The FBI held a press conference last week to confirm what we figured was already a thing the moment open-source AI projects started surfacing: threat actors are using artificial intelligence to write malware, build ransomware websites and to put more teeth in their phishing campaigns. And as if we didn’t need more nightmare fuel, the FBI also shared this little nugget: terrorists groups are using AI to research deadlier “projects” like more potent chemical attacks.
If you can dream it, you can build it.
Unfortunately for us, dreams aren’t limited to those of us who are just trying to make our way through life without hurting anyone while having some fun along the way. Criminals aren’t hampered by ethics or compassion, and neither are AI’s, even when the programmers try to put in safeguards. As I’ve always maintained, anything built by humans will be subject to our flaws, and I don’t know that I’m willing to trust that any AI that becomes self-aware will be able to differentiate between good and evil with the amount of garbage we have piled onto the internet. At this point, unless you happened to be a multi-billionaire with ethics and a hotline to folks in power, the best you can do is let your congress-critter know that we should be pumping the brakes on this runaway AI truck. While there have been some relatively feeble attempts from the established technology titans to put together something akin to a digital watermark that will help the rest of the world identify content created by an AI, there are probably hundreds of throne-contenders willing to ignore the rules for a chance at the top, humanity be damned, and you can bet that many of them already have their hands in the pockets of any government powerful enough to even try to regulate this technology.
Am I saying it’s time to start looking for bunker-friendly real estate in an under-developed country with robot unfriendly terrain? Not yet, but could we confidently say we would know when that moment has arrived, or maybe we’ve already crossed that threshold. Most of us can only cross our fingers and hope the future is more like Star Trek and nothing like Terminator.
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