Big Tech criticism based on political realism: capabilities matter more than intentions

A main principle in political realism is to base threat assessments on the capabilities of political actors instead of focusing on their intentions, because friendly intentions now can become hostile in the future, if the leadership of a state changes for example.

Liberals focus more on intentions. NATO, for instance, says that Russia should not worry about having NATO close to Moscow and St. Petersburg because NATO has good intentions, since NATO supports liberty, democracy and human rights. The track record of Western “liberals” gives you a different picture however, as documented in Empire by Niall Ferguson and The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Kremlin is well aware of the crusading intentions of “liberals”. John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, writes in the Great Delusion: “In essence, the liberal state seeks to spread its own values far and wide.” (…)

“Great powers of all persuasions care deeply about their survival, and there is always the danger in a bipolar or multipolar system that they will be attacked by another great power. In these circumstances, liberal great powers regularly dress up their hard-nosed behavior with liberal rhetoric. They talk like liberals and act like realists. Should they adopt liberal policies that are at odds with realist logic, they invariably come to regret it.”

Political realism is also wise in domestic politics when one group acquires great and immense power compared to other groups in a constitutional democracy. WIFI SENS and Fusion AI surveillance makes it possible for Big Tech and its allies to overthrow a democracy, what Snowden calls “turnkey tyranny”. It is this democracy-destroying capability which no group should have in an any state. Trying to regulate this world-dominating capability through laws based on good intentions is like controlling a tamed tiger. The beast can appear friendly when circumstances are favorable but in a crisis, during bad weather, intentions and laws change, in a direction that’s oppressive. The Patriot Act and “enhanced interrogations” are examples of that.

If you are a political realist it’s therefore not reassuring to read in Foreign Affairs:

China’s Techno-Authoritarianism Has Gone Global

“Washington Needs to Offer an Alternative” (…)

“To prevent China’s techno-authoritarianism from gaining traction, the United States must reverse course and start leading by example: it must reform its own surveillance practices, protect citizens’ privacy and security, and work with allies to set rights-respecting global standards for tech firms to follow.”

But the military AI capabilities that Big Tech wants to build together with Pentagon, as described in the final NSCAI report, involves tech supremacy on a level that will make ordinary citizens look like mice next to an elephant. How can mice regulate an elephant?

Superior AI from Big Tech can bulldoze decentralized smart cities and hijack them, without people noticing the takeover, as described in the prelude to Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark.

That’s why political realists who support constitutional democracies should stop Big Tech, for the simple reason that power corrupts, as we have seen already after many Big Tech scandals. But few seem to care enough about democracy to prevent surveillance tyranny in the West.

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