Zizek on Mind-reading AI and Thought Transparency

By Paramjeet Berwal :

Yesterday, one of my favourite philosophers and psychoanalysts, Slavoj Zizek, on RT, reiterated his concerns regarding mind-reading AI. According to him, a machine that reads thoughts of many people simultaneously will not allow us to be humans any longer because there will be complete mind control by those who will be in control of the AI, and our ‘thought freedom’ will be lost. What concerns him more is that there will always be some privileged ones who will escape this ‘thought transparency’ and thus, will have better place. In my opinion, it will only be those that are not at the receiving end of technology. However, whether there will be anyone who will not be at the receiving end of technology is different question and the answer to which seems to be a big ‘no’ in the long run. 

Zizek is yet not worried, reports RT, whether machines will control us, he seems to be pondering over issues like private companies and others controlling and using the technology and data thus generated, and what impact it will have on our freedom. George Orwell’s 1984 already gave a glimpse of what the future would like it. In reality also, we have seen public and private agencies trying to restrict freedom of people. Therefore, curtailment of freedom has already brought under its purview our actions and omissions. ‘What will be the consequences of some vested interests using AI to control our minds?’ is a question that commands additional deliberations. 

I think there can be no positive answer to the aforementioned question unless AI become AGI. If there are companies behind ANI that are the ultimate incharge of how the ‘thought’-data get used, mind reading AI will not deliver good results in all cases, for cognitive bias is a real issue. Therefore, law should try to tackle the issue pertaining to how companies can use deep human insights available at their discretion. This will not be the situation for good. When AI is completely autonomous, mind-reading could help humans in more ways than one can imagine. For example, if one is thinking of committing a crime, mind-reading AI could take proper action. Another instance could be if one is thinking of a great idea, mind reading AI could share it with many people at the same.

In closing, romanticised and less pragmatic assessment of the idea of ‘freedom of mind’ should not be allowed to hinder AI development. The efforts should rather be focused on making sure that those who are in control of AI and data should use it for the welfare of all in the most ethical way. Is it possible? Well, at least, it is worth the try while we wait for the superintelligence to take over.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are that of the Author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the institutions he represents, the Tbilisi Tomorrow Institute or the organisations supporting the Tbilisi Tomorrow Institute.

Paramjeet Singh Berwal

Paramjeet, a lawyer, an invited lecturer, and AI research and policy consultant, is the Director of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Technology Law at Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University, Georgia. He is a Global Panelist with MIT Technology Review. He is frequently invited to deliver talks and presentations on various topics pertaining to AI. His research includes how AI will influence human existence, especially in the context of economy, work, law, society and its institutions, business management, social behaviour and policy making. He may be contacted at berwallaw@gmail.com