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Artificial Intelligence: Claims and Counter-claims

Written by: (Contributed) on 28 June 2023


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Readers of the Business section of the Australian newspaper in early June, had the opportunity of viewing a photograph of a CEO of a major corporate organisation wearing a garish shirt in a demonstrative pose. The individual concerned was warning those in attendance at the Morgan Stanley Australia Summit in Sydney about AI; billed as an AI guru, she insisted it was the 'greatest innovation of our time'. (1)

AI was attributed with the ability to raise global productivity, lower prices, solve inflation and so on. No practical evidence was provided. Information about social and economic matters is one thing, for the corporate classes to change the system which has served them well, is something rather different, particularly in an era of price / profit inflation.

The announcement followed a warning two days earlier that 'AI systems will be powerful enough to kill many humans within two year … the technology could eventually lead to the extinction of humanity', from a joint statement of 350 so-called AI 'experts'. (2) Remember Dr. Strangelove? He would appear to still exist in the minds of the 'experts'; fear of being controlled by machines, gadgetry and external forces is also symptomatic of deeper, darker psychological states, and mental illness.

And, why would the corporate sector want to kill the goose which has laid the golden egg?

Such people have a vested interest in the maintenance of capitalism; it continues to provide their social class with ever increasing profits. As opposed to the working class.

The statements carry a familiar ring reminiscent of the millennium bug, where all the world's computers were going to suddenly fail with the new century beginning. The apocalypse never happened, it was basically rubbish, although quite typical of the paranoid mind-set and right-wing political thinking of the Australian business-classes.

A recent military publication, however, has provided a short, concise account of the development of AI. It began with the problem of human processing of data, and the ability of Artificial Intelligence to produce findings in a few seconds. The development of the internet has produced a situation whereby huge streams of data appear every minute. Research conducted at the University of Melbourne, in conjunction with the Australian Defence Forces have already developed an AI platform 'designed to gather and analyse key intelligence sourced from social media sites'. (3)

The report also listed what was regarded as important criteria for analysis: time of disaster, military attack, mass uprising and political unrest. It also included reference to 'Real-time Analytics Platform for Interactive Data-mining, to deliver the required analysis in real-time, that, 'cluster networks of tweets, users, keywords and topics, and deep dives into discussions on particular topics or between persons of interest, quickly zeroing in on significant data'. (4) Such is the nature of class and state power.

The development of AI would appear to be based on an upgraded Echelon system, which was introduced into telecommunications networks toward the end of the last century. Concentrating upon computer programs designed to be activated by keywords, the US-led system has the ability to intercept all 'telephone calls, faxes, telexes, internet messages, and
other electronic communications'. (5) It has been noted the Echelon system 'has created an awesome spying capacity for the US, allowing it to monitor continuously most of the world's communications targeting civilian as well as military traffic'. (6) Knowledge is power. As the US well know.

The Echelon system is based at Fort Meade, Maryland, and is central to a vast, global network of military facilities; it is also based on the UKUSA military alliance which has been upgraded to also include Australia, through Pine Gap, with the AUKUS. (7) The facilities have a capacity 'that tap directly into land-based telecommunications networks'. (8)

Advances made to internet communications during the last decade enabled to US and their intelligence services to shift attention to 'finding ways to exploit the global reach of Google, Microsoft, Venizon and other US technological powers', for intelligence-gathering and analysis. (9) Spies, and intelligence agents, have no need to tail persons of interest around, for hours, days, weeks and months: they can access required intelligence data from an office with the required search-engine, with relative ease.

The US, furthermore, have provided no reference to the sovereignty of Australia or civil liberties of its inhabitants. In fact, it would appear Australians are regarded as targets for the repressive technology, if, and when, required. We have few, if any, safeguards, to protect us from the abuses of power.
The whole AI matter remains confined to the question of control: the US and their supporters around the world fear competition. It can be viewed from public statements issued by the British government which has begun a global effort to regulate AI as Westminster begins planning for a summit 'designed to set international rules for the technology that … Prime Minister Rishi Sunak … acknowledges pose an existential threat to humanity'. (10)
An official statement from Westminster about the issue was both measured and circumspect, although typical of Yes, Minister, and devoid of meaningful content. British Security Minister, Ted Tugendhat. for example, did not accept what he referred to as 'exaggerated fears of AI destroying humanity', but accepted it would be difficult regulating and managing the problem.

Tugendhat then drew attention to business culture and directed them to recognise 'their responsibilities'. (11) But, after forty years of economic rationalism with de-regulation, privatisation and liberalisation, business culture accounts for very little, if measured against ethical and moral considerations: does Tugendhat really think business organisations, in competition with each other, are not going to use AI for ulterior motives and self-advancement? The race-to-the-bottom mentality became standard business practice, with all which that entails, decades ago. The uses and abuses of power merge in a grey fug.

Data-mining has also been used by Australian government departments in recent times: a reference to the Australian Bureau of Statistics included their access to banks and vast troves of transaction data streams, together with similar requests from supermarkets for their transaction data about customers. (12) So much for confidentiality with our financial transactions.

CentreLink, likewise, has also been noted as gleaning information about clients from social media. The government department, however, has shown no inclination, whatsoever, toward using AI to establish benefit entitlements for those without work, or pension entitlements for retired workers. In comparison to their haste to implement the Robodebt program, which was designed specifically to penalise the poorest and most vulnerable sections of Australian society, the position of CentreLink is clearly a disgrace.   

These developments have far-reaching implications for progressive political organisations and trade-unions as they have already been used to strengthen class and state power, welded by the business-classes. It is not difficult to find everyday examples. The corporate sector appears curiously reluctant, for example, to use AI for dealing with the problem of wage-theft in Australia. But then, why would they? They have shown, on numerous occasions, to have a vested interest in initially denying it, then attempting to cover it over without suitable explanation when successfully challenged by trade-unions.

US-led AI has become a standard practice in everyday society, the question of who controls it, and who is accountable, nevertheless, remains:

                                           We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Greatest innovation ever: Ai to slash prices, guru insists, Australian, 9 June 2023.
2.     We have two years to save the world, warns Ai chief, Australian, 7 June 2023.
3.     Fast, on-the-ground military intelligence gleaned from social media, thanks to Ai, Defence Research, Australian, 5 April 2023.
4.     Ibid.
5.     Echelon, Espionage Spies and Secrets, Richard M. Bennett, (London, 2002), pp. 89-93.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Ibid.
8.     Ibid.
9.     See: The intelligence coup of the century, The Washington Post, 11 February 2020.
10.   British PM to host Ai summit, Australian, 9 June 2023.
11.   Brits join Canberra in fight to stay ahead of China on Ai, Western Security, The Weekend Australian, 10-11 June 2023; and, UN chief proposes code to tackle 'grave digital harm', Australian, 14 June 2023.
12.   ABS dives deep for data on the economy, Australian, 7 May 2020.



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