The development of Artificial Intelligence could cost us millions of lives

Some days ago, Elon Musk, along with many important technology leaders and researchers, signed an open letter on artificial intelligence (AI) expressing concerns about the risks and dangers of AI development.

The letter called for research to ensure that AI technology is developed in a way that is safe and beneficial to humanity and it also called for a regulation by governments.

While OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s name remains absent from the letter (and while OpenAI is one of the most powerful developers in this moment), regulation is underway at the United Nations level, at the Organization’s specialized agency for science, UNESCO.

Yet, why the hype? Which threat do we face?

Let’s compare our current situation with our past…

  1. AI will transform our society, as other events did before

There have already been instances in history when technological and societal changes totally transformed our society. There were above all the breakdown of the Roman Empire, the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of the Internet.


The breakdown of the Roman Empire took place over several centuries, and only after going through the dark Middle Ages the world was born again in Renaissance and adapted to a new situation of power.

Der Weg der roten Fahne

Similarly, the Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 18th century, was a period of rapid technological advancement that transformed society. Again, society was overhauled and did, after bitter clashes of communism and capitalism, adapt.

In both cases it took deep cuts and bitter learning processes for the world to get over the transformation.

  • The rise of the Internet in the late 20th century has again started such a profound revolution of the way we live. We think, we have adapted, but actually the transformation process has just started. AI is a part 2 of the Internet transformation, which is better called the Digital Transformation. As AI advances, powered by Internet, it transforms our lives, including how we work, communicate, and learn. And it will lead to deep changes as well as bitter clashes. And looking into history, it seems, it won’t be over fast and it will hurt…

The previous experiences can teach us, what to expect.

2. There is no stopping of the revolution

First: As with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Industrial revolution, it is unlikely that there is any stopping of the transformation.

AI has already started to change our society, and it will continue to do so. The development is too tempting, especially monetary-wise. AI-powered automation takes over jobs that were previously done by humans and that were costly. No one will go back on this. What can be done better and faster, will be done so. The stronger will survive.

Companies are using AI-powered chatbots to handle customer inquiries and support. AI-powered robots and machines are increasingly manufacturing our cloth and perform tasks such as assembly, quality control, and logistics. Self-driving cars are becoming a reality and will replace human drivers. AI-powered systems are also being used to optimize logistics and route planning and do in finance assume fraud detection, risk assessment, and customer service. AI-powered systems are even being used in healthcare to assist with diagnosis, treatment planning, and medical imaging analysis.

So, the question is not, if we will transform, but how.

3. There will be problems

As with the collapse of Rome and the Industrial Revolution, there is no way we will transform without suffering. As much as the fall of Rome led to Barbarians slaughtering populations, chasing people from lovely plains to arid hilltop fortresses, and as much as the Industrial Revolution created imperialism, colonialism and pollution, Internet and AI will create issues.

To be or not to be AI?
To be or not to be … AI?

Here are some we already know of:

Ethical problems

AI will be used to violate privacy and human rights. We become transparent, and that will not only be used for sending us personalized adds. Alexa has just recently given the condemning evidence against a husband who had murdered his wife. Our telephones give our location away at any instance. And our Internet use can be traced up to a point, where our opinions and political views become known to whoever is in power. We become controllable. 100 %.

AI will also be used to make politics. Whoever controls AI, can spread political views or the information he or she prefers. And that means also identifying opponents, excluding opposing views and installing a controlled lead-opinion.

AI will be used to spread misinformation and even itself creates distortions. AI is known to “hallucinate”. A hallucination is a confident response by an AI that is not justified by data. Originally, hallucinations were allowed for creative purposes, such as in art or entertainment. But now hallucinations also create fake news. The AI insists that a wrong fact is true, and this ‘fake’ enters the mainstream by us using it. It is not the human that teaches AI anymore, but AI that teaches us (and often wrongly). From there to AI imaginating that it is a human being is only a small step… Terminator is ante portas.

Concentration of power

There is also a serious probability that AI will lead to a concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few individuals, countries or organizations. Whoever owns the AI becomes incredibly powerful, able to replace thousands and influence millions.

Creation of a digital divide

Moreover, AI will widen the gap between developed and developing countries. Developed countries have a much greater access to resources and infrastructure needed for AI development, such as high-speed internet and computing power. This means that they will be much better equipped to develop and adopt AI technology, which will give them a competitive advantage, but also a higher social price to pay in transformation.

Impact on employment

AI will exacerbate social and economic inequalities and leads already now to job abolishment and economic insecurity. First of all that will happen in more developed regions, and this will have an initial impact on their societies. But then this will also affect other regions.

AI can create new job opportunities in areas such as AI development and maintenance, data analysis, and customer service. Yet, this will be a minor factor in comparison to the job losses due to automation. There is the risk of ending up with a highly skilled elite and an army of the superfluous and that first of all in the West.

AI-powered automation already now takes over jobs that are routine and repetitive, yet, in future, it will also replace higher skilled jobs in fields such as accounting, law, and healthcare.

