Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Multi-purpose Nature and Proliferation of AI Technology

AI technology is inherently multi-purpose.

Intelligence is multi-purpose and so is AI.

Face recognition software is good example. Facebooks tags your friends in your pictures so that you don’t have to do it. Police, state and private security organizations may use the same technology to identify a person in a public crowd. Their motivations and actions may vary.

Similarly, self-driving cars and trucks share a lot of technology with autonomous military vehicles. And there are plenty of more examples.

Non-proliferation of AI technology is almost impossible

The history of the internet has demonstrated that it is very hard if not impossible to control the distribution of digital media. For example, the Napster led spread of digital music was solved through a combination of license  restrictions, threat of enforcement, economic measures and convenience.

Furthermore, many AI-related algorithms are available under open source licenses with barely any restrictions on their use.

License restrictions would be unenforceable with bad actors.

Keeping software within in an organization is no guaranty for keeping its use contained. Sensitive data is stolen from companies and government organizations on a regular basis.

The 2017 Vault 7 case where hackers gained access to the CIA’s cybersecurity and surveillance tools, illustrates this vividly.

Commodity hardware

While in the past special hardware was needed for more advanced algorithms, today’s data centers are largely built on commodity hardware which is widely available. Another historically available proliferation barrier has disappeared.

Education is free and widely available

The knowledge barrier also has disappeared. Anyone with sufficient intellectual capabilities, language skills and motivation can obtain the necessary knowledge through online courses, books, manuals, etc.

Treasure is not a key differentiation

Given the software and knowledge is free and commodity hardware is cheap, treasure does not provide a barrier to entry.


Given this situation, it must be assumed that bad state and non-state actors will have a level of AI technology available to them close enough to what the most advanced security, intelligence and military organizations have to create severe internal and external threats.

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