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Mind-reading AI may spell end to humanity, but not because it will enslave us

Technologies linking human consciousness to any sort of a cloud computing service could not just open the way for totalitarian mind control, but destroy the very essence of human relations, philosopher Slavoj Zizek says.

A computer that can read the thoughts of many people at once would make normal human life impossible, the Slovenian cultural philosopher told RT in the wake of the World Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference in Shanghai, which saw Alibaba’s chairman Jack Ma and Tesla CEO Elon Musk clashing over the future of AI.

While the two technopreneurs engaged in a heated discussion over the possibility of humans being controlled by machines in the future, the senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana shared his thoughts on the issue with RT.

What I am studying now is the so-called phenomenon of wired brains, a possibility of our brains being connected with strong digital machines. And that is not a utopia. In the media lab at MIT, Massachusetts, they already have simple machines like that. It is like a helmet, nothing intrusive, they put it on your head.

And then something horrible happens – I saw the video – you think certain thoughts, you do not say anything, and the machine reproduces them either in writing or with artificial voice.

The primitive level machines can already read your thoughts. It is ok, if it involves your agreement but what if it is done (and it is easy to imagine that) without you knowing it?

Now, there is a serious option to read our thoughts, not just our emotional attitudes like being angry or sad but even the line of our thoughts in our mind. The next step in this “utopia” will be a computer that can read my thoughts and your thoughts that can connect us so that we can share our thoughts. If you and I are connected through the same computer, I can literally participate in your thinking directly without any external communication like word typing.

As you probably know, modern technology theorists Ray Kurzweil and Melanie Swan called it a new form of divinity.

It will no longer be a transcendent God but all of us sharing our thoughts through some AI cloud system. Millions of people will be participating together in a new form of awareness. I find this prospect pretty horrifying.

We as human beings are precisely what we are, free individuals as far as we can be sure that you do not know what I am thinking. I think what I think, I am free in my mind. What happens if I cannot be sure even of this?

If I think about something and computer can identify what I am thinking and then share it with others, we are really entering a post-human era. I believe that we should not be just fascinated about what it means technologically.

Do you not agree that we should worry about who will control these digital machines?

I do not have fears about the machines controlling us. We are not there yet. However, who will control this, who will use this? What remains of our freedom? Private companies, like Google or Facebook, are already developing similar technologies.

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