With the coming technological advances and the dearth of investigative journalists in the modern world, fake news is about to explode.
Among his many other projects, uber-wealth entrepreneur Elon Musk sponsors OpenAI, a group with the goals of guiding the development of artificial intelligence so that it is ‘nice’ and representative of peoples and positive ideas from around the world. Certainly, this is a laudable goal for the near future, for that period of technological development where artificial intelligence means advanced heuristic systems that can pass the Turing Test but are still just software we can turn on and off. In other words, that period of technological development that we seem to have entered sometime in the last year.
Some of the recent advances in AI (detailed in other posts) included aiding or replacing human health care workers in hospitals, defeating humans at games where incomplete information is a feature (Deepmind vs Starcraft II Pros) and much greater success than human-generated algorithms in regards to the protein folding problem… and now, a highly trained AI author that can mimic genres and styles and even respond to rudimentary questions.
Over the last five-to-eight years the Western world has seen a strong and notable shift in the focus of journalists. No longer is the goal of journalism impartial and investigative. No longer do modern journalists feel their job is to get as close to the truth as possible. Instead, most modern journalists seem to feel they already know the truth and instead have taken it upon themselves to share their interpretation of any given story with their audience in an attempt to convince us they are right.
We can argue the why’s of how this shift has happened but what is difficult to argue is how it has changed the news landscape providing the viewing and reading public with a surge in what is now termed fake news. What once was the domain of government propaganda and tabloid rags is now proudly splayed across even what used to be the most respected news franchises.
Modern mainstream journalists are no longer journalists in anything but job title. They’re now primarily activists.
Artificial Intelligence Journalism
Into this landscape, where the truth is already relative and amorphous, enters a project by OpenAI – an artificial intelligence writer. A bot so convincing in its ability to write that it’s virtually impossible to tell it apart from a human.
Open AI has trained an artificial intelligence they call GPT-2 on a huge dataset of writing. The result is yet another AI that we can be afraid of (coming after the Microsoft – Twitter debacle that created a hate-bot, and the Google AIs that developed their own language). GTP2 can write so convincingly in different genres that the creators have decided not to release the code for fear of malicious use. Specifically, they fear its use in the generation of Fake News.
While they should be commended for their sense of social responsibility, OpenAI researchers must realize that their actions are only delaying the inevitable. Currently, most of the visible AI research and milestones are coming from Western organizations. However, we would be naive to think that other nations don’t have their own projects. Russia and China come to mind as two countries who would have the resources to fund such projects and would be happy to use the results to destabilize the fragile West.
Furthermore, the recent results of the investigation into Russian collusion in the US election that revealed no actual collusion with the victor but suggested interference – likely on both sides in an attempt to destabilize the nation – should have revealed to all of us that there are other nations actively working toward the demise of the West.
Given these facts it’s difficult to argue that some malicious power (or even an individual with a basement full of hardware) won’t soon reproduce the OpenAI success. When that happens, we will find a huge proliferation of AI writing bots as the software floods the internet. And then the entire landscape of news, among other things, will change. When this happens it will be more important than ever that each person has done their research and has gathered a network of respectable investigative journalists they feel they can trust to do the research and report honestly on stories. Because the others, the lazy journalists and the activists, are going to do nothing more than muddy the waters ever further in their race for fame and notoriety.
The power and scope of modern heuristic algorithms (AI) is a socio-political game-changer of a magnitude equivalent to fire, the wheel, gunfire, the printing press, and nukes – combined. In a small world filled with the deafening cacophony of every voice on the planet, AI will drown them all out and will change everything we think we know within a matter of decades. And that’s without gaining self-awareness. Never before has human adaptiveness been so tested. The coming years will truly be ‘interesting times’ as Terry