You know this part: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple are corporate megaliths the size, valuation, and likes of which no government or populace has ever had to contend. CD Media has commented on the compelling case cofounder Chris Hughes made for busting up Facebook, given the combination of Mark Zuckerberg’s unchallenged control and demonstrable fallibility.
AI, still in its relative infancy, already commits strange acts. We bear witness to the same in our quotidian lives, as the reach and refinement of tech companies has increased to the point that casually mentioning a specific product within digital earshot of a smart device often results in the receipt of tailored advertisements in a matter of minutes.
So what, you say.
Control of Experience
Consider for a moment the controls on your daily experience. When you buy something, is it increasingly online? Do “Best Seller” and “Amazon’s Choice” recommendations inform your choices? When you read the news, does it seem objective? Do you have the time to parse each story for the larger narrative and who controls it? When you take a trip, do you sit down and decide the route based on scenic beauty and points of interest, or do you rely on a computer to guide you?
Sure, you say, but that stuff is no big deal. I’m still free.
Here’s a scenario, set a mere ten years in the future: after minimum wage increases result in waves of wage inflation, your company announces mass layoffs. They were forced to automate, and your job has been taken by a machine. You and your fellow employees organize on social media and plan a protest in front of corporate HQ. You contact the local news station to assure media coverage, you print banners, and everyone dons face masks to evade facial-recognition software. Then you load up to drive to the protest site. You’ve thought of everything…but your autonomous cars refuse to take you to the address due to “potentially dangerous activity in the area,” i.e., your protest. You redirect to the nearest mass transit hub, only to hear announcements on the platform that trains and buses are skipping stops within ten miles of the site “due to safety concerns.” You return home, chastened. You scan the media for a report of the protest, but there is no news. Then, a sharp knock at the door.
That’s not me, you say. My job won’t be automated, and what’s more, I have nothing to hide.
Control of Media and Workforce
Leading AI expert Kai Fu Lee–a Chinese citizen educated in the U.S.–has claimed this year that 40% of all jobs globally will be automated…by 2035. That he made these predictions on ViacomCBS’s flagship news program, 60 Minutes, is telling: feature-length stories on mass media serve to create the narrative as much as report it. From global warming to transgenderism, these stories are body punches, softening up the public gut before moving up to the head. It isn’t news, it’s promotion. The news has become the ad.
As for having nothing to hide, that isn’t the point. Tech oligarchs are less concerned with petty infractions than pure data, the ability to know your next move. As Joel Kotkin points out in a Quillette piece titled, “What Do the Oligarchs Have in Mind for Us?”, tech is wary of exposing a larger motive.
“Like the Medieval aristocracy, the ruling tech oligarchy—epitomized by firms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft—have never produced a single coherent political manifesto laying out the technocratic vision of the future.”
And it’s no wonder, as they appear to desire complete control of all the systems that govern human behavior. Why? In short, they don’t need the humans anymore–not as much, and less so by the year–and only humans stand in the way of their global dominance. Humans are to be placated by technology, intermixed, confused by gender identity and afraid of offending others, subdued by pharmacology, sexual impulses blunted by pornography and paid off with universal basic income, making teat-sucking dependents of the masses.
In this light, Google’s recent abandonment of its founding motto, “Don’t be evil,” seems all the more portentous.
Mass media is in fewer and fewer hands, from 50 distinct companies in the early eighties to only five currently, following the Viacom-CBS merger announced this week. Further, big tech is buying old print media: Amazon bought The Washington Post, Salesforce billionaire Marc Benioff bought Time magazine, and on and on. Print is dying, but better for tech’s sake to have control of it in the meantime. The fewer articles about Twitter and Facebook suspending/terminating the accounts of gadflies and truth-tellers, the better.
Control of Specialized Professions
Your job may well become automated. It isn’t just mailmen, cab and truck drivers, burger flippers, and waitstaff. It’s construction workers, farmers, and even the seemingly immune advice-driven professions like financial planning. Those are the first and second waves. Once AI evolves, it’s easy to imagine many legal, medical, and even psychological fields being encroached upon by AI. Discuss your symptoms, your legal claims, or your emotional state with a lifelike robot, and through its exhaustive database of literally all the scholarship on the subject, its diagnosis narrowed through a logical matrix based on millions of patient/client outcomes, et voila. Beating chess grandmasters will soon seem quaint. The novelty will be going to see your robo-shrink or debating which new AI rapper has the sickest flow.
