The Coming AI Hackers

beSpacific 2021-04-20

The Coming AI HackersBruce Schneier – “Artificial intelligence—AI—is an information technology. It consists of software. It runs on computers. And it is already deeply embedded into our social fabric, both in ways we understand and in ways we don’t. It will hack our society to a degree and effect unlike anything that’s come before. I mean this in two very different ways. One, AI systems will be used to hack us. And two, AI systems will themselves become hackers: finding vulnerabilities in all sorts of social, economic, and political systems, and then exploiting them at an unprecedented speed, scale, and scope. It’s not just a difference in degree; it’s a difference in kind. We risk a future of AI systems hacking other AI systems, with humans being little more than collateral damage. This isn’t hyperbole. Okay, maybe it’s a bit of hyperbole, but none of this requires far-future science-fiction technology. I’m not postulating any “singularity,” where the AI-learning feedback loop becomes so fast that it outstrips human understanding. I’m not assuming intelligent androids like Data (Star Trek), R2-D2 (Star Wars), or Marvin the Paranoid Android (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). My scenarios don’t require evil intent on the part of anyone. We don’t need malicious AI systems like Skynet (Terminator) or the Agents (Matrix). Some of the hacks I will discuss don’t even require major research breakthroughs. They’ll improve as AI techniques get more sophisticated, but we can see hints of them in operation today. This hacking will come naturally, as AIs become more advanced at learning, understanding, and problem-solving. In this essay, I will talk about the implications of AI hackers. First, I will generalize “hacking” to include economic, social, and political systems—and also our brains. Next, I will describe how AI systems will be used to hack us. Then, I will explain how AIs will hack the economic, social, and political systems that comprise society. Finally, I will discuss the implications of a world of AI hackers, and point towards possible defenses. It’s not all as bleak as it might sound.”