A Tangled Web
Artificial intelligence “weeds” proliferate, choking off the performance of the internet
What if the adverse impact of artificial intelligence (AI) involves not a super-intelligence that takes control from humans but “AI weeds”—low-level algorithms that slowly choke off the internet? Algorithms are already proliferating. As they increase in sophistication—as we become more reliant on code that writes code, for example—explosive growth becomes more likely. A divergence could open between the code we have created and our capacity to track and control it.
The tragedy of the commons means we often let chronic problems with dispersed responsibilities fester. Think of plastic in the ocean. A trend towards reduced internet efficiency would undermine service delivery in countless businesses. It could hobble the Internet of Things. It would frustrate users. If the problem became significant enough, it could prompt some governments to wall off parts of the internet. If malicious actors found ways to proliferate or weaponize the AI weeds, they could do extensive damage.
As the global demands placed on the internet increase in scale and sophistication, digital hygiene is likely to become a more pressing concern for end-users. The development of overarching norms, regulations and governance structures for AI will be crucial: without a robust and enforceable regulatory framework, there is a risk that humans will in effect be crowded out from the internet by the proliferation of AI.