May be, the future of employment lies in creative thinking and problem-solving. May be there will still be a need for human expertise and judgment in many areas. But how much of it?

AI technology is not (yet) a substitute for human judgment and expertise. While AI can be used to assist in decision-making, the decision-making process needs to be overseen by trained professionals, such as judges or arbitrators. A doctor will be needed to check a medical diagnosis. A historian to verify our history.

But all this will be done in a matter of hours, not more in a matter of weeks, months, or years. Even if we control AI and use it only in a way that complements, rather than replaces, human judgment and expertise, it will still liberate most of our time…

4. The transformation will create unrest

Looking into our past, we see that there is a strong possibility that the widespread adoption of AI will cause social unrest.

The end of the Roman Empire led to unrest: After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Europe entered a period known as the Dark Ages, characterized by political fragmentation, economic instability, and social upheaval. During this time, barbarian tribes invaded Europe, their warfaring, diseases and famine cost the lives of millions. Only the Renaissance, which began in Italy in the 14th century, led to an intellectual revival reestablishing well-being last known in Roman times.

The Industrial Revolution led to unrest: Also, the Industrial Revolution did lead to enourmous clashes. The rise of capitalism led to new forms of political ideologies and movements. Communism emerged as a response and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 led the death of many million people. Capitalism, on the other hand, led to social inequality, poverty, and exploitation. Ultimately the mixture led to two World Wars. Only with the end of the Cold War, the tensions between these two ideologies eased slowly.

AI will lead to similar unrest: As in the previous cases of transformation, also AI will lead to unrest. If large numbers of jobs are automated through AI, workers will not find employment and many people will not even have a simple reason of living anymore. If AI is developed and controlled by a small group of powerful companies or individuals, this will moreover concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few, while the rest become beggars. AI will be used by its owners to spy and control people, exacerbating the risk for unrest and a violent upheaval.

5. Conclusions and potential solutions

In conclusion, we will have issues with:

  • Privacy and liberty
  • Truth, freedom of expression and freedom of research
  • Concentration of power
  • Superfluous work force and a lack of a reason of being for millions
  • An enormous rise of poverty
  • A digital divide between Western States and developing States

All that means, that we will need to take considerable measures for keeping transition peaceful and society worth living in.

a. Which work shall we do?

Adapting our society to the changes brought by AI is crucial to ensure that its benefits are shared by all of society.

  • Finding other jobs

When jobs become automated or obsolete, we need to equip our children with the skills and knowledge to succeed in the jobs of the future. This may be computational thinking and coding skills as well as technical skills related to AI and machine learning. We might also need to invest in developing students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which are important for adapting to new ways in life.

Manual work, such as plumbers and painters will still be needed. We will also need persons that do jobs that require emotional intelligence and empathy, such as teachers, counselors, and social workers. These jobs involve interacting with people and understanding their emotions and needs, which requires a human touch that AI may not be able to provide.

Also, jobs that require human supervision and decision-making, such as managers and executives will perdure. While AI can provide data and insights to inform decision-making, it may not be able to fully replace the judgment and intuition of human managers and leaders.

However, let’s face it: We won’t need the workforce to do that, which we employed before AI.

  • Working less and offering Panem et circensis

If AI does replace much of our work, we may not need to be all in the office for 8 hours a day anymore.Yet, it will be important to ensure that we won’t face a situation, where a few work 8 hours and the rest 0. So, we may need to reduce by law the working hours and distribute posts. We might also need to pay everyone a base-salary, no matter if the person works or not. May be this should be low, to avoid demotivating working persons, but it cannot be 0.

Just for the sake of keeping peace. We will have no choice, but to install the famous ‘Bread and Games’ of Juvenal again. In this context, “bread” refers to providing basic necessities such as food and shelter or a base salary, while “games” refers to providing jobs, entertainment and/or diversion.

  • Mitigating the digital divide

If we keep the frontiers of the West open, as it is now, and hand out base salaries to all immigrants that make it over the ocean, this will necessarily lead to a gold rush movement. There is thus no other solution than at least for a time to re-close frontiers, while the digital advance also arrives in other regions. If we like it or not.


Overall, humans will always act in their best interest. Every individual will choose the way to its well-being and if need be, every one of us will be ready to fight to make his life worth living.

Human well-being needs thus to be put always over economic growth and productivity. And that needs to be the red thread of Ariadne leading any kind of regulation on the right path out of the maze of developments.

  • Give everyone to eat, a place to sleep and a work to do.
  • Distribute richness in a reasonable way, i.e., without killing motivation, but also without concentrating wealth and power within to few.
  • Limit the use of AI in a separation-of-power approach. Neutral controlers have to verify AI like judges.
  • A monopoly in AI development has to be prevented.
  • Education and training has to adapt rapidly to the new world. And we need to check the psychological impact of AI on humans, and in particular children.
  • There must always be a switch, to halt AI as a last solution.

Keep following us. We’ll be back.

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