Even the people who design AI machines won’t be needed once the machines know how to build themselves. Only the highly creative and the owners of the tech companies themselves are safe (for the foreseeable future).
Control of Currency
Now that you and your neighbors are out of a job, you’ll need some income. No worries, the techno-oligarchs, or technogarchs, if you will, have thought of everything.
Universal basic income is a way to soften the blow of mass global layoffs and quell unrest. Here you go, a direct deposit every month. Budget wisely, and don’t participate in any future riots…or we’ll stop sending payments!
Earlier this year, in the latest salvo in the disenfranchisement of the sovereign, Facebook submitted a whitepaper concerning its plans to introduce a cryptocurrency named Libra. Congress balked, Facebook backed off. Problem solved!
Except of course it isn’t. The next time Facebook, or Amazon, etc. propose a new currency, it won’t seem as weird or nefarious. The time after that it’ll seem inevitable, and the next, natural.
So now you’re bought and paid for…in their denominations of their currency.
Control of Terrestrial and Satellite Surveillance
It used to be only the good old government that monitored your data in the guise of “protecting the homeland.” We live in the long shadow of 9/11, that event which in retrospect was the globalist dam breaking wide open. Remember when the notion that Uncle Sam was recording your phone calls, emails, and texts was a “conspiracy theory”? Such innocent times. Now, even a relatively small operation such as Cambridge Analytica has 3,000 to 5,000 data points on every adult in the country.
Our reaction is a collective shrug.
Virtually every U.S. street is visible via Google Earth, CCTV tracks pedestrian movement, and mobile license plate trackers record our automotive travel. Implanted RFID chips are gaining popularity in Scandinavia. Of course big tech wants in on the game as well, and Amazon has proposed launching 3,000 small satellites to create global internet capability. First it was delivery drones, now it’s a literal worldwide web to deliver its virtual counterpart. One can imagine what else this skynet might easily capture. At the very least, every human on the planet will have WiFi to read the online version of The Washington Post.
Control of Belief
If current trends hold, the number of global atheist/agnostics will outnumber believers by 2038. The erosion of religious belief has been a slow but nevertheless stunning development, and all the more so when one considers how neatly it dovetails with the massive loss of jobs to AI and attendant reliance on corporatist/techno government for basic income, indeed, for survival.
This confluence is all the more fraught when the spiritual landscape is increasingly barren, and the latest “miracles” are technological, and hence, manmade–or AI-made, as the case will be eventually. In this new paradigm, where the value of the old narrative is eroding, the human need for sustaining stories does not abate.
What Joseph Campbell called “Mankind’s One Great Story”, or the “monomyth,” does not vanish from the human psyche, the players simply change. Some new heroic figure must take the place of the old ones. Just as Yahweh replaced pagan gods of old, a new figure seems destined to supplant the God of the three Abrahamic faiths. Out of the void, AI becomes the new Creator: wiser and more powerful than mere mortals, and promising a grand future–even immortality–to its followers.
Control of Thought
Two years ago, Elon Musk, black sheep of the technogarch family, launched Neuralink–a company dedicated to creating human symbiosis with the internet, an ability to communicate with the web without a physical device. Electrodes known as “Neural Lace” will be sewn into human brainstem as soon as 2020, Musk claims. The goal, of course, is for a good cause. Indeed, Musk claimed at its outset that the invention is crucial to the survival of humanity.
What goes unsaid in this breathtaking proposal is that once humans are inextricable from the web, it follows that they could be hacked, just like a computer. The ramifications are dizzying. Humanity–that colossal drain on the planet and illogical impediment to the ascendance of AI–can be hijacked? Eradicated? Nothing to see here, move along.
Resistance Will, In Fact, Be Futile
When we talk about the Second Amendment and gun confiscation, the conversation goes something like this:
Gun Grabber (GG): We need to get rid of guns.
2A patriot (2A): Over my dead body.
GG: How are you going to stop the US Army from taking them?
2A: The entire US Army can’t go door to door, that takes individual LEOs, most of whom are pro-2A.
GG: They’ll figure out a way.
2A: Not a chance, we’ll organize quickly.
Now imagine a world where it isn’t trembling a National Guardsman with family and a desk job back home who is ordered to come knocking, but a couple of robots impervious to anything short of a .50 caliber round, and capable of breaking down a door, cutting open a gun safe, and scanning floorboards.
That sounds like science fiction, you say.
In the meantime, two U.S. citizens–Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk–are literally involved in a space race. Science, yes. Fiction, no.
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