Posted on March 10th, 2020

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

In computer science, artificial intelligence” or AI, refers to intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. It is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn. AI is one of the major developments of our time. Machine learning, and the implications that go with it, are shaking up many aspects of how we do things, allowing us to deploy AI where we previously used a human or a more inefficient process.

AI can be quite helpful to businesses, educational institutions, and every-day life.  Companies are implementing voice recognition and speech recognition software across their phone and internet-based customer service systems allowing people to interact with computers as if they were human. It’s one thing for people to talk to computers, but can computers talk to people and talk like people? That’s what developers of natural language generation software are trying to accomplish – create artificial intelligence that can generate text that reads with the same nuances of human speech.

Artificial Intelligence represents a huge opportunity across virtually every development sector. Developers are designing intelligent machines that make decisions based on logic and rules. Soon, these decision-making machines may be running major companies, military agencies, and government departments all by themselves. Recent advances in artificial intelligence are not likely to lead to world-dominating machines any time soon.

Some think that AI can be a real danger to humanity if it continues to progress at its current pace. An extreme goal of AI research is to create computer programs that can learn, solve problems, and think logically. Eventually researchers hope to create a “general artificial intelligence” which can solve many problems instead of focusing on just one. Researchers are also trying to create creative and emotional AI which can possibly empathize or create art. Artificial intelligence involves many different fields like computer science, mathematicslinguistics, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy among others.

Professor Yuval Noah Harari (  is an Israeli historian who has written two bestsellers: Sapiens, which examined the course of early human history, and Homo Deus, which speculated on where we might be heading as a post-human species. His new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, is an exploration of the difficulties that confront us at the present. Professor Yuval Nova Harari says that the race to develop artificial intelligence (AI) is gathering momentum, and as the United States and China pull ahead, other countries, especially in the developing world, are lagging far behind. If they don’t catch up, their economic and political prospects will be grim. AI already makes it possible to hack human beings—to collect data about individuals and then use it to decipher, predict, and manipulate their desires. All countries, regardless of whether they are tech superpowers or not, will feel the effects of the AI revolution. To hack humans, governments and corporations need access to enormous amounts of information about real-life human behavior, which makes data perhaps the most important resource in the world. But most of the world’s data is mined by the United States, China, and companies based there.

If this trend continues, the world could soon witness a new kind of colonialism—data colonialism—in which raw information is mined in numerous countries, processed mainly in the imperial hub, and then used to exercise control throughout the world. For example, data giants in San Francisco or Shanghai could compile the entire medical and personal history of politicians and officials in distant countries and use it to influence them or manipulate public opinion about them. Beyond that, those who control the data could eventually reshape not only the world’s economic and political future but also the future of life itself. The combination of AI and biotechnology will be critical for any future attempts to redesign bodies, brains, and minds. Elites in the United States and China who have access to those technologies could determine the course of evolution for everyone, according to their particular values and interests. Abilities they deem useful, such as discipline and rote intelligence, might be enhanced at the cost of attributes believed to be superfluous, such as spirituality.

Professor Yuval Harari, cautions us that artificial intelligence, biotechnology and ever-sophisticated algorithms are tapping into our values, habits, tastes, desires and the very thought patterns that define us — all to control how we shop, what we read, and whom we vote for. The notion of free will is defunct. And the grand project of liberalism, with its focus on the individual, is worn out. In past generations, when people talked about freedom they mostly meant the freedom to express your feelings and realize your desires. But with the rise of Big Data algorithms, it becomes increasingly easy to hack humans, manipulate their feelings and control their desires. It means an external system can know you better than you know yourself. It can predict your choices and decisions. It can manipulate your emotions, and it can sell you anything, whether a product or a politician. Previously in history the most important resource was land. Then it was machines. Now data is the most important resource. Politics is becoming the struggle to control data, and the future belongs to those who monopolize the data. One of the biggest political questions of our era is, How do you regulate the ownership of data?

Dr. Daya Hewapathirane

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