The Irony of Security

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The process of human development has always been reactionary. Whether in the institutes of the arts, the political theater, or the marble halls of industry, most of the changes we witness as a society come about as response. Some are for the better, like democracy, but some, like nuclear armament, cause a whole bunch of new problems.

Technology has always been a double-edged sword. Alfred Nobel once envisioned that his newest invention, called dynamite, would be used to reduce human agency and prevent deaths when it came to mining. But to his horror he found that the world had found a much more popular and horrifying use for it.

Technology today is no different, except in the sense that modern technology is evolving faster than ever before. It’s true that many of the technological advances that society has made have greatly improved our lives. New advancements in the medical field have prolonged our lifetimes, and our level of comfort is higher than it’s ever been. And new developments in areas like artificial intelligence (AI) are showing the same trends.

But like with dynamite, our dependence on new technology comes with a cost. In regards to artificial intelligence, new developments are affording humanity fresh opportunities, but dangers as well. A recent report on artificial intelligence from the Obama administration reveals that while AI is useful, its development can be turned around and be used for criminal purposes.

A recent New York Times article speculates about using artificial intelligence to trick people into handing over sensitive information by synthesizing a familiar human voice. The article explains that the technology to do so is very near coming, citing DeepMind, a company that designed a program to mimic human voices.

There’s definitely a discussion to be had about the cross between artificial intelligence and ethics. As we’ve developed newer and more complex computerized systems, up to this point little thought has been given to a practical robot morality. Once again, in response to the threat, institutions like Carnegie Mellon University are stepping up to focus on the morality and ethics attached to artificial intelligence. The university hopes to expand the dialogue on artificial intelligence and explore the ways it should and shouldn’t be used, like the use of AI in military tech, where fully autonomous machines will make life and death decisions.

There is an irony to the new problems with new technology. While it’s possible that robots could go rogue sometime in the future, in an ironic twist, the dangers presented by artificial intelligence are actually as old as humankind itself. It’s not the amorality of technology that we should be wary of, but the amorality of man using technology as their tool.

Artificial intelligence in the hands of a person with ill intent can do much more damage than a rogue computer, according to Dr. Ron Chrisley of the Centre for Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex. According to Dr. Chrisley, artificial intelligence makes it easier for people to evade detection, detect flaws in security systems, and find passwords. And as technology develops, it becomes easier and easier to do so.

The world we surround ourselves with may seem idyllic, but underneath the glitz of iPhones and Facebook exists the same seedy underworld that has plagued humanity since we’ve painted pictures in caves.For all the new technological developments society is making, it’s both confounded by and created because of those that exploit in. In this there is a strange sort of symbiosis whereeach side feeds off the other.