Urgent Call for Greater Understanding and Management of AI’s Societal Implications

by Amir Hussein
AI in society

A recent study highlights the intricate role of artificial intelligence (AI) in modern society, emphasizing both its positive potential and negative repercussions. The paper delves into AI’s contributions to national security and how it can intensify societal challenges such as radicalization and polarization. It also stresses the necessity of comprehending and controlling AI’s risks. Source: SciTechPost.com

An academic from Lancaster University has raised concerns about the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and algorithms in aggravating radicalization, enhancing polarization, and spreading racism and political instability.

Professor Joe Burton of Lancaster University argues that AI and algorithms extend beyond simple tools for national security agencies combating online threats. He points out their potential to exacerbate polarization, radicalism, and political violence, thus posing a risk to national security.

He also highlights the role of securitization processes (depicting technology as an existential threat) in shaping AI’s design, usage, and the detrimental outcomes it has produced.

AI’s Role in Securitization and Societal Impact

Published in Elsevier’s Technology in Society Journal, Professor Burton’s paper examines AI’s history of securitization, its portrayal in media and popular culture, and recent examples of AI contributing to polarization, radicalization, and political violence.

AI’s Application in Warfare and Cybersecurity

Referencing The Terminator film series, the paper notes its significant impact on public perception of AI and associated fears, such as machine consciousness leading to catastrophic outcomes like nuclear war.

Professor Burton discusses the influence of such perceptions on governments and security agencies in guiding AI development to mitigate risks and potentially harness its positive aspects. He cites the example of advanced drones, like those used in the Ukraine conflict, capable of full autonomy, including target recognition.

The debate over banning ‘killer robots’ and retaining human oversight in life-or-death decisions continues, yet the integration of AI in armed drones progresses rapidly.

In cybersecurity, AI plays a crucial role, particularly in areas like (dis)information and online psychological warfare. The paper references Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections and the Cambridge Analytica scandal as examples of AI’s power in creating political division, encouraging radical beliefs, and manipulating identity groups.

AI’s Influence During the Pandemic

The paper notes AI’s beneficial role in tracking and tracing COVID-19, balanced against concerns over privacy and human rights. It argues that issues lie in AI’s design, the data it depends on, its applications, and the consequences of these factors.

Concluding Message to Researchers

Professor Burton concludes with an appeal to researchers in cybersecurity and International Relations to better understand and manage AI’s risks, considering its divisive effects throughout its development and application. He emphasizes the importance of not treating AI as a politically neutral technology and balancing its security aspects with social implications.

Reference: “Algorithmic extremism? The securitization of artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on radicalism, polarization and political violence” by Joe Burton, 14 September 2023, Technology in Society.
DOI: 10.1016/j.techsoc.2023.102262

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about AI in society

What is the main focus of the recent study discussed in the article?

The study primarily examines the complex role of artificial intelligence (AI) in society, emphasizing its potential to both positively and negatively impact various aspects, including national security, societal polarization, radicalization, and the management of AI-related risks.

How does AI contribute to national security issues according to the study?

According to the study, while AI can be a tool for national security agencies to combat online threats, it also has the potential to exacerbate issues like radicalization, polarization, and political violence, thereby posing a risk to national security itself.

What concerns are raised about the use of AI in cybersecurity?

The study raises concerns about AI’s use in cybersecurity, especially in disseminating (dis)information and online psychological warfare. It points to significant instances like Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections and the Cambridge Analytica scandal as examples of AI’s capability to manipulate political discourse and societal beliefs.

What role did AI play during the COVID-19 pandemic, as discussed in the paper?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, AI was beneficial in tracking and tracing the virus. However, the study also highlights concerns over privacy and human rights related to the use of AI in this context.

What is the concluding message of the paper to researchers?

The paper concludes with a message to researchers in cybersecurity and International Relations, urging them to better understand and manage the risks of AI. It emphasizes the importance of acknowledging AI’s divisive effects at all stages of its development and use, and not treating AI as a politically neutral technology.

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Alex K December 26, 2023 - 7:23 pm

the part about AI in the pandemic was interesting, tracking the virus was helpful but privacy is a big concern, where do we draw the line?

John Smith December 27, 2023 - 2:28 am

really interesting article, shows how AI is not all good or bad but kinda both? it’s important to think about these things, especially with how fast tech is moving these days.

Emily R. December 27, 2023 - 3:20 am

Wow, never thought about AI this way. It’s so much more than just technology, it affects our society and security. Makes you think…

Mike Johnson December 27, 2023 - 9:05 am

not sure I agree with all the points, AI has been a big help in many areas. but yeah, the risks are there. good read overall.

Sara Connor December 27, 2023 - 9:49 am

This is scary stuff, reminds me of terminator movies. We need to be careful with AI, it’s like opening pandora’s box!


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