It may be no surprise to many of you that China's communist government has been monitoring on its own citizens for years. What may be news to you is that it's been using an artificially intelligent supercomputer do more than watch but to actually manage city operations.
It is the "City Brain" in Hangzhou, China that oversees 9+ million people. It tracks the traffic of cars, bicycles, buses, trains, airplanes; tracks crimes, purchases, text messages, phone calls, social media, and much more.
The government tries to justify its violation of citizen privacy with statistics of fewer traffic jams, car accidents, and crimes. While these are positive results, the loss of rights and the slippery slope of digital dictatorship are costs much too high to pay. A society whose entire information channels are censored by a communist state may simply be ignorant of the consequences and/or have accepted misleading notions repeated often enough.
Because of this, China may be the perfect place to prototype the A.I. City Brain.
Tech moguls with near-celebrity status, such as Alibaba's Artificial Intelligence Manager Xian-Sheng Hua, seem to encourage people to not care about their rights because they slow down technological advancements:
This "City Brain" has been so "successful" saving bureaucrats money and managing busy city operations that there are plans for replicating it onto other cities and even all around the world.
Why did Facebook's Marc Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cooke visit China together recently?
Smile You're on Camera... Everywhere
Why is face recognition so popular? Even the new iPhone X has a 3D face scanner to unlock your device and grant access to your accounts. Is this technology just for taking better selfies? The reasoning of face recognition improving security has been debunked already.
According to a China Central Television documentary, surveillance cameras recognize the faces of everyone it sees and displays their profiles in real time.
In 2013, NPR reported that Chinese Communist Party security agents “privately confirmed turning cellphones into listening devices to spy on citizens."
Kryptowire is a security firm who found such spyware in US phones and reported it to our government. A $50, HD-display smartphone with fast data service sounds good except for... the backdoor that "sends the full contents of text messages, contact lists, call logs, location information, and other data to a Chinese server every 72 hours."
The Chinese company that wrote the software, Shanghai Adups Technology Company, says its code "runs on more than 700 million phones, cars, and other smart devices." So this issue can easily spread beyond one high-tech city.
"The code comes preinstalled on phones and the surveillance is not disclosed to users," said Tom Karygiannis, vice president of Kryptowire.
That's right, the Chinese communist government's AI supercomputer has access to mobile devices. In freedom-loving America, we recognize such breach of privacy as an attack on our liberty itself even in the cloak of safety and efficiency.
Beyond Surveillance: CITIZEN SCORE
In 2015, China launched a “social credit system,” called Citizen Score connected to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens’ national ID cards. It basically calculates all the data collected to score everyone on their behavior. The ACLU said the system leveraged “all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control.”
A Citizen Score, also linked to credit scores, could drop if a “friend” in social media did or said something the communist government considered inappropriate, bought certain video games, posted politically sensitive comments, or anything embarrassing the Chinese Communist Party.
"No regime, however ruthless its leaders, vast its ambitions, or extensive its resources, can tyrannize its subjects without their active cooperation. Every police state ultimately requires the public to regiment themselves—and each other. In the age of social media, successful totalitarians will have to crowd-source state coercion – and China’s new “social credit” system, which will encompass that country’s entire population in 2020, is pioneering an approach that, if successful, will inevitably spawn imitators in the West."
Beyond Profiling: SEARCH & DESTROY
With such spying devices all around the world feeding a cloud-connected communist supercomputer with one of the world's largest standing armies and a history of mass murder of its own innocent civilians, there is plenty of reason for concern over genuine security and human rights for people all around the world.
According to the authoritative “Black Book of Communism,” an estimated 65 million Chinese died as a result of Mao’s repeated, merciless attempts to create a new “socialist” China. Anyone who got in his way was done away with -- by execution, imprisonment or forced famine. For Mao, the No. 1 enemy was the intellectual.
One example of victims of technological tyranny is the case of Cisco Systems custom-building and maintaining the "Golden Shield Project" used to monitor internet communications and target specific users that clarified the truth about the communist regime.
"In one marketing slide, the goals of the Golden Shield are described as to “douzheng evil Falun Gong cult and other hostile elements.” Douzheng is a Chinese term used to describe the persecution of undesirable groups. It was widely used by the Communist Party in the Cultural Revolution."
We the People > A.I.
People create and regulate governments, governments create and regulate corporations, all to serve the people. With all the technologies' data collection merging into a non-human controlling force without spirit or morality, humanity is in danger.
The sci-fi movies depicting robots controlling or killing humans was a warning to avoid such a path. Yet, it seems, some are racing down this trail pursuing electronic god-like superpower substitutes. Where is this desire to control everyone else coming from? Is it really human nature?
Despite improved efficiencies of city dynamic processes, we must focus on the fundamental purpose of these functions. For without noble or upright purposes to guide humanity onward and upward we will likely lose our way over time and bury ourselves in the entanglements of our own misunderstandings, thus creating conflicts with others and within ourselves.
A supercomputer can handle vast and complex calculations yet how can it resolve the issues within our hearts? A.I. is not the solution to human error and may rather even classify humankind itself as the error to eliminate. Will A.I. attempt to control our free will to prevent ignorant human behavior? If so, how far would it go? What will happen if we try to compete with it?
The real problems we face are of a human nature within ourselves. Giving authority of how we live over to such a computer, things may quickly go beyond our reach until we become helpless nodes under an electronic mechanism that will not listen to us.
Going back to the basics, living a traditional life in harmony with nature and the Tao, may actually be one of the greatest things to happen after all.