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posted by chromas on Sunday August 16 2020, @01:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the cloudscale-big-brother dept.

The Panopticon Is Already Here (archive)

Xi Jinping is using artificial intelligence to enhance his government's totalitarian control—and he's exporting this technology to regimes around the globe.

[...] Xi has said that he wants China, by year's end, to be competitive with the world's AI leaders, a benchmark the country has arguably already reached. And he wants China to achieve AI supremacy by 2030.

Xi's pronouncements on AI have a sinister edge. Artificial intelligence has applications in nearly every human domain, from the instant translation of spoken language to early viral-outbreak detection. But Xi also wants to use AI's awesome analytical powers to push China to the cutting edge of surveillance. He wants to build an all-seeing digital system of social control, patrolled by precog algorithms that identify potential dissenters in real time.

[...] China already has hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras in place. Xi's government hopes to soon achieve full video coverage of key public areas. Much of the footage collected by China's cameras is parsed by algorithms for security threats of one kind or another. In the near future, every person who enters a public space could be identified, instantly, by AI matching them to an ocean of personal data, including their every text communication, and their body's one-of-a-kind protein-construction schema. In time, algorithms will be able to string together data points from a broad range of sources—travel records, friends and associates, reading habits, purchases—to predict political resistance before it happens. China's government could soon achieve an unprecedented political stranglehold on more than 1 billion people.

Early in the coronavirus outbreak, China's citizens were subjected to a form of risk scoring. An algorithm assigned people a color code—green, yellow, or red—that determined their ability to take transit or enter buildings in China's megacities. In a sophisticated digital system of social control, codes like these could be used to score a person's perceived political pliancy as well.

A crude version of such a system is already in operation in China's northwestern territory of Xinjiang, where more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs have been imprisoned, the largest internment of an ethnic-religious minority since the fall of the Third Reich. Once Xi perfects this system in Xinjiang, no technological limitations will prevent him from extending AI surveillance across China. He could also export it beyond the country's borders, entrenching the power of a whole generation of autocrats.

See also: In the Age of AI

Related: Is Ethical A.I. Even Possible?
China Now Has AI-Powered Judges
The US, Like China, Has About One Surveillance Camera for Every Four People, Says Report


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  • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Sunday August 16 2020, @09:40AM (3 children)

    by acid andy (1683) on Sunday August 16 2020, @09:40AM (#1037408) Homepage Journal

    Like I said. Humanity's utter failure will be nearing completion when this is fully in place in the west as well. I give it about 30 years, tops, for that to happen. They'll just call it something different because it'll honestly, definitely, only be used against those nasty "criminals". You'd probably have to move to Africa to get away from this kind of thing.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Unixnut on Sunday August 16 2020, @10:33AM (2 children)

    by Unixnut (5779) on Sunday August 16 2020, @10:33AM (#1037419)

    Why 30 years? The UK already uses AI in its CCTV system to better track "persons of interest" as they move along through the camera system. They can use AI to track based on anything from face biometrics, to your heartbeat, to the way you walk.

    The "risk scoring" that China is already doing is being discussed in the UK as well, as a way to better discover who is an "undesirable" before they do anything that would cause trouble to the powers that be. Drones swarm around protests filming and logging people, who can later on have a knock at their door by the authorities.

    Not to mention the full on surveillance by five eyes, of pretty much anything that goes on some electronic device, and of course the filtering/blocking of stuff on the internet by the government.

    Thought crime is already a thing, where you can be arrested for saying things that others disapprove of, and there are all other kinds of "soft" options to make you comply, usually involving losing your job or income. In a world where most people have no choice but to go into debt (and work off that debt with ever decreasing value of currency), the average person has to work full time just to stay where they are in life, forget about actually progressing in wealth and security. That means a loss of income, even temporary, can completely ruin someones life, and it is a very powerful method of control. So many people at work have privately held political opinions, but don't dare voice them in public for fear of their income/careers. The point of "self censorship" has been already passed for many years in the west.

    I really don't see much difference between China and the west already, except the Chinese are more blunt and in your face about it, whereas over on "this side", our elites prefer to give us the impression that we are free and have some say in how things are run. We have a "say" as long as it aligns with their goals, otherwise we should keep quiet and submit. I chalk it down to refinement.

    The western powers have refined their methods of control to the point where the populace as a whole doesn't seem to be aware they are being controlled. The Chinese (and Soviets before them) were blunt and unrefined, and it was easy to see the authoritarianism.

    I am very weary of these "China are eeeevil" articles, the implication that we are somehow pure as gold. It is just plain propaganda, and usually has an ulterior motive for getting people all riled up about it.

    • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Sunday August 16 2020, @12:38PM

      by acid andy (1683) on Sunday August 16 2020, @12:38PM (#1037440) Homepage Journal

      I agree with everything you said. I really wrote 30 years as an upper limit--how fast this stuff develops depends partly on what pace of change they think they can get away with, given as you said they still currently find it useful to make people think they're still free. We'll have reached the end when everyone knows quite a number of people, friends, neighbors and family, that have disappeared.

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    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Sunday August 16 2020, @06:15PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Sunday August 16 2020, @06:15PM (#1037560) Journal

      Great post. I'd mod you up, but you're already maxed out. It doesn't mean China isn't evil, because it is, but that they are ham-fisted when the governments and corporations in the West are subtle.

      So, all of us who love and long for freedom have a lot of work to do.

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