Of all the possible avenues defined by the unregulated progress of Artificial Intelligence, the ‘Lonely Dictator Scenario’ is the most likely one. What is that scenario, you may ask, and how would it come about?
This conjures up visions of a powerful and paranoid dictator relying heavily on Artificial Intelligence to control his people and his trusted circle. Gradually, the dictator being human, will age, fall ill and die. By now, the AI force that helped propel his control will have developed enough to function in any situation on its own. If the dictator fails to name a successor, the inflexible, pervasive AI suppression-system is then in control by default.
Throughout history, most countries have been subject to some form of dictatorship. Before the advent of the 17th-century enlightenment, kings and other forms of inherited dictatorships were common. It is tempting to think of the advancement of democracy as a historical destiny. Truth is that it has followed an ebb and tide movement, with democracies losing power in one region and gaining in another part of the world.
The Communist Control
The Soviet Union brought about an era of dictatorship over the citizens’ minds. Any deviation of thought or speech from the official party-line was severely punished.
Teachers were trained to listen in on students who walked about what their parents said at home. Many such surveillance and control mechanisms were put in place. Led by party-leader Stalin, around 20 million citizens died for the honour and glory of the so-called equal society.
The Soviet Union achieved control by using a large party-establishment that was rewarded with plush jobs and other perks, which then suppressed the majority. Suppression of the people, by the people.
Dictatorship in the Virtual Era
Evolution of the internet liberated many societies from the bindings of dictators. The internet gave access to information that many dictators withheld from their people. Most dictators failed to combat the threat of this new technology, and many lost their power in the process.
This has changed. Dictatorships now ride to power on the back of technology and AI. Most dictators today consider the internet-structure and flow of information crucial to their hegemony. The web controls the flow of information on a macro-level. Only tiny cells of people can maintain an independent set of thoughts if they are smart.
The old rulers kept their reins tight on all forms of communication. They controlled the army, the police and citizens. The only missing cog in this system was a way to connect all their control channels. Artificial Intelligence is changing this fast.
The Conduits of AI Control
Earlier, CCTV cameras were staffed by human security-personnel whose attention would lapse during long shifts. The new age cameras are enabled with facial recognition. This convenient technology allows the rulers to keep track of the whereabouts of each citizen.
The CCTV-cameras in itself is a useless tool. The camera just sends images to a central database. It is the AI-system that can connect the dots. The latest recognition software can even register if somebody is happy, sad, angry or obedient. The AI can combine this with all other sources of information available; emails, social media, employment information, meta-data of phone calls, etc. AI helps the police, the army and the government party to stay informed and ahead of any developments.
At the centre of the control is a small group of people who could consist of religious leaders, a king with his family, a political office or a dictator with his trusted circle.
When a dictator is toppled, it is usually by angry mobs or by one or a few individuals that are close to his circle of power. The spider in the web knows this. He is less afraid of angry mobs. They are in control! He has more reason to fear the ones in his immediate surroundings. Traditionally, power would be delegated to a select few in the hierarchy, who would be watched closely by an obsessive ring of intelligence to report on any upcoming threat.
AI will dramatically increase this level of monitoring and will make it possible for one individual to control an ever-growing number of people. Until, after a few decades, it will be entirely conceivable that one individual manages an entire population. Bringing about what one calls a big brother world state.
The AI Aftermath Scenario
A paranoid leader may well decide he trusts no human being, and turn to his AI suppression mechanism. He can thus ensure that he is not vulnerable at any point, whether he is on travel or sick. To facilitate this, he installs an automatic pilot that can keep the artificial intelligence agent of suppression running during his absence. This AI would even likely impersonate speeches to maintain the impression that the dictator is present and well.
In such a dire situation, when the dictator passes away, the AI machine remains on autopilot.
No force in the country will be equipped to attack or disable the AI machine. If it is a nuclear state, then no other army will dare to attack or provoke this machine without a conscience to limit its actions. The AI suppressor will, thus, stay in power until the end of time.
This scenario is not only likely, but it may also be unfolding even as we read. The nuclear world-power China is well on a path to a Lonely Dictatorship state. All Chinese citizens are monitored and reported upon by AI, facilitating a tracked ‘social score’ for each. The voices of even top party members are being increasingly stifled as the Chinese Premier, Xi, becomes the solitary face of power.
The combination of power-hungry autocracy and the potent tentacles of AI is a doomsday scenario waiting to materialize.
You may also read our blog on this subject, the one-way nature of a shift or the articles on the other five aftermath scenarios Rogue Malware, First Intelligence Explosion, Necessary Rescue, Ethnic Cleansing or Human Cyborgs.