Chinese President Xi Jinping is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tighten his government’s totalitarian control and is exporting the technology to other countries across the world, according to a report.
Xi wants to build an all-seeing digital system of social control, patrolled by precog algorithms that could identify potential dissenters in real-time. While China has already installed hundreds of millions of cameras in place, the Chinese government hopes to soon achieve the full video coverage of key public areas, writes Ross Andersen, a deputy editor of The Atlantic.
Every person who enters a public space in the future can be instantly identified by AI, matching them with their personal data, including their every text communication, and their body’s one-of-a-kind protein-construction schema.
“In time, algorithms will be able to string together data points from a broad range of sources — travel records, friends and associates, reading habits, purchases — to predict political resistance before it happens,” Andersen added.
With Xi keen to see his country achieve AI supremacy by 2030, the Chinese government could soon gain an unprecedented political stranglehold on over a billion people.
China has been adopting surveillance measures in the past. Ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Chinese security services achieved a new level of control over the country’s internet. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Xi government was dependant on private firms in possession of sensitive personal data. Any emergency data-sharing arrangements made behind close doors during the crisis could become permanent, says Andersen.
Chinese citizens were subjected to a form of risk scoring during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, where every people were assigned a colour code — green, yellow and red — as per an algorithm, which also determined their ability to take transit or visit building in megacities. However, in a sophisticated digital system of digital control, these codes could be used to score a person’s perceived political pliancy.
A crude version of this system is already present in China‘s Xinjiang in the northwestern part of the country. Once Xi makes this system perfect, no technological limitations will pin him down from extending AI surveillance across China.
“With AI, Xi can build history’s most oppressive authoritarian apparatus, without the manpower Mao needed to keep information about dissent flowing to a single, centralized node. In China‘s most prominent AI start-ups — SenseTime, CloudWalk, Megvii, Hikvision, iFlytek, Meiya Pico — Xi has found willing commercial partners. And in Xinjiang’s Muslim minority, he has found his test population,” Andersen wrote in the article.