Edward Snowden: ‘Greatest danger still lies ahead with refinement of AI’

Mr Snowden was catapulted into the international spotlight after leaking top-secret documents. These revealed the extent of the global surveillance programmes run by American and British spy agencies. Now the former CIA operative has revealed his concerns over the imminent AI revolution.

Edward Snowden told The Guardian: “The greatest danger still lies ahead, with the refinement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as facial and pattern recognition.

The greatest danger still lies ahead, with the refinement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as facial and pattern recognition

Edward Snowden

“An AI-equipped surveillance camera would be not a mere recording device, but could be made into something closer to an automated police officer.”

Mr Snowden believes governments, aided by the major internet companies, are moving towards creating a permanent record of everyone on earth, recording the whole of their daily lives.

To counter this, Mr Snowden argues for both legislative reform and increased use of end-to-end encryption to protect electronic communications, such as email and instant messaging.

However, he argues, these are not enough to counter accelerating technological changes allowing greater intrusions of privacy and he calls for a worldwide protest movement, similar to those on climate change.

He added: “You have to be ready to stand for something if you want it to change.

“That is what I hope this book (Permanent Record) will help people come to decide for themselves.”

The revelation coincides with the GSMA’s announcement that the AI market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2020.

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is actually a broad term for two distinct categories: Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and Narrow AI.

Artificial general intelligence is the type of AI capable of carrying out any cognitive function in the way a human can.

However, the technology is not yet there.

Today, Narrow AI applications such as IBM Watson, Siri, Alexa, Bixby, and others are the ones sharing the world with us.

The key difference between AGI and Narrow AI is goal setting and volition.

In the future, AGI is going to have the ability to reflect on its own goals and decide whether to adjust them or not, and until what extent.

If done right, this extraordinary technological achievement is going to change humankind forever.

Yet, there is still a long way to go in order to reach that point.

Despite this, many today fear that Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) one day is going to go beyond human cognition.

But even though this is quite likely to happen in the future, it will not be happen any time soon.

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