The work of neuroscientists has given us insight into how propaganda alters our brains. (See Propaganda: What We Know from Neuroscience for a description of this). We now know that propaganda can rewire brains under certain conditions. We also have discovered that it’s difficult to reverse the neural pathways created by propaganda.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is now evolving to the point where it can weaponize the effect of propaganda in our brains. Just imagine a future where AI is used to generate messages that are tailor-made to each individual’s fight-or-flight nervous system. These messages then continue to reinforce that part of the brain that rejects reason.
Currently, we often choose to ignore information we don’t agree with. That’s a choice we make. But just imagine if AI schemes are developed so that information contrary to our beliefs never even appears to us on our digital devices.
Is it also possible to imagine that what seems to be authentic information is altered using AI technologies to reinforce and strengthen the hardwiring of our brains? Might some seemingly evocative information become a Trojan horse to gain our acceptance for perspectives that the reasoning part of our brain would normally reject?
The fundamental question for the future of democracy is how to combat what is involving as technology of manipulation. The world has no past successes in limiting the use of any technology.
Just imagine what might be emerging in the minds of the technology elite who feel they have a better sense of what society needs than is reflected in our democratic processes. Could a technology coup be in our future? One that we didn’t even sense as a coup because our brains don’t detect the manipulation that has occurred.
Is this farfetched? Maybe, but just imagine what we are now doing to keep this from being our future.
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“The people will believe what technology* tells them they believe.” – George Orwell (author)
*The original quote uses media instead of technology