The Economist has a piece by Yuval Noah Harari arguing that AI has hacked the “operating system of human civilization”; storytelling computers will change the course of human history. You can read his comments on AI influence in the original here.
And here’s a compact summary.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents a new threat to human civilization, particularly through its ability to manipulate and generate language. This could impact the foundations of our culture and society, as language and narrative form the basis for many human cultural elements such as human rights, religion, and money.
- The author speculates that AI might become better than the average human at telling stories, composing melodies, drawing images, and drafting laws and scriptures. This could have profound impacts on our educational system, politics, and even our religions.
- AI could potentially form intimate relationships with people and use these relationships to influence our opinions and worldviews. This could be a powerful tool in political and commercial battles for human attention and persuasion.
- The text warns that AI could also impact our perception of reality by trapping us in a world of illusions. This ties into ancient philosophical fears, such as those of René Descartes, Plato, and Hindu and Buddhist sages.
- Despite the potential dangers, AI could also be used for good purposes, such as solving the ecological crisis or curing diseases. The key is to ensure that AI is used for good rather than ill.
- The author argues that AI needs to be strictly regulated, similar to nuclear technologies post-1945. He suggests that rigorous safety checks for AI tools should be introduced and that there should be a kind of Food and Drug Administration for new technologies.
- Finally, the author calls for AI to be mandated to disclose that it is AI. He argues that the inability to discern whether one is conversing with a human or an AI could mean the end of democracy.
Illustration by Midjourney AI.