Is large-scale automated AI persuasion and propaganda a serious concern?

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Language models can be utilized to produce propaganda by acting like bots and interacting with users on social media. This can be done to push a political agenda or to make fringe views appear more popular than they are.

I'm envisioning that in the future there will also be systems where you can input any conclusion that you want to argue (including moral conclusions) and the target audience, and the system will give you the most convincing arguments for it. At that point people won't be able to participate in any online (or offline for that matter) discussions without risking their object-level values being hijacked.

-- Wei Dei, quoted in Persuasion Tools: AI takeover without AGI or agency?

As of 2022, this is not within the reach of current models. However, on the current trajectory, AI might be able to write articles and produce other media for propagandistic purposes that are superior to human-made ones in not too many years. These could be precisely tailored to individuals, using things like social media feeds and personal digital data.

Additionally, recommender systems on content platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook use machine learning, and the content they recommend can influence the opinions of billions of people. Some research has looked at the tendency for platforms to promote extremist political views and to thereby help radicalize their userbase for example.

In the long term, misaligned AI might use its persuasion abilities to gain influence and take control over the future. This could look like convincing its operators to let it out of a box, to give it resources or creating political chaos in order to disable mechanisms to prevent takeover as in this story.

See Risks from AI persuasion for a deep dive into the distinct risks from AI persuasion.

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Canonical Question Info
(edits welcome)
Asked by: Nico Hill2
OriginWhere was this question originally asked
Date: 2022/03/03