Our history is full of extreme instances of senseless, rabid ethnic cleansing by fanatic rulers. The mass killings in the past were harsh alright, but they might pale compared to the forms of genocide that will be possible with the help of Artificial Intelligence in the future.
Horror lanes of History
The Roman Senator Cato the Censor ended each speech with the words ‘Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam’ or ‘Carthage must be destroyed’. This is an early example of effective brainwashing by making a policy mainstream by repeating it very often. It led the Romans to start a risky war, conquer the mighty city-nation Carthage and sell the surviving citizens as slaves. This is the first known example of ethnic cleansing.
Human history throws up multiple instances of how tens of thousands or even millions of certain minorities were killed or driven away, for reasons of race, religion or nation. The best-known examples are the Armenian Genocide and the killing of some 6 million Jews by the Nazis.
The shock of the Second World War led to a relatively peaceful second half of the 20th century.
Artificial Intelligence and Genocide
The desire to kill people that are different from us existed in the past and will probably endure in the future. Destructive weapons were there throughout history and will only get more sophisticated.
AI is a new tool that can exacerbate existing conflicts. The first distinction is that older weapons had to be operated directly by people, which puts the life of soldiers at risk. The risk of casualties to one’s own side has always been a significant deterrent to start a conflict. New weapons can be operated remotely. AI enabled weapons can act without direct supervision too. This makes it easier to initiate mass elimination.
The fast sliding prices of lethal drones and other weapons is another relevant factor. The first military drones used in the Afghan war with Afghanistan cost millions of dollars a-piece. Now simple but lethal drones operated by phone are manufactured for just a few hundred dollars. In the future, it will be possible to build cheap fly-size killer drones that can shoot specific targets directly in the eye. The dramatically falling cost for a killing machine puts dangerous tools in the hands of many groups.
A third factor is that AI enabled weapons can attack, without revealing who has ordered the attack. Thus, there is no danger or threat to the attacker as a deterrent.
Suppressing Minorities with AI Command
An even more dangerous technological trend is the almost complete control that AI can give to governments over its subjects.
In the past governments could only unleash general measurements to target minorities. AI makes it possible to monitor the behaviour of each individual.
The first AI-enabled genocide is taking place even as we publish — in China. The Muslim Uyghurs have never been popular with the Chines government. The government has an effective way to exercise precise control over each individual in the Xinjiang province. Most street corners have facial recognition cameras. Social media are tracked. A Han Chinese citizen in allocated to many Uyghur homes, for routine checking. An estimated one in twelve Uyghurs is detained in so-called ‘vocational training centres’, and regularly individuals go missing.
For dictators around the world, the Chinese AI enabled suppression techniques are attractive. One of the first customers is Zimbabwe that bought in 2018 facial recognition cameras, combines with AI software from China.
There were, are and will be many groups and governments with a wish to make their ideas, race or religion dominant. The difference is that AI now vastly increases the effectiveness of tools of terrorism and genocide. The AI enabled genocide scenario has the potential to kill a substantial part of the human population.
You can seee the Youtube version of this blog. You may also read our blog on this subject, the one-way nature of a shift or the articles on the other five aftermath scenarios Rogue Malware, First Intelligence Explosion, Necessary Rescue, Human Cyborgs or Lonely Dictator.