At this stage, it seems that not much can be done to stop the AI Revolution from taking place. As large tech companies and governments try to reach agreements about regulations concerning the rollout of Artificial Intelligence, we are left wondering what our futures will look like. In contentious debates, some view AI as the solution to our man-made problems, while others view AI as a threat to our livelihood, and possibly to our human existence.
Taking a step back, let us have a look at the possible scenarios that may play out if AI is given full autonomy, or if regulation fails to control it. Here are three classic books about governance, power, control, and survival, which capture the social issues of concern in today’s debates about AI. The fictional scenarios in these books use metaphoric and allegoric forms to convey messages of importance about identity, individuality, the misuse and abuse of power, and the fragility and limitations of humanity.
‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelly
‘Frankenstein’ is the story of an ambitious scientist who creates a creature that turns out to be stronger and smarter than him (and the human race). Upon initially viewing the creature, Victor Frankenstein rejects it, which leads the creature down a path of vengeful destruction. The creature faces challenges of loneliness and isolation, which are beyond its control, and it rightfully blames its creator (Frankenstein) for its suffering. Frankenstein, who is unwilling to take accountability for his actions, finds himself in a dilemma where he has to choose between appeasing the creature or braving its revenge on his family. Frankenstein, unable to cope with the magnitude of his mistake, lives a life of regret and fear.
‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding
A group of school boys land on a deserted island after their airplane crashes. Without any governance or authority figures to protect them, provide for them, or guide them in moral thinking, they quickly lose touch with civilisation. As they are faced with danger, and the hardships of hunger and scarcity on the island, their primal instincts for survival override their sense of humanity, leading them to turn on each other in brutal and terrifying ways.
‘1984’ by George Orwell
In this dystopian novel, the protagonist lives under a totalitarian government, where everyone’s actions (and even thoughts) are monitored by surveillance cameras and authority figures, known as ‘Big Brother’. Individuals have no autonomy, and any action taken towards autonomy results in torture and/or death by Big Brother. In this controlled society, humans are reduced to workers that serve the government’s ideologies; they are forced to live robotic lives where they suppress their humanity and individuality. People in this system cannot form normal healthy relationships with other human beings because they do not know who they can trust. At any point, a friend could betray them to the ruthless government, who will go to any length to discipline the rebels.
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