The Case Against AI Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

Essay by Judy Estrin: “The very fact that the evolution of technology feels so inevitable is evidence of an act of manipulation, an authoritarian use of narrative brilliantly described by historian Timothy Snyder. He calls out the politics of inevitability “...a sense that the future is just more of the present, … that there are no alternatives, and therefore nothing really to be done.” There is no discussion of underlying values. Facts that don’t fit the narrative are disregarded.

Here in Silicon Valley, this top-down authoritarian technique is amplified by a bottom-up culture of inevitability. An orchestrated frenzy begins when the next big thing to fuel the Valley’s economic and innovation ecosystem is heralded by companies, investors, media, and influencers.

They surround us with language coopted from common values—democratization, creativity, open, safe. In behavioral psych classes, product designers are taught to eliminate friction—removing any resistance to us to acting on impulse.

The promise of short-term efficiency, convenience, and productivity lures us. Any semblance of pushback is decried as ignorance, or a threat to global competition. No one wants to be called a Luddite. Tech leaders, seeking to look concerned about the public interest, call for limited, friendly regulation, and the process moves forward until the tech is fully enmeshed in our society.

We bought into this narrative before, when social media, smartphones and cloud computing came on the scene. We didn’t question whether the only way to build community, find like-minded people, or be heard, was through one enormous “town square,” rife with behavioral manipulation, pernicious algorithmic feeds, amplification of pre-existing bias, and the pursuit of likes and follows.

It’s now obvious that it was a path towards polarization, toxicity of conversation, and societal disruption. Big Tech was the main beneficiary as industries and institutions jumped on board, accelerating their own disruption, and civic leaders were focused on how to use these new tools to grow their brands and not on helping us understand the risks.

We are at the same juncture now with AI…(More)”.

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