12:15 pm, June 8, 2022
Novelist, former journalist The Wall Street Journal And defense expert, August Cole signed with Peter W. Singer, Control, A dystopian novel that warns against the age of artificial intelligence and its aftermath, hyper surveillance. He explains to the JDD that the Cognitive War analyzes what it is and its dangers, taking the example of the war in Ukraine or the tactics developed by the United States and China. ” This is a new age where there are no limits and, at the moment, no one measures the real danger. “, He assures.
Is the world of tomorrow, as described in your novel, waiting for us?
This is in any case what we want to avoid A world controlled by technology, including artificial intelligence and robots We run like trains at high speeds and we don’t talk enough about the risks involved.
A new way of fighting
Do you fight or even cancel the fight?
Yes really. The economy will be one of the most obvious because of robotics. It is not only the low paid people but also the upper middle class who will suffer. Like high school doctors or lawyers but who will be fired because their work can be done by a robot. We are built around work. However, in the United States, if we lose our jobs, we are no longer in tune with society. This will create chaos.
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You find the perfect formula, you talk about the “identity of anger”, the identity of anger.
This is a big risk for the transformation of our society. Create anger in such a way that it becomes a new identity. We saw what happened to the Yellow West movement in America and France on January 6, 2021. And that’s very worrying because it’s not yet 2030 and the book is set at that time.
Which country is most dangerous in this concept developed in the novel, China or the United States?
China is already very sophisticated in this regard, but it has economic problems. The cost of labor, which is certainly cheaper than in the West, but which is constantly rising. A good number of companies are already returning to Vietnam or other more competitive countries. China is therefore tempted to use robots, but the government is also forced to appease the ever-growing middle class because of the large number of Chinese and the obvious reasons for political stability. So they are stuck. For Americans, it’s different. People have access to consumer goods and the feeling of frustration will turn to anger if they are deprived of what they had. Especially when people think that society owes them. This is a risky combination that could be exploited by politicians, especially populists.
How to protect a city like Paris in the event of a cognitive attack?
What will be the other faces of the war?
As much battle as possible in space or on the sea. But there is a new frontier that will play into the cognitive field. The ability of a nation to influence or even control a population without really going through military power. This is called cognitive warfare. We are using more and more robotics to prepare for future conflicts, especially in the front lines. Who decides which target to kill and which to abandon? During World War II and then the Cold War, there were messages in the form of radio, flyers, but today we are in the age of social networks and we can already influence people by observing what they see or consume. If you can further reduce a person’s ability to think for themselves, you will fundamentally change those cognitive abilities. This is clearly a new approach to how to fight. There will be military targets, yes, but there will also be civil society manipulations. This is a new age where there are no limits and no one is measuring the real danger right now. How to protect a city like Paris in the event of a cognitive attack? Missile battery, frigate, Corvette?
With the exception of nuclear power, is this new way of waging war more dangerous?
Those algorithms manage to shape our behavior, to influence our cognitive resources, the social networks of how people think, why and how is undoubtedly one of the biggest threats to today, not tomorrow. Partly because some technologies that make our lives easier have a downside. Social networks are the best example.
Is China ahead?
Yes. The country works with a system that regulates the individual socially and politically. The use of robotics is already moving in this direction. They still have the consciousness, the feelings, the mood of the population. Our difference with them is that there is no discussion with them. In the west, it would be more complicated. In what framework would we even be able to set it up? Will we have this conversation?
Don’t be passive in front of technology
The war in Ukraine still shows that the classic war, the carpet of bombs and artillery, remains relevant?
Yes and no. You have had a war exercise like a hundred years ago, but at the same time, for Ukraine, everything was conducted, at least in the beginning, in a very new way. Artificial intelligence in the service of Ukraine to facilitate the attack of objective targets. But an artificial intelligence whose data is analyzed by private companies and given to Ukrainians. Are these new paradigms of war, a new thinking, a new role for space use? Who can we blame?
In your novel, there is a woman, Laura Keegan, an FBI agent who works with a robot, TAMS (Strategic Autonomous Mobility System). Curious relationship. What did you want to show?
That belief is absolute and finite between an instrument and a human being. The robot is a human creation, it is animated thanks to human settings. So should we rely entirely on this technology?
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The America you have highlighted is clearly a scary police state. A reality within reach?
Of course if you are not careful. But I am optimistic. We still have a choice. We can always establish rules or, if we fail, maintain the values that say here, this is a world where I want to live. We should not be idle in the face of technology, even if social networks know how to do it perfectly.
Control By David Cole and PWSinger, translated by David Fukenberg, edition Buchet Chastel, 256 pages, 22.90 euros.