Surveillance Capitalism Will Lead to Predictive Analytics of Everything
Can Datascience prevent the next American Coup?
This is an Op-Ed about how A.I. will increasingly be used in politics and geo-political rivalries.
If the algorithm can help us predict the future (W.P. paywall), it can also help us shape our desired outcomes.
We will be saying the algorithm a lot in this article.
Revolution is Profitable for A.I.
The thing that’s pretty interesting about artificial intelligence in how it creates new jobs, is it can profit from our misfortune as well.
Take a society suffering from some degree of civil unrest, the decline of democracy via social amplification and the risk of the U.S. military itself in a potential coup in 2024.
A.I. has an answer for that too.
You don’t usually think of A.I. as having a huge intersection with politics and national security. But hang on a second, predicting the future can be very lucrative.
Data scientists Watching for the Signs
As The Washington Post reports, a cottage industry has sprung up around predicting political violence on American soil ever since supporters of then-outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in what many consider an attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Opinion on this event is also greatly divided (within America), due in part to you got it, the algorithm.
I find this pretty incredible and stunning. It’s not so different from China’s Government creating a surveillance net so good it will be able to root out activists and dissidents before they even mobilize. It also boils down to how predictive analytics understand people sometimes at levels they don’t even understand themselves.
This has been demonstrated in digital advertising and in how closely our life online can predict what we will do next. Eventually global events and sociological patterns will be predicted at ridiculously good levels of accuracy.
Preventing the American Insurrection Could be Big Business
It’s very odd then what monetizes A.I. and related Big Data analytics services as evidenced by Palantir, a somewhat controversial analytics and data mining firm, that still relies heavily on its US government contracts for revenue.
A.I. companies that can service Governments in a way nobody else can, can become incredibly valuable very suddenly. China’s pure-play facial recognition companies are such an example.
While consumers are fun clients for an A.I. company, other companies are better. Governments are likely however the best clients.
Here then is something The Pentagon (DARPA) and the Chinese Government have long understood and it’s really quite simple.
By marrying historical data with information on everything from inclement weather to economic shifts and even disruptions in transit patterns, this type of modeling relies on the notion that warning signs will present themselves. The predictive analytics of collective events is now possible in the 2020s!
The East-West axis of geo-political tensions, cybersecurity and a vying for the future of economic control is also about the future political system that will prevail on Earth. A.I. can monetize that and help both sides achieve their ends.
Public Opinion in the US Military is Divided
Think about it, fears are growing among experts, politicians, and former generals about the rise of rightwing extremism in the US military and the potential threat it could pose to American democracy. Apparently there are a lot of Trump supporters in the U.S. army even amid high ranking officials.
If the algorithm of social amplification has enabled foreign agents to hack American’s mind space and even belief systems, the algorithm can again help predict their assault on our social stability and the institution of democracy itself. The algorithm doesn’t care what is right or what is wrong, or if A.I. is a tool that can be more dangerous than good, it only does as it is told. This suggests surveillance capitalism of both the Eastern and Western axis of innovation will provide an AI-arms race of prediction.
If knowledge is power, artificial intelligence becomes a weapon.
Data scientists who have already been tracking political violence around the world are retooling their efforts to predict the next pandemic or the next American resurrection. The US government seems to have noticed this type of AI’s usefulness, with the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department already using AI to predict political upheaval overseas.
If the Pentagon is getting better at this, you can imagine how good the CCP is already at it. They have been throwing much more funding behind the proliferation of A.I. surveillance architectures and online censorship.
While BigTech try to create hype for artificial intelligence as it’s their rainbow to higher profits and shareholder value, the darker side of how the algorithm is used are suppressed. Naturally, any sort of political surveillance that is being eyed by governments is going to raise ethical concerns. But how much concern is truly being raised in the regulation of A.I.?
Could A.I. become Dangerous?
According to Physicist Stephen Hawking, artificial intelligence could be the "worst event in the history of our civilization." We know from history that Hawking was right about a lot of things.
However at what point does Surveillance Capitalism become a danger to itself? If social amplification on networks like Facebook, YouTube and others resulted in behavior modification at scale, to the same companies also provide the predictive analytics and surveillance modeling tools to come up with the solutions?
While it’s compelling to consider the applications for AI that could guess where and when the next coup attempt might happen, be it in countries with higher rates of political violence or in ostensibly more “stable” countries in North America and Europe, it’s sad to see A.I. might also be the quick fix for promoting or harming institutions like Democracy or public opinion within America.
The Weaponization of Data is an Algorithm Too
Given the unrest we are seeing in so many countries including recently Kazakhstan, A.I. is that power that won’t allow revolutions (Vladimir Putin’s words) and potentially the power used to hack the political and social fabric of more vulnerable societies to public opinion like the United States, Germany, the U.K, Australia and others. Democracy is certainly more vulnerable to cybersecurity initiatives and interventions, that will one day be marshalled by A.I. itself.
Surveillance Capitalism appears to be on a trajectory of weaponizing our data and further monetizing even collective patterns of geopolitical and social unrest for profit. If our political sentiment can be manipulated so easily via social amplification, what else we do in the future will be manipulated by algorithms and behavior modification related to A.I?
Algorithms won’t just predict the next Coup, they will help some groups find ways to harm other groups. It’s nearly impossible to regulate how people use a new tool. The AI-arms race is about doing what others do to not have a competitive weakness. In the war games for world domination in the 21st century, A.I. is an important piece to predicting the future.
New companies will find new profitable ways to help Governments achieve their ends, both in manipulating behavior in foreign places and in protecting social stability at home.
In 2022, it seems the line between what they call “domestic terrorism” and social unrest for real public concern is more blurry than ever.
Meanwhile I have started another Newsletter to cover datascience, software and technology trends.
Thanks for reading!