34 years ago today, June 4, 1989, the Chinese government sent in the People’s Liberation Army to crush a student led human rights protest in Beijing, China which had started in April of that year. As the tanks rolled through, one lone Chinese student stepped in front of a row of Army tanks in Tiananmen Square. “Tank Man”, they called him. He was making a statement to the Chinese government and to the world, ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ He also gave the world an iconic picture of defiance, and what freedom actually looks like. The protests were crushed, thousands of protestors were killed and thousands more thrown into prison never to be heard of again, like Tank Man, disappeared without a trace.
‘That will never happen here,’ you may say. ‘Our leaders are different than the dictators and the despots that litter human history.’ Really? How so? Do any of our leaders not have human DNA? Are they not made of flesh and blood? Are they not corruptible? Are they immune to abusing vast amounts of political power because they happened to be born in the United States? Our very Constitution is an acknowledgement that all political leaders are corruptible and are capable of the worst abuses with the power entrusted to them.
Last week, 350 executives, researchers, and engineers from leading artificial intelligence companies signed an open letter cautioning that the AI technology they are developing could pose an existential threat to humanity. The Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit organization, released a statement saying, “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war.” This was predictable. As with Global Warming, Global Pandemics and Global Thermonuclear War, the powerful people are scaring us about an existential threat. Whenever you hear the expression “existential threat” from the people in power, understand that they are attempting to seize more power for themselves from you and I. They are not scaring us to protect us, they are scaring us to control us.
They are warning that AI may be used on a large scale to disseminate false information and propaganda, so they are calling on government to intervene. Open AI founder Sam Altman, and creator of ChatGPT, told the Senate subcommittee, “I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.” So, one of the leaders in the creation of AI is now claiming that it could potentially become an existential threat to humanity, but instead of ceasing the creation of that potentially existential threat, they want the government to take control over it.
Some of the most intelligent people in the world believe that the solution to dangerous spread of misinformation through AI is to have the government – the leading spreader of misinformation and propaganda in the world – to control the most powerful and effective tool at disseminating misinformation and propaganda. That is like giving Jesse James the keys to the vault to protect the bank from being robbed. The existential threat that the government is warning us about is not the real existential threat we are facing, it is government that is our existential threat.
But that is the end game; that is always the end game. Total government control over the information, so total government control over us. We saw that during the 2020 election when our politicians and intelligence agencies colluded with big tech to censor political speech of both opposition politicians and average citizens, and also during the pandemic when government officials pressured social media companies to silence world renown infectious disease doctors because they disagreed with the official narrative of the administration.
This is what they do, scare the people to the point that they give all of the power and control to the government. The rise of AI and its potential threat to humanity is scary, but what is more frightening is our government controlling AI. It will be much better if we try to police it ourselves. Whatever bad that AI creates, will be made infinitely worse when government controls it because we will have to deal with all of the bad of AI, with none of the good. It will most definitely be used almost exclusively by the most extreme politicians as a propaganda and mind control tool.
Proponents of AI continually assure us that there will be “guardrails” in place to protect the citizens from government misuse. But the guardrails do not work. The guardrails will be weaponized against us. Our Constitution is the ultimate guardrail of government overreach, yet how quickly did the government step over those guardrails during Covid? We had a guardrail in the 1st amendment protecting our freedom of speech until the intelligence agencies decided to protect us from misinformation and obliterated the 1st amendment by censoring political speech through the social media companies.
We had a guardrail in the 4th amendment that supposedly protected citizens from government spying on us without a warrant, until they passed the Patriot Act, and obliterated the 4th amendment guardrail. How often do we hear about repealing the 2nd amendment? How often has our current President proclaimed that no right is absolute which means there are absolutely no guardrails to protect our rights from government.
Guardrails sound nice. It’s a very clever term. It makes us feel safe. But how many times have you been driving down the highway and looked to your right, only to see the guardrails completely obliterated by some car or truck that plowed through it the day before. The guardrail did absolutely nothing to stop the car from going over the side and killing the driver. The guardrail is a false sense of security. It only protects when the car veers slightly off the road but does nothing when it radically goes off the road. And that’s what will happen to any semblance of guardrails that we put up to stop the government misuse of AI.
China does not need to use tanks anymore to control its citizens, they now have a social credit system. The Chinese government have stationed tens of thousands of cameras throughout the country tracking the citizens every move, using facial recognition software, monitoring the citizens social media and watching every computer transaction, to determine a social credit score to show how well each citizen has acted in accordance to the laws of behavior set forth by the government. The goal is complete compliance to the government and its agenda. No freedom, just government control, stripping the very humanity from the Chinese people.
We, in the United States, are not too far from that reality, and AI in the hands of government will leads us right to the CCP style social credit system. Covid showed how authoritarian our government is capable of becoming and how much the citizens are willing to put up with it. It also showed how willing many citizens will be to pressure compliance to governmental orders in other citizens through threats and shame. Our government will never roll tanks through our towns to crush dissenters. They like the façade of being more enlightened than that with the pretense of a Constitutional system, but our government is more than willing to crush dissenters through a thousand little cuts of threats, shame, ostracization, media onslaught, loss of livelihood and criminal reprisal. And any United States citizen who is willing to take a stand against this creeping authoritarian, like Tank Man did 34 years ago, will undoubtedly be crushed in one way or the other. The end game is government control, and their new weapon is AI.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.