Edward Snowden: Mentioning Algorithms to Replace Institutions is a Warning?

On a Thursday night , Edward Snowden, a whistleblower, issued a foreboding and somewhat ambiguous warning, suggesting that the collapse of institutions could potentially lead to a “revolution” with unknown consequences

The former contractor of the National Security Agency in his latest commentary on global affairs, Snowden, trefrained from specifying any particular nation or group of individuals, despite being charged with espionage by the Justice Department in 2013 for leaking over 7,000 highly classified documents.

Despite residing in Moscow for years, Snowden has been vocal about his views regarding domestic affairs in the U.S., such as his call for House Speaker Mike Johnson to resist warrantless surveillance and his criticism of Gary Gensler, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, for a bitcoin-related post that emerged following the hacking of the SEC’s X (formerly Twitter) account.

At a crucial point in history where we possess the ability to replace institutions with algorithms, Snowden expressed his concern that these very institutions are eroding the public’s trust in them.

According to market research analyst Statista, data indicates that trust in the national government in 2022 differed between countries with limited press freedom, such as China and Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the world. Statista reported that more authoritarian nations displayed the highest levels of trust, attributing this to economic growth and the lack of a critical press in recent years.

Aggregated polling data reveals that trust in public institutions in the United States has reached historic lows, a trend that started during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been rapidly declining.

In 2022, public trust in 11 out of 16 institutions experienced notable declines, according to Gallup data. However, the most recent data reveals an even further decrease in public confidence. Citizens expressed growing resentment towards Congress, the criminal justice system, and various news media outlets, perceiving a lack of faith in these institutions. Additionally, the presidency and the Supreme Court faced public discontent in 2022. Furthermore, trust in financial institutions and organized religion has also seen a decline.

After analyzing public trust in government since 1958, the Pew Research Center revealed that confidence in the government has been declining for decades and reached record lows in 2023, despite experiencing slight increases in 2020 and 2021.

According to a 2023 poll, only 16 percent of Americans expressed trust in their government to consistently make the right decisions, either always (1 percent) or most of the time (15 percent). This percentage was slightly lower in 2011, standing at 15 percent, which coincided with the economic uncertainty brought about by the recession.

According to Pew, the most recent data indicates a decline from 20 to 16 percent in year-over-year numbers, marking one of the lowest ratings observed in the past seventy years.

During X, Snowden also touched upon the topic of a forthcoming revolution in artificial intelligence, cautioning that the potential replacement for human judgment may prove to be even more flawed.

Concerns surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) played a significant role in the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike that took place last year. The strike primarily focused on contractual disagreements regarding compensation and the apprehension among industry professionals and actors about being replaced by more affordable AI alternatives.

According to a report from Scientific American, the widespread use of AI has resulted in heightened anxiety among the general public. Concerns have intensified regarding the erosion of online data privacy, the potential economic consequences of job displacement by machines, an educational system that produces less literate individuals prone to academic dishonesty, and the overarching fear of humans becoming completely obsolete.

According to an article in Neuroscience News, it is crucial for individuals to exhibit a robust and accountable reaction to the advancement of artificial intelligence. This response should acknowledge that AI merely imitates human consciousness and does not possess it. The article emphasizes that ethical management of data and close partnerships between humans and machines can significantly mitigate these apprehensions.

While the attention on negative aspects of AI has primarily been directed towards widely-used text-based programs like ChatGPT, advancements in the field of medicine have enabled physicians to access significantly larger volumes of data in a more efficient manner, particularly in areas such as autism and epilepsy research.

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