Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Now that Trump is President, what will replace the dying climate crisis narrative?
The replacement scare has to be a comparatively new field, with vast knowledge gaps which can be filled with wild speculation disguised as expert opinion. It must plausibly threaten the lives and security of ordinary people – to attract research funding. The exaggerated risks must have the potential to engage public imagination. The new scare must be radically different from previous scares – otherwise people will see it as recycled CO2 hype (think the methane scare). And the new scare must have the support of popular culture – Hollywood must get on board, to help spread the fear.
There is a crisis narrative which ticks all these boxes – the rising threat of uncontrolled artificial intelligence.
Hollywood is already well on board with the AI crisis. The following is a list of Hollywood films since year 2000 related to artificial intelligence (original source Wikipedia);
|2001||1||A.I. Artificial Intelligence|
|2003||3||The Matrix Reloaded, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Matrix Revolutions|
|2005||1||The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy|
|2008||3||Eagle Eye, Iron Man, WALL-E|
|2009||3||Terminator Salvation, Moon, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen|
|2011||2||Real Steel, Transformers: Dark of the Moon|
|2012||3||Prometheus, Robot & Frank, Total Recall|
|2013||4||Her, Iron Man 3, The Machine, Pacific Rim|
|2014||7||Automata, Big Hero 6, Interstellar, Robocop (2014 film), Transcendence, Transformers: Age of Extinction, X-Men: Days of Future Past|
|2015||8||Ex Machina, Chappie, Tomorrowland, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Terminator Genisys, aka Terminator 5, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Uncanny, Psycho-pass: The Movie|
|2016||3||Max Steel, Morgan, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story|
|2017||2 (so far)||Ghost in the Shell (2017 film), Transformers: The Last Knight|
It is difficult to gauge overall interest in AI. From the graph at the top of this article, the number of people entering two key AI related search terms is substantially down from a peak in 2004 (the earliest date Google provides search term data), but may again be on the rise.
The last month or so there appears to be a lot of press interest in AI – I’ve seen a lot of news articles recently which discuss the potential for artificial intelligence to impact the lives of ordinary people.
For example (just from the last few days);
Australia’s big businesses are embracing artificial intelligence (AI), with two-thirds planning to replace jobs…
Mulling the Economic Effect of Artificial Intelligence Many executives and economists said they believe the technology will end up creating more new jobs than it displaces …
There has been a lot of speculation that artificial intelligence might prevent President Trump from restoring middle class prosperity.
Commentary: Shift to automation may prevent Trump from delivering on his jobs promise
As the election results rolled in last night, it became increasingly clear that America — and the world — would never be the same. The American people overlooked all of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s faults and elected him to office in the belief that he will fix the nation’s deep-seated problems of inequity and injustice. And they rebelled against the business interests and corruption that they believed Hillary Clinton represented.
Trump’s victory was enabled by technology — everything from his use of social media to Clinton’s email scandals to Russian hacking. But advancements in technology and how they reshape our economy may also keep him from delivering on some of the major promises that made him so popular during the campaign season.
Is artificial intelligence a real threat to security and prosperity? The beauty of speculating about such an unknown field is that nobody really knows. AI driven weapons might remove human conscience from the battlefield. Runaway AIs superseding their software constraints could wreak havoc, causing environmental catastrophe, maybe even completely destroying the world. Artificial intelligence threatens to permanently eliminate jobs, by raising the skills bar impossibly high, driving workers and the middle class into state dependency and financial ruin. But similar things have been said about almost every major historical technological advance – and have always turned out to be hype.
Artificial intelligence has good potential to frighten politicians into funding lots of expensive but inconclusive studies. Since strong AI doesn’t exist yet, all opinions about the future of artificial intelligence are highly speculative – which is why I am calling artificial intelligence as the next eco-scare, the true heir to the failed CO2 scare.