miércoles, 18 de septiembre de 2019

AI & Big Data and the totalitarian dystopias

Two of my readings so far this year have brought to my mind the idea if the combination of AI and Big Data may bring a renewed version of communism. Firstly, the book on platforms and data titled "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" authored by Shona Zubboff. Afterwards the work on captalism and competition called "The myth of capitalism" written by Jonathan Tepper. The former includes some reference a the dystopian world of permanent surveillance instaured by the Chinese credit system. The latter includes an interest comment regarding the application of big data to central planning economy.

There´s a great fascination about the Chinese Credits system which is also referenced in Zuboff´s book.  It is seen by many as the culmination of the permanent surveillance of the enemies of the people deployed by stalinism and other totalitarian versions of communism. A convinced Trotskyist as George Orwell has been the best painter of that dystopia in his master piece "1984". But Wilson, the main character of 1984, provides with example of the instict and ingenuity of human beings to flee from state surveillance. Although Wilson failed, many others succeed in the real "1984" and brought down the communist regimes in Eastern Europe with different methods to overcome the technics applied for surveillance by the State police. In a similar manner, Snowden or Chelsea Manning overcome the the technical measures deployed to avoid leaks by US secret services. Whatever the technology used for surveillance it will always have enough weaknesses to be outsmarted.

Regarding central planning economy, Jonathan Tepper in his book affirms that “China is becoming a laboratory where Big Data meets the Big Brother. If the original incarnation of Comunism under Lenin, Mao and Stalin failed because central planning was a disaster, Big Data will come now to the rescue” . Without any doubt, technology gives us today a bigger possibility to capture, transmit, handle and store data, which is a pre condition to deploy a succesful central planning economy. Nevertheless, Tepper looks in this affirmation blinded by the bright side of technology and forget about one aspect that he handle with in other parts of his book: Human bias. Central planning economy did not fail only for the lack of technology, it also failed due to the provision of misleading data by the sources of production and the usage of optimistic algorithms by the Party commitees. 

To sum up, although sometimes looks the other way around, neither stalinist communism nor any other totalitarian ideology have any additional advantage to success due to technology advances. Both human weaknesess and strengths, or what is the same the human factor will play the decissive role to avoid a dystopian future.

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