to-human interaction. Until now, this practice was at least somewhat socially balanced. However, now consumers become engaged by powerful machines, which become optimized to use every possible artificially intelligent way to take any financial resources from any potential target that can be reached and engaged by the system, day and night, continuously, and anywhere, to the soul benefit of its operator.

These robust AI processes have lately become optimized to explore every single weakness of a potential consumer, including sometimes tricking him into a mistake of ordering, buying, subscribing, or accepting much more than he wants or can afford. The predatory proverbial 'snake oil salesman' of the 1800s is now, in this age of AI, armed with a powerful networked and scalable AI machinery that can find and reach any usable economic target on this planet; simultaneously, quantity, qualify and categorize the target for his economic potential and weaknesses, shape the perfect 'message of seduction' execute its scripted process of engagement, and let the computer simply pile up the monetary rewards for its operators.

In the past, this process was known as innovative advertising, clever sales tactics, and effective marketing. However, with the massively targeted use of potent and scalable AI technologies, what is shaping up now deserves a whole new terminology to fully describe this process appropriately.

It is often argued that good capitalism balances the economic playing field. This premise can be argued as being true or not. Nevertheless, a commercial system supercharged with robust AI programs to be unleashed onto targets and coerce consumers deserves a deep discussion amongst all market participants and probably a good look by regulators if current consumer protection laws sufficiently cover this emerging technology trend. In this context, we must also recognize the fast-spreading transnational applications of this new craft, where nations' regulatory protections become useless to stave off consumer manipulation, fraud, and coercion from abroad. Online payment systems work globally, and these AI-powered coercive sales machines can easily exploit them to maximize the rewards for these AI-powered operators.

In this context, we can easily predict that widespread adoption of this practice will soon have measurable economic and societal effects, and likely negatively so, especially when excessive amounts of financial resources and the illegal fruits of coercion are shipped half around the globe into the pockets of AI technology-savvy operators, leaving in its wake to nations only the debt of its citizens amongst other adverse effects. Again, the lines between invasive and aggressive machine-aided business practice and actual full-scale fraud are blurring increasingly.

Some emerging operators no longer care about giving an appearance of legality when it comes to rising networks of AI-aided fraudulent financial and commercial activities. Good examples of this are already emerging locations of massive deployment of automated economic fraud, often originating from East and Southeast Asia and other such quickly evolving locations, including also lately from Sub-Sahara Africa and Eastern Europe where there are favorable conditions exist for such activity to support such actions either through widespread corruption or very lax levels of law enforcement, or the absents of any laws altogether to govern such new patterns of emerging economic crime.

These trans-border operators solicit victims on a massive scale, day and night, using the latest advancements in AI, such as entrapping interactive bots, deep-fake content, counterfeit applications, impersonations, and fully legit appearing but illicit copies of trusted commercial websites, amongst many other such examples. All this dramatically expands the borders, scope, meaning, and definitions of Cyber Security. 

Second: The Pandemic of Social Influencing

If the previous section raises concerns about how AI is used adversely on society, AI-aided social influencing is taking these concerns to a new level. Remembering that information drives human beliefs, emotions, feelings, reasonings, conclusions, associations, actions, and reactions is essential. AI can be used to make a machine understand the signatures and signs of these properties through machine pattern analysis. This technique is commonly called AI' machine learning', and it is used to capture language, individually and on a large scale, to extract valuable patterns for human influencing and manipulation. Machines armed with AI tools and networked to the Internet can be programmed to focus on specific types of individuals, groups, geographies, and property signatures of any other associative selections one would like to target with such an approach.

AI can explore efficiently and fully scalable communication mediums, such as blogs, social media, messenger texts, emails, etc. It becomes apparent that this powerful form of influencing and manipulation goes well beyond commercial exploitation and potentially drives the belief systems within society. This practice can target, through AI applications, any group within society that one wishes to manipulate, to believe a set of facts, behave in a particular way, or commit actions that otherwise would not have been considered.

Manipulation of the masses is not new. This practice has been done by influential demagogues for thousands of years, especially in the political arena and social communications. Nevertheless, these influencers had to appear on a stage, invite the masses, and speak to them openly, physically and verbally. They had to show their faces and became associated and responsible for the content they spoke. Modern emerging technologies such as radio and television in the early 1900s expanded the forum and platform for social influence and manipulation dramatically. Fascist leaders in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s made great use of radio broadcasts to push their manipulative agendas and influence the masses to go to war with each other. However, with the rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s, this practice became supercharged and depersonalized. Now, anyone can create influential content, publish it at virtually no cost, and say anything anonymously without risk of repercussions by often using pseudonyms and anonymous websites.

