The Danger of AI and Big Data is Worse Than You Can Imagine

The Danger of AI and Big Data is Worse Than You Can Imagine


Over the past several decades, the world has witnessed an unprecedented explosion in technological advancement. Computers that once spanned rooms now weigh less than two pounds, telephones that once resembled bricks now sit snugly in one’s hand, and labor that was once done by men is now done by machines. There is no doubt that technology will continue to improve the lives of billions, but not every aspect of this technological revolution foreshadows a better and brighter future. In particular, the question remains whether the United States will remain democratic in the face of an ensuing domination of artificial intelligence and big data technology.

Today, various tech monopolies hold an incredible amount of influence over people’s lives. Over the years, companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google have amassed an unimaginable amount of user data. Our news preferences, dating profiles, fitness records, music tastes, and consumer habits are all gathered by algorithms and used to make suggestions, such as what to buy and what to read. These corporations now have the power to influence what we see, what we hear, and even what we think.

In addition to tech monopolies gaining this immense power, the centralization of information technology also carries colossal risks. Israeli professor Yuval Noah Harari explains how democracies distribute economic and political power among many people and institutions, whereas dictatorships concentrate that power into one single place. Historically, democratic systems have been much more efficient than dictatorships, but as artificial intelligence advances, this may completely shift. For example, a nation that requires its citizens to provide their medical information to a central organization would have an enormous research advantage compared to nations in which this information is confidential and dispersed. When it comes to AI and big data, efficiency comes through centrality.

China is a perfect manifestation of the danger posed by big data monopolies and technological centralization. The Chinese Communist Party, for example, created an incredibly efficient, centralized system designed to consolidate its own power. Its infamous “social credit system” assigns numerical scores to citizens in an attempt to influence and control their behavior. Social credit scores are lowered for those who engage in behavior deemed unfavorable by the Party, and these scores impact people’s social mobility, educational opportunities, and even their ability to travel. One’s social media activity, personal network, and banking information are part of a larger combination of factors that influence a social credit score, as China’s centralized algorithms are constantly at work to sum people up by a single three-digit number.

Even some democracies have embraced these technologically centralized systems. India, one of the largest democracies on earth, now forces its citizens to register for a unique twelve-digit identification number through a project called Aadhaar. These ID numbers are connected to every aspect of one’s life, from ticket transactions to personal bank accounts, and they provide the Indian government with an incredible surveillance tool. In India, the elimination of privacy has raised concerns that autonomy and free expression could become extremely limited.

Although no such structure exists in America, our nation undoubtedly resembles a fractured version of the Chinese and Indian systems. In the United States, the vast majority of employers screen their applicants’ social media accounts, and data aggregators have the capacity to combine personal data from multiple sources. Would it not be practical to create technology similar to that of China’s social credit system or India’s Aadhaar within the United States?

In some cases, this technology already exists. Credit scores are nothing more than a rating of our financial behavior, rewarding or punishing the extent of our financial responsibility, and even Facebook rates people’s “trustworthiness” on a scale from zero to one. The United States may actually be fairly close to integrating this technology into a single, centralized system.

So, what can be done to prevent the expanding influence of technology and its proclivity towards centralization? Harari believes that we must find ways to keep data from concentrating into too few hands in addition to figuring out how to keep dispersed data processing more efficient than centralized processing. These goals are by no means easy, and given where the United States seems headed already, they may even be far-fetched.

However, judging by the backlash against Cambridge Analytica for its ties with Facebook, a more practical and powerful tool could simply be transparency. In order for a democracy to function as intended, all types of information, including the decisions of the government, must be dispersed among the people. Regardless of the controversy surrounding the Snowden leaks, they nevertheless allowed people to consider whether their government should have the right to usurp their phone records with impunity. Transparency is key, and so long as a democracy knows where it is headed, it will always have the choice to choose a different path.

Photo Credit: Mongkok, Last Night …, Slices of Light, © 2011 SLICES OF LIGHT SOME RIGHTS RESERVED, licensed by CC BY 2.0 / Filter added from original

About author

Eric Asen

Eric is a sophomore from Cary, Illinois studying Political Science and Economics. He is interested in the intersection between politics, economics, psychology, and history. During the summer, Eric spends his time running his beekeeping business, and in his free time, Eric enjoys playing foosball, reading history, and vainly attempting to find things do around the suburbs.

  • coach handbags#1

    March 18, 2019

    I am only writing to make you be aware of of the notable discovery our daughter had studying your web page. She came to understand lots of details, most notably how it is like to possess a marvelous helping style to make a number of people just have an understanding of a number of very confusing subject matter. You undoubtedly did more than my expectations. I appreciate you for displaying such practical, trusted, revealing and as well as easy guidance on that topic to Gloria.

  • balenciaga#2

    March 17, 2019

    I’m writing to let you understand what a notable encounter my cousin’s girl encountered viewing your site. She noticed plenty of details, which include what it’s like to have an incredible giving heart to make the others effortlessly thoroughly grasp selected problematic subject areas. You actually exceeded visitors’ expectations. Thank you for providing the informative, healthy, revealing and as well as cool thoughts on the topic to Mary.

  • bape hoodie#3

    March 15, 2019

    I simply wanted to appreciate you once again. I am not sure the things that I might have created without those ideas revealed by you about this situation. It was a very troublesome situation in my position, but finding out a well-written way you managed that took me to cry for gladness. I am just happy for the assistance and as well , sincerely hope you really know what an amazing job you happen to be undertaking teaching others through the use of your web page. Probably you have never encountered any of us.

  • yeezy boost 350#4

    March 15, 2019

    I intended to put you this little bit of note just to give thanks the moment again for these fantastic techniques you have contributed on this website. This has been simply shockingly open-handed of people like you to provide openly what most people would’ve made available as an e-book in order to make some profit on their own, specifically considering the fact that you could possibly have tried it if you considered necessary. The suggestions in addition acted to provide a good way to fully grasp other individuals have a similar dream much like my very own to find out whole lot more around this condition. I’m sure there are numerous more pleasant moments up front for folks who browse through your blog.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *