Can you use AI to control human free will?

Cre­at­ing free will in AI would be awe­some — “exag­ger­at­ing” would it be if we could pro­gram AI to con­trol human free will in the first place.

When it comes to spec­u­la­tions, the terms “free will” and “arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence”, if react­ed, often cre­ate an explod­ing war of ideas. There’s enough space for thou­sands and thou­sands of argu­ments to emerge from both sides.

Many of them will be incred­i­bly accu­rate and well-mea­sured, though extreme­ly spec­u­la­tive. There will still be no def­i­nite answer to what free will is, or whether AI can ever have it.

Free Will

To make things more com­pli­cat­ed, free will is a very sub­jec­tive thing and there’s no way of prov­ing that you have it over anoth­er per­son who either says ‘they do’ or says ‘they don’t’.

Of course, if one could pro­gram a com­put­er to be able to con­trol human free will, that would be the ulti­mate pow­er grasp and a giant leap for sci­ence and AI. If you could con­trol some­one else’s actions per­fect­ly whilst also con­trol­ling their thoughts as you want­ed, then you would be able to basi­cal­ly do what­ev­er you want with that per­son at your side.

Well, one can won­der for a long time about this spec­u­la­tion, but there is anoth­er ques­tion that some­how seems more rel­e­vant to me.

Let’s say, we are able to con­trol the free will of a human being by pro­gram­ming AI to do it. What would be the pur­pose of con­trol­ling free will? And how exact­ly would you go about doing it?

To answer these ques­tions, I’ll describe in my point of view what would be the pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios in which con­trol­ling someone’s free will could make sense:

  • To make them do some­thing they wouldn’t nor­mal­ly do.
  • To learn new things imper­ceiv­able by our senses.
  • To bring the extra­or­di­nary into the nor­mal world.
  • To per­ceive the same world in a dif­fer­ent way.
  • To be per­ceiv­able by a machine or a robot.
  • To per­ceive the world as a machine rather than a human (maybe for fun).
  • To help under­stand what we are in this world and our place in it.

These were the poten­tial pur­pos­es of con­trol­ling free will with AI. But the ques­tions now are “if”, and “how”.

Can we program AI to control human free will?

Now, let’s say we don’t want to pro­gram AI to direct­ly con­trol free will — but rather to under­stand it. I can say that there is a very big chance that at least few of the pur­pos­es list­ed above will be achieved in the next 20 or so years, sim­ply because of rapid­ly increas­ing research works in the field. For instance, Meta AI recent­ly proved that it can tell which words you hear by read­ing your brain­waves

But remem­ber, many experts in this field believe oth­er­wise and believe that it will nev­er be pos­si­ble as long as we are think­ing with our “nat­ur­al” human brain.

Let’s get to the more important thing for us — “how?”.

How would we pos­si­bly go about pro­gram­ming AI to under­stand human free will? To me, it seems quite sim­ple — we would have to make a machine that would under­stand the fun­da­men­tal human mind, and most impor­tant­ly, learn the thought pat­terns and rea­son­ing of a human by observ­ing us.

There are many ways, like using imag­ing devices such as a next-next lev­el of NIRS or CT scan or EEG, to observe and under­stand the human mind. So, even when I’m talk­ing about bil­lions of neu­rons fir­ing at the same time, I wouldn’t call it “unob­serv­able”.

I find this a more reli­able way to under­stand the human mind not just because there are more machines that can observe and manip­u­late our brains in soft­ware and hard­ware, but because — let’s be hon­est — we as humans tend to be rather pre­dictable. This char­ac­ter­is­tic would also help in pro­gram­ming AI to under­stand pre­dictabil­i­ty and con­trol our free will.

Copying mind

Of course, we aren’t there yet and we don’t know if we’ll ever be able to cre­ate this machine. But it is quite sim­ple to imag­ine it — a com­put­er that could per­fect­ly inter­pret every action, word, feel­ing and thought of anoth­er per­son. As opposed to the human person’s orig­i­nal mind we could call it a “copied mind”.

Now, the prob­lem with this “copied mind” is that you can make one with AI but its pur­pose won’t be con­trol­ling free will because bio­log­i­cal beings would nev­er accept some­thing they believe they have over oth­er beings (and they do have free will).

In order to con­trol our free will, the AI would have to be made to seem like us. It would have to be “nat­u­ral­ly” under­stand­ing free will in order to take it away lat­er on. It would have to become part of our species and take part in the human world.

AI is already good at learning patterns

By learn­ing and ana­lyz­ing mil­lions of his­tor­i­cal image pat­terns, AI can now cre­ate a unique image out of your ran­dom text.

The same for human thought process­es would mean a step fur­ther towards cre­at­ing AI that can con­trol our free will. By ana­lyz­ing our thought pat­terns, AI will (not) sim­ply be able to pre­dict our poten­tial actions, hence affect­ing our free will.

A step fur­ther would be to cre­ate a copy of each of our minds, thoughts, feel­ings and dreams. And this would mean AI con­trol­ling our free will in the sense that it would be total­ly pre­dictable and more impor­tant­ly, con­trol­lable by us.

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