Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rogue Agencies on Steroids

Tim Berners-Lee, co-inventor of the Internet, had some points to make at SXSW concerning disturbing trends that point to the Internet becoming a tool of political forces to manipulate user opinions, thus placing even more power in the hands of political elites.

More disturbing still is the rapid growth in recent years of artificial intelligence which enables computers to take actions based on experiential learning. Aside from elevating more geeks to the privileged classes, many abuses of power and miscarriages of justice are possible in an AI dominated system that presumes to interpret human traits and behavior.

While the Internet may be a tool to manipulate the masses, AI and cyber surveillance are tools more suited to regimenting the elite. Under ostensible democracy, non-elites can be fed propaganda tailored to their world views which may suffice to determine the outcome of elections. Elites, however, need to be more regimented, because deviations from the norm by those of their ranks would risk affecting programs of the deep state's top tier. Officials directly below the top tier have the most to fear from the CIA and other agencies who employ electronic spying tools.

Combining pervasive surveillance with AI will create an environment in which likely whistleblowers

Photo by Álex Quirós

among deep state elites will be headed off and shunted to mailroom jobs before they have a chance to put a case together.  AI might even approach The Matrix in its ability to prejudge motivations and ensure that prospective snitches are cut off from information before they can grasp its implications. Knowledge will be limited to a select few, information will be Balkanized, and data will be too plentiful to process by any except those empowered.

John Kiriakou, former spy, author, and prisoner of conscience sees the CIA as a rogue agency that follows an agenda often more constant than the see-saw of this or that party in power. By his estimation, eight years under Obama's control leaves the agency with a tilt toward the policies of that era. Private citizen Trump might as well get over the fear that his phones are tapped; he should just deal with it as a fact of his new life. But, if Trump holds power long enough, it is his policies that will eventually hold sway over the intelligence community. By then, AI may become so dominant at the CIA and elsewhere that it autonomously smears the credibility of anyone in a high position who is opposed to Trumpism.  For the vast majority, it will be a relief when high tech tools are sacrificed for the sake of bringing back a more down-to-earth economy.

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