Privacy expert Brad Templeton warns that artificially intelligent robots could one day comb through digital data left by Internet users and retroactively punish them for “future crimes” that were not detected or considered to be a crime at the time.
During a recent presentation at a Singularity University event, Templeton, who was the Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation for ten years, said that the mass recording of our movements, activities and opinions could one day be a treasure trove for technologically sophisticated dictatorships to punish sinners.
Noting that AI is still in its very early stages, with facial and speech recognition still relatively primitive, Templeton said that this wouldn’t always be the case and that, “We have to worry about the threat of time traveling robots from the future.”
Artificial intelligence will eventually surpass the human ability to recognize things, which when combined with today’s obsession of recording everything via social media and the movements of cellphones being tracked, will create a dystopian scenario, according to Templeton.
“That’s all being recorded and in the future they’ll be able to analyze that and they’ll be able to ask ‘are you now or have you ever been a member of some strange organization?'” said Templeton. “They’ll be able to look into the past….and see what you were doing at any time in the past….so you have to worry today about what AI’s in the future are going to be able to do,” he added.
“You are committing sins of the future that you don’t know are sins yet,” said Templeton, illustrating the idea with the example of how Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, a practice that was commonplace at the time yet is condemned today.
“Mores change from time to time and so people will look into your past and know what’s going on, so if you thought it was bad enough to worry about what they think of you now I’m telling you, you’re going to have to worry about what they think of you in the future because they’re gonna know everything you’re doing now,” concluded Templeton.
It’s not inconceivable that online speech considered acceptable under today’s free speech laws could also be denounced as “politically incorrect” in future, with the sinner subjected to retroactive fines or re-education.
“We’re recording more of our lives than ever, and our communication, photos, and videos are all being stored by companies like Google and Amazon,” writes David J. Hill. “Many of our choices, both public and increasingly private ones, are being stored in digital form indefinitely. Most people are smart enough not to post incriminating activities, but our understanding of “right” and “wrong” is through the lens of today’s morality. Will the people of the future agree?”
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