Modern search engines such as Google and Yahoo added formidable functionality by making content especially visible through search optimization techniques. Now, anyone can successfully publish any content in any language, targeting any part of society in any planet's geography and from anywhere. For example, an individual in East Asia could now, from the comfort of his living room, create highly influential content in, let us say, German language, imposter as a German native, and publish such content on German websites, with ideas and concepts very favorable to enforce the agenda of the Asian publisher. Since there is no fact-checking on the Internet, anyone can allege anything without restrictions.

All this illicit practice was possible and practiced before AI came into play. The event of the Internet exposed a frightening decay of societal ethics and honesty in its general conduct and communications. However, with new emerging and quickly adopted language processing technologies such as AI-powered interactive bots, chatbots, and other available technologies such as ChatGPT, Gemini, and similarly AI-powered systems, this technology trend has now accelerated the delivery method for many special-interest groups to unleash on a massive-scale miss-information and dis-information to serve their purposes. This practice has become a sociological pandemic of astonishing proportions. The effects of this trend are perhaps best categorized as the psychological holocaust of global proportions. 

At the World Economic Forum in 2024 and several other significant think tanks in the US and Europe, misinformation and disinformation became identified as the number one existential threat to society ahead of nuclear war, climate change, and any other catastrophic events. Given that this trend is only in its early stages, we must begin to understand the severity of these psychological, sociological, and political impacts.

Given that in this unfolding trend, soon nobody can believe anything published anywhere by anyone, society will lose its ability to reliably communicate any vital facts without them being distorted, questioned, and corrupted in multiple ways. Anything published may be categorized as conspiracy theories, fake information, or disinformation since much of it will be. Therefore, society loses the ability to communicate or receive reliable information. Already today, many have doubts even about established simple facts of events, such as the landing on the moon in 1969 or the origins of the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001, with many suspecting malicious government conspiracies.

In an emerging environment of justified distrust towards any information given by anyone, society will begin to choose the information that is not necessarily true but in concurrence with individual moral beliefs, fears, suspicions, and other adopted values. Such a trend will result sooner rather than later in the total erosion of inter-societal trust, all forms of information, and essential democratic functions. Soon, AI-technology created and delivered information content unleashed by illicit special interest groups will likely trigger further breakdown of society, with potential revolutions, panic, waves of hate crimes, anarchy, and heavy-handed police actions to counter societal breakdown and misconduct. Early signs of this trend can already be seen in North America and Europe, where internet-consumed conspiracy content through automated media platforms is consumed the most.     

Third: Geopolitical Corruption and State AI Warfare

The ultimate dystopian nightmare is best described in the nations' governments' widespread adoption of these above-described technologies and illicit behaviors to conduct geopolitical warfare. This practice includes AI-aided language processing, real-time interactive fake content delivery, and waves of targeted disinformation to create precipitous interference in another country's population or a nation's native population to justify questionable actions on international matters. One of the most common types of illicit behavior is the steep interference in other nation's elections through computer-automated and targeted misinformation. Likewise, the same strategies become used to destabilize society, much to the advantage of a foreign interfering power. Unfortunately, the list of countries engaged in this type of problematic conflict is getting longer, including some of the most technologically advanced nations that have, by now, in one way or another, used targeted disinformation and misinformation as geopolitical warfare strategies: AI-aided language tools and the Internet as a delivery medium are typically used in nearly every case.  

In the previous two sections, we pointed out that organized and AI-aided economic exploitation and social influencing, which operate within society, erode trust in general commercial integrity and online information. The behavior described in the current section, however, erodes not only the trust in governments but also promotes deep animosity towards governments and promotes anarchy, rejection, social unrest, and, ultimately, revolution on a global scale. This changing mindset becomes extraordinarily clear when measuring the application of language and vocabulary across large sections of society over the past two decades. Humanity seems to be on its way to creating a deeply disturbing and dark Dystopia, aided by most modern tools of AI and related communication technologies.

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Pagina web realizată și cu ajutorul Inteligenței Artificiale