Speaking with BBC’s Panorama, a long-running investigative program with a focus on current affairs, the president of Microsoft claimed that George Orwell’s 1984 “could come to pass in 2024” if legislators fail to build protective systems against artificial intelligence, and that government would find it “difficult to catch up” as the level of technology accelerates.
Brad Smith, who joined Microsoft in 1993 and became the company’s president and chief legal officer in 2015, said, “If we don’t enact the laws that will protect the public in the future, we are going to find the technology racing ahead, and it’s going to be very difficult to catch up.”
“I’m constantly reminded of George Orwell’s lessons in his book 1984. You know the fundamental story…was about a government who could see everything that everyone did and hear everything that everyone said all the time,” Smith continued. “Well, that didn’t come to pass in 1984, but if we’re not careful that could come to pass in 2024.”
This program focused on the rise of artificial intelligence, with a particular focus on China’s use of the technology to control its citizens. One recent example is the bombshell report that “the Chinese Communist government has been testing an artificial intelligence (AI) emotion-detection camera system on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.”
A software engineer who claimed to have installed this facial and emotion detection system in police stations in the province home to 12 million ethnic minority Uyghurs said, “The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories.”
“We placed the emotion detection camera 3m from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology,” the anonymous engineer explained, describing the use of the systems in police stations in Xinjiang.
The engineer also noted that the system “is trained to detect and analyze even minute changes in facial expressions and skin pores,” with the underlying software creating “a pie chart, with the red segment representing a negative or anxious state of mind.”
Another layer to this concern is China’s explicit objective to lead the “world in AI technology and applications by 2030,” with one notable statistic provided by the BBC via Comparitech is that 54% of the world’s 770 million CCTV cameras are located in China.
Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, also told the BBC that “We’re in a geo-political strategic conflict with China.”
Schmidt, who is now chair of the U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), added “The way to win is to marshal our resources together to have national and global strategies for the democracies to win in AI.”
“If we don’t, we’ll be looking at a future where other values will be imposed on us,” Schmidt continued.
The NSCAI is an independent commission established in 2018, whose role is to “advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.”
According to its final report in March 2021, the U.S. is not sufficiently prepared to defend against or compete with China in the realm of artificial intelligence.