More than 500 top scientific researchers and influencers met at Frontiers Forum in Montreux, Switzerland at the end of April 2023, with thousands more joining the event online. Their goal was to address, discuss and collaborate on many of the critical issues that we face today including, the climate crisis, improving global health and well-being, and preserving biodiversity.
For me, one of the most thought-provoking talks was from Professor Yuval Noah Harari (historian and author) – “AI and the future of humanity“.
AI’s potential to “hack” language could undermine our ability to conduct meaningful public conversations, a cornerstone of democracy.
Harari discussed the profound impact that artificial intelligence (AI) could have on our society, our culture, and our history. He argued that AI’s potential goes beyond influencing existing culture to creating entirely new cultural artefacts and ideas.
AI’s potential to manipulate and control people is emphasised, with Harari warning that AI, through mastery of human language, can create a “world of illusions,” leading to a risk of societal polarisation, undermining mental health, and destabilising democratic societies.
While recognizing AI’s enormous positive potential, the Professor stressed the urgent need for careful regulation, comparing the situation to the advent of nuclear technology, which also required a reshaping of the international order to ensure its responsible use. He advocates for slowing down public deployment of AI to allow time for understanding and effective regulation.
He warns that if AI deployment is not regulated, it could be more detrimental to democracies than to dictatorships, as AI’s potential to “hack” language could undermine our ability to conduct meaningful public conversations, a cornerstone of democracy.
In conclusion, the speaker characterises the advent of AI as encountering an “alien intelligence” on Earth, highlighting the magnitude of the change it could bring about in our society and culture.
My key takeaway…
What would it mean for humans to live in a world where most of the stories, melodies, images, laws, policies, and tools are shaped by a non-human alien intelligence?