Karthik T S
Recently Freedom house, a non-profit organization funded primarily by the United States government has declared in its 2021 report that India is only a “partly free” country when it comes to political rights and civil liberties1. Considering the number of protests and riots in the last fifteen months in India, one could easily wonder if there is indeed too much freedom for miscreants to do whatever they want and get away with nothing but Social Media fame! However, this so-called independent body that is primarily funded by the United States government thinks otherwise!2. According to Wikipedia this funding by the United States government is a “necessary evil” and yet the same agency also gives ratings to the United States and the extent of freedom in the country3. No other independent body or agency have raised a problem with this issue of conflict of interest and of course there is no forum to raise such issues elsewhere.
The very intention of this body seems to blacklist and blackmail countries for economic and military sanctions if they stand up to the United States. Also, by letting the agency rate their own country the United States is only playing to the gallery by taking a moral high ground on self regulation.
As one reads or should read the book “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power” by Rajiv Malhotra, the framework under which the Western world, especially the United States operates becomes very evident. Be it the government or the big tech bullies, the intention is world domination by holding the less privileged as hostage.
Parallels of Self-regulation in AI by the Big-Techs:
The moral high ground of self-regulation is not only a United States government phenomenon but even the big-tech companies are getting into this mode of operation through something called an ethics committee! Recently Google has fired its AI ethical team’s co-lead for pointing out the biases in their AI systems.4, 5
As pointed out by Rajiv Malhotra in one of his conversations, these big tech bullies want to come across as sporting and silence any criticism before it gets too big. The lesson from the Google episode is that only if the ethics committees’ criticisms are marketable as sporting and do not expose their real intentions and biases, will the big-tech bullies encourage them. The ethics committee of Google or Facebook cannot grow bigger than or independent of the company but only be subservient to their agenda of world domination by pointing our minor fallacies. This is remarkably similar to the Freedom House org criticizing the U.S government on freedom of speech!
AI and Bias:
My point of view about AI until I read the book was that it will be a neutral entity and highly objective in making decisions. However, that perspective got shattered because now I can perceive the reasons why some folks get banned on twitter while others do not for similar “offences”! It is not any human sitting and monitoring individual tweets but the AI algorithm that decides what is right and what is not. These inherent biases are part of the AI machine learning algorithms and the systems are deliberately designed to perform that way6.
As we can see, the Western ideals are permeating from their governments to the big techs in the context of self regulation as an exercise of hogwash. What the heads of many past U.S governments did to vulnerable countries as an excuse for invasion is today practiced by the likes of Twitter and Facebook to the heads of governments across the world including the United States.
The hierarchy of power seems to be in the following order from bottom to top: Vulnerable countries -> The United States government -> The Big techs.
Today organizations like Freedom House are heavily funded by the U.S. government. But given the influence of technology giants in the U.S., the same organization or many such organizations could be funded by these companies in future to run their agenda. These companies through such organizations can easily blackmail governments across the world for good ratings (except for China of course!) and kill local competition through forced policies.
In addition, the tendencies we see that has permeated from the government to the big tech will also be a part of their AI systems. Hypothetically the technology companies could also promote a self-regulating AI system in the not-so-distant future!
Hence it only adds more credence to Shri. Rajiv Malhotra’s point that these global technology giants have created an unlevel playing field and the virtuous cycle of more money and highly efficient AI systems will only widen the gap between the have-s and have-nots.
On a side note, it is also extremely interesting to note that this watch dog organization, Freedom House, also has a rating on China7. While the rating is in single digits, the Untied States today fears only one country the most and it also happens to be a country that really doesn’t care about global reputation in terms of such ratings.
One of the main reasons why China does not care about these ratings and continue to do what is good for its hard power expansion across the world, is its digital and mental independence from the Western world. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about India at least as of today even though there will be some superficial voices in the government of India and in Social media circles (ironically run by American companies) about how India does not worry about such negative ratings from a third party.
the recent events across the world and in India combined with the most appropriately timed book could both serve as a wake-up call to all stakeholders of Bharat to act towards freeing India from the clutches of digital colonization.
- Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power by Rajiv Malhotra, pages 52-54